Monday, October 3, 2011

Bev Smith Says She's Being Forced Off the Radio

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Your Black World

Legendary radio icon Bev Smith is keeping it honest with regard to the announcement that she is leaving American Urban Radio Networks.  As part of a series of "expense reducing" mechanisms, Smith is being asked leave the position she has held since 1998. This is a blow to black female voices in America, which are already missing from nearly every style of media.

Smith has been listed as one of the 50 "top talkers" in all of radio.  When she leaves on October 28, she will also be off the air in 30 other markets, including New York, Chicago and other major cities.

Initially, rumors of poor health were given as the reasons for Bev deciding to leave, but she made it clear that this was not the case. She told her version of the truth to the Pittsburgh-Gazette. 

"I see it as about being a certain age and gender," she said. "If you've ever listened to me, you'll know I'm not afraid to tackle the truth. Is this something about black women's voices? Because there are no other black women nationally doing what I'm doing."

Jerry Lopes, President of Program Operations at AURN, said that the decision had to be made in order to save money.  He also blames a weak economy for the move.   In addition to cutting the Bev Smith show, the company also terminated Tene Croom, the news director. 
Lopes was just as honest as Smith when it came to explaining his reasons for cutting the show.  He said that 88 percent of Smith's New York audience was over the age of 55 and 53 percent were over the age of 65.   In Chicago, over 86 percent of her audience was over the age of 65 as well.
"Her audience numbers were, frankly, skewing a lot older than that, which made the show less attractive to advertisers. We were forced to make some changes, and her show, unfortunately, was one of the casualties," he said. 

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bev Smith.  I've worked with her on multiple occasions, including a summit on the state of the black male that was held in Pittsburgh earlier this year.  Bev's work is absolutely awesome, and she is surely a queen among queens when it comes to her contributions to media.  Finally, she tends to focus on the issues that need to be discussed in our community, rather than the silly, intellectually-deficient content that is force-fed to African Americans around the nation.

I've also met Jerry Lopes, a man that I admittedly don't know very well.  I can say that I find Lopes' reasons for cutting Bev's show to be credible, since profitability tends to be the bottom line for nearly any corporate entity.  While Smith's allegations of age, race and gender discrimination are certainly valid, these biases typically exist because it's hard to find profitability with a show that appeals primarily to senior citizens.

Given that seniors are certainly a relevant audience in America, one can hope that Bev will find a new home for her talents.  It should be noted that Lopes is correct in his assessment that Bev's style of commentary doesn't attract the kind of demographic necessary to thrive economically in struggling black radio.  I've personally felt that during my appearances on the show, there was a great deal of nostalgic reflection on "how great things used to be way back then," and not much of an effort to appreciate the value that young people can bring to the table (unless those young people happen to agree with old people).

But with these issues being put to the side, Bev is entirely correct that there is a dearth of black female talent on the radio - Wendy Williams (who also left radio) comes to mind and I loved appearing with Wendy as much as Bev, for both women are truly amazing.   Bev brings issues to the table that almost no one else will explore.  Given the degree of pride and power that Bev carries on the air, I wonder just how feasible it might have been to partner Bev with a younger, male co-host in order to balance out the demographic.  The only challenge for Lopes, however, would be that Bev's presence can sometimes fill a room, for Bev is a person who always seems fully aware that she is as important as she is (yes, I say this with a loving smile).

At the end of the day, Bev will survive and continue to excel.  I am equally hopeful that AURN will  thrive as well.  The media industry is tough, and African Americans continue to struggle to maintain our own outlets.  This is a sad ending to a great career, and it's unfortunate that the Bev Smith's of the world are not appreciated as they should be.  Given that intelligent, progressive dialogue is not always the most financially profitable use of our time, perhaps we should remain mindful of keeping a double bottom line.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. 


PD said...

Bev Smith is one of the great voices on radio and the problem is not sales because you had Larry King and others that were over 40yrs. and are were still on the air. The producer of the show should have made suggestions and I agree with your statement to put someone else, and age does not matter, but some one who is relevant with the times.

Anonymous said...

I saw Bev Smith on O'rielly Factor show and she was great countering Cain observation that Blacks are brainwashed. Bev managed to out-do Bill. Bev is one person I would love to have lunch with.

Anonymous said...

OK, if Bev Smith is all that (and I believe she is) WHY then isn't there more of a demand and or uproar in protest over her untimely departure or dethroning...where de hell are all the "civil rights organizations?"
Answer: Trying to stay de hell out of the way of loosing their own jobs and positions!

WizardG said...

It should be obvious to all of you that jobs in this country are being purposely diminished and because of fewer jobs, white men will be first in line for everything as usual. Second comes white women next white youth and finally youth of color (Many of which will find their way into prison or military service). It was very important that Affirmative Action be repealed before this massive reduction in the job market. This is all leading up to a very sad and probably very violent ending where the white community will be so desperate and angered about their inability to find jobs that they will,as usual, blame "blacks" and begin their long planned attack on our community.It truly appears that all of this was all carefully thought out and carried out by the elite.They rarely do anything without great scheme and forethought. She is only one of hundreds of thousands to come. I isn't only her age and gender it's more her race.Search and you'll find many white women her age that will continue to work long after she's gone, but eventually they will lose their positions to white men or the white youth.

We need to strengthen our 45 million strong community ties, build a vast network able to tally our numbers and speak to those numbers. We must get all sincere "blacks" in solidarity as one unit in hiring, buying, selling,insuring and using bargaining power. We need to build our numbers and become strong for our children. Only then can we put our own people to work. But be assured. The evil whites and others will not like this and they will do everything within their power to infiltrate and tear down our unified community because not only does it threaten them but it makes the jealous, envious and angered.They would consider us a threat! That is the reason why they have destroyed any attempts so far. That is why they attack and murder our most able leadership! And make no mistake there are those of us quite willing to help them destroy us (For a generous fee). [Feel free to edit this comment]

Renelda Moorehead said...

I'll say this for Bev Smith: she certainjly looks fantastic, stylish.
But the times demand that we(seniors) keep young folks in the loop; they are the future. Kahlil
Gibran on children:"You may strive to be like them,but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

David said...

There was no mention of the fact that Bev Smith bucked the Jewish media establisment when she refused to remove Minister Louis Farrakhan from a town hall gathering of black voices on the plight of unemployment and other issues related to the black community of Pittsburgh, was it. Some influential Jewish activist denounced the Minister's invite and did all he could to thwart his attendance. Sure these other factors of her leaving are realistic but honestly since this ordeal hasn't been mentioned I suppose truth again is swept under the rug of power.

Abigail said...

I guess some eyes need to be washed out. Before and after the Third Reich the Jews have not been owners of any media. That is a purely racist and infamous statement and way of thinking. Why if something happens like now regarding Ms. Smith all the fears and hatred get out of some minds which show a very ugly way of thinking about other minorities. I find this venom appalling.

Buttons said...

Wow. I am speechless. I just can't imagine Bev Smith not on the air. I can't tell you how much listening to her has empowered me. Her show is like breathing a breath of fresh air. I cannot tolerate some of the mess that is called "information" on some of these other stations. I need to be fed intellectually and spiritually and Bev's show did that for me. By the way, I am a 42 year old Black woman.

I am going to contact the radio station and let them know that as a long time listener, I am not in agreement with their decision and I hope that many others will do the same.