It's Time for Equal Time

Here in Rochester, it is widely known that WDKX-FM(103.9), the locally-owned, minority-owned radio station whose call letters honor civil rights icons Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, has allowed my opponent to sit in as a guest on their Memory Lane radio show for years.

What is less widely known is that if a politician is running for office, as my opponent is running for reelection this fall, media outlets such as television and radio stations must give equal time to that politician's opponent. Don't take my word for it: read the Statutes and Rules on Candidate Appearances and Advertising for yourself. Section 315(a) reads:

"If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station...." (emphasis added)

When it comes to giving me equal access to their broadcasting facilities, WDKX has a legal obligation. But when it comes to carrying news coverage or giving politicians the opportunity to air their views to the community that WDKX serves, they also have a moral obligation. They have owed me equal time since I announced my candidacy in mid-June, so they could easily have me as a guest on the show every Saturday between now and Election Day and not make up the difference.

We have tried many times to constructively engage the management of WDKX to resolve this issue. An attorney sent a letter on our behalf several weeks ago; repeated phone calls have gone unreturned; and an in-person delivery of materials raising the possibility of a protest in front of the radio has gone unanswered. Although WDKX has sent us the ad rates to appear on their weekday morning Water Cooler show, both parties know that is not what is being requested.

At this point, we believe we have exhausted all efforts to engage WDKX constructively. Faced with such passive opposition, some political candidates would quietly give up and try to get their message out in other ways. But if there is one thing I have learned in my advocacy for progressive causes over the years, it is this: you can't afford to wait to be seated. Sometimes you have to take a seat at the table. How could the people of the 56th District expect me to fight for them, if I won’t even take a stand for myself?

Therefore, we will be holding an event in front of WDKX the morning of Saturday, September 25, in an effort to get airtime with my opponent. We will politely, but firmly, ask that I be given the opportunity to join the program. If successful, Rochester will be afforded its first opportunity to hear both my opponent and myself on the radio. Saturday morning, join us on the sidewalk at 683 East Main Street to support this effort and, with luck, hear history in the making.

Whatever reasons the business managers of WDKX have for frustrating my efforts up until now, if they agree to let me on, one consideration should reassure them:

It would make great radio.

Robin Wilt

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