Category Archives: September 2017

What to Do With the On-Air Employee Who Becomes a Candidate for Elective Office?

David Oxenford - ColorBy: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,

It seems like about this time as we begin to near the end of the year that broadcasters contemplate their future. And it seems like that brings many to contemplate moving from behind the microphone to being in front of it – by running for public office. Perhaps because next year will likely be a very active one with Congressional elections and elections in many states, I have had a number of calls from broadcasters in the last few weeks asking what they should do with the on-air employee who is contemplating making that move by jumping into politics. We have written about this issue many times before, including coverage of when well-known local or national personalities have contemplated runs for office – see our stories here, here and here. In 2010, we wrote an article that provided a discussion of this issue, which remains valid today, and which I edited and reposted in 2016 here. An updated version of that article is below.

Having an on-air employee who runs for political office – whether it is a federal, state or local office – does give rise for equal opportunities for competing candidates whenever that employee’s recognizable voice or picture appears on the air, even if the personality never mentions his or her candidacy on the air and even if they appear in what is otherwise an exempt program (e.g. a newscaster who runs for office triggers equal time when he delivers the news even though a candidate’s appearance as a subject of that news program would be exempt). Stations need to take precautions to avoid the potential for owing significant amounts of free time to competing candidates, where those candidates can present any political message – if they request it within seven days of the personality’s appearance on the air.

Once a candidate becomes “legally qualified” (i.e. he or she has established their right to a place on the ballot by filing the necessary papers), equal opportunities rights are available to the opposing candidates. What this means is that, if the on-air broadcaster who is running for political office stays on the air, any opposing candidate can come to the station and demand equal opportunities within seven days of the date on which the on-air announcer/candidate was on the air, and the opponent would be entitled to the same amount of time in which they can broadcast a political message, to be run in the same general time period as the station employee/candidate was on the air. So if your meteorologist decides to run for the city council and he appears on the 6 p.m. news for three minutes each night doing the weather, an opposing city council candidate can get up to 21 minutes of time (three minutes for each of the last seven days) and that opposing candidate does not need to read the weather, but can do a full political message. So what is a station to do when an on-air employee decides to run for office?

In some cases, stations do nothing and no one seems to mind. I’ve known broadcasters who appeared on-air every day, particularly in small towns, while they were serving as mayor or on the city council and no opposing candidate ever bothered to ask for equal opportunities – either because they did not know the rules, or because they would have received bad publicity forcing the on-air employee/candidate out of his job during the election season.

But sometimes competing candidates do insist on their rights, especially less well-known candidates who may not have any other way to get their message out and want the free time that they can get because of the on-air employee’s appearances. Thus, many stations play it safe and don’t allow a candidate to continue to stay on the air once they become legally qualified (and sometimes even before they are legally qualified to even avoid the appearance of unfairness). But there are other alternatives that can be pursued that lie between taking the risk of having to meet equal opportunities claims and taking the employee off the air. These include:

  • Obtaining waivers from the opponents of the station employee, allowing the employee to continue to do his job, perhaps with conditions such as forbidding any discussions of the political race.
  • Allowing the candidate to continue to broadcast in exchange for a negotiated amount of air time for the opponents.

Obviously, consult counsel to get the wording right on any waiver, but waivers are an option.

Another alternative is to give the on-air employee/candidate other duties that don’t trigger equal opportunities. If the candidate’s voice or likeness does not appear on-air, then there is no equal opportunities right. Right now, the political rules do not apply to Internet appearances, so website work is a possibility. Also, a move to a sister station with a service area that does not reach the district in which the candidate is running is another alternative.

Finally, remember that equal opportunities are only available to the opponents of the employee-candidate. In a primary, the opponents are only those candidates who are running for the nomination of the same party. Thus, if your on-air employee is running in the Republican primary, you only need to worry about his or her Republican opponents for equal time purposes. The Democrats don’t get equal time until the nominees of each party have been selected.

For more on the political broadcasting rules, check out our Guide to Political Broadcasting.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline.  Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your membership.

Friends Remember Glenn Haege

Glenn Haege at his 2011 induction into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame. 

Many visitors turned out from 12 to 8 p.m. on Sunday at E. J. Mandziuk & Son Funeral Home in Sterling Heights to pay their repects to  Glenn Haege, America’s Master Handyman® and host of “The Handyman Show with Glenn Haege” on Detroit radio for 34 years.

Haege passed away September 11, 2017 after a short battle with cancer. He was 70.

“Glenn was like everybody’s favorite uncle, brother or father,” Mike Kearns of Kearns Brothers in Dearborn and Plymouth told The Detroit News in a story published Sunday. “He was a warm and caring, intelligent man who had a certain connectivity with his listeners.”

