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Smiley and West returns to Chicago airwaves on commercial stations

This weekend Public Radio International’s Smiley and West program returned to the Chicago airwaves. Commercial progressive talk station WCPT starting airing the program Sunday, Nov. 4, and will continue airing it on Sundays at 3 PM. WVON, a commercial AM talk station focused on the African-American community, will carry the program on Saturdays at 11 AM beginning Nov. 10.

Chicago Public Radio’s WBEZ cancelled Smiley and West at the end of September. This move sparked criticism and opposition from many listeners and supporters, especially after comments from Chicago Public Media CEO Torey Malatia came to light in which he said the program had developed an “‘advocacy’ identity” and was “becoming like Democracy Now.”

Host Tavis Smiley fired back at Malatia with his own open letter in which he responded both to Malatia’s public statements and to responses Malatia made to concerned listeners’ emails.

In a statement, Public Radio International CEO Alisa Miller said,

“We are encouraged to see more stations add The Tavis Smiley Show/Smiley & West to their airwaves, making it available to more listeners nationwide. The conversations that Tavis and Dr. West lead are important to understanding our increasingly diverse communities.”

The two stations that Smiley and West is moving to have lower cumulative ratings than WBEZ. WCPT has a average quarter-hour share of .5 and WVON’s is .4, which together are still lower than WBEZ’s 1.4. These ratings reflect the percentage of the listening audience who of people tuned into a station during an average quarter hour, 6 AM to midnight. WCPT operates at lower power and is more difficult to tune in around the Chicagoland area than either WBEZ and WCPT. Of course, all three stations also broadcast online.

Smiley and co-host Prof. Cornell West also will be making a personal appearance in Chicago this coming Thursday. Democracy Now host Amy Goodman will join them for a free event called, “Poverty, Power, and the Public Airwaves: Post Election Analysis and Commentary,” happening at 7 PM in the Thome Auditorium at the Northwestern University Law School, 375 E. Chicago Ave., in Chicago. Though it is free, an advance registration is required.

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