The National Association of Broadcasters will honor the first woman to own a number-one-ranked major-market radio station at this year’s NAB Show. Urban One founder and chairperson Cathy Hughes will be inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame at the Achievement in Broadcasting Dinner, April 8 in Las Vegas.
“Cathy Hughes is a truly remarkable broadcaster and entrepreneur whose contributions continue to greatly influence and drive our industry,” NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith stated in the announcement.
Hughes founded Radio One — Urban One’s original name — in 1980 when she also purchased WOL(AM) in D.C. Thirty-nine years later, the company owns 59 broadcast stations in urban markets and consequently is “the largest African-American owned, diversified media corporation.”
In addition to its radio properties, Urban One — now run by Hughes’ son Alfred Liggins III — owns television network TV One, includes a major online presence through iOne Digital and has controlling interest in Reach Media. The company also has its own multiplatform marketing arm, One Solution, which Urban One says reaches “more than 80 percent of the African-American market.”
Hughes is a native of Omaha, where she got her first radio gig at KOWH(AM). In 1971, Hughes moved to Washington to lecture at Howard University’s new School of Communications, which was rechristened in her honor in 2016. She also worked as general sales manager at Howard University Radio; she’s credited with upping WHUR(FM)’s revenue from $250,000 to $3 million in her first year. Another impressive feat, Hughes became the first woman vice president and general manager of a station in D.C.
Hughes is also known for her programming inventions, especially the “Quiet Storm” and “24-Hour Talk From a Black Perspective” formats.
This won’t be Hughes’ first NAB honor. In 2001, the association recognized her with the NAB Distinguished Service Award. In addition to her radio work, Hughes mentors women and advocates for the homeless and minority communities. Hughes also continues the work begun by her grandfather in 1909 when he founded The Piney Woods School in Mississippi, a boarding school for African-American students.