Knoxville’s only black-owned radio station, once owned by James Brown, faces license loss


Wang Yukun

A black-owned Tennessee radio station once owned by James Brown, the “godfather of soul” is at risk of losing his license.

According at Knox News, the Federal Communications Commission is threatening to revoke the license of WJBE station owner Joe Armstrong for alleged violation of ownership rules. The commission says that in 2020 he failed to disclose a prior conviction when applying to renew his license.

Armstrong served in the Tennessee General Assembly for several years and during his tenure passed a tax stamp hike on cigarettes. In 2016, he was found guilty of filing a fraudulent tax return in 2008. Prosecutors alleged that Armstrong conspired with his accountant to hide money he received from the tax hike. cigarettes.

He was sentenced to three years probation, six months house arrest, a $40,000 fine and ordered to pay restitution amounting to $100,000.

The station owner told Knox News he should no longer be punished for his past actions.

“How long should a person carry the cross? I paid my debt to society,” he said. “Coming back and questioning my ability to run this station is a knee-jerk reaction on their part. It’s bigger than me.

Knox News reported that the FCC said, “The crime Armstrong was convicted of – fraud and misrepresentation – centers on criminally dishonest conduct. Armstrong directed this dishonesty at a federal agency by making false statements on a federal tax form.

Armstrong’s attorney, Andrew Ward, believes the FCC is wrong and said, “This conviction has nothing to do with the station and we believe it is an injustice to use this against him.”

He added, “[Armstrong] continues to provide valuable service by running WJBE, which is important to the Knoxville community. He successfully served his probation, paid his fine and regained his civil rights. He did everything the criminal justice system asked him to do. »

Armstrong said he was inspired to acquire ownership of WJBE in 2012 because the station “[gave] artists who had been blackballed during the civil rights movement a chance to have their music played on the radio.

He added: “We were the only ones who played ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud’ by James Brown”. I just want to see this station survive even though I’m off the chart. This station has brought our heritage back to this city.

The “The Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” singer owned WJBE in the 1960s and 1970s.

Armstrong said he was ready to step down so WJBE could stay on the air.

TOPICS: black property

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