‘Unapologetically Progressive’ L.A. Talker Coming, Thanks To Tavis Smiley

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Updated at 5:45am Pacific


A Class B 50kw AM with a tower array adjacent to Dodgers Stadium is being sold by Arthur Liu‘s Multicultural Radio Broadcasting.

The buyer is a talk host who in August was ordered to pay PBS $2.6 million for violating a morals clause in multiple sexual harassment cases. Earlier in his career, he was fired by BET, where he became a household name.


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According to broker of record Greg Guy of Patrick Communications, Multicultural is selling KBLA-AM 1580, licensed to Santa Monica, Calif., to Tavis Smiley.

The deal is valued at $7.15 million. A $357,500 escrow deposit has been made and is being held by Patrick Communications, the buyer’s representative. The transaction will see the newly formed Smiley Radio Properties pay $10,000 per month to lease KBLA’s equipment, with an annual increase of 3%.

And, any Multicultural employee or its managing members must adhere to a noncompete barring them from working with any station superserving African-American consumers in the L.A. marketplace for eight years.

Serving as Smiley’s legal counsel is David G. O’Neil of Rini O’Neil PC. The legal counsel for Multicultural is Mark N. Lipp of Fletcher Heald & Hildreth.

While the KBLA call letters are famous for their use at one of Los Angeles’ first Top 40 radio stations, that facility would become KROQ-AM 1500.

This facility, with 4 towers for daytime power and 6 towers for nighttime power of 50kw, is best-known for being the home of Los Angeles’ pioneering hip-hop station, KDAY, in the 1980s. It’s signal reaches the entire L.A. basin and much of coastal San Diego.

Soon, it will convert from Spanish-language programming to presumably serve as a Talk Radio station catering to the Black community — based on the prominent display of the historic Watts Towers in its logo. However, the word “progressive” suggests Smiley has bigger sights than just African Americans.

That makes sense, considering his career trajectory.

In the early 1990s, Smiley first entered the media business with a talk show on former African American-focused KGFJ-AM. In 1996, he became a commentator for The Tom Joyner Morning Show, while simultaneously launching a public affairs show on BET. 

The BET position would abruptly end in 2001 with Smiley’s “firing”; his contract was not renewed, but BET founder Robert Johnson explained that he was parting ways with Smiley because he had sold an exclusive interview to ABC without giving right of first refusal to BET. Smiley had no condition or obligation in his contract to do so.

After that flare-up, Smiley ended up at NPR, where The Tavis Smiley Show would air until the end of 2004. A reincarnated version of that show would air from April 2005-January 2018 on Public Radio International (PRI).

That exit came one month after PBS suspended Smiley indefinitely after learning of “multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.” Translation: Smiley was accused of multiple improper relationships with female staff members.

Smiley sued for wrongful termination and fought PBS against the charges. On August 19, PBS prevailed, with Smiley ordered to pay $2.6 million to PBS, upholding a March 2020 jury finding.

Now, Smiley will have a pulpit of his own, with a mission not to dissimilar to those he’s used in every previous platform he’s had — to further educate and inform underserved people of color.

 

1 COMMENT

  1. I’m glad Tavis Smiley is back in his role. I’m sure someone will enjoy hearing him in LA. I know I won’t get to hear anything in Virginia.

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