THERE'S BEEN A dandy little broadcasters' squabble going on in Baltimore, where one quite familiar local radio personality has called a former television news-show regular a "crybaby" for complaining about being bumped off the air. The radio star is William Donald Schaefer, who spends his off-air hours being mayor of that city. The man whose biweekly TV spot has been scrapped is Stephen Sachs, whose off-screen activities include being Maryland's attorney general. Mr. Sachs is upset because WBAL-TV scrapped his consumer education spot on "News 11 at Noon" when he became a candidate for governor. Mayor Schaefer also happens to be running for governor but -- and here's the rub -- hasn't made a formal commitment to the race. His weekly radio call-in show on WBAL-AM -- "Mainline to the Mayor" -- goes on.
Fair? Absolutely, if you still think the old broadcasting rule about equal time for candidates makes sense. The TV station officials point out that because Mr. Sachs is an announced candidate, fairness to other contenders dictates that the Sachs shows be sacked. "It's just unfair that I get penalized for candor and the mayor gets rewarded for playing it cute," Mr. Sachs says. As for Mayor Schaefer's status, the radio station's general manager was quoted by the Evening Sun as saying that when the mayor is "officially a candidate, the show will no longer be on the air."
Mr. Sachs counters that Mayor Schaefer "is no less a candidate than I am" -- which is quite a concession to make this early on in a campaign. Should Mr. Sachs try getting out of the race just before the news comes on and throwing his hat back in after each sign off? Or will a radio caller trap host Schaefer into confessing formal intentions? Stay tuned -- but not to TV.