Should we boycott XM?
Reasons are beginning to stack up on why several of us, at least, won’t be brandishing XM satellite sets anytime soon. For one: despite Mel Karmazin’s pitch that the XM/Sirius merger will bring greater content a la carte, we eye this pretty suspiciously and see it as another version of commercial radio – only this time, you pay for it. Why? Because, at the end of the day, someone else is still suggesting what you should listen to, hence all content is still getting filtered. Think you’ll get a good plate of that head-bopping, boom-bap, purist underground hip hop sound you won’t find on a top urban commercial station? Maybe a taste, but not the buffet. We prefer underground college radio and the great selection on Internet that was until RIAA rammed royalties through FCC hyper-lobbying.
But, a more sinister trend has appeared at XM regarding its Black talk line-up, also known as The Power. Within a span of only two months, we’ve witnessed the firings of two African American talk show hosts, one conservative, the other liberal or Afrocentrically progressive over reasons that remain suspect. The former, Casey Lartigue, Jr., is the more publicized incident – we peeped how the Black conservative/libertarian gets an Outlook column in the Washington Post, but activist Mark Thompson (aka Matsimela Mapfumo) does not. Of course, Thompson’s no stranger to fall outs with Radio One (the content provider for XM’s Power), but there is a hint of disparity in coverage that doesn’t go unnoticed. In addition, nothing is said about longtime radio activist Ambrose Lane being shut out as well.
Lartigue, Thompson and Lane were known to provide some thought-provoking, cutting-edge content during their collective radio tenure. Something different and non-partisan. Some of it agreeable, some of it disagreeable. But, you must admit that they had folks thinking. Not certain what this means for independent-minded, lactose-free Black talk content on XM and whether this means that Black talk is pretty much going the way of hip hop – meaning that the only African American talking heads worthy of play are those with political clout or “platinum” profiles. One of the reasons much Black policy and political discourse remains stale is because the conversations are cookie-cutter, predictable and, frankly, not all that diverse. This problem is just as prominent in Black talk as it is in mainstream talk. The filtering thought police strikes again?
Maybe. But perhaps it’s just a reflection of the times and our shifting priorities.