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WNRI and John Dionne respond to his ‘white nationalist’ comments

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“When [Dionne] gets into a jam, or DePetro, people say, ‘Well, you know, what about what John DePetro said or what about what John Dionne said and we then refer them back to the program producer- the producer of that program is John Dionne or John DePetro, and they usually dig themselves into a further hole or are able to resolve their issue with whoever has an issue with them,” said Roger Bouchard, one of the owners of WNRI.

I spoke to Roger Bouchard this morning about the comments made by WNRI radio host John Dionne, where he identified as a white nationalist. Since making those comments, Dionne went on the air to explain that he used the term in error, because he did not understand the full meaning of the term. Roger Bouchard is one of the owners of WNRI and a morning show host on the station.

Bouchard explained to me that there were two kinds of programs on his radio station.

“There’s programming generated by our station, those programs where our employees are paid,” said Bouchard. “The other kind of programs that we have are – I guess you would call them syndicated, for lack of a better term – they are paid for.”

As for the programs that the station produces, such as Larry Poitras in the afternoon or the morning broadcast hosted by Bouchard himself, “if somebody calls me about a show that is produced by the radio station, I comment on it because I’m responsible,” said Bouchard.

Dionne pays the station to run his show. By selling advertising for his show, Dionne might manage to eke out a profit, and get two hours of air time a day. According to Bouchard, controversial radio shock-jock John DePetro has a similar deal with the station.


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“When [Dionne] gets into a jam, or DePetro, people say, ‘Well, you know, what about what John DePetro said or what about what John Dionne said and we then refer them back to the program producer- the producer of that program is John Dionne or John DePetro, and they usually dig themselves into a further hole or are able to resolve their issue with whoever has an issue with them,” said Bouchard.

“That’s worked out over the years. Dionne’s been doing this I think for 11 years. Once in a while [Dionne] gets in trouble with the mayor or a state representative and they call me and I say, ‘Well, call John! He buys the time!’

“It’s no different than when you’re watching CNN and there’s a commercial. There’s one guy running for president and he says terrible things about the President. CNN gets calls all the time, ‘Why do you run that commercial?’ and CNN responds, “Well, they bought the time,'” continued Bouchard. “Some people make a good profit from their shows. John DePetro, I think he does all right. I think he brings in a lot more money than he gives us, so therefore it actually becomes a living for them. They actually have their own little mini-radio station, I guess you could say.”

The nature of the radio business “is to sell every minute of time that we have to somebody who would like to buy it,” said Bouchard.

“What are the standards at the radio station?” I asked. “What would not be allowed? Is thee any programming you would turn down?”

“Not really,” replied Bouchard, “because once they buy the time, you’re not supposed to, as a licensee, censor it, except for the few and very minimal rules that the FCC has. You know, one of the things that would actually make me go into the studio and talk to John Dionne would be if he used a four letter word – there are like seven or eight four letter words. Even though it’s his show and we don’t interfere with the content, we can interfere with the content because he’s violating an FCC rule.

“Now, you might not like what they say, and there have been some times with Dionne that I don’t like what he says, but I don’t have any control over that. I just grin and bear it, I guess.”

“So pretty much anyone could rent time on WNRI and say whatever they want,” I pushed back, “and there would be no input from the station at all, as long as they stay within the bounds of FCC rules, the station doesn’t care what is being said?”

“It’s not that we don’t care,” said Bouchard. He compared his station to a rental property that has a convenience store. “If somebody turned it into a tobacco shop, the owner doesn’t care, in the sense that he just wants to rent it… Our time is available for rent too.”

“Would we want to have music from a foreign country on the air at 3 o’clock in the afternoon?” asked Bouchard rhetorically. “Probably we wouldn’t, from a programming point of view, but if somebody’s going to buy the time from us, we probably would put it on. But the problem with radio today is that people would call and say, ‘Don’t you care about what’s on the air? i can’t stand this music there’s a foreign language!'”

“Suppose somebody came in and they were an actual Nazi or something, and they were spewing hatred for the entire hour, that would be okay?” I asked, taking the argument to its logical, if extreme conclusion.

“Probably not,” said Bouchard. “Because they are saying ahead of time, ‘We are going to do a hate radio program.’ Why in the world would I want to put that on the air if you know ahead of time that the person is going to do that? This is programming that we should reject.”

“So there is a limit, beyond the FCC and beyond just selling time then,” I said.

“Yeah. If you know ahead of time, what the person is all about, then you would have some limitations,” admitted Bouchard. “Like with Dionne, who begins every day with a prayer and a religious song and stuff, you can’t predict on any given day on any given topic.”

“The same thing might apply to DePetro, right?” I asked. “He has a long history of saying outrageous things and pissing people off.”

Bouchard didn’t take my bait. “It’s not a matter of conservative or liberal. The problem with radio today is that the people who want to buy time seem to be more on the conservative side.”


John Dionne

John Dionne, who made the comment about being a white nationalist, wrote a comment on yesterday’s post, which is presented below and has been edited to remove the ALL CAPS and some punctuation for clarity.

“As a Trump supporter who calls himself a Nationalist, I mistakenly used white because I am white,” wrote Dionne. “I had no idea what it meant or it would not have been I said. My 40 years of dedication to my city by helping people in need of all colors. My record speaks for itself, which is available on johnrdionne.com. Your article is fair except for the conclusion. I am not now or ever been a racist, with many dear friends of different nationalities. If you listen to the two minute clip you will hear no remarks against anyone. If I wasn’t a nationalist I would not have joined the United States Navy. And finally, I did say it, but then clearly defined what I consider to be a white nationalist, which is the opposite of what definition is being used. God bless America.”

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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