Jan 11, 2012

Tiny NPR station may be in big, big trouble

WHDD, the Connecticut pubradio outlet that bills itself as "the smallest NPR station in the nation," has been slapped with an FCC complaint for endorsing political candidates. The complaint by a local school official, reported in a pay-walled article published by the Waterbury Republican-American, alleges that station co-founder Marshall Miles violated FCC regulations barring pubcasters from endorsing or opposing candidates for office.

Terry Cowgill of the blog CT Devil's Advocate speculates that Miles will try to "weasel out" of the complaint by claiming he was speaking for himself, not the station or its licensee. "But that’s just a bunch of baloney. How can the president of an organization — and one of only three members of its board — claim with any credibility that he is speaking as a private citizen over the public airwaves of the organization’s radio station?"

Miles isn't the only pubcaster who shares his political opinions on-air, Cowgill notes, singling out Northeast Public Radio's Alan Chartock among the "loud-mouthed public radio heads" of the region. But Chartock takes his opinionating only so far. "For all his bluster and bias, Chartock is very careful not to endorse specific candidates for any office. He knows the law."

WHDD, first established as the Internet-only stream Robin Hood Radio, was hit with an FCC fine last year for violating FCC underwriting rules, and it struggles to meet payroll, according to Cowgill.

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