Breaking up the radio team

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Do you think WJFK could have fired Frank Herzog if the station were locally owned?” a friend asked this week. “No way. “You couldn’t live in this town if you were responsible for breaking up Sonny, Sam and Frank.”

I can’t recall an issue that has so united this community as the revulsion over the sacking of Frank Herzog — breaking up the Redskins broadcast team that has dominated fall Sundays for more than a quarter-century.

But in a town where power buys anything, nobody can figure what we can do to right this wrong because our friendly neighborhood Redskins station is owned by Infinity Broadcasting which means Viacom and Mel Karmazin and Sumner Redstone. They are far, far away.

Can it be the corporation that gave us the Super Bowl halftime fiasco is responsible for breaking up the most beloved broadcast team in this city’s history? So how can we get Mr. Karmazin and Mr. Redstone to save Sonny, Sam and Frank?

Maybe we should explain to these guys there was a time when local ownership of broadcast outlets was considered an important tradition in this country — a tradition right up there with our beloved Redskins broadcast team.

If faraway corporate titans who control WJFK are so powerful that we can turn to no one to appeal the sacking of Frank Herzog, then maybe it’s time for leading members of Congress to deal with Mr. Karmazin like they did after that Super Bowl halftime show.

You could see good taste and decorum returning to the Super Bowl with every minute Mr. Karmazin remained before the congressional committee. Could the same kind of congressional concern work for Frank?

I have always worshipped at the altar of that classic Reagan assertion: “Government is not the solution; government is the problem.”

I am a free market conservative, and I’ve never been particularly concerned over the Federal Communications Commission loosening the grip government traditionally held over the airwaves.

But the firing of Frank Herzog and its residual effect on football greats Sam Huff and Sonny Jurgensen (how can Sonny and Sam be Sonny and Sam without a straight man?) is turning local control of broadcast stations into a concept I can understand.

Indeed, the more I am around public radio and television the better I understand why the authority that determines local content is not far away network executives, but people who live and work where these stations broadcast. Maybe we need to return to that concept with commercial radio.

If it takes the threat of a little government intervention to put Sonny, Sam and Frank back together again, then so be it.

Kenneth Tomlinson is chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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