A Fort Lauderdale man and his friends have launched a campaign to clean up South Florida’s airwaves before the pope arrives, and their first target is fiery radio host Neil Rogers.
The campaign scored an early success when NCNB National Bank canceled the last week of a six-week advertising commitment.
Rogers regularly uses humor to attack Pope John Paul II and ridicules the practices of the Catholic Church and other religions. The attacks have increased in tone and frequency as the Sept. 10 date for the pontiff’s visit approaches.
The Committee to Promote First Amendment Rights and Obligations’ inaugural newspaper advertisement encourages those upset with Rogers to protest to his sponsors on WINZ (940-AM).
The committee was incorporated June 18 by Bart T. Heffernan, a cardiologist who first listened to Rogers when he was in the hospital late last year.
”I was astounded,” Heffernan said. ”I don’t think the community is well served by appeals to bigotry.”
Heffernan got some friends together and they formed the committee, which has a Pompano Beach address. The group just bought its first advertisement in the current issue of The Voice, the newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Miami. The committee also plans to tackle off-color television shows and other radio talk show hosts.
Heffernan said the group, which has more than a dozen members, had no connection with the archdiocese. The Voice was chosen for the ad only because it is ”inexpensive,” Heffernan said.
Rogers, however, accused the church on the air of being behind the campaign.
The current ad is headlined, ”Radio Station Slurs” and never mentions Rogers. But it is clear that the ad, which lists WINZ’s 35 sponsors and their addresses, refers to Rogers and his anti-religious patter.
”We’re not asking him to love the pope,” Heffernan said, ”but he doesn’t have to call the pope (vulgar terms).”
Andrew Burns, vice president of ABC Telephone Systems, said, ”I’ve been barraged with complaints about the show.” Burns, however, said the north Dade County cellular phone company was sticking with WINZ.
Glen Hill, producer of Rogers’ 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. show and on-the-air sidekick, said the station is ignoring the protest. ”If we can sit here and bash, we can sit here and take it,” Hill said.
Rogers did not return calls asking for comment.
Byline: BUDDY NEVINS Copyright: 1987 News and Sun-Sentinel Company