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Letter to the Editor: Bending the Rules

Bob du Treil was a man after my own heart

Bob du Treil Sr.
Bob du Treil Sr.

Dear RW,

You recently quoted the late Bob du Treil Sr. as saying, “I’d bend the rules but not break them. Though the FCC may disagree with that.”

A man after my own heart.

Even at stations where I was only chief operator of record (to ensure rules compliance) and was actually the PD or OM with major engineering done by contract, I had a few clever “Gumbyizing” moments. I’ll tell you one where the FCC was decidedly not happy with me but were powerless to stop me.

The station was KAAP(AM/FM) in Santa Paula, Calif., part of the Oxnard-Ventura market but with a city of license best known for its lemon and avocado groves. The husband-and-wife owners tried every way they could to bury that part of the legal ID; at one point they had TM cut a jingle with the words “Santa Paula” a significant number of dB down from the main, then back-timed its start so that it would be buried by the old drumroll intro to the news from the American Information (ABC) Network.

When I got there, I handled the city of license “problem” by building it into the newscasts’ weather formatic: “Ventura County weather: (read forecast) … Current area temperatures from KAAP AM and FM: Santa Paula 82 degrees, 70 in Ventura and in Oxnard 72. Now more of Ventura County’s favorite music on FM 97 and AM 14 (jingle).”

Inevitably, the FCC eventually turned up after monitoring us all morning and “not hearing” a legal ID (I suspect a competitor had “turned us in”). I let them sit in the control room while I did the weather after the noon ABC news, but even then they didn’t catch it. It wasn’t until I pointed out the ID in the copy book that they saw, then claimed I was violating “the spirit of the rule.” I countered that because the ID met the requirements as specified in §73.1201 they couldn’t issue a NAV for “spirit violation.” They did not leave happily.

The husband had been out on sales calls when the FCC arrived; he laughed for a full five minutes when I related it to him. (The wife, who was also the bookkeeper, had locked herself in her office when she heard the FCC was in the building.)

I suspect Mr. du Treil would have been proud of me.

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