Play Misty For Me, Part III: Static

Yesterday, we talked about the complaint filed with the FCC by Dr. Bill Gleason, world-class researcher, and The Late Debate, a talk show at plucky little FM station “Hope 95.9” in Ramsey hosted by Jack Tomczak and Ben Kruse, and about why the complaint was of no merit.

I’m predicting that the complaint gets ignored and politely rejected, sooner than later, because nothing in the complaint involved any are over which the FCC has jurisdiction.  The complaint spoke of…:

  • “Untruthful statements” – While Gleason never specified in his complaint what the “untruthful statements” were – opting to leave it to the FCC staff to cull through a blog post that looks not a little bit like a ransom note to find them, whatever they were – the fact is that even if Tomczak said something that’s untrue, defamatory and malicious, that’s the province of civil court.  Not the FCC.  And it’s a demonstrable fact that Bill Gleason – for all of his well-documented talent as one of the world’s leading researchers – is a bully.
  • “Harassment” – Actual harassment is something to take up with the local police.  While broadcasts can harass people, that refers to using the broadcast airwaves to try to systematically mess with people – not merely talk about an attempt at an ambush interview (which is, like it or not, protected constitutional speech,  provided that there is no physical threat involved – and even that is the job of the police, if there is any genuine worry).

If I were a betting man – and I’m not – I’d bet money that this complaint will be politely but completely rejected in a few weeks.

Of course, the general manager of a radio station is not paid to be a betting man.  A GM’s main job, before all of that “get ratings’ and “turn a huge profit” thing, is to protect the station’s FCC broadcast license, which is the station’s reason to exist.

And when the subject of “FCC complaints” comes up, General Managers get justifiably skittish.  And the management at Hope 95.9 reportedly are being skittish.  They’re not (I’m going to guess) big-market talk-radio management, with lots of experience at dealing with everyone from crazies to well-organized special interest groups leaning on them over every stance every host takes.  They run a little Christian station in the north ‘burbs.  I know nothing about them, but they remind me of the management I grew up working for in North Dakota – very sensitive to any feedback they got from the community.  Anyway – they’re reportedly leaning toward telling Tomczak and Kruse to apologize to Gleason.

This is a mistake.

It’s imperative that broadcasters follow the rules.  But nothing in Gleason’s complaint referenced anything that the FCC has jurisdiction over.   And while every married guy in the world knows that apologizing for things you didn’t do is common sense in a marriage, it makes less sense for a broadcaster; it devalues the rules and the process for enforcing them.  It means every bully who doesn’t like being portrayed as a bully will get it in their heads to scamper off to the FCC when someone stands up to them and puts the story on the air, on the flimsiest and most facile of pretexts.

Which is what Gleason is doing.

If it were my station – and it’s not, and I have no financial skin in the game, so my opinion is worth exactly what you’re paying for it – my response would be something along the lines of…

Dear Dr. Gleason,

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.  While we realize that you may have been offended by our broadcasters’ remarks about you, nothing in the broadcast violated any FCC rules.

If you feel you’ve been harassed, you need to contact the police.

If you feel you’ve been defamed, you need to contact a lawyer.

If you are offended by Mr. Tomczak’s portrayal of you (leaving accuracy aside for the moment), or the language he used in his Twitter exchange, you need to take that up with Twitter, and with Mr. Tomczak directly.

While we do not seek to gratuitously offend any listener, you have complained of nothing for which this station or Mr. Tomczak are legally liable to the FCC.  Therefore, while we regret any perceived offense, we must decline your request for an apology from station management.  As none of your grievances with Messrs. Tomczak and Kruse relate to FCC offenses, we will not be directing them to apologize to you.

I thank you for being a loyal listener.

Mitch Berg

Hypothetical General Manager

Again, it’s not my license.  But if management is considering knuckling under to Gleason’s spurious complaint, I hope they reconsider.

If you’re a Late Debate fan, it might not hurt to give the station a polite, to the point call to support ‘em.

12 thoughts on “Play Misty For Me, Part III: Static

  1. I completely disagree. A response like that would be divisive. It would be rigid.

    Ask yourself: what would Lori S. counsel?

    The station management should not only fire the two of them and cancel their radio show plus convert the station to re-runs of Al Franken’s show, they should apologize and offer the Professor a paid position plus unlimited free airtime.

    In other words, compromise.

  2. Obviously, someone should call the & email the station the station and give them a different sort of feedback regarding the Gleason & Tomczak dispute.

  3. I’ve had several telephone conversations related to Gleason in the past couple of days, don’t know why I didn’t think to include the radio station. Thanks for the suggestion. Everyone should take a minute to support them.

    Jon Engen – Station Manager jon@starcomemail.com 763-450-7777

  4. I hope Mr. Engen is informed of these three posts, reads them, and thoughtfully considers that the source has some experience in this realm…while, of course, also consulting his own legal advisory staff (if he has such a beast).

  5. If you want to see how this suppression of speech works, check out crazy charlie’s place: http://littlegreenfootballs.com/article/40222_National_Reviews_John_OSullivan-_On_the_Board_of_Directors_of_a_White_Nationalist_Group
    Once you give in and give them a taste of success, they will never, ever stop. This has been working quite well for Van Jones and his “Color of Change” campaign against ALEC. Next they will ask the companies they’ve talked into pulling out of Alec for a seat on the board — non voting at first — so that they can provide “input” to make sure they don’t make a mistake like backing ALEC again. Because it was a mistake, wasn’t it? Didn’t the company’s actions show it was a mistake for them to have supported ALEC?

  6. The one sitting in the catbird seat is Gleason. He’s got tenure, he’s got opinions which, wrong though they be, cannot be mitigated by lowly bloggers. While we vent our spleens, he’s designing his retirement condo in Florida – at our expense. ‘

    There will be a day when he’s sipping his Cuba Libre in the sands, he’ll have time to contemplate just what an ass he’s been and he’ll solve his predicament by ordering another drink.

    Gleason cannot see his duplicity. He doesn’t see himself as The Problem. His only moral and holy authority – himself – concurs with his actions.

    The university system creates these people – insulated, arrogant and self-righteous. We shouldn’t be surprised, but we shouldn’t be so naive as to think any of this is going to change because it’s WRONG.

  7. “This has been working quite well for Van Jones and his “Color of Change” campaign against ALEC.”

    Unfortunately, these race baiting losers apparently scared McDonald’s, Kraft Foods and several other companies to cave in to their idiotic demands. I have written letters to McD’s and Kraft’s CEOs advising them that since they felt it better to cave into a racist, radical left wing, anti-business organization like that, then they didn’t need my money. I haven’t purchased anything from either company for months.

    “The university system creates these people – insulated, arrogant and self-righteous.”

    Which is precisely the example I used when I asked both Pat Mazerol and Geoff Michel to cut funding for the U of M.

    Now, does any of this have any affect? Don’t know, but it is what I can do as an individual.

  8. All that is true BS, but in my case Gleason violated clearly stated policies regarding abuse of position in access to private data. He knows it, which is why he dissappears when I mention it.

    I’ve spoken with several people at the U and two things are clear: They realize Gleason is an ongoing embaressment to the university and they wish he would go away.

  9. Swift: Wishing he would go away and giving him a pink slip are two different creatures. To be able to flush him from their system, they would have to scale the mountains of the unions, bureaucracies and lawyers – and they know it.

  10. Surprisingly, the response I’ve been getting from the U is much more hopeful than that BS. Data practice abuse is not a small thing. My complaint is being taken pretty seriously.

  11. Pingback: Play Misty For Me, Part IV: Promises Carved In Sand | Shot in the Dark

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