Last week, listeners tuning in to “The Bev Smith Show” on American Urban Radio Networks might have been surprised to find that the show was no longer being broadcasted live. Though “The Bev Smith Show” is slated for cancellation Oct. 28, AURN began airing a canned version of some of the radio personality’s greatest hits Oct. 3.
“We’re in conversations with stations that are interested in syndicating our show. I was told our show is not relevant to young people,” Smith said. “There is no voice out there for Black minds. Our show was not only a show to entertain; it was about activism. That’s what the show is all about and there’s nothing about that on the air for African-Americans.”
As the only nationally syndicated African-American woman radio talk show host in the country, Smith has been recognized with numerous awards for her show, which began airing in 1998. Currently she is working to find another network and will be utilizing the Internet to communicate with her fan base.
“The fans have been overwhelming. Yesterday, I got a telephone call from a young woman in Louisiana. Her and her family listen to me every night and she broke down and cried because she wondered what was she going to do; where was she going to go to get that information,” Smith said. “That’s what makes ‘The Bev Smith Show’ so important. It’s not really about me; it’s about the people I’m connected to. With a continuing nightly conversation, we got to talk about the issues impacting us.”
“The Bev Smith Show” drew controversy earlier in March of this year when the second installment in a series of town hall meetings brought national figure Min. Louis Farakhan to Pittsburgh. Hosted by the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, the series focused on the topic of the “Disappearing Black Community and How We Can Get it Back.”
“There was supposed to be a fourth one that would have been aired Oct.14, but I was told the August Wilson Center was no longer sponsoring, so I’m going to take that on the road,” Smith said. “We’re going to be bringing those leaders to the people. Our plan is to go around the country. It’s a very aggressive plan, but it’s something I’m used to.”
Smith said she was told her show was being cancelled because she could not draw a younger audience. However, the cancellation of “The Bev Smith Show” is part of several cutbacks at AURN, including the elimination of several members of the news team. According to other sources only 14 affiliates are still airing news.
“She’s known since July 8 that this was coming and this was a part of expense reductions due to declining ad revenues and of course the economy,” said Jerry Lopes, AURN president of program operations and affiliations. “The talk of the audience piece, that was an aside that I was troubled by how the audience was skewing a lot older then our 20-55 target demographic. So we talked almost a year ago about trying to come up with ways to help attract a younger—to stay closer to our 20-55 audience.”
AURN is the only African-American owned network radio company in the country. Lopes said he personally tried to work with Smith to find another syndicator for her show, but the deal never came to fruition.
“Unfortunately her show was one of the casualties here. I lost two members of my news team as well and that was difficult for me because I hired all of them. It’s never easy, but especially not when it’s someone you brought in,” Lopes said. “In our business when there is a talent and a parting of the ways, the company always removes the person from the air. You never want someone who is disgruntled, and I’m not saying she is, airing that on air.”