RADIO TRAGEDY. Here's a small but interesting wrinkle in the tragic story of Brad Bleidt, who reportedly attempted to commit suicide after admitting he had bought WBIX Radio (AM 1060) with money he'd obtained by defrauding his investors. As one of the few independent radio stations remaining, WBIX has attracted an inordinate amount of attention from other media organizations - including the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald.
For one thing, WBIX is the home of Bailey and Stein, hosted every weekday from 9 to 10 a.m. by Globe columnists Steve Bailey and Charlie Stein. It's a very good show that deserves a wider audience, and I would say that even if I wasn't an occasional unpaid guest.
For another, Bleidt and Herald publisher Pat Purcell had talked in the past about forming some sort of partnership, which would have given Bleidt much-needed capital and Purcell the radio outlet he has long coveted. In the spring of 2003, Bleidt told me he was definitely interested in some sort of arrangement. Added Purcell: "We've had a number of conversations, and that's a possibility."
Those plans, however, were contingent on the FCC's loosening its prohibition on cross-ownership, a rule that forbids any one owner from controlling a newspaper and a radio or television station in the same market. Later in 2003 the FCC, as expected, all but abolished the cross-ownership ban. But Congress, prodded by angry constituents, put the FCC's action on hold, where it has remained ever since. Congress did the right thing, but in this case what was good for democracy was bad for Bleidt - and possibly for Purcell as well.
When I interviewed Bleidt a year and a half ago, he sounded relaxed and confident. He made it clear that though he was looking for some sort of print partnership, he would not be willing to sell out entirely. "Actually, I'm having too much fun," he told me. "That's what's so delicate. We really have to make sure it's the right fit." But he closed on an oddly threatening note, mildly worded, yet totally out of sync with what I'd thought was a pretty friendly exchange. "You be good now," he said, adding: "I'm serious."
As it turns out, Bleidt didn't even own WBIX at the time of our interview. According to yesterday's Globe account, by Christopher Rowland, Bleidt agreed to buy the station for $13.2 million in November 2002, but didn't complete the deal until January 2004. In the spring of 2003, when I talked with Bleidt, he and his wife, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) reporter Bonnie Bleidt, were controlling the station, but he had apparently not yet come up with the cash he needed to call it his. Then, just six months later, he reached an agreement to sell to Chris Egan, the son of EMC founder Richard Egan.
According to the papers, the sale to Egan is expected to go through. But if this thing's not nailed down, then all bets are off. Here's one possibility now that WBIX has a 24-hour signal: Bloomberg Radio, the home of Boston-based hosts Michael Goldman and Tom Moroney, would almost certainly love to have a Boston outlet. And Bloomberg ownership would fit well with 'BIX's all-business orientation.
COUNTING THE VOTES. I remain in wait-and-see mode regarding accusations that John Kerry would have been elected president were it not for shenanigans pulled by the Republicans, especially in Ohio. I've read some things that are interesting, but I have yet to see anything I would consider proof.
But why do we have to read out-and-out distortions like the assertion by Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young about "Kerry's groundless claim in a campaign stump speech that one million African-American votes weren't counted in Florida"?
Groundless? Uh, I think not. Greg Palast, who knows this stuff cold, wrote on Friday:
American democracy has a dark little secret. In a typical presidential election, two million ballots are simply chucked in the garbage, marked "spoiled" and not counted. A dive into the electoral dumpster reveals something special about these votes left to rot. In a careful county-by-county, precinct-by-precinct analysis of the Florida 2000 race, the US Civil Rights Commission discovered that 54% of the votes in the spoilage bin were cast by African-Americans. And Florida, Heaven help us, is typical. Nationwide, the number of Black votes "disappeared" into the spoiled pile is approximately one million. The other million in the no-count pit come mainly from Hispanic, Native-American and poor white precincts, a decidedly Democratic demographic.
Now, Young writes that Kerry claimed one million African-American voters were disenfranchised in Florida alone, but I think she's mistaken. Palast quotes Kerry's remarks before the NAACP convention earlier this year: "Don't tell us that in the strongest democracy on earth a million disenfranchised African-Americans is the best we can do. This November, we're going to make sure that every single vote is counted."
There is a high statistical probability that a million black voters were disenfranchised four years ago. There is no reason to think much has changed since then. By the way, be sure to read all of Palast's piece, which argues that Kerry would have won Ohio and New Mexico - and thus the presidency - if African-American votes weren't tossed at a rate far higher than those of whites.
And Cathy Young needs to start boning up on the facts.