Don Imus Was Gone… And Then POOF, He Was THERE AGAIN
BY KEVIN ROSS
When acerbic radio personality Don Imus created the “nappy-headed ho’” firestorm after his 2007 comments about Rutgers women’s basketball team sparked universal outrage, mainstream media was suddenly looking for insight from self-appointed and elected black leaders. The Reverend Jesse Jackson, who himself has a syndicated program, mentioned that political talk shows don’t have minorities as their main hosts, (para) “It’s all white… all night.”
Those partial comments came on the heels of MSNBC snatching Imus from his morning cable show and then teeing up possible replacements. KABC’s Elder was given the opportunity to “tryout” for a week.
Afterwards, no other African American was afforded the courtesy of auditioning to be a talking head. Not one.
Ultimately congressman turned media personality Joe Scarborough got the gig (along with Bill O’Reilly’s old slot on KABC) and black screenwriter John Riley became part of the morning team briefly before quickly fading off the scene.
As for Imus, he was back on the air after a year with an undisclosed financial settlement from CBS. KABC is the current radio home for the cantankerous sexagenarian, who has seen his clout and his national ratings only slightly diminish since the incident.
The upside is Imus now has two African American as part of his morning crew. Bravo, considering in all likelihood they would be collecting unemployment benefits alongside other black hosts who know first-hand how tough it is to land a gig in the current climate.
Even at stations where non-whites are employed as talk show hosts, tokenism seems to triumph. Meyers reports states, “There may be ‘a’ black talk show host, but seldom blacks, and Latinos, and Asians among the talk show host line-ups on the stations that broadcast all-day and into the night and even into the wee hours of the morning. Whether commercially-sponsored or listener, corporate funded, these AM radio stations possibly perceive minority talk show hosts either as hard to find or not available– or as not “as qualified” or “as entertaining” as the Caucasians they consistently employ.”
That argument is also being advanced in sports talk, where athletes of color in fields including basketball, football, baseball and soccer take center stage. For better or worse, these shows talk about these athletes, but rarely are minorities leading the discussion. Two notable exceptions are The Michael Irvin Show, hosted by the former Dallas Cowboy star, and The 2 Live Stews, featuring Doug and Ryan Stewart. Both are intent on muscling their way onto the scene with impressive results. But these developments may not do enough to placate talk radio junkies fired up with “Yes We Can” audacity.
And their discontent will only become increasingly impolite as the simmering battle playing out between President Barack Obama and Limbaugh, gathers steam.
fAIRNESS DOCTRINE 2.0
Radio personality Bill Press has opined that the ongoing Commander in Chief versus the King of Talk slugfest is Exhibit A why Congress should re-enact the Fairness Doctrine, the federal ruling to insure that different voices are able to speak with equal force and influence on matters of public discourse. Having recently lost his syndicated spot on OBAMA AM 1260 AM in Washington D.C., here’s a recent exchange between Press and US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI):
PRESS: Yeah, I mean, look: They have a right to say that. They’ve got a right to express that. But, they should not be the only voices heard. So, is it time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine?
STABENOW: I think it’s absolutely time to pass a standard. Now, whether it’s called the Fairness Standard, whether it’s called something else — I absolutely think it’s time to be bringing accountability to the airwaves. I mean, our new president has talked rightly about accountability and transparency. You know, that we all have to step up and be responsible. And, I think in this case, there needs to be some accountability and standards put in place.
PRESS: Can we count on you to push for some hearings in the United States Senate this year, to bring these owners in and hold them accountable?
STABENOW: I have already had some discussions with colleagues and, you know, I feel like that’s gonna happen.
Locally, Press broadcasts on KTLK AM 1150 with comedian Stephanie Miller, Randy Rhodes, and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. The Clear Channel station – to their credit – has the most women on the L.A. airwaves. And we’re not talking sidekicks.
And yet KTLK’s “left leaning” ideology doesn’t square up with their hosts daily diatribes about how the Republican Party is this “bastion of out-of-touch white men” when everyone at KTLK Monday through Friday is also white.
So for all the hand-wringing Press engages in over the Fairness Doctrine, his angst completely obfuscates the issue that even “liberal” talk outlets can’t reconcile.
Rush Limbaugh’s assertion that traditional radio should not be regulated is actually a sound argument. The Fairness Doctrine would negatively impact an already challenged industry in tuned to what its audience wants. The real issue is one of opportunities missed, and industry leaders having enough foresight and introspection to not only say “What are we doing?” but “Why are we continuing to do it?”
Look at Sirius XM, a satellite company whose stock is trading at 12 cents a share, is potentially facing a hostile takeover, and likely will file bankruptcy because of an inability to pay a $175 million debt payment due on February 17. What will this mean for the likes of Oprah Winfrey and friends and other shows featuring minorities? Don’t look to the NAACP, in the midst of their centennial celebration, for answers.
Even Radio One, the largest radio broadcast company targeting African Americans and urban listeners, just dropped Reverend Al Sharpton and Warren Ballentine from their roster as they pair down. Within the last 18 months, Radio One has gone from owning 70 stations to 52 in 16 markets.
Kevin Ross is noted Republican who hosts The Kevin Ross Show, a conservative political show on Blog Talk Radio and blogs at Three Brothers and a Sister. This post is part of a five part series exploring the lack of diversity in radio.