The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

19 June 2007

Rush Limbaugh, WIOD, Broward County Emergency Broadcasts


Broward Renews Deal, But Fallout Continues

Now that Broward County has renewed its emergency broadcast deal with Miami news- talker WIOD- AM, one might expect the controversy to have subsided. But has it?

Though Commissioner Stacy Ritter's proposal to yank official hurricane reports from the station because it carries Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity withered in the face of a public backlash, the fallout continues.

Because something as seemingly non- controversial as emergency alerts have now been politicized, expect the issue to come up again elsewhere in the near future. With this precedent now set, other Rush- hating politicians will be unable to refrain from pulling similar stunts in their own districts.

That's why those who view this as a victory are missing the point.

And even in this afternoon's reporting, one can see it's still all about politics:

Broward County staff had recommended WIOD because it has the broadest reach among the stations that sought the official designation. All of the commissioners are Democrats and many have said they disagree with Limbaugh but that their personal views are irrelevant -- they simply want to reach as many residents as possible.

Under the agreement, the station will broadcast all of the county's press conferences before, during and immediately after a hurricane. While many news outlets cover the press conferences, the agreement guarantees that the radio station will cover them in their entirety -- which is crucial when residents lose power and can't get immediate hurricane news from their televisions or computers. Also, some media outlets interrupt coverage of Broward emergency news to focus on news from the larger Miami-Dade market.

WIOD will not get any county money, but the county will list the station on its hurricane preparedness materials. (Mayor) Eggelletion pointed out that WIOD's sister station is WINZ which broadcasts the liberal Air America.

''It goes both ways,'' he said.

Since hurricane season started June 1, county officials are eager to end this debate and pick an official radio station.

Whether WIOD's sister station runs liberal talk radio is irrelevant: ideology has no place in determining how easily the public can get emergency information after a major disaster.

Let's file this one in our Slippery Slope category.

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