Local Radio Personalities React To Ziegler Ruling

By Maureen Kyle

(LOUISVILLE, May 25th, 2005, 7 p.m.) -- Whether or not you agree with them, a jury has ruled that the comments made by former 84 WHAS radio personality John Ziegler are protected under the First Amendment. And even that decision means a loss for Darcie Divita, some local members of the media consider it a victory. As WAVE 3's Maureen Kyle reports, Ziegler's win is a comfort to radio voices across Kentuckiana.

Terry Meiners, who isn't exactly known for being conservative on the air, found himself wincing at some of Ziegler's on-air comments. "I, myself, was taken aback by what Ziegler said, but it's still protected speech -- lewd and offensive, but completely legal."

Meiners sits behind the same as microphone, but this radio show host says their shtick is not the same.

"I've caught myself before,"Meiners says, "thinking, 'uh oh, I'm starting down that slope.' Then I will shift gears. There's a filter somewhere in there that says, 'this is not a good idea. But his just doesn't work sometimes."

Meiners views Ziegler's victory as a win for broadcasting since the tight scrutiny it has endured after the infamous "Janet Jackson Super Bowl" mishap.

"Each day, our industry goes through an evolution Meiners said. "Each day people try to push the parameters a little further; and we'll see what courts have to say about them in other places."

Though Meiners minds his Ps and Qs, pushing the parameters happens regularly at Clear Channel Louisville.

"The things you say on 84 WHAS AM, you get fired for," said Tony Vanetti, a DJ on 100.5 The Fox. "We do the same joke and ... we get raises for them."

Vanetti and Dwight Witten took over the shock jock spot on The Fox when Howard Stern was forced off.

"That's just the bottom line: we say exactly what Ziegler says, but even more," Vanetti said. "In fact, if you call into the show, we may ask you what your grooming habits are, and if you go ahead and say it, that's them saying it."

Tony and Dwight say they don't worry about lawsuits, but in their line of work, there's always concern about limits.

"The rules are spelled out, and then they're not, Vanetti said. "Because they can walk in that door any day and say, 'too far. you're gone."

"If everything was written in black and white, you can say this, you can say that, then it would be fine," added Witten. "But everything's gray. You have no idea what you can and can't get away with.

Vanetti and Witten say it's also a matter of knowing the audience. They say even though their comments are just as shocking as what Ziegler said on the air, such material is expected on a rock radio station.

You can catch Tony and Dwight mornings on 100.5 The Fox. And Terry Meiners can be heard from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on 84 WHAS.

Online Reporter: Maureen Kyle

Online Producer: Michael Dever