Smiley says it’s “unconscionable” he didn’t know about producing partner KCET’s plans to depart PBS

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Tavis Smiley said “it’s unthinkable, it’s untenable, it’s unacceptable,” that KCET execs didn’t let him know that they were breaking from PBS as of Jan. 1 (Current, Oct. 18). He told the Los Angeles Times in a story today (Nov. 23) that being out of the loop when his show is produced on the lot at the L.A. station is “unconscionable.”

“I literally got a phone call as KCET was making the statement publicly, as this story was breaking,” he said. “I was traveling, so I wasn’t even in the city. I didn’t even find out about this until hours after it had been announced.”

But wait, that’s not all. “What has rubbed me raw for these seven years is that when we started this relationship with KCET it was supposed to be a partnership,” Smiley said. “For seven years, KCET has not raised a single dime for this program. I was never supposed to be producer, host, chief marketer and fundraiser.”

KCET President Al Jerome denied that Smiley wasn’t informed of station negotiations with PBS. He confirmed that the station raised no money for Tavis Smiley, because its fundraising contract was for less than a year and that station officials found it difficult to work with Smiley’s in-house fundraiser.

Smiley is finalizing a contract with KCET that will keep him on the lot for at least another year. He said he didn’t have time to find another location. His show will be carried on KOCE in Orange County, the new market primary, in the new year.

  • At best, Smiley is being disingenuous about KCET. Everyone in the programming community knew that KCET was negotiating with PBS since 2007.

    If Smiley didn’t know it would be because he didn’t pay attention to reports in Current and throughout the system.

  • This just goes to show what Smiley cares about — himself. To be “out of the loop” on the biggest public media story of the year means he’s not paying attention. But what else should we expect from this guy?

    There are two reasons he stays in public media at this point. First, he’s black and PBS needs at least one black guy to give the impression of being inclusive and color-blind. And second, no one in for-profit mass media wants to put up with his prima donna routine.

    NPR had the pleasure of dealing with Smiley in the past but gave him the boot. If they weren’t willing to put up with Bob Edwards, they certainly wouldn’t put up with Smiley.

    This is contract negotiations positioning. It’s just not very artful. God, I’d hate to be this guy’s agent…