The National Black Church Initiative is calling for its members not to give money to NPR in response to the cancellation of Tell Me More, the nationally syndicated show that the company plans to stop producing after July.
"This cancellation disheartens us deeply," NBCI President Rev. Anthony Evans said in a statement. "Tell Me More is a brilliantly formatted radio program that showcases a multitude of viewpoints."
NPR announced the show's cancellation earlier this month along with the news that it would cut 28 jobs, in an effort to shrink its budget deficit. The network said the show's host, Michel Martin, and its executive producer, Carline Watson, will remain with the company after the program ends.
The church group said in a news release last week that it is asking its members — "34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African American churchgoers" — not to give money to NPR.
Saying that Tell Me More is "a shining light for African American broadcasters, and serves a much-needed role of minority voices in the media," Evans concluded, "NPR has abandoned the African American community, and we must turn a deaf ear to you."
As NPR's David Folkenflik reported last week, Tell Me More is one of several to have been canceled by NPR in the past decade — and one of three canceled shows that were meant to appeal to minorities:
"Tell Me More's demise is the third for programs expressly designed to have a primary appeal for African-American listeners and other people of color. Tavis Smiley took his show to a rival public broadcaster after clashes with NPR brass over how much money the network spent to market his program, and News and Notes went off the air in 2009.
"That year, at the depths of the global financial crisis, also marked the end of the midday program Day to Day; last year, NPR shut down the long-running afternoon program Talk of the Nation."
Explaining the decision to cancel Tell Me More last week, NPR Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson said the network was committed to serving a diverse audience. But he also described a changed landscape in the media industry.
"We're in a different era than we were, even in five or six years ago," Wilson said. "There is in fact an opportunity to reach a larger audience across platforms ... not simply through principally a once-a-day broadcast show."
Martin discussed the show's cancellation on today's program, in a segment in which she also explained why she will remain at NPR after her program is shelved.
"Do I love this idea? No I do not," Martin says. "But when the people who outrank you make a decision you have two choices: salute or leave. I prefer to stay, and I hope many of the people on the Tell Me More team will also stay, so we can try to continue what we have started here, albeit on different platforms, as they say."