The mayor of Columbus OH stirred the pot by decreeing that there would be no travel by municipal staff to Phoenix AZ in protest of Arizona’s recently-enacted and controversial laws targeting illegal immigrants. When Clear Channel’s WTVN-AM ran a contest offering a trip to Phoenix to its listeners, the pot started to boil over.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the station promoted the giveaway saying that Phoenix was a place “where Americans are proud and illegals are scared,” and also offered “chasing aliens” as a possible activity for the contest’s winner.
The contest didn’t sit well with activist groups, nor with the officials of the City of Columbus, and after meeting with some of the municipal officials, WTVN decided to apologize and promised to work with the city to improve community relations.
Jose Luis Mas of the Ohio Hispanic Coalition was pleased with the apology, and characterized the contest as a lame attempt at humor.
According to the report, at first the station resisted apologizing, but eventually decided to after talking to various concerned parties. Part of the dialog was a discussion of racial overtones that many perceived in the contest.
RBR-TVBR observation: We do not believe this situation implicates the issue of the First Amendment in any way. The government of the City of Columbus OH has no jurisdiction over the content broadcast on WTVN (nor, for the most part, does anybody else). But an apology is also a way to exercise freedom of speech.
The station is to be commended for talking with concerned parties both in and out of government. These discussions did not compel the station to issue an apology, however. It chose to do that, just as it chose to run the contest in the first place.
The station could just as easily have chosen not to issue an apology. We have no idea why it came to the decision it did, but all in all, the whole incident looks like another noisy, somewhat messy, ultimately beautiful example of democracy at work.
Note: Edited for syntax