Haege, a Detroit radio icon, started his broadcast career on WXYT-AM 1270 in 1983 and for the past 11 years he was heard weekends on NewsTalk 760 WJR-AM. His radio show was also nationally syndicated in 135 radio markets. It is estimated that he had answered more than 85,000 home improvement questions during his time on the air.

For 22 years he was also a Detroit News columnist writing a weekly feature on home improvement. He authored 11 books on the subject. Haege was inducted into the Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2011.

Glenn Haege

“Whether through his Detroit News columns, many books, home show appearances or his long running ‘Handyman Show’ on WJR, chances are, you too were helped out of a household bind through his incredible knowledge and limitless contacts who could help you fix the seemingly unfixable,” wrote Paul W. Smith, host of The Paul W. Smith Show on WJR-AM, in a Sunday column in The Detroit News. “Glenn’s long time producer, Rob David, the man behind the ‘clear and concise, how to advice’ reminded me of many ‘Glenn-isms.’

“My two favorites, ‘The most important tool in your toolbox is your checkbook,’ and, when it comes to water in the basement, ‘Water always wins.’”

A Warren, Michigan native, Haege attended Northern Michigan University and then worked for the Sherwin Williams Paint Company and for ACO Hardware prior to launching his award-winning radio career. He is survived by his mother, Marion; sister, Sharon; brother, Robert; wife, Barbara; their children Eric and Heather; and six grandchildren.

A private memorial service is planned for family. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Salvation Army or Habitat for Humanity.


WZZM-TV, Kendall College of Art and Design collaborate for ArtPrize Entry

TEGNA’s WZZM-TV (Grand Rapids) has teamed up with the talented students at the Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University (KCAD) to create a news set to be entered into the annual ArtPrize compeition that takes place in the city every year.

“Working with the students has been an exciting experience,” said Jon Flis, director of marketing at WZZM 13. “It was so rewarding to collaborate with Taylor and Skylar and watch them take these concepts and use their skills to make this set a reality.”

Months ago, teams from both organizations began work on their common vision. Students presented design proposals and one was selected by WZZM 13.

Students Taylor Axdorff and Skylar Sparks not only designed the set, but built it on their own. They used their design and machining skills to create the set while working full time jobs.

“We saw the opportunity and jumped on it right away,” Sparks said.

According to the artists’ statement, the piece, Shift, is:

“A functional art piece representing a breaking free of confines into new realms. Shifting the status quo and moving into a new space much like artists courageously do when they create.

“Also, the break in the desk shows a shift from transitioning old, restrictive ways of the media into a more creative and free manner. Breaking from tradition to be more expressive and part of the audience. The anchors are able to sit at the desk and deliver the news in the traditional way, but that tradition has been broken through the fractured desk, freeing the anchors to move and engage with the audience seating.

“Looking at Deconstructionalism for inspiration, we dissected tradition and the restrictive nature of the media on artists and journalists and broke it apart to show a need for change.”

The desk is installed on the second floor of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and will serve as the ArtPrize studio for WZZM 13’s newscasts throughout the event. Visitors are encouraged to come out and visit with talent and staff and watch the news in action.

This year, the set is an official entry in the ArtPrize competition:

WXYZ-TV Continues Series of Detroit 2020 Town Hall Meetings

(L-R) WXYZ’s Chuck Stokes, Ross Jones and Carolyn Clifford.

WXYZ-TV (Detroit) continued its series of Detroit 2020 town hall meetings with an event in Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on September 19.

The 7 Action News town hall series is part of WXYZ’s Detroit 2020 project created to project a vision of the communities the station serves in the future.

“We’re going into the communities we serve to simply listen,” said Mike Murri, WXYZ and WMYD vice president and general manager. “We want to find out what makes Detroit neighborhoods unique, but we also want to hear about the issues residents are facing and what we might do to help address some of those challenges.”

7 Action News Anchor Carolyn Clifford hosted the event along with WXYZ Editorial Director Chuck Stokes and 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones. The station featured portions of the town hall meeting on their 7 p.m. newscast as well as a with a Facebook Live broadcast.

This event was the 4th Detroit 2020 town hall meeting. WXYZ has also held events in Sterling Heights, Taylor and at the WXYZ studios in Southfield for the screening of the documentary “12th and Clairmount” that reflects on the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Riots.

WWTV/WWUP-TV’s Michelle Dunaway takes on the Red Walk For Families

WWTV/WWUP-TV’s Michelle Dunaway

WWTV/WWUP-TV (9&10 News/Cadillac),  McDonald’s, Highpoint and Nature & Me R.V. will join forces for the “Red Walk for Family” on September 28.

The event is to bring awareness to Northern Michigan communities about the important role the Ronald McDonald House of Western Michigan (RMHWM) plays in providing comfortable accommodations and so much more to our area.

