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Rhode Island Governor Bars State Employees From Talk Radio

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State officials in Rhode Island are being silenced... on talk radio, that is.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an Independent, told the Providence Journal that talk radio is "ratings-driven, for-profit programming," and his administration believes it's inappropriate to use taxpayer resources to have state employees use work time to it.

Gov. Chafee says he intends to stay off the air, as well, reversing a trend set by his predecessor, Republican Gov. Donald Carcieri, who frequently spoke out on talk radio programs.

Buddy Cianci, a former mayor of Providence and a talk show host criticized Chaffee's stance Tuesday. "Chafee is -- I don't want to be critical -- but he's not Demosthenes," Cianci said. "The fact is that he's got some issues that he maybe doesn't have the answer to [on the air]."

“I take it as a total slap in the face to the public of the state of Rhode Island," Cianci continued. "There are thousands of people who listen to our radio shows. For him to ban all these people from coming on talk radio is certainly an affront to open government, and certainly is an affront to transparency."

As a clarification, the governor's office announced that the new talk radio ban will not apply in "emergency situations," when it is imperative for state officials to reach out to the public. In addition, the new rule will not apply to interviews with news reporters or local NPR affiliate stations.

More than 90 years after broadcasters were first licensed to sell commercial air time, Chafee's stance against "for-profit" broadcasters marks a significant change in conventional broadcasting and has some worried.

WHJJ’s program director, Bill George, told the Providence Journal that he was concerned about Chafee’s singling out talk shows since “most media outlets, whether news or opinion, are profit-making entities.”

“We believe that talk radio would be an ideal outlet for Governor Chafee because it’s a great way for him to speak directly to the people,” George said. “It’s also one of the few places where he can have a back-and-forth with the state’s citizens.”

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