Last week, I wrote about a radio program suspended from airing on a Sanford community college radio station because of state Rep. Mike Stone’s complaints.
Stone, a Sanford Republicans serving his second term, had his office contact the president of Central Carolina Community College a few hours after a radio host for “The Rant,” penned a column on April 3 critical of Stone for introducing legislation that would make local elections partisan.
The email from Stone’s legislative assistant to the community college president had a link to the blog post and questioned what the school’s affiliation was with the weekly program on the community college’s FM radio station WDCC.
A follow-up email from Stone’s office asked for more detailed information about the radio station’s budget, programming and funding.
The show, which had begun airing when its three hosts worked for the local newspaper, was suspended from broadcast on April 5, two days after Stone’s office complained.
(Click here to read my story and see the email’s from Stone’s office.)
Since our report went out on Friday, the Rant, which makes pop culture as much a topic as local politics, has attracted a fair amount of statewide and national attention.
There was a mention Sunday in a column by the News & Observer’s Rob Christensen and a story up today on the website for the Poynter Institute, a national group focused on the craft of journalism. Several other political websites, from the national Think Progress blog on the left to the conservative, N.C.-based Daily Haymaker, also weighed in on the controversy.
Since Friday, I also heard back from Julian Philpott, the chair of the community college’s board of trustees who spoke directly with Stone about the matter when the lawmaker called him, twice.
Philpott, a registered lobbyist and general counsel for the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation, said that Stone never directly asked him to have the show canceled but instead was inquiring about whether the community college was going to be forthcoming with the budget information Stone asked for.
He added that he did not feel intimidated by the state lawmaker’s questions about funding, which is determined by the N.C. General Assembly.
“I deal with the legislators all the time. I’m really not intimidated by stuff like that,” Philpott said. He added, “I didn’t feel there was anything that would have a chilling effect.”
He also said that Stone, in a telephone conversation last week, mentioned N.C. Policy Watch’s inquiries about the matter and asked Philpott to make clear that Stone didn’t directly ask that the community college take the show off the air.
Stone was contacted Thursday, the day before our story ran, and offered an opportunity for comment. He has not returned phone calls or an email seeking comment to date.
Billy Liggett, one of the two co-hosts continuing with the show, said he and Gordon Anderson still plan on switching the show to a podcast format that will be available Friday for download on the group’s tumblr or Facebook pages. A third co-host decided not to continue producing the show.
He also pointed out that the show has invited both Republican and Democrat elected officials over the years, and doesn’t have a political agenda. Gordon Anderson, who wrote the post that earned Stone’s ire, has done work for Democratic campaigns, while Liggett is a registered Republican.
The show they’ll have this week will undoubtedly be about the Rant’s unexpected launch into fame, but Liggett says future shows will return to musings on life, movies and whatever other thoughts pop up in his and Anderson’s heads.
“Nothing is going to change, expect with a podcast we don’t have to obey any FCC regulations,” Liggett said. Don’t expect to tune in and hear a string of expletives, Liggett says, “I don’t’ expect us to go nuts or anything.”
To get a sense of the general tenor of the radio program, check out this 2009 commercial/trailer the trio put together to promote “The Rant.”
They posted it on their Facebook page this week with this caption: “A break from the chaos … the good old days.”