By Lauren Victoria Burke
NNPA Newswire Contributor
In a letter dated April 23, 2019, Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) wrote to SIRIUS XM CEO James Meyer highlighting the issue of diversity at the billion-dollar company.
“We write to express our deep concern about the lack of African American representation in the C-suite and on the board of Directors at SIRIUS XM Radio. In February 2019, Sirius XM announced the finalization of its acquisition of Pandora Media for $3.5 billion, forming the world’s largest audio entertainment company,” the letter from the Congressional Black Caucus began.
“We believe a media company of this size and reach should be much further along in ensuring diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership and agree that Sirius XM has a great deal of work to do,” the letter pointed out.
SIRIUS XM has recently come under pressure on social media around the issue of diversity, as Mark Thompson, who hosts the popular show Make It Plain, was inexplicably taken off the air during the second week in April.
SIRIUS XM has not made it clear why Thompson has remained off the air. A social media campaign to get Thompson back on the air at SIRIUS XM has placed even more attention on diversity issues at the radio network.
The last segment Thompson completed before his unexplained absence focused on DiversityInc.com’s upcoming reveal of the Top 50 Companies for Diversity. SIRIUS XM did not participate in the survey for the DiversityInc analysis.
“We find your corporation’s lack of diversity especially problematic given the fact that African Americans and Hispanics drive consumption among streaming services. According to Nielsen, 52% of African Americans and 45% of Hispanics drive consumption among streaming services,” the Bass, Lee, Butterfield letter detailed. The letter also pointed out that their staffs met with SIRIUS XM officials in late January.
The issue of corporate diversity in a changing America is becoming a key priority of the CBC agenda. The largest Congressional Black Caucus in U.S. history is also the largest in Congress. In an increasingly diverse nation, they have been pushing for demographic representation with increasing success. Back in the 1990s, when Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. highlighted diversity within media companies, he had little political leverage behind him.
For the 116th Congress, the CBC has a historic 55 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Those 55 members represent 25.3 percent of the total U.S. population, and more than 17 million African-Americans, 41 percent of the total U.S. African-American population. In addition, the CBC represents almost a fourth of the House Democratic Caucus.
Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC.