Pacifica Foundation, the founder of listener-sponsored radio in the United States with the birth of KPFA-FM in Northern California in 1949, joins with Chicagoans and people across the country to express its concern about the removal of the broadcast collaboration Smiley & West from Chicago public radio station WBEZ-FM. But the Foundation also “rejects” WBEZ-FM’s maligning of advocacy journalism, which is the heart of community radio in America and provides opportunities for groups and individuals to speak for themselves.
Tavis Smiley and Professor Cornel West are African Americans. This action in Chicago is especially worrisome, therefore, when groups from Rainbow PUSH to Free Press to Color of Change have pointed out repeatedly that Blacks own less than one percent of full power commercial television stations and less than three percent of commercial radio stations, yet make up nearly 14 percent of the total U.S. population. As a consequence, there is a severe lack of Black voices in American media and there needs to be more not fewer voices of independence along with challenging thought provoking analysis.
WBEZ President Torey Malatia ascribed the decision at least in part to Chicago Public Radio uneasiness with the “advocacy identity” of the Smiley & West Show, comparing it to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!
The Pacifica Foundation would like to state in no uncertain terms its tremendous pride in Democracy Now! and its uncompromising determination to go to where the silence is and report on what isn’t being heard anywhere else. Democracy Now! as with other leading lights in public media could not be more central to American democracy at a time when legacy commercial media are financially struggling and falling into irrelevance.
“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 Summer Reese, Chair and Interim Executive Director of the Pacifica Foundation.
The Pacifica Foundation urges WBEZ to reflect on the importance of robust dialogue that includes all reasoned and intellectual points of view and the paucity of African-American discourse throughout the media system, especially with regard to serving the City of Chicago with a 32.9 percent Black population.