WCCO tells DFLers ‘no’ to Pawlenty Radio Hour changes

After a summer’s worth of negotiations, legislative DFLers fared about as well with WCCO radio officials as they did during this spring’s budget standoff.

The Good Neighbor has officially spurned Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller’s request for rebuttal time during end of Gov. Pawlenty’s weekly “Good Morning Minnesota” broadcast.

DFLers have complained they get no opportunity to respond to TPaw’s partisan shots during a program that ranks number two among listeners 18-plus in its 9-10 a.m. Friday time slot.

In the end, Democrats weren’t seeking equal time, given the substantial time the proto-presidential candidate has spent flaying the opposition in recent months. DFLers merely sought a guaranteed on-ramp in the show’s last five minutes.

In an Aug. 11 letter to Pogemiller, WCCO Senior Vice President/Market Manager Mick Anselmo told the Majority Leader “no,” and at one point, says DFLers should get in line with all the other callers:

…Gov. Pawlenty may from time to time express his own viewpoint on certain topical issues, and that viewpoint may not necessarily be one with which you or other members of the legislature always agree.

With that in mind, we take great care in making sure WCCO offers ample opportunity for listeners, elected officials, and community advocates, among others to take part in the discussion not only during Good Morning Minnesota, but through a variety of additional on-air forums. It is a model that has served us well for a number of years and a format we will continue to foster moving forward.

At this time we do not believe a regularly scheduled legislative response to the Governor’s program would be in keeping with the truly open environment the station has built its reputation on.

Pogey fired back on Sept. 4:

I’m disappointed that you did not come to see the problem the same as we and others have found it to be.

In my judgment, the Governor continues to use the program for his partisan political purposes. On Friday Aug. 14 he again ridiculed all the former governors and legislative leaders from both parties who have graciously agreed to give their time and expertise to helping solve the state’s persistent budget deficit. He and [communications director] Brian McClung gave inaccurate accounts of the legislative session.

The Governor also used the radio show to ridicule the mayor of Minneapolis and to say that teacher’s union (sic) controls the legislature. For the third week in a row he attacked the cash for clunkers program.

Even taking the show to the State Fair does not end the political distortions. On Friday August 28th the Governor claimed there was more investment in transportation during his time in office than any other time in history. This claim ignored three essential facts.

The increased funding early in his administration was accomplished through debt. Debt service went from under 1% of MnDOT spending to over 7%. The course the Governor set was unsustainable. The second infusion of news funds only because possible when the legislature overrode the Governor’s third veto of transportation funding. The current infusions of new funds are federal recovery funds made available by the Obama administration and Congress. The Governor has repeatedly used his radio show to attack the recovery funds.

Of course no one was able to set the record straight or even offer a different point of view during any of the Governor’s broadcasts over the last several years.

Now, I’m pretty sure listenership would go up in the last five minutes of Good Morning Minnesota if Pogey and the Governor had a date to verbally duel. Even if TPaw left the studio — likely given his resistance to direct legislative engagement — listeners would still get more of the story.

I agree with Dems that GMM would be fairer if they had a guaranteed five minutes on the show. (So did then-House Majority Leader Pawlenty during the Ventura administration.)

Anselmo is offering DFLers scattershot, unguaranteed response time. At the very least, that seems uncharitable for a station that says it aspires to be “the best news resource for Minnesotans.”

And let’s not kid ourselves that this show — contracted via the state of Minnesota — is only partisan “from time to time.” On three shows between July 24 and Aug. 7, TPaw blistered health care reform. On Aug. 14, as Pogey noted, it was Cash for Clunkers, big-city mayors and teacher’s unions. It’s almost like the guy is running for something.

Anselmo did not fall back on the station’s contract with the state, which makes the governor’s representative the show’s producer and makes no allowance for a legislative rebuttal.

As I’ve noted previously, McClung insists that calls are not screened for partisan viewpoint, and July-August transcripts show that critical callers do make onto the air. DFL legislators do not claim they’ve tried and failed to get through.

