Broward County May Cancel Deal With Radio Station Because It Airs Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh has long been a thorn in the side of liberals, but now, because of him, some Democratic politicians don't even want to join with a local radio station to broadcast hurricane information. Radio station WIOD, AM 610, has been the official channel for emergency information from Broward County government for the past year. The County Commission, all Democrats, balked at renewing the deal unable to stomach the station also being home to Limbaugh's talk show. Commissioner Stacy Ritter said she did not want to support a station that's out of step with area politics. Ritter, a Democratic stalwart in the state Legislature before being elected to county office, cited talk shows hosted by Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and WIOD's partnership with Fox News. "They have every right to speak, but we don't have to do business with them," she said. Limbaugh responded to the commissioners Wednesday on his radio show. He said the county's qualms about WIOD are a sign of out-of-control partisanship in the nation. He quipped that if the county wanted him off the air, all that officials would need to do is schedule emergency press conferences during his broadcast from noon to 3 p.m."They are politicizing the delivery of emergency news, which is non-partisan," said Limbaugh, who lives in Palm Beach. "They are making weather a partisan issue." Limbaugh has long been a fixture on WIOD, but no county official raised an issue about him or the other shows when the deal was approved for the first time a year ago. The deal with WIOD would ensure that news conferences are broadcast start to finish live from the county Emergency Operations Center in Plantation. Emergency managers became concerned during hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 that radio and television stations preempted their announcements in favor of news out of Miami. Ken Charles, WIOD's director of AM programming, said Tuesday the station's talk show lineup has no relationship with its news coverage and that the county should focus on the benefits of teaming with the station. "It's a shame that people would let politics get in the way of saving lives in a hurricane," Charles said. The contract with WIOD was on the verge of being rejected when commissioners instead delayed a decision until next week. They told their communications staff they want more information on why WIOD was recommended and what their options are. Ritter's concerns were echoed by Commissioners Ken Keechl, a former president of the Dolphins gay Democratic club, and Suzanne Gunzburger, who served on the vote-tallying board that recounted the 2000 presidential election.But Commissioner John Rodstrom, a one-time young Republican leader who later became a Democrat, said the county should not politicize emergency management. "If we are going to start censoring what people write in the paper or speak on the radio or television, that's a slippery slope," Rodstrom said. "This is necessary. It's something we need to do for emergency response." A county task force that looked into the response to Hurricane Wilma listed finding a radio partner among its recommendations last year. Judy Sarver, the county's public communications director, said WFTL and WLRN also offered to take on the role, but that she and other emergency planners preferred WIOD because of its signal strength, numerous FM sister stations and willingness to give Broward top play.