Radio BBQ

Why does everybody want to eat WRR?

She offered a caveat from the beginning that she wouldn't support anything that substantially impaired or reduced WRR. And she did come out very publicly and suddenly in the middle of last week opposing the swap idea. So I need to state plainly here that Miller is not now in favor of the swap, and it was my mistake not to call her last week for an update on her position.

But there is also a certain party line on this all of a sudden. I spoke to Spears two weeks ago, and he was clearly promoting the swap. I spoke to him a few days ago, and he said his panel was only a "fact-finding" body and that neither he nor it had a position on the swap. I must note--self-importantly, I'm sure--that the mayor came out against the swap and Spears became a neutral fact-finder right after I said in a column last week that the two of them had a ton of explaining to do about where this whole idea came from in the first place ("Radio Free Gomer," May 29).

And Miller is still holding out for putting KERA in charge of WRR--maybe her main agenda from the beginning. But if the aim is to make WRR more commercial, why not get somebody commercial to run it?

Chief Assistant City Manager Mary Suhm cautioned me last week that the so-called "radio panel," created by the mayor and headed by Spears, is not legally or officially a part of the decision-making process: "The radio panel is advising," she said. "That's all they're doing. They will probably stand up before the council and make a recommendation. They don't make a decision. The council makes the decision."

That may be accurate, legally. But politically and morally, if the panel is being presented to the council as objective and acting in the city's best interests, then that had better be true.

Suhm told me she also did not remember who first brought the tower-swap idea to the city. "It was more than one person," she said. "I don't know who the person was for sure."

Would be good to know--especially if it's anyone whose deal is being pushed by the radio panel.

The tower-swap deal as it is now proposed involves Hymen Childs, owner of Service Broadcasting (K104 and KKDA--"Soul 73") and a former employer of Spears. Childs has hired veteran lobbyist William Cothrum and Southern Dallas political consultant Kathy Nealy to represent him on it at City Hall.

At the end of last week, the mayor accused Nealy and Childs of making a race-card appeal to black city council member Leo Chaney when they met to lobby him for the deal. She said she heard them tell Chaney that black people don't need a classical music station because they don't listen to classical music and would be better off with Childs' "urban" station.

Both Cothrum and Nealy vigorously denied to me that they are playing a race card in presenting their case to minority council members. Cothrum said they are showing the council members research on which tower reaches which audience in the city.

Chaney, who is black, was very upset with the mayor's characterization of his meeting with Nealy and Childs. He said Nealy and Childs had discussed with him the demographic appeal of the various stations in the proposed deal. "That's a business reality," he said.

Chaney is very opposed to the signal swap, however. He says many of the calls he has received have been from elderly black residents who don't like the programming on Childs' FM station. "They say there's too much sex on it." He says many callers have told him they like WRR because classical music helps them get to sleep. (I find the same thing, even at the Meyerson.)

Chaney blamed the mayor for racializing the issue. "That station is a jewel, and it ain't about what's black, white, green or gold, and I don't like this race thing coming in. She started the whole mess with her friends, Michael Spears and Hymen Childs, and now she's trying to dog-paddle away from it."

I wouldn't call it dog-paddling. It looks more to me like a very athletic freestyle. But in all of this, I guess there is a silver lining. The majority on the council, including the mayor, deserve credit. They are turned off by the tower-swap idea for all the right reasons: It's repugnant to them that the city would ever own a station that serves up culture primarily for white people. That's a good thing.

Council member Dr. Elba Garcia, who was born in Mexico, said, "I think there are a lot of people of color that listen to WRR in the southern sector. I happen to love classical music. Everybody who likes the symphony and the opera knows that the future of these artistic forms is to educate people to listen to them. If they're not exposed to it, how are they going to love it?"

Isn't that refreshing? Hey! What are you doing listening to me? I thought you were watching the baby! Oh, man.

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