4.07.2006

Flashback Friday: A Not So Silent Protest

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was 19-year old I began working for a television station in the south eastern Unites States. Armed with only three years of radio experience (I had worked at a small country radio station that fell somewhere on the AM dial), I was elated when I got a part-time job as clerk in a traffic and operations department--an arm of sales departments where daily programming and commercials are scheduled to run. Less than two years after my arrival, after bouncing around sales, research, and marketing, I ended up managing the traffic and operations department, where I had served as a part-time clerk.

I kept our advertisers happy by providing ample separation of competitors for ads such as McDonalds v. Burger King or Pepsi v. Coke. I handled strict FCC regulations regarding children's programming rules and public affairs announcement. As a 21-year old female manager in a group of middle-aged men from the South, I even found ways earn the respect of my colleagues.

But there was one thing I just couldn't handle.

It was 1988. The national elections for president inched closer and closer. And like any upcoming election, negative ads hoarded the air waves. As the person in charge of such matters, I pulled my hair out trying to make sure all the advertisements, regardless of party affiliation, ran on the station correctly, fairly, and without incident.

What made the 1988 election interesting was that David Duke, a former KKK leader and white nationalist well-known for his controversial views regarding race and politics, was running in the Democratic presidential primary. We hadn't seen a David Duke advertisment at my station. Then one day, a sales order hit my inbox for a 30-minute paid program by the Committee to elect David Duke.

I rushed into the General Manger's office.

"What is this?" I asked angrily as I threw the order on his desk.

The General Manager knew what I was referring to without evening look up from his desk. He sat motionless and ignored my emotional outburst. I, on the other hand, wasn't going to let this go without a fight.

"We're PROSTITUTING ourselves!" I moaned. "Do you know what our call letters stand for?"

By this time, I had gotten the General Manager's attenion, but wasn't about let him get a word in edgewise.

"W-H-N -S ...WE HAVE NO SHAME!!!!"

I looked at the General Manager smugly as if my clever outbursts would leave him speechless and unable to respond.

"Diane, you know the rules as well as I do. Equal access. Equal time. Just do it. And spare me the drama," he said matter-of-factly.

"Fine," I replied storming back to my office.

I sat down at my computer to enter the order. The David Duke paid program was preempting the Arsenio Hall Show and positioned right before Sanford and Son.

After considering the audience demographics of both Arsenio Hall and Sanford and Son based on our Neilson ratings, I could help but wonder what would possess the committee to elect a former KKK leader to pick that particular 30 minute time slot. And then a thought flashed in my mind...

I ran down to the film department and had the David Duke show timed. The reel lenth was only 28 minutes and 30 seconds, leaving 1:30 to make up before Sanford and Son could begin.

The General Manager's words kept ringing in my head. "Equal access. Equal time. Just do it. And spare me the drama."

A smile came to my face. I knew exactly what ads should fill the gap--United Negro College Fund public affair announcements ("Because a mind is a terrible thing to waste.")

Diane Mandy 1, General Manager and David Duke 0

5 comments:

jamy said...

What a great story. Did you get in trouble?

I'm amazed by how much responsibility you had at 21. Very cool!

Diane Mandy said...

No, I never got in trouble for it. And I was amazed that there wasn't a single viewer call to complain.

Jaws said...

Thats awesome. Way to go! Even better no one complained.

utenzi said...

I don't think you had the score right on that one, Diane. When it comes to Duke (David or otherwise), there are no winners. Even political opponents that argued with him only lent him legitimacy.

Dan-E said...

nice. very nice.