Pay to Talk on Lowell Talk Radio?

There’s a story posted on the WickedLocal/Watertown site about Nick Iannuzzi – an independent  candidate for Governor’s Council in the Third District challenging incumbent Marilyn Devaney. Iannuzzi plans to appear on a local Saturday morning radio talk show to promote his campaign. There is a  twist to the tale. Apparently  Iannuzzi has paid $490 for a 25 minute segment on the highly popular Warren Shaw Show on WCAP 980-AM. Shaw regularly hosts and interviews elected officials and candidates for office – figures  both local and regional as well as national. As far as I know these interviews and talk sessions have been gratis. Interestingly, history will show that on WCAP in the 1950s into the 1970s –  Saturday was a popular time for paid political programs – some of  great length. They were not part of a “talk show” format. Many locals will remember Lowell City Council candidates  “John F. Carney of 21 Blossom Street speaking to you straight from the shoulder” and  Fred Doyle usually attacking “Sun flowers.” They lit up the Saturday morning air waves with their political diatribes. I think they laid the foundation for the loyal Saturday morning listening audience for WCAP.

In the article radio station co-owner Clark Smidt explains the situation this way:

WCAP owner Clark Smidt says it’s standard practice at his station to sell airtime in the 60 days leading up to an election, when a great many candidates request time on the station.

Smidt said requiring payment was a way to “level the playing field” and avoid creating a situation where the station would be required to give free time to every candidate in every race. He said there would be full disclosure during the show that it was a paid appearance.

“This is a paid political program,” he said, “and it’s subject to all the normal rules. It must be paid for in advance before the person comes on, and it will have the appropriate disclaimers that this is a paid political interview.”

As for Warren Shaw – he says that he’s been asked to interview a paying guest:

“It’s not the kind of talk show that we look to beat people up, whether it’s compensated for or it’s not,” Shaw said. “We try and provide opportunities for everybody to tell their story, and that’s pretty much what I’ll be looking to do with this gentlemen.” He said, though, that this is the first time in 15 years of hosting that he’s been asked by the station have a paid guest on the show.

“I don’t have anything to do with those,” he said. “If someone schedules an interview for me on Saturday morning, I do it.”

If you are interested, you can catch the Iannuzzi appearance  on the show hosted by former Dracut Selectman Warren Shaw on WCAP 980-AM from 8:05 to 8:30 a.m. on Saturday moring October 9th. What do you this about this arrangement? Let us know.

Read the full article here.

5 Responses to Pay to Talk on Lowell Talk Radio?

  1. DickH says:

    For many years, WCAP has afforded the local Congressman a weekly slot on air to take calls and answer questions posed by the hosts of the show, an arrangement that benefited both the station and the elected official. That began with Marty Meehan and was continued by Niki Tsongas. Two weeks ago while listening to Tsongas’s segment, on air host Ted Panos explained that as the election drew near, issues of equal time would normally prevent the station from putting Tsongas on the air.

    Tsongas and the station, however, worked out an arrangement where she would pay the station for the time slot during which she would normally be on the air so she could continue to connect with voters over the airwaves. During the segment, Panos repeatedly mentioned the time was being paid for by Tsongas. The following week, Republican opponent Jon Golnik made the same arrangements so he, too, has a regular slot on the air leading up to the election.

    While the station does have certain obligations (legal and moral) to provide programing of public interested, I can’t fault them for trying to realize some revenue from candidates looking for air time. As long as they clearly announce that it’s paid time, there’s not much difference between a 30 second spot and a 30 minute spot. In the glory days of local radio that Marie refers to, candidates often bought 5 minute blocks of time with the most sought after slot being right after the noon news on Saturday. Everyone listened; the candidates were entertaining and informative and often controversial. It was a public service yet the station derived revenue from it. I don’t see this as being any different.

  2. John McDonough says:

    Hi Dick and Marie, thanks for your service to our community. Paid for time on any program the management working for the client most likely will agree on what issues and callers will be allowed on the program, and what issues are to be turned away, creating an infomercial for the client. Today’s infomercials are so smooth and interesting the audience often can’t tell it is an infomercial, even the callers sound real.
    John McDonough

  3. Gary Francis says:

    I agree with Clark on this. When I first worked at WCAP in 1968 my job was to board op these shows on Saturday just before and just after the 10-minute Noon News. The candidates would be gathering in the lobby a half hour or so before they would go on the air…..and you’d hear quite a bit of boisterous bantering going on between them coming into the open control room door. I think that it does seem quite fair and no one can accuse anyone of getting more time than the other guy – they all get what they pay for.

  4. Marie says:

    A favorite memory of those old radio days with the pols on WCAP is hearing John Carney – who was going over his prepaid time – claiming he was taking the money out of his pocket as he was speaking to put in the hands of “Ike” Cohen to keep himself on the air! High political theater! More real than some of the political theater of today…