OPEN LETTER:

To Clear Channel Radio's CEO

TO: John Hogan
CEO, Clear Channel Radio
200 East Basse Rd.
San Antonio Texas 78209-8328

Dear Sir:

It's a real stretch to believe that WGY’s listeners would find commentary on the size of the national debt to amount to unacceptable content, or that reminding listeners of our dependence on foreign oil is inappropriate. And how can it be controversial to remind people that voting is a civil right?
I am writing about a problem I have with WGY, a Clear Channel station based in Albany, New York. The problem occurred when I tried to place a series of issue ads on WGY. These ads concern the federal deficit, the right to vote, America’s oil dependence, Iraq, dissent, and Christianity.

WGY is an all-talk radio station, and the biggest station in the area where I live. It is my choice of venue and where I want to spend my money. But so far, WGY has refused to accept my ads and more pointedly, refused to provide any explanation as to why my ads have been rejected. The only communication I have received is that “our programming staff would not approve your ads.”

As WGY, indeed any broadcaster, derives income from the use of public airwaves, I believe WGY has an obligation to provide some reason for denying a citizen access to their advertising market. To phrase this as an analogy, I have the money and I want to buy a Chevy. The Chevy dealer cannot look me over and say, “You’re not the kind of person we want associated with our product. Go buy a Ford.” Now, I have nothing against Ford, they make a perfectly good product, but I want a Chevy. It is, or should be, my choice.

I find it a real stretch to believe that WGY’s listeners would find commentary on the size of the national debt to amount to unacceptable content, or that reminding listeners of our dependence on foreign oil is inappropriate. And how can it be controversial to remind people that voting is a civil right?

I have written to WGY about this issue on four occasions, but they prefer not to respond. That is why I am turning to you with the same question--What is objectionable about these ads? Is it one ad or all seven? Is it specific language? What? I want to know.

I am trying to spend my money in a specific market and on a specific station, WGY. If WGY can articulate a reason why it considers my ads inappropriate, I can then consider changing the ads to suit WGY. This is a basic, fair-play issue.

This is not a theoretical exercise. I am trying to spend my money in a specific market and on a specific station, WGY. If WGY can articulate a reason why it considers my ads inappropriate, I can then consider changing the ads to suit WGY. This is a basic, fair-play issue.

To quote the FCC’s position on freedom of speech and use of the airwaves:

“The public interest is best served by permitting free expression of views.”

The text of my issue ads is attached.


Sincerely,
Robert Millman
Glenville, NY


TEXT OF ROBERT MILLMAN'S SEVEN PAID RADIO MOMENTS:

1. TAX CUTS/DEFICIT SPOT
This is a paid radio moment--
The Federal deficit, is 400 billion dollars this year, the total National Debt is 7 trillion dollars. I keep hearing it's our money, But it's gone and now it's our debt. Not corporate debt, it’s citizen debt. Every man woman and child in this country owes the government 25,000 dollars (pause)... It would be fair to call this a “Birth Tax.”

2. INCUMBENCY/REDISTRICTING SPOT
This is a paid radio moment--
We're all nervous about losing our jobs--even politicians. But, they can cut a deal to keep their jobs safe. When politicians re-draw voting districts, they choose where your vote goes--. And they get elected again and again. And before they retire, they choose where your vote goes next. That's what re-districting is (pause)... A way to steal your vote.

3. JUSTIFICATION FOR WAR SPOT
This is a paid radio moment--
The President assured us Sadaam had weapons of mass destruction, nuclear capability and ties to Al Qaeda, Iraq could not be contained. We declared victory, but we’re still there. We’ve taken and re-taken the same cities. 13 hundred American troops are dead, many more wounded, with no end in sight. (pause)... Half truths got us in. Can whole truths get us out?

4. RIGHT TO VOTE SPOT
This is a paid radio moment--
You have a right to vote. It’s in your State Constitution. The right to vote along with a right to equal protection under the law. It’s one of your civil rights. So when some votes aren’t counted, or some voters are harassed, you should be worried. Vote suppression isn’t a strategy. Call it what it is--a crime. A crime against your right to vote.

5. SUSTAINABLE ENERGY SPOT
This is a paid radio moment--
Oil--it fuels our cars, our jobs, and our lives. More than 50% of America’s oil is imported. As long as we’re dependent on foreign oil, it’s likely we’ll have troops in the Middle East, because that’s where the oil is. Even if we'd like to, we can’t drill our way out at home, we don’t have that much oil (pause)... We don’t need a marketing strategy, we need a real solution.

6. DISSENT SPOT
This is a paid radio moment--Some of us disagree with the President. We think the Iraq war is a mess. We think vote suppression is a crime. We think tax cuts for the rich are a bad idea. We think business doesn’t know best (pause). And we think dissent is an American value (pause). This country was born because people questioned authority. It’s as American as apple pie.

7. CHRISTIANITY SPOT
This is a paid radio moment--
During times of war, people like to feel that God is on their side. I’m not trying to be disrespectful, but I have to ask--Which God is that? Which God supports war? If you’re a Christian and you support a war, that’s your choice, as it should be. You’re endowed with a free will. Just leave Christ out of it, all right? He never supported a war.



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This story was published on January 4, 2005.