Hip-hop radio show canceled after airing uncensored song, FCC violation cited as reason
“The Lo Down,” a hip-hop and R&B radio program, was canceled after playing a song featuring uncensored swearing.
Sherry Knight, associate vice president of University Communications, said Federal Communications Commission and station guidelines require that students who allow profane language to play on radio programs must be removed from their positions.
The show, which aired on Central Michigan University's 101.1 The Beat, was canceled Feb. 13. It aired every Tuesday from 10-11 p.m since 2016.
Founder and host Lorielle Walker, of Walled Lake, was told the cancellation was due to violating FCC regulations after playing the song "Drinkin'" by Eastpointe artist JMSN (Christian Berishaj). The show was cancelled by Audio Laboratories Manager Jim Bollella because the song included the word "sh*t" three times.
Central Michigan Life contacted Bollella and Heather Polinsky, chair of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts, about the cancellation. Both said they are not authorized to speak to the media on the subject.
"The Lo Down" covered entertainment, politics and social issues on a music platform. Walker established the show in Fall 2016 during her sophomore year. Although she is not enrolled at CMU, she has stabilized the show's legacy by recruiting five co-hosts from the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts.
Walker said the demographic and target audience is the black community at CMU.
"It's designed off of a platform that intends to give people a voice," she said. "It's for anyone building their own platform. I give them that voice on campus where they can come and share their work."
According to FCC regulations, obscenity, indecency and profanity are prohibited from being broadcast on satellite, television and radio. These categories are not protected by the First Amendment and can ultimately result in a station having their license revoked if a complaint and investigative warrant are issued.
Walker said she takes full responsibility for the mistake, but does not remember FCC regulations being enforced in the station. She also said her show received no complaints, warnings or issues prior to the song being played.
She said she did not sign nor receive any formal documentation regarding the guidelines or its context. Walker said the only enforcement evident in the Moore Hall studio is a single piece of paper with a list of phrases to say and not say on air.
"There's a lot that slides in that radio station, I've seen it," Walker said. "You can listen to that radio station now and you can hear some stuff that you probably shouldn't."
Prior to the series of events that took place after the song was played, Walker was not aware that "Drinkin'" included profanity, or that the term "sh*t" was even considered obscene language.
At 11:15 p.m. on Feb. 12, Walker and several of her co-hosts were exiting Moore Hall where they were stopped by Bollella.
Walker said he immediately began saying that a cuss word was featured in a song played during the 10th hour.
"I truly did not know," she said. "I still am apologetic. I would never want to do anything to jeopardize my position, my show or anything."
Walker said she removed the song immediately upon Bollella's demand without hesitation. She said she was obedient with meeting him and program director and Farmington Hills junior Wesley Heidkamp.
At 5 p.m. the next day, Bollella said "The Lo Down" was canceled and asked Walker to hand over her keys.
"I was so overwhelmed with emotion because I couldn't believe that something like this was happening to someone like me — someone who's slept in the studio over night," Walker said.
On Feb. 14, Walker requested to speak to Polinsky.
The two arranged to meet the following day at 8:30 a.m. Over their email exchanges, Walker did not explicitly express what she wanted to discuss.
Walker arrived with five friends to provide moral support, including personal friends and co-hosts on the show. They waited in the hallway while the meeting took place.
"It was supposed to be a meeting between her and I, that's it. (Polinsky) didn't mention Jim," she said, adding she was shocked to see Bollella being waved into the meeting.
Walker said after she asked Polinsky why she allowed a meeting to occur after already making a final decision on the show's cancellation, Polinsky said, "You wanted a meeting so I'm giving you a meeting" and allegedly referred to the hip-hop platform as seemingly profane in content.
"(Polinsky) said to me, 'This is the worst mistake you could've made,'" Walker said. "Mistakes happen, but this is a learning institution and this is a learning station. If you can't make mistakes here, where will you ever be safe to make them?"