WBEZ-FM (91.5) has dropped the Smiley & West radio program, stating that the show lacked balance. The show was hosted by Tavis Smiley and professor Cornel West, and was distributed by Public Radio International. The show once aired in Chicago every Sunday at noon, and was cut just two weeks ago.
Petitions have been circulating to call for PBS to reconsider its position, but it’s hard to tell how effective that might be.
A spokesman for the network had this to say:
“More importantly, the show had developed much more of an ‘advocacy’ identity, which is inconsistent with our approach on WBEZ. The goal is to present public affairs content that is reasonably balanced. We feel that Smiley & West had become a departure from this approach.”
Torey Malatia, president and CEO of Chicago Public Media, stated that the show was becoming too much like “Democracy Now” and not a fit with the station’s agenda:
“Our hosts choose material to inspire cross-cultural understanding and civic engagement, strictly operating under the mandate of public service. Even when our function is not a journalistic one, we recognize that appearing to take sides, or to prefer certain voices to others, will erode our value as a meeting place for all. We attempt to do all of this at a level of energy and creative influence that the visionaries of civic agency had written about since radio’s creation.”
Joe Zefran, a producer for the show, says that Smiley and West had a huge following in Chicago. He noted that when the two had public gatherings, hundreds of people showed up and the two received a tremendous amount of support. WBEZ is not the only station to kill the show. WBUR-FM in Boston said that the show was “too political,” and KWMU-FM and KMOJ-FM dropped the show, noting that their disagreements with President Obama had made them unpopular.
Do you agree with the decision to mute the voices of Tavis Smiley and Cornel West, or did they provide balance in a black community where journalists are afraid to question President Obama’s policies?