RMHWM is a “Home Away From Home” for families of children traveling to Grand Rapids for their child’s medical or mental health treatment. It has provided service to more than 1,000 Northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula families. The majority of these families came from Wexford and Grand Traverse counties

The Red Walk for Families will take place on September 28 and is an athletic challenge that 9&10 News Health Reporter Michelle Dunaway will take on. This 40+ mile journey kicks off at 6 a.m. at the Traverse City McDonald’s and Michelle is expected to arrive at the Cadillac McDonald’s at 10:30 p.m.

Viewers are encouraged to get involved with this walk in different ways: by becoming a sponsor, donating and by rooting Michelle on as she takes over 84,000 steps for the RMHWM.

WSMH-TV Presents Annual Fall Festival

On September 17, WSMH-TV (Flint) presented its 13th annual Fall Festival at Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center.

The free family event, which featured the Pink Panther and superheroes to the thrill of BMX racing as well as an acre of vendor and community service organizations. The station declared it a huge success.

For thousands of mid-Michigan families, it was strictly a day of free family fun with something for the kids, beginning with a visit to our “Kids Click,” an area set aside just for kids.

Named after the block of morning cartoons on the station, the younger set could meet their favorite cartoon character, color and get their faces painted.

And while the kids were having fun, there was plenty to keep the adults engaged too.

The fall fest was also a chance for our anchors, reporters and staff members to spend some quality time getting to know their viewers.

WNMU to Hold Community Open House

Northern Michigan University’s WNMU-FM and TV (Marquette) is holding a community open house of their facilities on September 23.  Listeners are viewers can:

  • Come behind the scenes at WNMU, meet the staff and tour the Public Radio 90 & Public TV 13 studios that you help make possible.
  • Tour the Center for Teaching & Learning.
  • See the Olson Library renovation plans and check out the new Digital Media Tutoring Center.
  • Enjoy bagels and books and a local author visit for family time.
  • Share some lovin’ with the Superiorland Pet Partners therapy dogs.
  • Learn about the historical documents that the NMU Archives holds.
  • And more!

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WLNS-TV Expands Evening News to 90 Minutes

WLNS Anchors Sheri Jones and Jorma Duran.

This past Monday, September 18, WLNS-TV (Lansing) expanded its evening local newscast block to 90 minutes  by adding an additional 30-minute newscast at 5:30 p.m.  The station now features local news at 5, 5:30 and 6 p.m. each weekday.

WLNS News Director Jam Sardar told the Lansing State Journal that there will be three 30-minute newscasts with different formats and anchors.

“We do want them to look different,” Sardar said.

The station recently added a new anchor, Jorma Duran to their lineup to help with the expansion.  See the article here.

WJRT-TV and Cumulus Help Red Cross Hurricane Relief

WJRT Anchor Dawn Jones


Cumulus Media WWCK-FM Program Director/Air Personality Jerry Noble

On September 14, Gray Television’s WJRT-TV (Flint), with help from the Cumulus Media Flint radio stations, raised more than $24,000 during a 7-hour telethon for the Red Cross to spend on hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida.

Volunteers took well over 300 donations during the telethon, breaking organizers’ expectations for the event.

“The generosity of the people of Mid-Michigan really came out in full force today,” said Tony Lasher, regional executive director for the Red Cross. “We far exceeeded our expectations with this telethon.”

The Red Cross has been focused on large-scale shelter and relief operations since Hurricane Harvey hit south Texas during the last week of August. Unprecedented rainfall dumped more than 50 inches in some areas, leading to widespread flooding.

While the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations were responding to that, Hurricane Irma thrashed the west coast of Florida and other nearby states. Sustained winds of over 120 mph and high storm surge caused more widespread damage throughout the region.

The $24,400 raised on Thursday, which includes about $19,000 in direct donations and about $5,000 in pledges, will help both areas recover and begin to rebuild.

“We want to thank everybody and we will steward these resources effectively for the people affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma,” Lasher said.

Senate Passes Super PAC Legislation

The Michigan Senate passed campaign finance legislation allowing candidates to raise money for Super PACs, unrestricted by donor limits that apply to candidate fundraising, that can then support them and oppose their opponents. SB 335 passed 23-12, with two Republicans siding with Democrats in opposition the legislation.

Democrats criticized the bill as a major step back for transparency in politics beyond the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, while Republican supporters said it codifies the high court’s ruling and enhances free speech. SB 335 would prohibit coordination between an independent committee and a candidate on how the independent committee would spend money raised in support of a candidate. However, it would also allow a candidate or those working on behalf of a candidate to solicit money for the independent committee.

The House is expected to vote on the bill next week.