Robert Feder reports in his blog on Time Out Chicago's website that WBEZ, the Chicago NPR affiliate, has cancelled Smiley and West, the weekly radio program featuring longtime PBS and NPR host Tavis Smiley and longtime professor, author, and activist Cornel West.
Feder's report says that WBEZ made the move citing "audience erosion" and the dreaded A-word -- "advocacy" (translation: the 99% are actually given 99% of the airtime). What's more, Feder also reports that WBEZ commandante Torey Malatia himself accused the show of "becoming like Democracy Now!", presumably since that would freak out the WBEZ donor base.
This echoes the longstanding hostility Malatia and WBEZ has had to political programming that actually takes a positive stand (see more details here), not to mention radio programming that strives to go beyond. (Memo to Chuck Mertz: Sorry, but I don't think WBEZ will pick up This Is Hell anytime soon.)
In an era of media concentration that has seen communities of color diminish in visibility from the nation's radio waves, cancelling Smiley and West in a city with a majority-minority population is not, to put it lightly, a good move. Sure, WBEZ isn't stopping anyone from getting the show from the internet, but they are stopping a great many poor and lower-income Chicagoans from getting the show, most of whom disproportionately do not have ready internet access and are disproportionately from communities of color. But Chicago's black and Hispanic communities don't have a whole lot of disposable income to throw at WBEZ during pledge drives (like the one going on right now, hint hint) so never mind.
Chicago Media Action has launched an effort to oppose this move and put the show back on the station. An email blast has gone out to our mailing list, and a Facebook action has been posted as well. We encourage you to call 312-948-4600 or email the station to let your voice be heard.
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