CBS says it cut access to O's

Radio manager says policy was rights-holder's request

February 27, 2007|By Ray Frager | Ray Frager,Sun reporter

When Orioles vice president Jim Duquette appeared on The Mark Viviano Show yesterday, he did something on ESPN Radio 1300 (WJFK/1300 AM) that he couldn't do on other radio stations in town - take questions from listeners.

Last week, sports talk host Steve Davis of WBAL (1090 AM) went public with what he characterized as an Orioles-imposed ban on call-in questions for club management when on stations not owned by Orioles rights-holder CBS Radio.

But a top manager at CBS Radio - whose WHFS (105.7 FM) will carry Orioles games this year - said this policy was instituted at his organization's request and is just a matter of a rights-holder getting some extra benefits it paid for.

"What we have asked for is to be the focal point of information," Bob Philips, senior vice president, CBS Radio/Baltimore, said yesterday. "The Orioles are just trying to follow some things we asked for in the contract. We're trying to offer more access" to listeners.

Philips compared the change in Orioles policy to what happened after CBS lost the Ravens to WBAL last season. After the switch, only WBAL could carry coach Brian Billick's post-game news conferences live. (Other stations are allowed to broadcast the news conferences on tape.)

"Everybody is trying to create value for the rights-holder," Philips said.

Davis didn't find the issues of news conferences and callers' questions analogous.

"It's not the same. ... It's like comparing taking out the trash to flying a plane," said Davis, whose station carried the Orioles for 19 years before this season's switch.

Davis also said no such restrictions existed for Ravens officials before WBAL acquired the team's rights, citing how he took listeners' questions for various members of the club's management on his show.

"If you want to go out and do things for your flagship, there are better ways to do it than that," Davis said.

From Philips' standpoint, he wants fans to view his stations as information central.

"I very much want to be the first with everything," he said.

Then again, maybe not everyone views the taking of callers' questions as such a big deal. After he finished talking with Duquette yesterday, Viviano noted having opened it up to listeners and added, "Happy now?"

ray.frager@baltsun.com

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