Only Black-Owned Knoxville Radio Station, Once Owned By James Brown, In Danger Of Losing License
Wang Yukun

A Black-owned Tennessee radio station once owned by James Brown, the “Godfather of Soul” is at risk of losing its license.  

According to Knox News, the Federal Communications Commission is threatening to revoke WJBE station owner Joe Armstrong’s license over an alleged violation of ownership rules. The commission says 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 he passed a cigarette tax stamp hike. In 2016, he was convicted for filing a fraudulent income tax return in 2008. Prosecutors alleged Armstrong conspired with his accountant to hide the money he received from the cigarette tax hike. 

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

The station owner told Knox News that he should not be punished again for his past actions.   

“How long does a person have to bear the cross? I’ve paid my debt to society,” he said. “To come back and question my ability to run this station is a knee-jerk reaction on their part. This is bigger than me.” 

Knox News reported, the FCC said, “The felony of which Armstrong was convicted – fraud and false statements – is centered upon criminally dishonest conduct. Armstrong directed that dishonesty at a federal agency by making false statements on a federal tax form.” 

Armstrong’s attorney, Andrew Ward believes the FCC is in the wrong and declared, “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 a valuable service running WJBE, which is important to the community of Knoxville. He served his probation successfully, paid his fine, and had his civil rights restored. He has done everything the criminal justice system has 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 one who played James Brown’s ‘I’m Black and I’m Proud.’ I just want to see this station survive even if I’m out of the picture. This station brought our heritage back to this city.”

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

Armstrong said he is willing to step aside so that WJBE can remain on the air. 

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