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L.A. City Council urges end to racist, sexist language on radio

The symbolic statement targets all local stations but focuses on a comment about Whitney Houston by KFI's John and Ken. The dearth of diversity among the station's on-air personalities is also noted.

March 22, 2012|By Stephen Ceasar, Los Angeles Times
  • Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, right, and activist Jasmyne A. Cannick of the Black Media Alliance embrace. Cannick urged the council to “let the world know that in one of the most diverse cities in the world," racist and sexist language on the airwaves is not acceptable.
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, right, and activist Jasmyne A.… (Christina House / For The…)

The Los Angeles City Council called Tuesday for radio outlets to put an end to racist and sexist language on the airwaves.

The resolution, passed on a 13-2 vote, is a symbolic statement decrying a recent comment by local KFI-AM (640) talk radio hosts John and Ken.

The duo, John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, triggered protests when they referred to the late Grammy-winning singer Whitney Houston as a "crack ho" on the air.

Though an original draft of the resolution focused specifically on the station and its parent company, Clear Channel Media, an amendment broadened the target to all local media outlets.

The resolution was sponsored by Councilwoman Jan Perry, council President Herb Wesson and Councilman Bernard C. Parks. Among other things, it says KFI has 15 on-air personalities and "only one is female and none of them are African American."

After the controversial comments, KFI ordered seven-day suspensions for the popular hosts, saying the station "does not condone, support or tolerate statements of this kind."

At the time, the station also made several pledges to increase sensitivity to minorities at the station. Kobylt and Chiampou agreed to take part in "cultural sensitivity training," the station said, "furthering their awareness of the cultural melting pot that is Southern California."

A message left with the station seeking comment was not returned.

Activist Jasmyne Cannick urged the council to "let not only America know, but let the world know that in one of the most diverse cities in the world that kind language is not acceptable."

Talk radio host Dominique DiPrima of KJLH-FM (102.3) was among a number of speakers in support of the resolution. DiPrima said a lack of diversity among radio hosts contributes to the prevalence of derogatory speech on the airwaves.

"Instead of censoring people, or firing people, we want to see representation in terms of hiring and clear standards of what can and can't be said on the air," she said.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said the aim of the resolution was not to stifle free speech, but to seek a greater consensus on what is appropriate speech and to reject what is not.

"It's exactly appropriate for this council to speak up against the vile things we hear on the airwaves," he said.

stephen.ceasar@latimes.com

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