Conflict of Interest
December 8, 2005 7:50 AM   Subscribe

Need help drafting Conflict of Interest guidelines for a community radio station. Media folks, law folks, journalistas, can you help?

I'm on the news & editorial board for a volunteer-run, community-based, low-power FM station. The station has been broadcasting for just over one year.

We are now considering a number of program proposals from people who might stand to benefit from being on the radio. For instance, a 'You and the Law' type of show on wills, prenups, etc. by a local lawyer. A show on bodywork and healing arts by a massage therapist. Perhaps the most egregious, a guy who runs a record label and wants to play the music of the artists on his label.

We don't want the station to become a series of free infomercials for these peoples' businesses. But drafting guidelines is tricky. For one thing, in our small city, people with the interest, expertise, and passion to host a show on a topic are the very ones whose primary employment is in that field. We don't want to turn away interested people just because they make money doing what they do. But the station has a public service mission and should never function as an advertising medium.

Can anyone give me some basic ideas about conflict of interest policies in similar cases? Or do you know of a local, community, or college station that has had to draft a document like this?

The sticking point seems to be that this is all-volunteer. When I was employed as a reporter, my employers always set strict and clear guidelines about not reporting on things I stood to gain from. We have no such power of employment over our volunteers, so I'm at a loss.
posted by Miko to Media & Arts (3 answers total)
The policies at WFMU regarding this, according to my observations, are:

1) DJs and program hosts should not mention any personal projects other than upcoming shows/events related to the station. (The rules get bent when one DJ plugs anothers outside project, usually a performance not a product.)

2) Guests should provide something of genuine interest to the listener. In exchange they can do a brief plug.

Seem like in your case, you need to be clear about whether these people are guests or hosts, even if they are only hosting one show.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:04 AM on December 8, 2005

Best answer: This just in (from Ken Freedman, general manager of WFMU):

Our Conflict of Interest policy is actually fairly complex - DJs are indeed allowed to MENTION their own projects, but they are not allowed to PROMOTE their own activities on the air, even if the activity is unlikely to generate actual income. We define what it means to "promote" something: doing an interview or a contest or giveaway, devoting an entire set or show to the event or product in question, or giving any special attention to the event or product (in relation to the other elements of the show).

It's a very tough policy because you don't want people to plug their own stuff on the air, but you also don't want to penalize people for having outside interests and activities, and you don't want to put them in a position of breaking station rules by innocently mentioning things in passing.

Feel free to post these comments if you see fit.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:43 AM on December 8, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks SC -- that's helpful.
posted by Miko at 8:42 AM on December 11, 2005

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