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Black activists call for Clear Channel to make changes following DJs' on-air slur

By Gary McCarthy
Los Angeles Wave
(February 29, 2012) A group of Black community activists received a face to face apology from KFI-AM radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of the "John and Ken Show" following the duo's "crack ho" slur against the late Whitney Houston.

The delegation also used the Feb. 27 meeting to call for KFI's parent company, Clear Channel Communications, Inc., to ensure more minorities are hired at the station in the newsroom and on air.

The group included Blair Taylor, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Urban League, media strategist Jasmyne Cannick, activist Najee Ali and broadcaster Lee Bailey.

"John and Ken did apologize to us for their comments mocking Whitney's death," said Ali.

"That was important because she's our fallen sister [and] she's not here to defend herself, so it was up to us. However, the bigger picture is holding Clear Channel accountable for more diversity.

This is a David and Goliath fight, but it is an important one to ensure that African-Americans are hired in the newsroom and as on-air personalities, in fact at all facets at Clear Channel."

He added: "We met with the program manager as well as two other top executives and gave them a list of demands, and they promised they would get back to us in 72 hours with a written policy of what they intend to do."

Included on the list of demands is the following, according to a statement issued by the leaders who met with the station:

The hiring of more Blacks as on air talent -- full-time, weekends and as fill-in hosts 

Similar to cable outlets, the station should feature paid KFI contributing commentators who can discuss issues with the on-air from different perspectives

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.

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

Cannick said the communications giant had to be held to account. "You're the No. 1 AM radio station in the country and the No. 1 station in the L.A. market, and you have 14 shows, and 13 of them are hosted by White men, only one female, no African-Americans on air and no Blacks in your newsroom," she said.

"That creates and fosters an environment where you can call a Black woman a 'crack ho' because there's no one around to tell you different."

On Feb. 16, Kobylt was telling listeners what he thought the singer's friends -- in particular her mentor, recording industry impresario Clive Davis -- could have thought in dealing with Houston's well-known alcohol and drug problems.

"She hasn't had her head screwed on right for over 20 years," Kobylt said.

"At some point, you're sick of it all ... 'Here comes the crack ho again, what's she gonna do?' ... After a while, everybody's exhausted. Then you find out she's dead and it's like, 'Really? Took this long?'" Following an outcry, the pair was suspended for a few days and returned to the air on Monday.

By Wednesday, a Facebook page had been created entitled "Diversify KFI," that provides a visual aid to demonstrate how there are no people of color included in the station's on-air lineup.

Cannick's own personal Facebook page includes a recording of racially-charged comments by Handel, who joked that the Congressional Black Caucus "always serve grape soda" at its functions.

Though angered by such remarks, Cannick circulated an essay last week that called the latest incident "a wake-up call to the Black community" about the use of slurs against Black women by African-American rappers and others.

"So while John and Ken were undeniably wrong in using the words 'crack ho' to describe Whitney Houston, the reality is that they are two white guys on the radio in Los Angeles who have a majority conservative white audience they play to," she wrote.

"And even if they used the word 'ho' every day to describe Black women, they still wouldn't come close to the damage that's already been done and continues to be done on a daily basis in the Black community with our own use of the word."

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