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Bloggers claim WBEN banned them for criticizing station hosts

Area bloggers say they are banned from appearing on a WBEN-AM Radio 930 weekly program because the station is upset at criticism leveled at WBEN talk-show hosts on their Web sites.

A top WBEN executive recently informed Canisius College professor Kevin Hardwick that he could no longer have the bloggers as guests on his politically oriented radio program.

Two of the bloggers -- Christopher Smith of BuffaloGeek and Alan Bedenko of BuffaloPundit -- say they're certain they have been censored for their occasional pointed criticism of WBEN personalities Sandy Beach and Tom Bauerle.

"When you make your living giving opinions and criticizing the actions of others, you have to expect that you're going to get it as good as you give it," said Smith.

But WBEN program director Tim Wenger said he made the change only because he wants better-known political and media figures on the show -- not in response to online critiques.

"I want people on the radio [who] have name recognition," Wenger said Friday.

The bloggers have appeared infrequently and without issue on Hardwick's live call-in show over the past year.

Hardwick, a political science professor at Canisius, got the WBEN show in spring 2005.

He typically invites elected officials and members of the media to discuss politics and current events on the show, which airs from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays.

Hardwick soon began to invite local bloggers onto the show for occasional panel discussions.

"I thought these were some interesting people, and I was interested in airing their views," Hardwick said of the bloggers.

Smith, Bedenko, Dan Meyer of Random Thoughts 101 and Ashok Subramanian of Buffalo Hodgepodge have appeared on the panels, and Bedenko often is the first featured caller on the show.

Hardwick had scheduled a blogger panel for his Dec. 24 show.

However, two days before the program was to air, Wenger told Hardwick that he could not have the bloggers as guests. Hardwick said he was given the option of replacing them or canceling the show.

Hardwick said no other guests have been blackballed and he never has had to get prior approval for a guest.

He decided to cancel the Dec. 24 show, and Wenger canceled the Dec. 31 show so that the pair could meet in person to discuss the matter, Hardwick said.

Nothing changed during the meeting, and Hardwick decided to move forward with his radio show but without the bloggers.

Hardwick said he was not told which bloggers specifically are banned from the show but it's clear Wenger was referring to the four blogger regulars.

"That's the way I took it," Hardwick said.

He told the four this week that they could no longer make featured appearances on his show.

Bedenko said he's sure the ban is a response to his criticism of Bauerle and Beach, WBEN's conservative talk-show hosts, whom he called "no shrinking violets themselves."

"It just seems it's hypocritical to me," Bedenko said.

The bloggers note that they never criticized the WBEN personalities on Hardwick's show, and question why Bauerle and Beach are so thin-skinned.

"We [bloggers] accept feedback. People fact-check us. People criticize us," Smith said.

Bauerle and Beach did not return phone and e-mail messages Friday afternoon. When asked if Bauerle or Beach had complained about the bloggers, Wenger declined comment.


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