WSLR shake-up: A change at Sarasota’s community radio station leaves the anti-noise ordinance movement without one of its most prominent voices
Published April 21, 2010
TERRY “T-BONE” RHODES: “I’m going to get behind [the scene] one way or another”
For the past year Music Scene and Be Seen — broadcast on WSLR 96.5 LPFM — has been Sarasota’s only radio show focused wholly on local original music. Terry “T-Bone” Rhodes started the project with that goal in mind, but he also wanted to bring attention to Sarasota’s much-hated noise and entertainment ordinances. He took full advantage of his mouthpiece, playing local records, mentioning local concerts and hammering on the noise restrictions every time he took the air.
FCC regulations stipulate that since WSLR is a nonprofit, non-commercial station, its programmers cannot promote events they are directly involved with. WSLR had reprimanded Rhodes for pushing the limits of those rules in the past — and two Mondays ago, the station went one step further. WSLR manager Arlene Sweeting informed Rhodes that he would be suspended from the station for six months, effectively canceling Music Scene and Be Seen.
The suspension stemmed from Rhodes’ mention of Indie Underground Railroad, a concert he organized that took place at Bacalao on Sun., April 11. The show featured performances by 30 local original bands, and benefited the Child Protection Center. “I offered WSLR the opportunity to be just a media sponsor,” says Rhodes. “I made it clear to [Sweeting] that I wasn’t expecting any money or any manpower. I just wanted the opportunity to be able to talk about it. … It seemed like the perfect opportunity since we were having it during the fund drive. They could be out there with a booth and raise some money. For whatever reason they decided not to be a sponsor.”
Actually, the fact that the station’s twice-annual fundraising drive fell on the same weekend as Indie Underground (which I, full disclosure, performed at) turned out to be the main reason WSLR decided to deny sponsorship to the concert. “It was in the middle of our fund drive so we didn’t feel it was good timing to sign onto that event,” says Sweeting. Rhodes says that if WSLR had decided to become a sponsor, he would have been more freely allowed to mention the concert on his radio show. But Sweeting says that’s not necessarily true: “It probably still would have been limited as to what he could have talked about. It was just that he was actively a promoter in that event that he couldn’t talk about it. It was something that he was very aware of and he chose to do it nonetheless.”
A true promoter at heart, Rhodes often struggled to toe the FCC line; he says the real issue that needs to be discussed is the role community radio stations should play. “This is less about WSLR and maybe more about what it takes to be a community radio station and how it serves the community,” says Rhodes. “I understand it’s a nonprofit, but every rule is meant to have some type of amendment to it to make it make sense. … It’s like the Noise Ordinance CD release party. When [the Noise Ordinanacepromoters] came on the first time, [WSLR] said they couldn’t be back on for three months or something. Everything that I wanted to talk about I had to stop doing and I said, ‘I’m going to do it anyway.’ I have habitually stepped over the line on stuff that I believe in that was about the community that I’m serving.”
Sweeting is sad to see the show go but is confident that the local original music scene will still get its due coverage with The Local Music Show, which will take over Music Scene and Be Seen’s time slot on Saturday afternoons and will be hosted by Rhodes’ former co-host, Chris “Quazi” Young. “We thought that show was very important to the station, which is why we will continue to have a local music show,” says Sweeting. “Terry was a very good personality for that show and it will be hard to find someone else to fill in for him. We want to see it continue but there are a number of rules we have to follow.”
Rhodes will continue to be a voice for the local original music scene, but will now do it in a different way. After the initial anger wore off and some personal deliberation took place, he decided to accept a request from WSLR to join their promotions committee. “The thing is, if I were to remain a programmer I could not promote anything we do,” says Rhodes. “From the promotional committee I can have more of an effect. Now I’m in a position to get to those questions. They seem to think that their hands are tied by what those rules are. Let’s really examine them. If Quaz goes in there and keeps it going then I can call in there and promote. And when they have these meetings I’m going to be the voice on the other side. They took away the option I had to promote the scene. I’m going to get behind it one way or another.”
Photo courtesy Terry “T-Bone” Rhodes