Friday, May 04, 2007

Premature congratulations

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial was less than desired but more than expected. Rather than try to rationalize McGee's statements, the editors praised WNOV's owner Jerrel Jones for suspending Michael McGee Sr.'s radio program "indefinitely." But what is indefinitely? Tuesday? Wednesday?

Will the son fill in for the father as he did on Friday? Can we expect a younger, more audible and somewhat intelligible version of the same hateful speech?

Jones has made it clear that the final decision has not been made. The editors missed an opportunity to encourage Jones to sever his relationship with the McGee family permanently.

But that would have required a spine.

Meanwhile, the TV/Radio columnist Tim Cuprisin echoes the sentiments of the editors, and then adds Jones' decision to suspend McGee Sr was a "moral" choice rather than an economic choice.

But Jones didn't have to take action. Unlike big corporate media, it's easier for independent stations like WNOV to get through these kinds of messes. They're not subject to the same kinds of pressure as, say, Clear Channel Communications, when it suspended Mark Belling a few years back after his slur on Mexican immigrants. Clear Channel had just flipped a bunch of its stations to a Spanish language format, and thus found itself faced with a protest by the very group it was trying to reach.

Likewise, NBC and CBS had to bow to big advertisers who didn't want to be associated with the derogatory comments Don Imus made about the Rutgers University women's basketball team.

Jerrel Jones has a freedom that corporate broadcasting doesn't. The decision that he made was less of a business decision than a moral one.
Give me a break. We'll never know what finally made Jones make the move he did, or what will motivate his final decision, but Cuprisin has no business pretending he knows Jones did it out of some sense of morality.

Let's look at the track record. McGee has certainly provided plenty of excuses before to yank him off the air, yet Jones has never before demonstrated the sense of morality Cuprisin is seeing now.

What Cuprisin should be noting is that Jones faces a possible defamation lawsuit, a series of new complaints to the FCC, and yes, a possible threat to Jones' advertising base.

And unlike what Cuprisin asserts, Jones' operations are far more vulnerable to local advertising pressure than a big corporation with extensive national pressure. It's just silly to assert otherwise, and makes me wonder how Cuprisin has the job he holds if he doesn't even understand basic economics.

That being said, one wonders if anyone at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel knows anything about the word "indefinite" other than it passed their spell check.

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