Controversial Start Within Black Community for WABC’s Like It Is Replacement

It’s a new era for WABC/Channel 7, which is set to debut a new public affairs program. As we reported earlier this month, a stroke in late July forced Gil Noble to step down after amassing parts of six decades as host of Like It Is.

Last week, the station aired a farewell tribute to Noble, who remains in serious condition.

WABC was scheduled to start the new black themed program, Here and Now, in the same Sunday at noon timeslot, this weekend. However, Channel 7 general manager Dave Davis tells FishbowlNY that it may be pushed it back a week.

“In the transfer of some of the audio … comments by Councilman Charles Barron were lost in that process,” Davis says. “They’ve located another copy of the tape.”

Activist group, the Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People (CEMOTAP) has been vocal about the direction of the new show.

CEMOTAP, which FishbowlNY attempted to reach for this article, wrote for the Black Star that Barron was left on the cutting room floor from last week’s tribute purposely. They say the councilman was “eloquent and forceful” in the meeting with Davis and the subsequent taping.

“That is why Barron’s actual remarks from the taping were completely cut out of the program that was broadcast and a tape from some earlier interview was substituted,” CEMOTAP contends.

“No, it was a technical error,” Davis reiterates. “We’ve had Councilman Barron on our air many, many times.”

Despite the glitch, Davis says there is one way to make it right.

“To alleviate any suspicion on anyone’s part, maybe it would be a good idea to repeat the tribute show with everybody’s comments intact so there wouldn’t be any question about it,” Davis admits. 

Therefore, Davis says the tribute, hosted by anchor Lori Stokes, may be repeated this Sunday in its entirety.

Davis has met with CEMOTAP on many occasions over the years, and “several times in the last week,” as Channel 7 gathered feedback on the new program.   

“They had some questions about it. They had some concerns,” Davis says. “They wanted to share some thoughts with me about the new program, [and] we were glad to meet with them and listen.”

Given that the show will likely not air until October 30, Davis says it is still evolving and he welcomes the input.

“We certainly want to do a show that the community sees a benefit to, and we’re proud to be able to continue and program a show like this that focuses on the issues of particular importance to the African-American community,” Davis says.

But as CEMOTAP concludes, “They want to limit discussion to ‘Here’ (USA) from a Negro American perspective instead of ‘Here’ from a Pan-African perspective.  They want to focus on ‘Now’ in a vacuum instead of ‘Now’ in the African historical context that Noble always insisted upon.”

Davis, though, is not concerned with Noble’s legacy.

“Gil has hosted the show for 43 years and a lot of these people have been with him for almost that long,” Davis says. “So any change, I think, is difficult. Any transition is difficult.

“I think their initial concern was that they would be losing some voice or some access to our airwaves, and I’ve tried to assure them that that’s not the case. We would be listening to their suggestions for subjects and for guests, and hopefully they would still be involved with the show,” Davis adds.

As for the show, Davis isn’t committing to a permanent host.

“We have four or five people within our news department who have an interest, that we want to look at and they want to try the show,” Davis says. “I think you’ll see a variety of people on there, and then at some point we’ll have to decide on a host.” 

WABC has a deep bench of talent for Here and Now, but Davis realizes stepping into Noble’s shoes is no easy task.  

“Gil was just a longtime, historic, powerful figure, that I think [CEMOTAP is] anxious about what the future might be,” Davis says.