920 KVEC radio show host Dave Congalton has hosted “Hometown Radio” for over two decades. He’s the person you go to if you’re looking to promote a nonprofit organization or a special event. Often times he’ll discuss local and national issues with a variety of guests.
He’s got a little bit of everything packed into four hours of programming. That’s a lot of time to fill every day from Monday through Friday. The last hour of his show is typically dedicated to his “Last Call” segment when he gives listeners an opportunity to call into the show and talk about anything that’s on their mind. In those quiet moments when the phones aren’t lighting up in the KVEC studio, a different Dave Congalton appears to take on the silence.
For his March 28 show, “Last Call” was originally going to feature Congalton’s take on the cultural differences between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But an hour after his segments were announced on KVEC’s Facebook page, that discussion on cultural differences was replaced with “Kevin Rice.”
Rice is a self-proclaimed activist who is known for his harassment and misinformation campaigns against his political adversaries. His newest stunt is trolling The Tribune’s website under the pseudonym “Patrick Rich,” and claiming he’s a member of the SLO Progressives while attacking progressives. As far as why he’s doing that, no one knows but Rice. A lot of the “activism” he partakes in doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Most of the time, his stunts backfire in the press. You have to admit: It’s strange to have a feature on San Luis Obispo’s Ballet Theatre and later feature Rice on the same show — the same Rice who just days before alleged on The Tribune that one of the county supervisors was a “drunken drug abuser” without any evidence.
Congalton brought Rice onto the show to discuss a recent interview FOX NEWS’ Sean Hannity did with veteran broadcaster Ted Koppel where Koppel affirmed that Hannity, in the words of Hannity’s own question, was “bad for America.” The implication is that highly politicized personalities on major networks and talk radio contribute to a growing rift in political discourse. Rice stated that personalities on the left and right of the political spectrum use their own facts and statistics to pursue a heavily biased narrative. Congalton stated that opinionated broadcasting was problematic because it’s difficult for people tuning in to discern between fact and opinion.
The interview between Hannity and Koppel was about the rise of politically charged vitriol in broadcasting since the Federal Communications Commission revoked the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. The Fairness Doctrine required public broadcasters to present controversial issues in a fair and honest manner. The doctrine was revoked because judging a broadcaster’s fairness and honesty is left to subjective interpretation. More or less, the overall idea behind the doctrine was to present both sides of a controversial argument and provide both sides equal time.
On March 17, Congalton dedicated a significant portion to the show to his reaction of the Tenborg v. CalCoastNews verdict. CalCoastNews is a controversial online tabloid that recently lost a defamation lawsuit and was ordered to pay $1.1 million in damages. Congalton brought onto his show attorney James Duenow — who was part of the legal team representing CCN — and CCN co-founder Karen Velie. Everyone featured on the show decried the verdict as a miscarriage of justice. They speculated that unscrupulous forces were secretly funding the lawsuit in hopes of shutting down the website. They named PG&E and District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill as potential backers of the lawsuit. At one point, Congalton took aim at Hill’s wife Dee Torres-Hill, claiming she texted him a photo of her raising a glass to celebrate the verdict. Torres-Hill denied sending him a text. Congalton claimed that she wrote her back and replied, “I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize you. You put on so much weight.”
It’s strange to fat-shame a county supervisor’s wife while hosting a segment about the importance of good manners on the same show. That on-air cognitive dissonance is a little harder to chew than the Pie of the Week that Congalton enjoyed from Linn’s of Cambria that same day.
Congalton regularly features CCN and their writers on his show to discuss their reporting. Those segments typically feature a string of unfounded allegations that the website is making with Congalton later reiterating those allegations over the airwaves as a matter of fact. The accused are not invited onto the show to counter or refute the allegations. When the accused are invited onto his show and decline to appear, Congalton retaliates.
Occasionally, Congalton will question the website and encourage them to strengthen their editorial process, but he doesn’t question the allegations as they’re levied on-air. He provides no active filter. Congalton’s concerns are always a fleeting afterthought. Nonetheless, Congalton stated that CCN is “still better than anything else in town, in terms of the type of subjects that Karen [Velie] is covering,” despite losing a case that calls into question the accuracy of all the other investigative pieces they’ve done.
It’s difficult to reconcile this side of Congalton with the Congalton that profiles rescue animals from Woods Humane Society.
“Hometown Radio” can’t live up to its name when hometown values are presented for half of the show and the other half is a blistering, one-sided rebuke of community members. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t, but it is, and just when you’d think it couldn’t get any worse, it does.
After 24 years of being on the air, it’s time for Congalton to step aside and restore the “Hometown Radio” brand. If people support the good things Congalton has done for the community on a part-time basis, they will also support those same hometown values when they hear them or where they hear them from.
It’s time to make a change.