Friday, April 18, 2008


Freedom of speech, marijuana, suspensions - trouble at KZYX

KZYX is something of a sister station to KMUD often coordinating news coverage and simulcasting significant events. Apparently they've lost KC Meadows because she expressed her own views of Measure B during a debate in which she was moderating. She had disclosed her bias in favor of Measure B at the beginning. I should mention that while I do not take positions on ballot measures or candidates while airing my own show, I do not read the law as restrictively as some have. A talk show is about the exchange of arguments and as such it is obvious that the nonprofit station itself is not taking a position. I believe that the memos sent out at KMUD a few years back based upon the opinions of some attorney in Oregon was overstated.

But I think Bruce Anderson's implication is that the real objection was that KC Meadows was making some salient points objectionable to many listeners during a pledge drive. If so, that should be a point of concern for KZYX listeners.

Meadows reportedly quit in protest of the suspension. No mention of the incident on her own blog.

Some excerpts from the AVA article:
Mendocino County's marijuana controversy got its best airing yet when free speech made a rare, hour-long appearance at the county's public radio station last Thursday evening. But by Friday morning free speech was in full, limping retreat at the Philo headquarters of Mendocino County Public Radio, and two KZYX staffers had been suspended for having committed the unspeakable act on the air.

What happened?

Thursday's debate had been advertised as "KZYX, Thursday night, April 10, 2007. Media Panel Debate on Measure B. Moderator: K.C. Meadows. Guests: Keith Faulder, Ross Liberty."


Measure B received a thorough airing on Thursday night's program. The discussion was smart, civil and lively. It was adult give and take and interesting radio, public radio as it should be.

Enter the enemies of free speech at, of all places, a radio station that constantly advertises itself as "free speech radio."

In an odd series of events, peculiar even by the turbulent standards of local public radio, the passionate but otherwise unremarkable on-air debate about the pending marijuana ballot measure prompted station management to suspend the show's host, Ukiah Daily Journal editor K.C. Meadows, and to also place program manager Mary Aigner, a long-time employee of Mendocino County Public Broadcasting, on open-ended suspended status.


Meadows and Aigner apparently incurred the hasty wrath of station management when they inserted their views into Thursday's on-air debate between Faulder and an overmatched Ross Liberty.
The article has much more. The KZYX site does not appear to have audio archives. It does report that they raised just under 70 thousand in their pledge drive.

Addendum: Thanks to Fred for the correction. If you go to Meadows' blog you'll find within the screen a scrolling function which takes you to recent posts I didn't notice. Here's the permalink to her comments re KZYX.

You wrote, "No mention of the incident on her own blog.".

K.C. Meadows did mention the affair on her blog. Just scroll down to the April 11 entry.

The Willits News also covered the affair:

While the station might seem to have overreacted, I can see how some might feel Ken Faulder- who was the lone opponent of Measure B there- was being ganged up on: 3 vs 1. Faulder commented on Meadows' blog he thought everything went fine.

You also wrote, "But I think Bruce Anderson's implication is that the real objection was that KC Meadows was making some salient points objectionable to many listeners during a pledge drive.".

Perhaps. I know I find it odd that KMUD folks broach some subjects (during pledge drives) in an manner that would be offensive to some. Odd, simply because I would think during a pledge drive you'd want to not piss off any potential donors.

Noticed it last pledge drive and noticed on KMUD earlier today. I think it was Daryl Cherney(?) that was running down John McCain. In a light hearted way, sure, but enough that someone might be a bit upset if they weren't a left winger.

I found myself a bit annoyed with it and I'm a McCain hater. It just seems to me they should try to keep the conversation during a pledge drive more positive, although I'll admit that such negative talk in regards certain people probably goes over well with the majority of KMUD's listeners.
Thanks for the note about Meadows' blog post Fred!

I'll respond to your other comments later.
Eric, could you please edit the post to correct the "Meadow quite.." typo?
Yes, sorry.
I agree that the stations seem to adopt a very cautious attitude towards the law, based on a very cautious opinion by some lawyer who is supposed to know about FCC law (it's not me, babe, no, no, no). I've seen at least one of his memos and disagreed with it.

Still, the licenses are invaluable, and the resources to defend them scarce. And yet, the stations stand for free speech and opposing views. A conflict which is not resolved.

BUT KXYX evidently has a policy, known to on-air people, against commenting on election matters during election campaigns - That's not a blanket ban against on-air people commenting on topics of interest, but it is a ban on using one's position at the station to comment on current elections. I don't think this is part of the keep-your-head-down-during-pledge-drives policy, which would be intellectually dishonest.

I was struck by the report that other people at the station were frantically trying to keep the hosts from joining in the fray. Evidently someone was very aware of the policy.

Perhaps, in retrospect, it would have been wiser for the on-air people to contest the policy off-air and prior to the discussion of marijuana, a topic which seems to excite passions on the North Coast.

That said, I'm an on-air person at KMUD and I have no idea if KMUD has a policy of on-air people not commenting on candidates and issues during election campaigns - and given the almost unending campaign period in this election such a policy would almost prevent all comment about public officials wouldn't it.
If KZYX is an NPR (nonprofit) station they are forbidden by law from advocating a position in political campaigns.
This reminds me of the awful and biased coverage of Measure T by KMUD, it was that plus the Peoples Productions disgustingness that finally blew the lid off of Estelle Fennel's fake-objectivity.
The people outside the studio became particularly agitated when one of the hosts pointed out that there were many commercial marijuana growers hiding behind 215 cards. It would be like an Earthfirst member spouting off on one of the local country stations. Free speech must give way to the bottom line.
I have a hard time believing that last post wasn't tongue in cheek. Excellent delivery however. You had me thinking about it.
The station is forbidden by law to advocate a political position, but the programmers aren't. Maybe that's where the fuzziness comes in - did the station authorities think Meadows was speaking as a representative of the station, rather than on her own recognizance?
...many commercial marijuana growers hiding behind 215 cards. anon03:19:00 PM

Well, Eric's ribbing aside, commercial growers don't have to hide behind 215 cards, 215 growing is not illegal. Or, to put it another way, commercial growing is not illegal if it is covered by 215 cards. What is illegal, and this may be a problem for some growers, is making a profit over your costs and a reasonable amount for your own skills and time. The key word in the law is "profit".
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