The coalition that met with Clear Channel’s KFI 2/27 over remarks made by hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of the “John and Ken Show” is not pleased with the station’s plan for improved diversity after meeting over those remarks. The Coalition said Clear Channel has “dismissed immediate calls from a coalition of Black business and media professionals for more diversity within the company owned by Clear Channel Media Holdings. This comes one day after Clear Channel nationally syndicated talk show host Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown University law student a “slut” for testifying on Capitol Hill about women’s access to contraception.”
“KFI’s flaccid response resulted from a meeting at their Burbank offices on Mon. Feb. 27 with a group of Black media professionals where key areas of concern were presented to station management along with recommended solutions—including the hiring of African-Americans and more women. KFI promised they would address the four specific concerns the group communicated within 72 hours. After reviewing KFI’s response and determining it to be 100% unsatisfactory, the coalition has decided that a more aggressive approach must now be deployed.”
Also, coalition member Jasmyne Cannick tells RBR-TVBR: “Here’s the situation—I went into Clear Channel yesterday [3/1] after they did not come up with the plan after the 72 hours they promised. They refused to do it over the phone. I work in politics and I did not go to Sacramento that day as I had planned because of this. When I walked into the door—I don’t know if [KFI PD Robin Bertolucci] Robin thinks I’m stupid or something—they had already released that statement, it was already on the wire. Someone actually sent it to me while I was in the meeting there. My feelings on KFI are definitely in the minority, because I listen to KFI every day. I love John and Ken and I love Bill Handel. I could do without the race stuff, but I love the show. The Coalition does not care for any of KFI’s programming at all. So if you have people that are allies like I am that want to bring folks to work together…but I just did not have a good feeling when I left there Thursday. They were telling me this is what we’re going to do and you just have to be happy with that. The people that are really trying to work with KFI and Clear Channel are really not stupid. We all have a radio or media background. We know how it works.”
She adds, “They issued a memorandum to the Los Angeles community in general. They didn’t even respond directly back to this coalition specifically. Two groups are already calling for John and Ken to be off the air—the Koreans and the Latinos. We never said we were calling for John and Ken to be off the air. I want to see the show be better. Don’t do the crack ho stuff, try to stay away from the pop culture stuff and stick to the politics—which they are really good at. I think they all need to understand this is a group of some very concerned people who are not street corner activists and don’t know anything about the industry. I come out of Congress. They should know better. At the end of the day, it’s 2012 in Los Angeles. What global corporation has one of their top stations in the market not employing any African American producers, news reporters, engineers or hosts working there? If there was a good mix of diversity in the office, those crack ho things are less likely to happen.”
She says CCME and KFI have not contacted her since Thursday, but they are reaching out to other members of the coalition offering different, separate deals to perhaps try and break up the group.
The Coalition issued this statement:
“KFI’s memorandum entitled “We Are Listening” was meant to address four very specific areas of concerns. We feel it was a slap in the face and did not demonstrate a good faith willingness to find common ground. In fact, it only served to energize our collective outrage. Consequently, we plan on filing a formal complaint with the Federal Communications Commission that will include audio and video evidence substantiating our claims that these licensing violations are pervasive and systemic. We are confident President Barack Obama, several local officials as well as members of Congress, and the FCC will agree with our stance that the way Clear Channel is addressing the issue of diversity is disingenuous at best and fraudulent at its worse. Specifically as to the four areas we delineated:
1. The hiring of more Blacks as on-air talent – Full time, weekends, fill-in hosts.
When asked why John and Ken were taken off the air and suspended without pay for ten days, programming director Robin Bertolucci replied, “because they crossed the line.” When asked what that line was, Ms. Bertolucci’s response was, “it’s very difficult to define but you know it when you hear it.”
48 hours later, Rush Limbaugh is unapologetically referring to a woman as “a slut” on KFI’s airwaves without any statement from KFI management or repercussions like those sustained by John and Ken. Obviously Clear Channel just doesn’t get it.
We are not interested in KFI “finding a platform.” We are aware of several talented African-American hosts right now who would be compatible with KFI’s current programming format.
2. Similar to cable outlets, the station should feature paid KFI contributing commentators who can discuss issues with the on-air from different perspectives. We are insisting that KFI hire more African-American commentators, similar to Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN, who can provide insightful expertise on a host of issues relevant to the KFI listening audience.
