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Radio feud between Belling and True has no winner


The spat between Steve "The Homer" True and Mark Belling is one of the ugliest public displays of venom ever seen in this city.

In case you don't know, here's what happened.

WISN radio, which had been the home for Marquette basketball broadcasts for over 30 years, lost the contract to tiny WAUK, a sports station with its tower in Waukesha and its studios Downtown. Belling works for WISN.

The Homer used to work at WISN, but parted company when the station decided that three hours of Rush Limbaugh followed by three hours of Belling wasn't enough rabid right wing talk and moved Sean Hannity into Homer's time slot. Homer now works for WAUK.

Belling blasted Marquette's move on his radio show, calling Homer a "Marquette whore for 10 years," and added that Homer has "altered his positions and thrown softballs at Marquette and defended them for years and years and years even in the face of idiotic decisions." He then repeated his charge that The Homer was a "whore" for Marquette.

True blasted back, calling Belling a fraud for, among other things, not allowing anyone else at the station to have a bobblehead doll while professing to be in favor of competition and free enterprise. True took a shot at Belling, saying his fans could "visit him at Victor's every night." Victors is a popular Downtown bar with a long-lived reputation as a pickup joint.

Let's take a look at the facts of this dispute.

A whore, in this context, would be someone who sells his services and acts a certain way for money. I think it's pretty clear that Homer fits that bill.

My guess is that his deal with Marquette may represent as much as 30 percent of his annual income. Is he going to act favorably toward Marquette and take a pass on the tenets of journalist? Of course he is.

But he's no different than anybody else who does play by play or color for a sports team. Even the national network guys pay big money for the rights to broadcast games and they aren't going to go out of their way to be critical.

The local announcers, for the Bucks, Badgers, Brewers, Packers and Marquette, are generally considered a part of the team. They are either paid by the team or paid by both the team and the broadcast outlet and they are certainly approved by the team.

Belling's criticism of the move to WAUK smells of sour grapes. He criticized his station when they forced Homer out and he knows enough about radio to know that the dedicated Marquette radio audience will find the broadcasts on WAUK. The fans of Marquette basketball were not necessarily the listeners of WISN radio.

Now, let's take a look at the Homer and his shots at Belling.

As usual, the second guy in the fight comes off looking a little bit like a whiner. It's always a little bit, "Mommy, look what Tommy did to me."

The main criticism was that The Homer said Belling portrayed himself on the air was different than the way he was in person. He must have used the word fraud a dozen or so times to describe Belling. Gosh, Homer. What a surprise? Some on-air personality adopting a persona they think will prove popular in order to get ratings?

If we got rid of everyone on television or radio who was a phony, we'd have lots of dead air and about two television channels and three radio station choices.

These two guys are veterans and professionals. Belling is one of the biggest names in the talk radio business in Milwaukee and has a bit of a national profile as a sometime substitute host for Limbaugh. Homer is the biggest name in sports talk in this city.

You'd think that these two would know how to act like adults. The Belling audience, accustomed as they are to the red meat of mean-spirited politics, may have enjoyed this. Homer's audience, relatively unscathed from, and disinterested in the fine points of political infighting may have wondered what the hell was going on.

In the end, though, neither one of these two covered themselves in much glory.

(Editor's note -- This column is the sole opinion of the author. OnMilwaukee.com is an advertising partner of Milwaukee's ESPN Radio 1510 Days / 1290 Nights.)

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Aug. 24, 2006 at 1:23 p.m. (report)

Steve said: I personally don't give a rat's behind about Belling, True, or Marquette basketball. If they all just disappeared I would shed no tears.

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OMCreader | Aug. 21, 2006 at 12:27 p.m. (report)

theduker said: Belling has the perfect face for radio.

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OMCreader | Aug. 21, 2006 at 8:50 a.m. (report)

Gary said: I agree with the posters who said that Homer should have taken the high road and either laughed it off, or ignore Belling completely. But on the other hand, this has been a ton of free publicity for the little WAUK. Belling's show is targeted at middle-aged men, right? For the most part, this is the exact same demographic that WAUK targets. How much do you think a half-hour ad buy during Belling's show would cost? Instead, we had Belling, on a show that pulls in _huge_ ratings in this city, repeated telling his viewers where the Marquette games will be airing this fall. WAUK could never afford to buy that kind of publicity, targed so closely at its key demographic.

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OMCreader | Aug. 20, 2006 at 12:37 p.m. (report)

Amy said: Agreed. It's a shame to see grown-ups who call themselves "professionals" act like street bullies. Begel rightly calls this a lose-lose--and I would add a third "lose" for the public--situation.

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OMCreader | Aug. 20, 2006 at 10:54 a.m. (report)

Kathleen said: Buzz is a big word among people my age (early 30's). And people like Belling and Homer think y ou create buzz by shouting or being cute or being angry or stupid. You create buzz that means something by being thoughtful and behaving like a grownup. Like this column.

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