Yakima’s morning airwaves have been quieter since radio personality and Yakima City Councilman Dave Ettl went off the air last month after filing to run for re-election.
Ettl, who co-hosts KIT 1280-AM’s morning news show, “more than likely” will be off the air as long as he is in the race, said Cheryl Salomone, regional manager for Townsquare Media, which owns the radio station as well as four others in the Yakima area.
So long as Ettl is on the air, federal law says that his challengers for City Council in the Aug. 6 primary — Sid Reynaga and Charles Noel — can get equal time on air if they request it.
Reynaga said Townsquare Media has offered to run 240 30-second spots on KIT to make up for the 120 minutes Ettl was on air after filing to run.
Salomone declined to comment on the offer or if Noel has requested airtime. Noel could not be reached for comment.
Broadcast companies typically take on-air employees off the air once they’ve filed as a candidate, a Federal Communications Commission official in Washington, D.C., said speaking on background.
Sometimes a broadcaster can reach an agreement with the other candidates that allows its employee-turned-political-candidate back on the air.
Regardless of what he’s talking about, anytime Ettl is on air, that time counts toward equal time for his opponents. There are a few exceptions related to news coverage, such as if another station employee interviews Ettl, the councilman.
Ettl’s last broadcast was May 17, the day after he filed to run for re-election, although he has continued to write on the station’s website.
In a post on May 28, Ettl criticized the FCC’s equal-time rules as unfair.
“That doesn’t seem fair, does it? And it doesn’t seem fair that the government and competing local candidates can shut down a person’s livelihood in order for that person to be able to run for office, but that’s what this amounts to,” Ettl wrote.
He did not respond to requests for comment.
When he ran for office in 2009, Gap West Broadcasting, which owned KIT at the time, worked out a deal with Ettl’s opponents — the incumbent Councilwoman Sonia Rodriguez and Yakima homemaker Sharon Madson — for advertising spots played on the other Yakima-area stations owned by Gap West.
Since then, Gap West sold its stations to Townsquare Media.
Another of the company’s employees, Micah Cawley, is also running for re-election to Yakima City Council. But Cawley, who serves as Yakima’s largely ceremonial mayor and hosts an afternoon show on KDBL 92.9-FM as DJ Cefus, is running unopposed.