KFI-AM to address diversity issues


Clear Channel’s KFI-AM LA talkers John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou met with black community leaders 2/27, 11 days after they referred to the late Whitney Houston on the air as a “crack ho.”

John and Ken were suspended after Kobylt made the comments in the week following Houston’s death; Monday was their first day back on the job. Black activists met with the hosts and KFI management to push the station to hire more minorities, both in the newsroom and on air.

“KFI has 14 shows, and 13 of them are hosted by white men,” activist and communications strategist Jasmyne Cannick said. “There are no blacks in their newsroom. This fosters an environment where insensitive comments like this can happen. And they are not living up to Clear Channel’s statement of a commitment to diversity.”

Members of the group that met with KFI told reporters CCME promised to respond within 72 hours with a plan to improve the station’s diversity.

“Systemic change needs to happen,” said Chris Strudwick-Turner, vice president of marketing and communications for the Los Angeles Urban League. “They have to come back to us with a solid plan to improve this situation.”

Activist Najee Ali said he was confident KFI would move in a positive direction. He said he also met with the radio hosts, who apologized repeatedly for their remarks.

“The station pledged to make substantive changes in diversity,” he said. “They are trying to build a bridge. John and Ken really want to put this behind them and move forward. Their voices are needed in Southern California, and they have done some good things. We can’t throw out the baby with the bath water.”

The duo spent less than a minute at the top of their four-hour program Monday addressing the suspension. Kobylt acknowledged that listeners were probably wondering what they’d do upon their return, but he said, “We’re not going to talk about what happened a week and a half ago in any detail. What I said on the air and in the press statement 10 days ago still stands, and it was sincere.”

RBR-TVBR observation: We’re not sure exactly how KFI/Clear Channel will move to increase diversity at the station, but it is a good compromise. This is much better than the hosts getting fired or advertiser boycotts. We think, in the end, this was handled well.