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The Fate Of KCOH

The future of KCOH, which is billed as the oldest and largest African-American radio station in the south, is up in the air. Today the majority owner of the station announced that the programming will move to another part of the radio dial.



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Inside KCOH’s iconic looking glass studio along Almeda, you can see the sun setting in the Third Ward, as cars with beaming headlights pass by. You can see Ralph Cooper standing behind the microphone — like he’s done for more than 25 years —broadcasting his Sport Rap program. His calm, controlled voice going out on Houston’s airwaves at 1430 AM.

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“Let’s get another one on the air for DC Nobles. Caller you’re on.”

“Yeah, Ralph, tell DC he might not remember me.”

“Well you talk to him. You tell him. Make him remember you.”

“You played against Crockett High …”

The station’s been on the airwaves since 1953. But this year its fate has been up in the air.

Last month, Midland-based La Promesa Foundation bought the station, but those working there say that sale is pending FCC approval. Also a group of black investors made a move to buy the station for a price, according to them, that was greater than the foundation’s price. 

But today that offer was declined. Former Houston Astros player Enos Cabell was one of those investors.

“I figured it had to happen because they went on radio today and saying that they were going to lease out 1230 to this other group and they were going to continue with the sale.”

Cabell is critical of the station’s call letters moving to another part of the dial. One reason, he says, is because its power would go down from a 5,000 watt station to a 1,000 watt station.  Another critic of the move is Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Lee says six members of congress, including herself, submitted a letter of concern to the FCC earlier this week.

“We have asked the FCC, even with the laws having been changed that does not allow the utilization of diversity, to take into account the loss, the potential loss of KCOH.”

That loss would not just be a space for black political thought, but a cultural space too. Listeners recall watching DJ Skipper Lee Frazier through the looking glass studio mixing music with go-go dancers doing kicks. It’s also in that iconic studio that Ray Charles met one of his wives. Ralph Cooper, the host of Sports Rap, says the greatest loss would be for the listeners — not people like him who work there.

 “I’ll be alright. Maybe I’ll drive an ice cream truck, sell ice cream, and have two tvs on the side of it with CNN and ESPN on the side of it. I figure I still have something to offer.”

Cooper says that he’d prefer the station to stay the way it is — and grow.  But right now, he says, that hope seems like a longshot.

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