Radio 'Grim Reaper' Bob Romanik Faces Critical Juncture With FCC | St. Louis Public Radio

Radio 'Grim Reaper' Bob Romanik Faces Critical Juncture With FCC

Jan 30, 2020

Local shock jock Bob Romanik may finally be facing a moment of accountability.
Credit Alan Levine/Flickr

For years, Bob Romanik’s presence on St. Louis-area AM radio airwaves has been marked by constant, overt racism. Somehow, the Illinois-based shock jock remains on air, as the Riverfront Times’ Danny Wicentowski notes in his latest reporting on the saga.

But as Wicentowski detailed in his story published Monday, the current Federal Communications Commission investigation surrounding Romanik has to do with something else: evidence that he is acting as the de facto owner of Entertainment Media Trust, which owns multiple radio stations in the region. As a felon, that’s something Romanik is barred from doing.

Jane Halprin, an FCC administrative law judge, issued an order last Friday setting a Feb. 10 deadline for EMT’s attorney to explain, as Wicentowski reported, “why she shouldn't throw the license renewal applications out due to ‘EMT’s continuous efforts at obfuscation.’”

The Riverfront Times' Danny Wicentowski joined Thursday's "St. Louis on the Air" to discuss his reporting on the Romanik saga.
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked with Wicentowski about the implications of this investigation — and what happens next for the “Grim Reaper of Radio.”

Wicentowski noted that the issue in this investigation is “actually not with the words Bob Romanik is saying,” but has to do with the “tangle of seeming shell organizations that own this station.”

“The key problem here is that Romanik is a convicted felon, and that clashes with FCC’s rules known as its character rules,” Wicentowski explained. “And FCC has these rules, and they’re not hard and fast necessarily — being a felon doesn’t ban you — but the FCC says, ‘Look, we have to trust that you’re going to be honest in the way that you deal with us. And when we evaluate who gets a license to get a radio station, if they’re a felon, we want to talk to them. We want to make sure they’ve been rehabilitated.’

“Because so much of what goes on in the radio and what the FCC depends on is a sense of good-faith interactions. And in this case, they’ve grown seriously concerned that Bob Romanik does actually run these stations.”

Listen to the discussion:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

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