May 21, 2019

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Dinosaur-rock radio must reject prehistoric attitudes

Editorial

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/7/2018 (306 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On Wednesday, Rogers Media fired 92 CITI FM morning DJ Dave Wheeler after on-air comments he made Monday about transgender people.

The company had initially suspended Mr. Wheeler; as protests and online boycotts mounted and advertisers, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, The Gates on Roblin and Santa Lucia Pizza, indicated they would pull their spots from the station, the company took the next step.

“There have been multiple disciplinary incidents, and in spite of numerous conversations, he has continued to offend our audiences,” said Andrea Goldstein, senior communications director for Rogers Media in a written statement. “As a result, we have ended our relationship with him and he is no longer with the company, effective immediately.”

The comments — distasteful and ill-informed though they were — are merely the latest example of the way morning-drive shows on rock radio seem to be traditional media’s last bastion of bad taste and bad judgment.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/7/2018 (306 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

On Wednesday, Rogers Media fired 92 CITI FM morning DJ Dave Wheeler after on-air comments he made Monday about transgender people.

The company had initially suspended Mr. Wheeler; as protests and online boycotts mounted and advertisers, including the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, The Gates on Roblin and Santa Lucia Pizza, indicated they would pull their spots from the station, the company took the next step.

"There have been multiple disciplinary incidents, and in spite of numerous conversations, he has continued to offend our audiences," said Andrea Goldstein, senior communications director for Rogers Media in a written statement. "As a result, we have ended our relationship with him and he is no longer with the company, effective immediately."

The comments — distasteful and ill-informed though they were — are merely the latest example of the way morning-drive shows on rock radio seem to be traditional media’s last bastion of bad taste and bad judgment.

The formula, all alpha-male posturing, witless innuendo and forced guffaws, has remained unchanged for decades, so though there’s no excuse for Mr. Wheeler’s behaviour, it might not be fair to lay all the blame at his feet.

Hyper-masculine toxicity is pretty much in the job description at rock radio, where morning shows have traditionally catered to the idea that real men like their music loud, their beer cold and their man caves free of sensitive snowflakes.

And that notion clearly isn’t entirely untrue. A quick scroll though the comments on any internet news story about Mr. Wheeler’s situation reveals there’s plenty of support for him and his beliefs. And obviously, it’s those listeners 92 CITI was courting, at least until it became clear that doing so was going to result in lost ad revenue.

As Ms. Goldstein’s statement indicates, this is not the first time Mr. Wheeler has been in hot water. In 2016, he was suspended for one week for posting two sophomoric videos to YouTube which traded in racism, classism and misogyny; those videos, too, elicited protests and complaints, but also vociferous support from fans.

The fact that he returned to the air, only to — surprise! — offend again, suggests his bosses might have looked at the occasional public dressing-down as the price of doing business: DJ gets a week’s suspension, protesters are appeased, while the station’s supporters have more fodder for their belief that straight white guys are being persecuted by the minority.

One imagines Rogers’ decision was swayed largely by the threat of lost advertising, but Mr. Wheeler’s firing does indicate the tide might be shifting. Perhaps the days of "bro" culture at rock radio are on the wane as listeners realize they are not hostages to bad behaviour.

Corporate entities may control much of the content, but the airwaves belong to Canadians; we don’t have to suffer in silence or sigh and switch the dial when on-air personalities foster an atmosphere of hate and distrust.

It might not be surprising to discover an audience that enjoys listening to the dinosaurs of rock also has prehistoric attitudes, but just because a station plays songs from the ’60s and ’70s doesn’t mean it also has to reflect the mores of those bygone eras.

It’s high time radio realized kindness, respect and rock ‘n’ roll aren’t mutually exclusive.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board.

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