As of last night, the war between WOZO in Knoxville and The Sit Down with Chris Seaton is over. WOZO’s top brass indicated they support free speech and the open exchange of ideas. They are to be commended for their support.
The Sit Down’s genesis came from the “Headlines” segment I used to do for producer Aaron Campbell’s flagship show “That Midday Show” on WOZO. It was a four hour long live show dedicated to comedy, geek culture, and entertainment. They had an “open door” policy when the show began and were looking for new ideas.
I picked about four or five stories from the news I thought were interesting and we would riff off them for an hour or so making bad jokes. It was a fun endeavor, and the highlight of my time with the show was getting to do a live broadcast from Scruffy City Hall during the Scruffy City Comedy Festival.
The show was a drain on my business ventures, though, so eventually I had to scale back what I was doing and concentrate on other areas of my work. I would still pop in occasionally for the odd bit, plug a project like “Silenced,” and then pop out in a heartbeat. Still fun, but not as much of a time commitment.
Something happened to TMS at the end of 2016. A comedian on the show made a joke that was admittedly off color and might have run afoul of FCC standards. The funny thing is the quip was so quiet it can’t be heard on the recording of the days’s events. What can be heard is another station DJ calling in, objecting to the joke, and saying “What that guy said was offensive and inappropriate. I’m coming down to settle this.”
Any reasonable person would think “I’m coming down to settle this” meant “I’m coming down to talk over what was just said.” This “DJ’s” interpretation of “settling” a problem over some words involved an assault and potential multiple FCC violations with live mics.
When I learned of the incident, I encouraged my producer to file a police report and have the two individuals responsible arrested for assault. The vitality of his show depended on it. Certain individuals begged Aaron to not file a police report and instead handle the matter through the station’s “conflict response team” in a “mediation.”
During the “mediation” Aaron Campbell, my producer and friend, got an apology from the two jackasses who assaulted him in the studio. The “conflict response team” also penalized Aaron and That Show Productions by pulling them from the air for the rest of 2016.
To this day That Show Productions hasn’t done a live broadcast at WOZO Radio’s studios.
“The Sit Down” found a home at WOZO when Aaron Campbell agreed to give the fourth hour of That Midday Show to a project I’d been working on, a highly conservative talk show featuring news, entertainment, lifestyle subjects, and in a one hour format. The best part of getting to use Aaron’s home studio for the broadcasts is the beer in the fridge, and the setup is light years better than what WOZO had. In fact, That Show’s production facilities rival those of most major radio stations.
It didn’t take two episodes of an ultra-conservative talk show airing on an incredibly leftist leaning community access network until the station’s “DJs” started calling for the show to get axed. One person at the station said since I was a “host,” that automatically made me a DJ subject to the fees the station’s DJs paid each month. I argued I was talent, not the DJ, and the DJ granting me that slot had the right and privilege to axe the program as he saw fit.
Others objected to content they’d never listened to. At the beginning of each show and during the break a “disclaimer” runs to the effect of “Warning. The following program may contain language or subject matter the listener finds racist, sexist, transohomophobic, bigoted, ableist, or any other “ist” or “ism” you can find. If the listener finds the program offensive, the management would respectfully request you suck it up, snowflake, and find something else to listen to.” It was a poke at the notion words used to silence others in the past didn’t work anymore, and a light hearted reminder that no matter what we said someone was going to get outraged.
The outrage poured in as quickly as Episode 2. “Station DJs” were combing through both hours of the program trying to find something, anything they could label with an “ist” or an “ism.” so they could say the program was in violation of their “station rules.” The DJs were moving to have the program banned from WOZO, my producer banned from the station, and me from ever appearing on WOZO content again.
Outrage poured over to Twitter, where an egg I assume was a station DJ claimed I wanted special treatment and attempted to circumvent the rules. Another got upset that I “disrespected” the DJs calling for the stifling of conservative viewpoints on the station. Another egg started the discussion off the bat by calling me racist and sexist and demanding WOZO pull That Midday Show and The Sit Down immediately. From Canada, allegedly.
The tension came to a head last night when Aaron Campbell met with senior WOZO staff who acknowledged no one at That Show Productions violated any rules. I’m told Margo referred to me as an excellent “shock jock,” which baffles me as I don’t mean to “shock,” but I’ll take what I can get, especially if it’s a compliment from someone who has as much clout as Margo at WOZO.
The conflict brought eyes to the show, and for every new listener we greatly appreciate your support. To Margo and all the DJs at WOZO who supported “The Sit Down,” we appreciate your commitment to free speech, an open exchange in the marketplace of ideas, and tolerance of really bad jokes.
“The Sit Down with Chris Seaton” airs every Tuesday at 4 PM on 103.9 WOZO LPFM in Knoxville. I’m reliably informed that if you can use Winamp you can hear the station broadcast live. Replays go up on the podcast networks like iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and TuneIn on Wednesdays at 8 AM EST.
You can also go to the show website and listen.
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