In an episode of Hill Street Blues (or maybe NYPD Blue, but I think it was Hill Street, on account of the fact that I watched Hill Street addictively, and maybe saw one episode of NYPD Blue), Dennis Frantz’ character (either Sergeant Buntz on HSB, or Sergeant Butt on NYPDB) and his new partner, a young Asian fellow (who, I’m told, was named “Rodriquez”, which seems odd for a character that I recall being Asian) just out of detective school, are cornered and kidnapped by a psychotic killer.
The two detectives are sitting, disarmed and helpless, in chairs facing the killer.
The killer looks at the two men, brandishing the most evil-looking short-barreled shotgun I’ve ever seen.
The killer demands “You don’t wanna die? Beg!”
Buntz warns his partner “Don’t do it. As long as you stand up to him, he’s not gonna kill you. He’s a gutless little worm who gets off on having power over better men”, or something to that effect.
“SHUT UP” yells the killer. ”Beg!”
The newbie looks at Frantz/Buntz/Butt, and then at the shotgun. And he breaks down, starts to cry, and begs fervently for his life, as Frantz’s face goes white.
There’s a shotgun blast. You might guess how it turned out, in that Frantz’s character survived the length of both shows (although his showbiz career didn’t).
The lesson? Don’t be Dennis Frantz’ partner in a Steven Bochco crime drama.
Also don’t give bullies what they want.
Two weeks ago, after an episodewhere U of M professor Bill Gleason accused “The Late Debate”‘s Jack Tomczak of “stalking” him (by showing up in a public building where he publicly announced he’d be, carrying a baby and a stroller), Dr. Gleason filed a complaint with the FCC.
Gleason – a world-class researcher known for his frenetic publication schedule, beaver-like work ethic and outsized stature in the scientific community – said that he’d withdraw the complaint if Tomczak issued an apology on Twitter, on the air, and in writing. Gleason was to approve the apology.
Tomczak issued the apology a little over two weeks ago.
Apparently because the apology wasn’t delivered with the right degree of self-abasement, and notwithstanding the very high likelihood that the FCC complaint will be rebuffed without much in the way of comment, Hope 95.9′s management suspended Tomczak last week. That’s why I was on the air guest-hosting last night.
The episode illustrates three things.
Hope 95.9′s management is incredibly naive. Like Frantz’ partner, they figured that if they caved in to a bully – moreover, a bully with a paper-thin, flimsy case – with enough verve, everything would get better.
Predictably, Dr. Gleason will apparently not confirm that he’s mailed any sort of rescission letter to the FCC.
Maybe it’s because there’s no “rescind” button on the FCC’s online public complaint form.
Or maybe it’s because Gleason has no intention of rescinding his complaint.
And – above and beyond all that – maybe it doesn’t matter. Because…
The FCC Doens’t Adjudicate Personal Complaints. It’s in the business – among other things – of regulating the public airwaves, including ensuring broadcasters follow the rules that go along with having a broadcast licence.
Say, hypothetically, that you hear a morning DJ say one of the Seven Deadly Words. You file a complaint with the FCC, saying your sensibilities were offended. The FCC’s machinery grinds into action…
…about the time you get an apology from the DJ, who has converted to strict evangelism and is repenting of his ways.
Satisfied, you write the FCC asking to rescind your complaint.
What will the FCC say?
“That’s nice”, likely, but “we’re not here to enforce your ever-changing sensibilities; we’re here to make sure that radio stations follow the rules”. The Seven Deadly Words were said – ergo rules were broken. The FCC, legally, jurisdictionally and procedurally cares not one institutional jot about your feelings, then or now; merely that rules about the use of the public airwaves were broken. You were good enough to report it to them, and for that the FCC thanks you. Contribute to the station’s legal defense fund, or don’t return the FCC’s call when it asks for more info, it it helps your conscience – but your job, from the FCC’s perspective, ended when you clicked the “OK” button on the complaint form.
Gleason’s offer to “rescind” his complaint is equally meaningless, even if he does send the letter. The FCC doesn’t enforce rules about not hurting peoples’ feelings; they regulate how stations use their licenses.
That is it.
And either Gleason doesn’t know that, and is being ignorant, or he does, and is being a narcissist.
Barring the overreaction of some naive management, there isn’t a teapot small enough to hold this tempest. At least not as far as the FCC is concerned.
I’d bank on it.