Coalition targets CBS and sponsors over cuts in niche categories

A group of musicians angered over the Recording Academy’s elimination of 31 Grammy Awards categories earlier this year is calling for a boycott of CBS, which carries the annual kudocast.

“We will ask people to stop watching CBS, boycott their sponsors and then write them,” said Bobby Sanabria, a Grammy-nominated Latin jazz musician and the leader of the coalition, in an interview with the Associated Press. “We’re at a critical juncture.”

In April, NARAS — which had long been criticized for the unwieldiness of its awards categories — downsized the number of Grammy slots from the 2011 total of 109 to 78 (Variety, April 7). The move stirred backlash, with some critical of the move alleging that the cuts — most of which hit niche-oriented categories, including gospel, zydeco, Cajun and Latin jazz — represented little more than institutional racism.

The coalition of opponents plainly seeks to apply economic pressure on the academy by striking at CBS, which recently signed a new 10-year pact with NARAS to carry the awards show and other programming (Variety, June 22).

A CBS rep said the web declined to comment.

The Recording Academy responded to the boycott call with a statement issued Wednesday by board of trustees chairman George J. Flanigen IV and president-CEO Neil Portnow.

Noting that NARAS’ decision to pare down the categories was in the works for two years, the statement shot back at the org’s critics.

“It is disappointing that some individuals chose to make false, inflammatory statements suggesting that this realignment of the Grammy Award categories was motivated by race or ethnicity…(A)s an organization that continuously strives to uphold the First Amendment, we would never tolerate any attempt to advance a racist agenda using our organization, and we were appalled when these provocative, unwarranted allegations were raised.”

Sanabria has said in previous interviews that a class action suit will be lodged against the Recording Academy. While he has engaged attorney Roger Maldonado, no action has yet been filed.

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