Thursday, September 22, 2005

The CSO on the fired radio rabbi

Started out as a response, but is really a post of its own. What we're talking about is this situation.

I completely agree with CC on this one. The issue is not the worthiness of the cause, it's that he didn't ask permission and get approval first. Radio hosts generally DON'T have signature authority. I don't know about the big names - maybe some of them have some sort of purchasing authority or show production slush fund. I do know that most hosts have to get approval for anything that costs the station money.

Clear Channel would have canned him just as quick, for exactly the same reason. Maybe their PR department would have done it in a more sensitive way, given how he's been able to spin this, but I don't see them keeping someone who goes and runs unauthorized events around. MAYBE if they were a Big Name host or something.

I really don't see the station owner's religion playing into this at all. This was a completely corporate, completely secular sort of decision. It even has that clumsy corporate feel to it.

What more deeply bothers me is the mindset that one should not be punished for breaking an unjust rule. I see this frequently - someone will argue that it's not fair that they're being punished for doing "the right thing". Nevermind that what they believe is "the right thing" is illegal or against a clearly stated policy.

It's Civil Disobedience Lite - all the self-righteous smugness, without any of those pesky consequences. And there seems to be a related idea that it's okay to violate the rights of others to do "the right thing", and that it's THEIR problem if they don't like you doing it.

Now, I am a 'tax, then spend' liberal - I support extensive social and infrastructure programs, along with sufficient taxation to fully cover the expenses of those programs. And I am fine with taking someone's money for those programs through taxation, because we have a political process that makes doing so a decision made by society in general. (While imperfect, it's reasonably close - unlike vigilante takings of any sort.)

What I am NOT okay with is the idea that one can, say, use their company's resources to run a charity event and then act like it's the company's fault for not being happy you did so.


Paul Wilczynski said...

I saw no indication in the article that the event was going to cost the station money, except for answering the increased number of phone calls which, for a talk show, would be a Good Thing. If it were going to cost the station money, the station manager could have simply said "hey, this is coming out of your pocket".

Perhaps the station manager should have remember that perception is often reality. The appearance is that the talk show host got fired for attempting to help a lot of mostly black victims. Perhaps the station manager should have also considered that they could get a lot of good PR out of this (except, of course, if their listeners were largely racist, which appears not to be the case). He could have turned a small number of lemons into a large amount of lemonade.

Did the manager have the authority to fire him? Sure. Was it the right choice out of several choices he could have made? Nope.

TheCSO said...

It sure sounded to me like he had committed station resources to the event, and definitely that he was implying that this was an official, station-sponsored event.

I agree that the station manager acted without considering the PR consequences. Apparently, this was the last straw for a rather controversial host - this is not the first friction he's had with his station. Their version of events is that he was fired for being too far off format - they do not consider their format a confrontational one.

What appropriate action do you think this station could have taken to separate themselves from a host who had strayed off format, and seriously violated station rules in doing so? Looking at the whole situation, he was going to be canned at some point, for something.

I find it very hard to have sympathy for someone who acts incredulous that he would need permission to set up an event. From the station's perspective, I would have to wonder what someone with that attitude would cost me next. Sure, this time it's something that probably would have been approved if he had asked first. Still, what about next time? What if his next unauthorized event was something the FCC could fine the station for?