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Pacifica Foundation Condemns ‘Smiley & West’ Cancellation

Says ‘there needs to be more, not fewer, voice of independence’ on public radio

The Pacifica Foundation, no stranger to controversy or tong wars over programming itself, has offered its two cents on the Tavis Smiley — Torey Malatia/WBEZ(FM) spat concerning the cancellation of the weekly Tavis Smiley & Cornel West radio show, “Smiley & West.”

The PF said in a statement that Chicago’s WBEZ would be doing a disservice to its listeners by no longer carrying the show. It described the act as “symptomatic of censorship of independent voices.”

“Groups from Rainbow PUSH to Free Press to Color of Change have pointed out repeatedly that blacks own less than 1% of full power commercial television stations and less than three percent of commercial radio stations, yet make up nearly 14% of the total U.S. population,” the statement said.

It added, “There need to be more, not fewer, voices of independence along with challenging, thought-provoking analysis.”

Time Out Chicago media writer Robert Feder provides a good summary (here and here) and quotes WBEZ/Chicago Public Media’s President and CEO Torey Malatia as citing diminishing audience numbers and decreasing program quality as rationale for pulling the plug. A WBEZ spokesperson added that “Smiley & West”’s tone of “advocacy” was “inconsistent with our approach at WBEZ.”

On that last part, Pacifica further expressed its dismay, particularly because Malatia said that “Smiley & West” was becoming too much like Pacifica’s “Democracy Now!” program.

“It is disappointing when the term advocacy is used as a smear to trivialize the presentation of intelligent and passionate discussion that is sometimes critical of the American status quo,” said Pacifica Foundation Chair and Interim Executive Director Summer Reese, in a PF press release.

Smiley’s reaction can be found here. It has been excerpted in a number of radio forums.

But perhaps WBEZ’s loss will be Chicago’s gain as Smiley has implied that other Chicago stations are interested in his program.