Cumulus/DC talker WMAL-A/FM may have to go to court over not airing an ad calling Dick Cheney a war criminal. Washington City Paper says an activist named “The Pen, short for People’s Email Network, is suing the station for allegedly not running an ad for his film, The Last War Crime:
Pen’s film features the attempt to indict Cheney for war crimes. The ad he wanted to run on WMAL runs along similar lines, speaking to a second-person Cheney as he’s extradited to Spain for war crimes: “Yes, Dick Cheney, you’ll fly coach class, because that’s how we travel, to beautiful, war-criminal-prosecuting Spain…Black bag over your head optional.”
According to Pen’s complaint, the station refused to run the ad because of the political content. In his suit, Pen accuses the station of violating its public broadcast license, and requests that a court require WMAL to run it.
Pen wants to use the lawsuit to test radio ad laws. “I can’t even buy free speech,” he says. “So what’s up with that?”
RBR-TVBR observation: RBR-TVBR sources say at this point, there was likely a line between expressing a point of view and doing so with proper decorum. This is regardless of ideology. WMAL, like any media outlet, has guidelines set as to the language and content (from hosts and advertisers) that it airs—while trying to be fair to everyone in allowing their voices to be heard. Much of this is spelled out in contractual language. Frankly, WMAL might have gotten into more hot water by running the ad than not—it would have implied news much bigger than what was implied by the ad copy: The indictment came down in May not from a world court or UN court, but from Malaysia—in absentia. The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission asked that the names of Bush (W), Cheney, Rumsfeld and others be extradited to Spain on charges of war crimes.