They say that time is money as a general matter, but in the broadcasting business it is literally true. At the same time, broadcasters are often journalists, and politicians make news. For these reasons, politics and broadcasting converge into a massive gray area that provides fertile ground for the raising of eyebrows, if nothing else. And eyebrows have been raised at the three hours of airtime Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (D) had at his disposal on CBS’s KDKA 1020 on Friday 3/16/12.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the mayor and his press secretary took over the three-hour shift of a vacationing Marty Griffin, who actually phoned in at one point to become a guest on his own show.
The newspaper suggested that Ravenstahl was attempting to “polish his image” during an election year, and a local academic said it was nothing less than a donation of valuable air time for free. However, another local politician who was said to be thinking about a mayoral run thought there was nothing at all wrong or unusual about the program.
However, the press secretary Joanna Doven pointed out that the program gave Pittsburghers an opportunity to question the mayor – she said the program was completely unscripted and phone calls were not screened. When early phone calls were a little soft – callers asked about street sweeping and bachelor Ravenstahl’s personal relationship status and availability, the Trib noted that Doven urged listeners to come up tougher ones.
RBR-TVBR observation: We are not attorneys, but it seems to us that the grayer the area, the more difficult winning becomes for whichever side bears the burden of proof. In this case, because the citizens of Pittsburgh deserve access to their elected officials and taking into consideration that the general election is still months away, we think there is no point for those opposed to the airtime to do anything more than complain about it with as much volume and effectiveness as they can.