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Black leaders call for changes at KFI after John and Ken furor

February 27, 2012 |  6:51 pm

A coalition of black activists and community leaders met with KFI-AM (640) station executives and asked for substantive increases in diversity for the station's on-air staff and newsroom.

The meeting was held in reference to the station's controversial afternoon team of John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, who returned to the air Monday after serving a suspension of more than a week for making negative comments about deceased pop singer Whitney Houston, including calling her a "crack ho."

Coalition members said the station's lack of diversity has led to an insensitivity toward minorities that has resulted in caustic comments by John and Ken, as well as other personalities such as Bill Hendel and Tim Conway Jr. They said management had promised to get back to them within 72 hours with a plan to improve diversity.

"Systemic change has to happen," said Chris Strudwick-Turner, vice president of marketing and communications for the Los Angeles Urban League. "They have to come back to us with a solid plan to improve this situation."

Community activist and communications strategist Jasmyne Cannick added, "KFI has 14 shows, and 13 of them are hosted by white males. There are no blacks in their newsroom. This fosters an environment where negative comments can happen. And they are not living up to [parent company] Clear Channel's statement of a commitment to diversity."

Najee Ali of Project Islamic Hope said he was confident that the station would address concerns. He added that the radio duo had apologized to him.

"John and Ken really want to put this behind them and move forward," said Ali. "Their voices are needed in Southern California, and they have done some good things."


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Photo: KFI's Ken Chiampou, left, and John Kobylt during a live show in Fullerton in October 2011. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.