Given WCCO’s assurances that screening is fair, one recourse is to start calling in. Another might be to get another station to do the five-minute rebuttal. Given GMM’s ratings popularity, that might lift an also-ran station. It might also get political reporters who regularly file stories and blog posts off the guv’s show to give rivals a listen.

On some level, I’m thrilled that a relatively large audience for that time of day tunes in to hear the governor’s thoughts. That’s good for the civic sphere. WCCO could make things better, and it’s lame that they won’t.

Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by John Olson on 09/29/2009 - 11:02 am.

    What seems to be overlooked here is that IF a DFLer is elected governor in the next election, does anyone honestly think that he/she would surrender an hour of airtime from the Good Neighbor’s soapbox? Or the Republicans would ask for a guaranteed response time in such a scenario?

    It almost seems like the Friday morning ‘CCO timeslot is now a perk associated with the job: mansion, security detail, radio show.

  2. Submitted by Paul Scott on 09/29/2009 - 12:36 pm.

    I think the difference is, that a DFL governor, given the chance to host a morning radio show, would likely refrain from using their time to stink up the place with all the scorn and sarcasm that the Governor has brought into Minnesota politics. A radio show could be conducted so much more graciously, but that’s not how Pawlenty operates and it isn’t how AM radio works, anyway. Pawlenty and his listeners all deserve each other.

  3. Submitted by Gerald Greupner on 09/29/2009 - 01:12 pm.

    Radio show? What radio show?

  4. Submitted by Peter Swanson on 09/29/2009 - 02:30 pm.

    As long as the rules are enforced consistently (so far for an IP governor and a GOP governor), then it’s fine. I think all would agree that it would be wrong to change the rules after the 2010 election. So if you can elect a DFL governor, then you get the same perks.

    For me, the problem with “scattershot, unguaranteed response time” happens when it is a taxpayer funded medium like MPR or TPT. I am not saying those entities give an hour per week of airtime to a political figure, but even a little slant is problematic when it is paid for by tax dollars.

  5. Submitted by Aaron Klemz on 09/29/2009 - 04:11 pm.

    Peter, when it comes to balance in political interviews, I have a tough time coming up with a more fair forum than MPR, particularly Midday political coverage. I don’t know of any other venue where you get long-form interviews of all the candidates for state-wide office by a seasoned interviewer. There are no shows controlled by a political figure a la GMM. What’s your beef, exactly?

    The notion that any tax support for public media means that it has to be “bias-free” is an unobtainable standard. I wouldn’t defend obvious bias – MPR is not Air America or The Patriot, nor should it be. But I’d appreciate some examples, instead of innuendo.

  6. Submitted by Peter Swanson on 09/30/2009 - 10:34 am.

    I said, “I am not saying those entities give an hour per week of airtime to a political figure, but even a little slant is problematic when it is paid for by tax dollars.”

    My position is not that MPR is slanted, or does anything approaching GMM or Lunch with the Governor (Jesse). Just that a commercial radio station can do what it wants, so long as it is not giving an official candidate fee airtime during the campaign (Jesse left KFAN in 1998, Rybak and Coleman took over GMM during the 2006 campaign).

    I can’t TiVo MPR Midday, so I don’t have any current examples. In an interview in the Minnesota Daily in the mid-90s, Ray Suarez (NPR, not MPR, I know) talked about screening out the types of callers who would appear on commercial talk radio whose comments don’t add much to the debate. That’s fine, and it provides and alternative to what one can get elsewhere on the radio dial. But it also is exactly the type of screening of which people accuse WCCO. Plus, it’s being done with taxpayer money.

    Now, that was a long time ago. And it is only one host. So if MPR (and public TV) are totally bias-free today, that’s great. But my point still is valid. Don’t worry about commercial stations being fair. Worry about the public stations because a little bias goes a long way.

    Perhaps this is all just lingering resentment from my University of Minnesota radio days (pre-Radio K) when we couldn’t get a 24 hour frequency and MPR was hogging ones that we could have used. But that’s another topic.

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