IN CONTROL—Hassan Gilchrist, WGBN Radio board operator, sits at the controls during an afternoon broadcast for the 20-year-old Black-owned Pittsburgh radio station. (Photo by Gail Manker)
For 20 years, WGBN radio, “Pittsburgh’s Gospel Excellence,” as the slogan says, has been delivering praise, worship and even the Word to people through car and home stereos all over the city.
With a year-long celebration planned for their milestone anniversary, which took place Dec. 20, 2012, WGBN, the only Black-owned radio station in Pittsburgh, promises to continue its quality programming while expanding its reach to spread the Word.
“WGBN is still on by the grace of God. It is all about ministry and I think that’s why we’ve lasted. We’re dedicated to the gospel,” said WGBN Director of Programming Calvin Penny. “It has been an honor and privilege. I hope we can continue to spread the good news through music. A lot of gospel stations have not lasted.”
Bishop Loren Mann, pastor of Pentecostal Temple COGIC and general manager of WGBN said, “Twenty years is a milestone. All the credit goes to the Lord, because this station was essentially donated to us and we have built it up from nothing, and our listeners for being loyal. They have grown with us and been patient.”
WGBN-1150 AM, the first full-time gospel formatted station in Pittsburgh, was acquired by the Pentecostal Temple Development Corp. in 1992, after it was donated to the East Liberty church by Salem Communication. It was formerly WKPA, a Top 40 formatted radio station that had aired since 1940, said Bishop Mann.
While being the only Black owned radio station left in the city after the loss of WAMO-FM in May 2009, WGBN has seen its share of tough times. Twice the station was off the air for a period of time, the first time was in 1993 when a storm caused the roof to collapse on their Fifth Avenue location in New Kensington and the second was after a fire had destroyed their Fourth Avenue location, in New Kensington. In 1995 they moved to their current location on Seventh Avenue.
When asked about being the only Black owned station in Pittsburgh, Bishop Mann said, “I have mixed emotions (about being the only Black-owned radio station in Pittsburgh. It feels good being the only one, but it’s kind of lonesome because competition makes you better and we welcome competition.”