Residents of Broward County, Florida, may not get up-to-date information on hurricanes anymore, if Democrats on the County Commission have their way. In 2006, after recent hurricane devastation in 2004 and 2005, the County Commission made it a priority to have all hurricane information broadcast over the radio to the most listeners possible. At the time, and to this day, that radio station is WIOD, AM 610. On Tuesday, it came out that local Democrats don’t want to renew the deal the county has with the station, because the station broadcasts Rush Limbaugh’s talk show.
Stacy Ritter, formerly a Democratic member of the state Legislature, said she didn’t want to support a radio station she says is out of step with local politics by giving it the contract to air hurricane information. “They have every right to speak,” she said in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “But we don’t have to do business with them.”
Echoing Ritter’s political concerns is another Commissioner, Ken Keechl. Keechl, formerly president of the Miami Dolphins gay Democratic club, served – along with Suzanne Gunzburger – on the board that tallied votes in the recounted 2000 presidential election.
After hearing about the move to have the radio station’s emergency broadcast contract rejected, Limbaugh spoke out about the apparent partisanship that could lead to fewer people getting necessary emergency information. “They are politicizing the delivery of emergency news, which is non-partisan,” he said on the air. “They are making weather a partisan issue.”
Ken Charles, the director of programming for WIOD, said in the same interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the news coverage has nothing to do with the station’s talk show lineup. “It’s a shame that people would let politics get in the way of saving lives in a hurricane,” he said.
After Hurricane Wilma, a task force had been charged with finding a radio partner. Judy Sarver, the public communications director for Broward County, said that although two other radio stations – WFTL and WLRN – had offered to take on the role, WIOD was eventually chosen. The task force she said, “preferred WIOD because of its signal strength, numerous FM sister stations and willingness to give Broward top play.” The County Commission, however, is apparently willing to overlook those strong points in favor of another radio station, preferably one – if the all-Democrat commission has its way – that doesn’t host Limbaugh’s show.
John Rodstrom, a Democrat who was previously a young Republican leader (and now a member of the County Commission), says the county is going about this the wrong way. “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,” he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “This is necessary. It’s something we need to do for emergency response.”
Florida Sun-Sentinel, Broward may cancel deal with radio station because it airs Rush Limbaugh, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/sfl-churricane13jun13,0,4183214.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines
Miami Herald, Want storm info? Fire gasbag Limbaugh, WIOD told, http://www.miamiherald.com/466/story/138174.html