On Sunday, the St. Louis area’s most troublesome local radio network went silent, taking with it owner Bob Romanik’s ability to pollute the public airwaves with his racism and homophobia. Romanik, who acknowledged on air last week his ownership of four AM radio stations, including flagship KQQZ (1190-AM), tried hard in his final live broadcast to portray himself as the victim of Federal Communications Commission overreach. He said it would cost him up to $1.5 million to keep fighting an FCC order forcing the stations to shut down.
Romanik is no victim. He lied in multiple FCC broadcast-license applications. He went to extraordinary lengths to hide his control by registering his stations under a trust run by his attorney. Romanik, the self-proclaimed “grim reaper of radio,” knew he had to lie because, as a two-time felon, he would never qualify for an FCC license.
Nor has Romanik been denied his First Amendment rights. He remains, as always, free to spout his faux-patriot racism to anyone who will listen, even on other radio programs if any broadcaster is stupid enough to host him. Romanik also can continue his podcasts. What he can’t do is own a government-licensed broadcast facility, a privilege granted only to people who abide by the law, respond truthfully in their license applications, and who respect the authority of the courts.
Romanik repeatedly defied an FCC judge’s orders to hand over operational and financial documents that would have proven the stations’ ownership. It was his defiance and flouting of the law that led to his current radio silence, nothing more.
The first half of Romanik’s Friday show was a call-in love fest with Missouri state Rep. Bob Burns, D-Affton, who criticized the “so-called do-right people” who tried to silence Romanik. Burns was ousted from the House Democratic caucus for previously supporting Romanik. Burns said the license revocation was based on a mere “technicality,” as if to suggest that Romanik’s abuses were really no big deal. “Who cares if you own the radio station or don’t?” Burns said.
Romanik was convicted in 1997 of obstructing justice, having lied 150 times to a grand jury investigating a $48 million organized-crime gambling racket. He was later convicted of bank fraud.
Yet Burns seems to think lying isn’t such a big deal. He’s running for the St. Louis County Council 6th District seat currently held by Republican Ernie Trakas. It’ll be interesting to see how a pro-lying, racist-defending platform plays with 6th District voters.
No longer will the public have to tolerate advertisements for “WAR — White-Awareness Radio” and Romanik’s “National Association for Majority Equality.” Gone will be Romanik’s constant use of the N-word, including more than 35 times in his 2½-minute closing rap-song segment.
Yes, it truly is time for Romanik to drop the mic. His broadcast-ownership days are over.