Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reclaiming Our Airwaves: Squawk Radio =/= Bona Fide News

Just over a year ago, I told the gentle reader that the Media Action Center had gathered enough evidence to show that squawk radio channels WTMJ-AM 620 and WISN-AM 1130  had violated the Zapple Doctrine, a federal law that requires radio stations to give both sides of a political race equal time for at least the last 60 days prior to an election.

In November, based on the station's violations of the law and refusal to correct their illegal behavior, the Media Action Center filed a legal challenge to the renewal of the license for WTMJ-AM.

After a lot of dinking around by the FCC, including claims of having not received the challenge and/or not being able to find it, things started to proceed.

WTMJ's attorneys responded that they did not violate the law, claiming that the likes of Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner are bona fide news sources, like Walker Cronkite and Douglas Edwards.  As "bona fide" news sources, the lawyers contended that they were immune to the Zapple Doctrine, so that they could cover fundraisers and late breaking events.

Sue Wilson, Director of the Media Action Center, responded to the lawyers' claims in a press release:
Media Action Center filed a petition late in 2012 with the FCC to deny the license because, during the Scott Walker recall campaign, WTMJ's Jeff Wagner and Charlie Sykes shows were proven to have given as much as a half a million dollars in free airtime to supporters of Republican Governor Scott Walker. The station specifically denied comparable time to supporters of his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

The FCC's quasi-equal opportunities rule (Zapple Doctrine) states that broadcasters must give supporters of both major party candidates comparable airtime. Only "bonafide news" programs are exempt so they can cover candidates' events in real time.

"Bonafide news programs are specifically not allowed to politic for candidates," says Media Action Center Director Sue Wilson. "Now is our one chance to make a stand for journalism. The FCC has a duty to the public to draw a clear line between news and opinion.

"If the FCC does not draw a clear line, radio talkers from Charlie Sykes to Rush Limbaugh will be equated with newsmen like Walter Cronkite, and listeners will lose any hope of ferreting out fact from fiction," Wilson added.
I would point out that anyone that thinks Charlie Sykes is a bona fide news source is themselves a bona fide crackpot.

Sykes is nothing more than a megatroll. Sykes has been caught libeling innocent people and then whining about being forced to act like an adult.  Sykes' libel was so egregious that he had almost lost his job.  WTMJ wanted to fire him, but ironically, Sykes went crying to the union which saved his worthless but and allowed him to keep his job.

Even more damning is Sykes' own admission to how bona fide his reporting is (emphasis mine):
When we asked Sykes for support for his claim -- a standard first stop in the items we do -- he quickly backed off.

"The only politically connect(ed) hack I know is going is Jim Doyle (and maybe some of the regents)," Sykes wrote in an e-mail that he also posted on his SykesWrites blog. "My ‘evidence’? Absolutely none."

Sykes went on to label his remark "an off-hand wisecrack" -- "You know, humor, hyperbole, joke."
So he makes up stories out of his arse, and then calls his libelous statements as humor and as a joke.  Yet somehow we are to believe that he is a bona fide news source.

The Media Action Center, working with MoveOn.Org has launched a petition drive for public support.  Their drive is called  "Tell the FCC: Talk Radio is NOT Bonafide News!"

Please sign their petition and get your friends and family to sign on so that we can start reclaiming our airwaves.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Sykes Attacks "President's Prop" For Event He Never Attended

by Bert

It’s disgraceful enough that WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes on Wednesday attacked the Oak Creek mayor for standing with President Obama during a speech on gun control. What’s worse is that no official from Oak Creek was visible beside the president, or anywhere near Washington, D.C.

The preceding radio host Gene Mueller was conversing with Sykes at the beginning of Sykes’ show about Obama’s remarks after the Senate rejected a gun control measure. I heard Mueller add that standing in the background was the Oak Creek mayor. Sykes, whose bountiful hate is clearly always loaded with a hair trigger, could not resist tearing into the official as ‘the president’s prop’ before going to another of that station’s frequent commercials.

Mueller confirmed in a message to me Friday that he was mistaken in claiming anyone from Oak Creek was there*. Others in the TV side of WTMJ, he said, had emailed that they thought they recognized the mayor.

Two different aides to Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi contacted Scaffidi Thursday morning after hearing the station refer to the mayor at the president’s side.

After hearing that from his aides, and hearing that he was attacked as serving as a presidential ‘prop’, Scaffidi sent a response to Sykes. I also talked with the mayor Friday, who said he knows Sykes and is on friendly terms with him. Scaffidi added that he did not vote for Obama. But Scaffidi did not agree with the criticism from Sykes, and not only because he was not there.

In other words, Scaffidi said he would be perfectly willing to work with the president on the issue of guns if Scaffidi’s input were sought. “I’m never going to not talk to someone,” he said. In fact, Scaffidi had been invited and then did interact on-line with Vice President Biden on the issue. Scaffidi was not openly supporting gun control laws, asking whether this bill would lead to ever increasing restrictions, and also said a worthwhile focus would be more federal resources to help local police agencies.

Sykes did later on Thursday morning read the statement from the Oak Creek mayor on the air and added a mumbled and perfunctory half-correction of Sykes’ and Mueller’s false claim that anyone from Oak Creek was standing with Obama in Washington. God forbid Sykes would also apologize for insulting officials as “props”.

I think Oak Creek officials would be almost expected to be involved in the gun debate after the massacre at the Sikh Temple there last August where six victims and their murderer died. I know Sykes, because he’s committed to helping the GOP, is against the worthy parts of society like schools, universities, services to the poor and an independent media. But why would you tear down police or the leadership of Oak Creek?

Rhetorical question.

This Sykes gaffe and its jagged edge tells you all need to know about the damage that WTMJ-AM radio inflicts on the fabric of the Milwaukee community into which it broadcasts. Sykes is given too much influence by the rest of the station and Journal Broadcasting corporation. The result of this is that Sykes' devotion to promoting the Republican cause and his personal vindictiveness work against not only honoring that which deserves the community’s respect, but also against just getting the facts straight.

*There is some dispute whether Sykes and Mueller were referring to the mayor or police chief of Oak Creek. No transcripts or podcast of this was available, and Mueller did not respond to my message asking about this.