SEEDS SPROUT RADIO CONTROVERSY (July 17, 1982)

Miami Herald, The (FL) – July 17, 1982
Author/Byline: FRED GRIMM Herald Staff Writer Edition: FINAL Section: LOCAL Page: 1B

Neil Rogers was like a free-floating orbiter out there in radio space, fearlessly firing off his flaming, acrid opinions — government officials, community leaders, listeners, his own station management be damned.

Management tried to bring him back to earth this week.

WNWS stripped away the talk show host’s title of program director and took away the morning half of his double-shift call-in discussion program.

Rogers, whose talk show is the most popular in South Florida, is left with an 8 p.m. to midnight slot on the station, which broadcasts from 790 on the AM radio band.

It was a packet of seeds, shaken like maracas by his microphone Thursday morning, that sent the listeners screaming to their telephones. They called the station and they called the police.

He had said the packet might contain marijuana seeds. Then again, he said, it might be bird seed.

The marijuana-on-the-air controversy actually began Wednesday, when Rogers, a 22-year radio veteran, took off after Gov. Bob Graham and the state project to spray poison on Florida’s illegal marijuana fields. The conversations evolved into a suggestion by Rogers that perhaps listeners could send him marijuana seeds.

“The whole thing was tongue-in-cheek,” Rogers insisted Friday. “It was satirical. Evidently it went over some people’s heads.”

On Thursday, Rogers teased the audience. He said listeners had sent him a cutting from a leafy plant, which could be marijuana, and two packets of seeds. He said if he heard a commotion outside the studio, signaling the arrival of police, “I could always swallow the seeds.”

The police were called, Rogers said. “Metro called the station,” he said. He said the police warned against encouraging listeners to break the law. (There is no official record of such a call by Metro-Dade police. “Anyone in the department could have made such a call,” said a Metro spokesman.)

The way Rogers tells it, station general manager Lou Krone angrily intervened, demanding that he stop all talk of pot. Rogers did, making it clear to the listeners that he was doing so reluctantly.

By Friday, Rogers, was gone from the 10-to-noon slot, demoted from program director and a bit reluctant to talk about his situation. “I’m disappointed that it appears to be a demotion,” he said. “This was by mutual consent. I never wanted the program directorship job anyway.”

Rogers opened his show at 8:05 p.m. Friday with a few less- than-cryptic comments about the controversy. “This hasn’t been a particularly well-balanced week, has it?” he asked rhetorically.

By 8:25 p.m., he was back to his old self. Responding to a caller who said she had just heard on Cuban radio that Rogers had been fired, he snapped: “They ought to get their news right. I haven’t been fired at all.”

Krone could not be reached for comment Friday.

It seems fairly certain, though, that the pot-on-the-air affair won’t create much of a stir with the Federal Communications Commission. Tom Dunlap of the FCC complaint department said the agency doesn’t pursue such reports unless they involve obscenity. “We don’t interfere with freedom of speech,” he said. “Our purpose isn’t censorship.”

Caption: bw Neil Rogers

Copyright (c) 1982 The Miami Herald