Unapologetic Smiley Buys Radio Station for a Comeback

PBS fired host in 2017 after allegations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 16, 2021 7:45 PM CDT
Unapologetic Smiley Buys Radio Station for a Comeback
Tavis Smiley poses Tuesday in the offices of his new radio station in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Three years after workplace misconduct allegations cost veteran TV and radio talk show host Tavis Smiley his job and a national forum, he wants to return to the air. Smiley, who continues to deny the claims of unwanted sexual behavior that led PBS to drop his long-running show, is attempting to rebound with the purchase of a Los Angeles radio station that will offer a Black and progressive perspective. Sidelined during a period of landmark racial upheaval, Smiley decided to make his own opportunity with reformatted station KBLA 1580 in Los Angeles. It debuts with a preview on Saturday, the Juneteenth holiday commemorating when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free. "While I was watching this racial reckoning last summer, it was so clear to me that people were being heard to some degree, but there were no African American-owned platforms where people had their voice on a regular basis," Smiley said. The media can lose interest when protests stop, he said, but the issues "that matter to us don’t go away."

He did not reevaluate his workplace behavior because there was no cause to, he said, and again rejected misconduct allegations. "I have no idea why what happened to me happened," he said. "This Me Too moment happened at a time and in a way where it was very difficult, almost impossible, to put forth any other narrative, no matter how truthful that narrative was." Smiley is the majority owner of KBLA, which he and investment partners bought in a deal valued at $7.5 million. "The opportunity to have a Black-on-Black operated talk radio station in this city, where talk radio for too long has been all day, all night, all white, is an opportunity that is begging for someone to take advantage of it," Smiley said. He said no one has expressed reservations about working with him. KBLA, with a signal reaching nearly 12 million Southern California listeners, could be the flagship for an eventual nationwide network, Smiley said. "The station doesn’t have an agenda except to be unapologetically progressive," he said.

(More Tavis Smiley stories.)

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