A coalition of Blacks in radio broadcasting, media and business met Monday with the KFI AM 640 station management and show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of the “John and Ken Show” to discuss an insulting term the duo used to describe Pop music icon Whitney Houston.
Houston was referred to as a “crack ho” three days following the legendary singer’s death.
Meeting with Manager Greg Ashlock and Program Director Robin Bertolucci were: Kevin Ross, host of the syndicated television program “America’s Court with Judge Ross”; Lee Bailey, founder and CEO of the Electronic Urban Report; Dominique DiPrima, host of the Front Page on KJLH FM 102.3; Isidra Person-Lynn, former talk radio host; L.C. “Chris” Strudwick-Turner, vice president of marketing and communications for the Los Angeles Urban League; Kevin Ross, editor of RadioFacts.com, and journalist and communications strategist Jasmyne Cannick.
“Systemic change has to happen,” said Strudwick-Turner of the Los Angeles Urban League. “They have to come back to us with a solid plan to improve this situation.”
“KFI has 14 shows, and 13 of them are hosted by White males,” added Cannick. “There are no Blacks in their newsroom. This fosters an environment where negative comments can happen, and they are not living up to [parent company] Clear Channel’s statement of a commitment to diversity.”
The meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes, after which the group and former KFI talk show host John Zeigler held a press conference outside of KFI where they were joined by fans of Whitney Houston upset over the comments.
Coalition members said the station’s lack of diversity has led to an insensitivity toward minorities that has resulted in caustic comments by John and Ken, as well as other personalities such as Bill Handel and Tim Conway Jr. After identifying four specific goals they felt needed to be met, KFI management promised to get back to them within 72 hours with a plan to address the following concerns:
*The hiring of more Blacks as on air talent–Full time, weekends, fill-in hosts
*Similar to cable outlets, the station should feature paid KFI contributing commentators who can discuss issues with the on-air personalities 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.
The coalition released the following statement:
“We understand that some would see this as a David verses Goliath battle. Clear Channel is a $17.2 billion global corporation while we are a small coalition of concerned business and media professionals who also happen to be African American.
“Given Clear Channel’s stated view on the value they place on diversity, it is our belief that leadership on the importance of diversity must start at the top. KFI AM 640 is Clear Channel’s number one AM radio station in the country in the News/Talk category, and the most listened to station in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Arbitron Portable People Meter ratings between January 6- February 2, 2012.
“John and Ken’s unfortunate and insensitive comments regarding Whitney Houston unmasked a deeper problem that continues to go unchecked. Simply put, when you don’t have workplace diversity, it becomes okay to call a Black woman, or any woman, a ‘crack ho.’
“KFI, Clear Channel’s top station, has 14 shows, and 13 of them are hosted by White males. There are no Blacks in their newsroom.
“When you have no African American colleagues around you all day, people often become desensitized to what other groups find intolerable. This ultimately fosters an environment where negative comments can go unchecked and corporate guidelines and policies are no longer being enforced.
“KFI has a long history of being racially insensitive. It’s our expectation that with true diversity, situations like this can be avoided. A diverse work environment includes the hiring of Blacks not only as on-air talent, but as fill-in talent, paid contributors, producers, engineers, and news reporters. It means developing and fostering relationships with online news entities that cater to African American audiences.
“We want to see Clear Channel be better and what better place to start–since their main business is radio, and since their number one radio station is in the second largest media market in the country–than with KFI.
KFI is the station that sets the tone and example for all of Clear Channel’s other stations around the country. We know that all of the other Clear Channel stations across the nation will benefit from KFI taking a leadership role on this issue.
“Help us help KFI comply with Clear Channel’s statement on diversity and hold them accountable.
“KFI-AM radio’s popular afternoon talk show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou were suspended Feb. 23 for comments made on their radio show in the wake of the death of Whitney Houston. The suspension occurred the same day the statements were made and the duo returned to the air on Tuesday.
According to sources, the inappropriate statement went as follows: “It’s like, ‘Ah Jesus . . . here comes the crack ho again, what’s she gonna do? Ah, look at that-she’s doin’ handstands next to the pool. Very good, crack ho . . . ‘After a while, everybody’s exhausted. And then you find out she’s dead. It’s like, ‘Really? Took this long?”
“Kobylt offered an apology shortly after the incident, “We made a mistake, and we accept the station’s decision,” he was quoted as saying. “We used language that was inappropriate, and we sincerely apologize to our listeners and to the family of Ms. Houston.”