IPR is featuring research and some of the many women pioneers in the communications industry in celebration of Women’s History Month

In 1939, Dorothy Brunson was born in Tattnall County, G.a. She was raised in Harlem, N.Y., and graduated from SUNY Empire State College in 1960.

After graduating, Brunson began working as an assistant controller on WWRL, a commercial radio station in New York City. She then cofounded Howard Sanders Advertising, one of the first agencies to focus primarily on Black Americans. In 1972, she was hired by Inner City Broadcasting Corporation (ICBC) to assist investors who had purchased WLIB-AM, a then white-owned station. WLIB-AM went on to become the first station centered on the African American community.

As general manager of WLIB-AM, Brunson worked to reduce debt and expand ownership to include six other stations. By 1978, sales rose to $23 million, making it the sixth-largest radio station in the nation. Part of the success of the station is credited to Brunson’s implementation of the Top 40 format, where listeners heard popular songs by Black musicians. Since then, most contemporary radio stations have adopted this format. 

A few years later, Brunson left ICBC and purchased WEBB-Radio, becoming the first African American woman to own a radio station in the nation. She then expanded her ownership into TV broadcasting when she purchased Philadelphia’s WGTW-TV Channel 48.

Brunson continued to grow her broadcast empire and became the owner of Bright Light Media, a PR firm based in Baltimore. She died in 2011.


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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