3. Clear Channel must employ more blacks behind the scenes such as producers, engineers, sales representatives, professionals in marketing and promotions, as well as college interns of color. This is not limited to KFI.
A successful college internship suggests that KFI has been successful at hiring Blacks in producer, engineering, sales, and marketing positions and yet to date, there’s a puzzling absence of African-Americans who are currently working in these coveted positions.
4. KFI specifically needs to collaborate with online news and entertainment sites owned by African Americans and broaden the listening audience through community outreach events and public affairs.
We do not feel that simply “sharing links” constitutes a meaningful relationship between KFI and Black owned news, information, and entertainment websites that have developed a strong following of readers. Greg Ashlock, KFI’s Market Manager, acknowledged in the February 27 meeting that KFI had not identified nor made sufficient strides toward addressing issues and causes that were important to African-Americans. To not have even mentioned this in their unfortunate response further demonstrates an unwillingness to truly serve a diverse Southern California community.
To state that John and Ken will have to undergo sensitivity training is an affront to the real problem that Clear Channel wants to pretend doesn’t exist. These Clear Channel employees have already gone through diversity and sensitivity training. While on KFI’s crosstown competitor KABC, Kobylt and Chiampou engaged in various stunts, one of which got them in trouble and forced them into attending diversity training. They would later boast about how much they resented taking the courses, and disliked how Disney management made them tone down their “banter.”
What must be reiterated is that Clear Channel’s corporate policy are being completely ignored and lip service can no longer suffice. In the next (7) seven days, we will launch an all-out campaign employing the same tools Clear Channel radio personalities utilize to drive home the point that issues of importance will no longer be placated. Whether it’s imploring John and Ken’s Heads on a Stick campaign, to launching Political Human Sacrifice 2012, all remedies, legal and otherwise, will be exhausted.
Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Muslims, and women’s groups will now be actively encouraged to join our efforts to put pressure on Clear Channel’s local and national advertisers. Traditional and new media will also be given regular updates on the status of our efforts. Our goal is to put an end, once and for all, to the racist and sexist diatribes poisoning the public airwaves on Clear Channel stations across the country.
We are calling on local, state and federal officials to ask for public comment and hearings to bring these discriminatory practices to light.
All those wishing to get involved and join this effort should “Like” our page on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/diversifykfi and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/diversifykfi (hashtags #DiversifyKFI and #DiversifyClearChannel).
Official Statement on Diversity at KFI & Clear Channel
We understand that some would see this as a David verses Goliath battle – Clear Channel is a $17.2 billion global corporation, while we are a small coalition of concerned business and media professionals who also happen to be African-American.
Given Clear Channel’s stated view on the value they place on diversity, it is our belief that leadership on the importance of diversity must start at the top. KFI AM 640 is Clear Channel’s number one AM radio station in the country in the News/Talk category, and the most listened to station in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Arbitron Portable People Meter ratings between January 6 – February 2, 2012.
John and Ken’s unfortunate and insensitive comments regarding Whitney Houston unmasked a deeper problem that continues to go unchecked.
Simply put, when you don’t have workplace diversity, it becomes okay to call a black woman, or any woman, a “crack ho.”
KFI, Clear Channel’s top station, has 14 shows, and 13 of them are hosted by white males. There are no blacks in their newsroom.
When you have no African-American colleagues around you all day, people often become desensitized to what other groups find intolerable. This ultimately fosters an environment where negative comments can go unchecked and corporate guidelines and policies are no longer being enforced.
KFI has a long history of being racially insensitive. It’s our expectation that with true diversity, situations like this can be avoided. A diverse work environment includes the hiring of blacks not only as on-air talent, but as fill-in talent, paid contributors, producers, engineers, and news reporters.
It means developing and fostering relationships with online news entities that cater to African-American audiences.
We want to see Clear Channel be better and what better place to start, since their main business is radio, and since their number one radio station is in the second largest media market in the country—than with KFI. KFI is the station that sets the tone and example for all of Clear Channel’s other stations around the country.
We know that all of the other Clear Channel stations across the nation will benefit from KFI taking a leadership role on this issue.
Help us help KFI comply with Clear Channel’s statement on diversity and hold them accountable.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Obviously, there was a lack of communication with the Coalition that met with Clear Channel. Before the official response was sent, there should have been some outreach to see if it was on the right track. To say it is a slap in the face; filing a complaint with the FCC; asking for hearings; exploring protests and going to Clear Channel’s (not just KFI) advertisers is a real mess for CCME.