Why radio talk show hosts need to be fearless

Steve Kowch says you need to be fearless to host  a talk show

From where I sit On The Kowch, a talk show host can’t be controversial and stay out of trouble. That’s impossible! When you take a stand on something, there’s always push back. A good talk show host has to be fearless. Even if it means being on the wrong side of the argument when it comes to an alleged racist email written by Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson or Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his wife (then-fiancee), Janay Palmer, in the face and knocking her out in an Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino elevator.

It will come as no surprise that some talk show hosts angered listeners or viewers with their comments or for letting people call in to say what can be politely termed “politically incorrect comments” about either story. So what do I think about this. The quote attributed to Voltaire says it best:

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”  – Voltaire

I decided to write this blog after reading a post on LinkedIn from Listen UPI Talk Radio Program Director Todd Miller. He wanted to know, as a PD if I would be OK backing a host’s position, even if it’s controversial. My response was: “Absolutely. Controversy is what talk radio is all about”.

this eBook will help make you fearless on the radioThere are of course some ground rules a host has to follow. For example, you can’t condone or defend domestic violence. So I would have had a chat with the Fox News Channel talk show hosts who suggested that Rice should have slugged his fiancee in the Casino stairwell where there were no cameras. In my opinion – as a former talk radio program director – that is wrong because it advocates or defends domestic violence. That would contravene the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) guidelines on talk radio. Click here for your free copy of the kowchmedia eBook: Staying Out Of Trouble On The Radio. It just may save your radio career one day.

But I had no problem with commentators saying she hit him first so he was only defending himself.  Or even football fans saying the firing was too heavy a punishment for punching his girlfriend who forgave him and married him a month later. I don’t agree with what they said. But on talk radio it’s all about opinions – those of the host and the callers.

When it comes to Atlanta Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson alleged racist email sent to general manager Danny Ferry in August 2012 about the lack of white season ticket holders and cheerleaders at the stadium, I have no problem with hosts defending its contents. Levenson cited the inappropriate nature of the e-mail as the reason he announced that he would sell his interest in the team. Levenson reported the e-mail to the NBA.

Click here to read the email as published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Some hosts were criticized for suggesting the internal email was just trying to find ways to bring in more white season ticket holders, add some white girls to the cheerleaders and maybe introduce more than just hip hop music at stadium events.

From where I sit  On The Kowch, I find it difficult to be critical of talk show hosts who aren’t politically correct and voice the opinion  that there is nothing wrong with trying to bring in more white folks in that southern state stadium. Is this any different from the emails Program Directors receive from radio HR departments urging them to hire more visible minorities to add diversity to the makeup of the on air staff or support staff because the radio station is too lily white?

Steve Kowch ran two of Canada’s largest newstalk radio stations in Montreal and Toronto for more than 14 years. He is the author of the kowchmedia eBook: Staying Out Of Trouble On The Radio. Click here to order your free copy.

Contact Steve at 647-521-6397 or email steve@kowchmedia.com