*Los Angeles’ KFI AM 640 may not be the most popular radio choice among Black, Asian and Latino listeners, but the 50,000 watt, Southern California based and Clear Channel Communiations owned station has literally gained an ally in Morris O’Kelly.
Chatting with EURweb’s Lee Bailey, the “diverseLA” (KTLK AM 1150) co-host revealed that his 6-8pm Saturday evening show will be a welcome addition to the KFI line up as it will provide a much needed voice on the number one rated talk station in Southern California and the nation as well as the chance to expand its audience beyond those who regularly tune in.
“It’s gonna consist of humor, entertainment, but, of course politics,” O’Kelly said. “We hope to raise the caliber of conversation in the manner in which we address with all of these topics. We want to hear types of voices that you’ve never heard on KFI before. They may be familiar to the African-American community. They may be familiar to the Latino community, but they haven’t been familiar to the KFI community. And that’s the goal. The things that we think about in our minds in our communities…now there’s a voice and platform to express these ideas.”
O’Kelly’s optimism comes amid troubling times for KFI. The station is currently dealing with the fallout from comments made by radio hosts John and Ken in regards to the death of R&B/pop icon Whitney Houston. Media sources report the duo labeled the singer as nothing more than a “crack h**” three days after she was found dead in the bathtub of a hotel room she was staying in. The hosts’ comments as well as the uproar over nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh’s views on Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke resulted in the Black Media Alliance (BMA) acknowledging KFI’s lack of diversity for its on-air staff.
The issue also drew the attention of the LA city council, which recently approved a resolution for KFI and Clear Channel to “do everything in their power to ensure that their on-air hosts do not use and promote racist and sexist slurs over airwaves.” The resolution was extended to include a “friendly amendment” directed at all Los Angeles television and radio stations.
Although O’Kelly is now a part of KFI, many question the motives behind the station’s move. Nevertheless, O’Kelly maintains his position at KFI was not specifically influenced by the BMA/Black Media Alliance which has targeted Clear Channel/KFI for what are interpreted as its racist and sexist policies towards minorities and women.
“So I can’t say that the Black Media Alliance was the reason why I got the job, but I can say the Black Media Alliance very much opened up the possibilities for me to display the fullness of my talents which may have led to me getting the job,” he stated.”
Overall, O’Kelly believes the door is open for KFI to hire more African-Americans. The radio personality shared that there has been a “concerted effort long term” with “a number of people who are behind the scenes who are specifically working for and towards these goals of diversifying KFI.
“We’re going to be working with a number of organizations,” O’Kelly explained. “We’re going to be bringing people of color in an on-air capacity, in a production capacity, in a marketing and promotion capacity. And you will be able to see it in the way that the general public did not necessarily know that I was working at KFI.”
As far as “diverseLA,” O’Kelly maintains that listeners should not expect a downgrade of any sort in comparison to what the embattled station is currently experiencing.
“People who know anything about my work professionally and people who know anything about me personally know that I have earned the benefit of the doubt from people in the community. If you’re not sure about whether what I am going to offer is gonna to be meaningful and uplift people of color, then you’re not familiar with me. My record is beyond reproach in that regard,” he stated. “And I assure you, I promise you, whatever you’ve heard from me on the radio, whatever you’ve seen from me in print, it’s not gonna be any different. It is not gonna be watered down. It is not gonna be derogatory. It is not going to be just to placate and pacify people of color. It is going to add to the discussion. I guarantee you that.
“I can say, in all sincerity, that Robin Bertolucci, the program director for KFI, has made it very clear that none of that stuff will ever be acceptable in any form or fashion moving forward. So it does start at the top and she has set the tone,” continued O’Kelly. “I understand when people say ‘Well, if we look at the task, we may not be so sure that that’s going to be the case.’ And I always say ‘Let’s wait and take a person at their word because you can always be angry later. You can always re-address these issues later. The tone has been set. There has been the resolution in city council. We are all on the same page. And once again, I would reiterate. This is Mo Kelly. Mo Kelly has not changed. Mo Kelly has not sold out. Mo Kelly is gonna do exactly what he has done for more than 15 years. And I’m just gonna do it now on KFI.”
Morris O’Kelly’s inaugural show on KFI is scheduled for this Saturday, April 8 at 6pm Pacific. KFI is heard online at: www.kfiam640.com/
EURweb BONUS Coverage: HEAR the expanded interview between Lee Bailey and Morris O’Kelly: