By Steven J.J. Weisman
BOSTON — There has been much discussion in recent years about the use of the name “Redskins” for the NFL’s Washington franchise and I believe that such discussion is a healthy exercise of free speech. The propriety of the name “Redskins” was even determined last June to be inappropriate for continued trademark protection because the name disparages a group. That decision is presently under appeal.
However, one place that the discussion of the propriety of the name had absolutely no business being discussed was at the FCC during the course of an objection to the radio station license renewal application of Washington, DC radio station WWXX-FM. This radio station is owned by Dan Snyder, the owner of the NFL’s Redskins, and is part of the team’s radio network. An objection was filed by a law professor and others to the license renewal, as was his or anyone else’s right. However his reasoning was totally spurious as recognized by the FCC which showed a little political testosterone and rightfully rejected all of the professor’s objections and renewed the application of WWXX-FM.
WWXX License Renewal Objection Draws Response. The FCC is considering whether it should rule if the team name of the NFL‘s Washington franchise (“Redskins”) is indecent. One of that team’s three radio flagships – Red Zebra Broadcasting-owned WWXX – has filed its answer to objections regarding the renewal of its broadcast license. WWXT (92.7) and WWXX (94.3) repeat the signal of primary flagship WTEM “ESPN 980.” Red Zebra states that its response “makes clear that under the Communications Act and the First Amendment, the FCC should not be in the business of censoring the content of radio stations. Any debate about the team’s name and its meaning should be held in the free marketplace of ideas, not in the halls of the FCC or any other governmental agency.” Red Zebra counsel Andrew McBride of Wiley Rein LLP comments, “We hope the FCC will swiftly reject this transparent attempt to use the license renewal process to intimidate broadcasters across the country with the baseless threat that accurately reporting on the Washington football franchise by using the team’s full name violates any law or FCC regulation.” Many consider the name of the DC franchise a slur to Native Americans and they have called on team owner – and Red Zebra primary investor – Dan Snyder to change it. President Barack Obama is among those asking the NFL to endorse a name alteration, as are at least one-half the members of the U.S. Senate. In a preliminary 18-page formal petition to deny renewal of a station’s FCC broadcast license, petitioner John F. Banzhaf III, “a listener to station WWXX, respectfully requests on behalf of himself and others similarly situated, and who are like himself adversely affected or aggrieved, that the agency deny the renewal of this station’s license and any other requests. It deliberately, repeatedly, and unnecessarily broadcasts the word ‘R*dskins’ during most of its broadcasting day, and especially in prime time where its well documented adverse impact on impressionable young Indian as well as non-Indian children is greatest. Through its licensee and controlling owner Dan Snyder, also actively encourages or indeed forces many other broadcasters to likewise broadcast a derogatory racial and ethnic slur contrary to the public interest.” Banzhaf is an American legal activist and a law professor at George Washington University Law School. The Washington Post editorial board has stopped using the team’s name, and a panel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark registration four months ago. Even so, Snyder vows to keep the name. TALKERS legal editor Steve J.J. Weisman recently wrote a column about this matter addressing the FCC’s jurisdiction to rule on the issue. Read that piece here.
Cooke: Two Weekend Problems, Two Solutions. In a piece written exclusively for TALKERS, radio consultant Holland Cooke addresses two weekend problems that face talk radio stations and offers a couple of solutions. He says ask-the-expert shows – i.e. brokered programming from local attorneys, real estate agents, veterinarians, etc. – don’t have to sound bad! Coach them so their broadcasts are well-executed and informative. Plus, let these clients use your listen-on-demand capabilities to reach more potential customers and they will be more satisfied with the money they are spending on your station. Read Cooke’s entire piece here.
How Mobile Can Save Your Talk Radio Brand. Digital media pro Gabe Barnes says, in a column exclusive to TALKERS, that he’s surprised by the number of radio execs who are put off by the reported amount of radio app usage that takes place outside of the station’s broadcast range. They see primarily the streaming fees for a listener who’s outside the “market.” The Mersoft Media director, business development says that’s not necessarily bad. “Many of those listening out of the broadcast range are actually local residents or have some ties to that local community. A local advertisement would be just as effective, provided the advertisement is compelling and targeted.” But there are more advantages for getting fans of your programming to go “mobile” with it. Read Barnes’ entire column here.
WTIC, Hartford License Renewal on Enforcement Hold. With the conviction of former Connecticut Governor John Rowland – until April of 2014 the afternoon drive personality on WTIC, Hartford – on campaign fraud charges in the rear view, CBS RADIO’s news/talk WTIC, Hartford is now waiting out an enforcement hold on his license renewal with the FCC. In a story in the Hartford Courant, Edmund Mahony writes that the hold on the process is due to a “payola” complaint to the FCC related to Rowland’s actions promoting a Republican candidate in a primary race without disclosing – either to the radio audience or the FEC – that he was on that candidate’s payroll. The FCC doesn’t comment on the specifics of these matters and CBS RADIO is simply confirming that the process is on hold but the company does not know why. Rowland is set to be sentenced in January. The station certainly took its share of criticism for hiring Rowland after his first conviction in 2004 on corruption charges related to activities while in the governor’s office. Now, the station may be liable for a fine or reprimand, according to experts Mahony cites in his story. Most experts agree a denial of the license renewal for WTIC is unlikely, to say the least.
ESPN Radio to Air World Series. This marks the seventeenth straight year that ESPN Radio has exclusive radio rights to MLB‘s World Series. ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” lead play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman and analyst Aaron Boone will function in those capacities on the radio broadcasts for the best-of-seven series that commences tomorrow night (10/21) between the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants. Pre-game and post-game coverage will be handled by Jon Sciambi, analyst Chris Singleton, ESPN MLB insider Peter Pascarelli, and Marc Kestecher. Meanwhile, for the tenth successive year, ESPN Deportes Radio will broadcast every game for a Spanish-speaking audience. San Diego Padres Spanish-language announcer Eduardo Ortega will be joined by Renato Bermudez, Armando Talavera, and Jose Francisco Rivera.
Cool Job Opportunity. One of the top newsrooms in the country, KMBZ in Kansas City, has an immediate opening for a Morning Show Executive News Producer. This is a unique opportunity for someone with great writing skills, an appetite for everything news, and a desire to create exclusive content each and every day. Candidates need to have a news background, and a good understanding of news-wheel operations. Reporting experience would be very good as well. “Kansas City’s Morning News” and KMBZ are committed to finding the right person to fill this position. If you have what it takes, send a resume, along with anything else that will make you shine to KMBZJobs@gmail.com. KMBZ and Entercom Kansas City are an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Salem Personalities in Israel. Four Salem Communications Christian teaching talk personalities are accompanying more than 350 listeners on a trip through the Holy Land. Pictured here from left to right are: Mark Daniels, WFIL, Philadelphia; Frank Sontag, KKLA, Los Angeles; Georgene Rice, KPDQ, Portland; and Kevin McCullough, nationally syndicated and WMCA, New York after a lunch on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel. Also joining the listeners and personalities on this trip is Salem Communications radio division president David Santrella.