GRIZ GRIT: Broadcaster Responsibility

By Beacon Staff

I don’t hear the question often, but with all the recent open-mic errors where people either are unaware that a microphone is on or are oblivious about the viral nature of an outrageous comment and the consequences, let’s talk about a broadcaster’s responsibilities.

I obtained my inaugural, and only for that matter, Federal Communications Commission license in 1985 in the days when such a “ticket” supposedly was required before you got on the air.

I remember how excited I was when Mike Doty of KGVO Country fame recruited me from Five Valleys Bowl while I was calling Monte Carlo over the meager speaker system and told me he was interested in me being a DJ and that the company would help me get my FCC license.

I really didn’t know what that entailed, but would soon find out it meant I had to fill out an application and pay a fee.

There was no test, although I suppose somewhere in the operation there must have been a manual of do’s and don’ts.

And while the progression to sports broadcasting happened almost instantaneously and purely by happenstance, that tale is for another day.

While it was never explained to me, I knew vulgarity and off-color humor were not allowed and always took the stance that nothing I said on the air would be any different than I would say at Thanksgiving dinner.

It usually happens in a classroom question and answer or in a casual conversation, and, like I said, it doesn’t happen often. But some people are always interested in how you keep from swearing on the radio and how close I have come to slipping up.

The truth is the only time I ever think about it is when somebody asks the question and I have no good answer.

In the days when KGVO was news talk I was on the air from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., noon to 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., then a few days a week for an evening game and always if there was a breaking news story somewhere.

What enamors me most about radio, especially “live” radio, is its spontaneity and the accompanying challenge to put your thoughts quickly together into something resembling English.

But while the pressure of producing words from thought sometimes is the least challenging, remembering not to talk differently than if you were speaking to your grandmother is not something that even occurs to me.

That has changed over my broadcast years with satellite radio, the proliferation of cable and the advent of shock jocks like Howard Stern who make their fortune being outrageous. But what also has evolved is what words are acceptable and, I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s true to a lesser degree in print journalism.

I try to paint the radio picture for my now deceased blind friend R. Budd Gould and I’ll stay with my version of the King’s English, such as it is, and take the occasional criticism that a listener disagrees with the way I chose to pronounce pianist or even my home state of Washington.

Both Budd and my grandmother would be so pleased.

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