NEWS BLOG (WSAU) First and foremost, Mandy Wright (D-Wausau) has an absolute right to claim equal time from WSAU. Her commercials are being heard on our radio station because we decided to keep Pat Snyder (R-Schofield) on-air as our morning host as long as possible.
You have rights that you choose not to exercise. But that’s your privilege. You choose not to be a pornographer. You may choose not to attend religious services. You might also choose to forego rights as a courtesy to others… I choose not to mow my lawn in the early morning in deference to my neighbors. There was always a risk that Mandy Wright would choose to exercise her rights at the expense of our radio station. Again, unquestionably under FCC rules, we had to make airtime available to her if she requested it. TV and radio stations must be accomodating of equal time requests if we allow candidates on our airwaves.
Her commercials do, indeed, take up airtime that could have been sold to other advertisers. That opportunity-cost is the burden of the broadcaster. The alternative was to part ways with Pat Snyder earlier than we did. Pat, was, and remains, very popular with our listeners and advertisers.
We offered Mandy Wright a chance to guest host the WSAU Wisconsin Morning News for a week. It would have covered her equal time request perfectly – both she and Pat would have been on at exactly the same times for exactly the same days of the week. She declined. You can imagine what would happen if she dared to take phone calls on-air. First caller: “How are you going to work with Scott Walker after you led the petition drive to recall him from office?” Next caller: “Why didn’t you make your equal time request one day later, so Pat Snyder could have had his farewell show after a 32-year broadcasting career?” Next: “Did you take part in that teacher sick-out that closed down the Wausau School District last year?”
Those are tough questions that will never be answered in a cleverly worded commercial. Equal time, which is her right and our obligation, must be used carefully.