November 8, 2003Martin Stolz
Plain Dealer Reporter
The nation's largest radio company has promised bicycle advocates to never again tolerate anti-bicycle rants by deejays and talk-show hosts.
In June, a Cleveland station set off a local furor by advocating that motorists harm bicyclists by running them off the road, ramming them with car doors or throwing objects at them. In September, the furor became national when stations in Houston and Raleigh, N.C., had similar broadcasts.
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The comments on the stations, all owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., were "inappropriate and intolerable," said John Hogan, president and CEO of the Clear Channel Radio division, which operates more than 1,200 radio stations nationwide.
Hogan made his comments in a letter after meeting Wednesday with the League of American Bicyclists, a Washington group.
A Cleveland woman, Lois Cowan, owner of four area bike shops, said she felt humiliated in a July on-air interview on the "Lanigan and Malone" show on WMJI FM/105.7.
After the Raleigh and Houston broadcasts, Cowan mounted an Internet campaign against Clear Channel that created a national nightmare for the company. Clear Channel still faces complaints filed by bicyclists with the Federal Communication Commission, which grants radio licenses.
Hogan wrote, "I do not support or condone the anti-cyclists messages" and said he had taken steps to ensure they won't be repeated. He added that he had informed programmers, on-air broadcasters and local managers about "certain consequences if that direction is not followed."
In an e-mail to The Plain Dealer, company spokesman Omar Thompson declined to say what the "certain consequences" would be. He added that Hogan's "feelings and intentions have been made quite clear" to the WMJI broadcasters who participated in the diatribes, including John Lanigan, Mark Bishop and Chip Kullik.
The company explained that after the Houston and Raleigh broadcasts, a producer in Houston was fired and the Raleigh morning team was suspended. In Cleveland, after a meeting with Cowan, Clear Channel officials apologized on air to bicyclists, broadcast public service announcements about sharing the road and donated $10,000 for bike advocacy.
More than 200 Clear Channel stations have promoted more than 100 cycling events nationwide since 2002, the company said.
Cowan said yesterday that she still distrusts the company, because, "I don't think they've atoned for their sins."
The good-behavior pledge is a start, she said. But the company could further remedy a situation it created by airing bicycle safety information each year.
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