The African American coalition that has been going toe-to-toe with the Clear Channel and KFI 640 AM regarding a number of insensitive comments made by on-air hosts at the station are now calling themselves the Black Media Alliance (BMA).
Most recently under fire by the Alliance is Bill Handel of the Bill Handel Morning Show, who used the words “dumb-ass women” while discussing Kansas’ new abortion law, House Bill 2598, which if passed, would require women to hear the fetal heartbeat before a procedure.
Handel’s comment comes as Clear Channel is already under intense local fire from Black, Latino and Asian groups, as well as national scrutiny from organizations like the National Organization of Women (NOW), after its No. 1 syndicated host Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
These remarks came only two days after John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou of KFI’s “John and Ken Show,” also a Clear Channel entity, returned from an unpaid seven-day suspension after referring to pop music icon Whitney Houston as a “crack ho” three days after the singer’s death.
The Black Media Alliance pointed out that when asked why Clear Channel’s KFI hosts John and Ken were suspended, Clear Channel L.A. Market Manager and KFI Program Director Robin Bertolucci replied, “because they crossed the line.” When asked what that line was, her response was, “it’s very difficult to define, but you know it when you hear it.”
In response to Handel’s comments, the BMA said the following:
“The line was crossed yet again on Clear Channel’s No. 1 radio station in the second largest media market in the country, Los Angeles’ KFI 640 AM. And again this ‘imaginary line’ keeps being crossed at the expense of women …. The line has been crossed without any statement from KFI management or repercussions like those sustained by John and Ken ….We are insisting that Clear Channel suspend without pay Rush Limbaugh over his comments, as well as Bill Handel, and to develop, define, and put into place written policy and procedures that draws the line for their talk show hosts and programming directors, so that when they ‘hear it,’ they know it and the proper action is taken.
“Unless and until this happens, BMA is asking all local businesses in the Southern California area to rethink their radio advertising strategy at KFI and all Clear Channel stations.”
Although there has been no official reprimand of the hosts, Clear Channel Los Angeles has since created “Diverse L.A.,” a new three-week series of special broadcasts airing every weekday from 9 a.m. to noon on KTLK AM Progressive 1150. The program began airing on Monday.
The Alliance, however, is still not satisfied, specifically because the recent incidents are a KFI-centered issue. “Unfortunately, the message that comes across is that ‘Diverse L.A.’ is not important enough for management to address on their No. 1 station in the second largest media market in the country,” said the Alliance. “Instead, Clear Channel Los Angeles has relegated our concerns to a struggling station that has neither the cachet nor reach of their more profitable outlet.”
Furthermore, the initiative fails to state Clear Channel’s plan to immediately address the pervasive lack of Black producers, engineers, on-air news readers, paid commentators or interns at their non-urban talk stations. “The fact that out of 15 KFI on-air hosts, there are 14 male hosts and only one woman in 2012, is abhorrent,” said the Alliance in a statement.