Entergy New Orleans has cut its financial support of WBOK Radio, apparently because the utility didn’t like the talk radio station’s coverage of Entergy’s proposal to build a $210 million natural gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East.
Entergy, which sponsors multiple organizations in the New Orleans area, claimed it cut ties because the station — which has a mostly black audience — has repeatedly broadcast false statements about Entergy matters in recent weeks.
Entergy’s CEO, Charles Rice, declined a recent request by the station to discuss the power plant proposal, which was approved by the City Council on Thursday.
“The continued misrepresentation of facts and discussion of untruths about multiple Entergy matters recently have driven the decision to decline the interview and discontinue the partnership,” Entergy spokeswoman Yolanda Pollard said.
WBOK General Manager Susan Henry said Rice on Friday stopped payment on a $20,000 check that Entergy had already issued to WBOK in an attempt to punish the station for interviewing multiple parties about the power plant, including those who didn’t support it.
“I guess this was an effort to show that they could bully us, but we will not be bullied,” Henry said. “The people have a right to know what is going on in politics and how it will affect them.”
The $20,000 represents about 5 percent of the station’s overall operating revenue, Henry said.
At issue, apparently, were several shows WBOK broadcast in the days leading up to the council’s vote on the controversial power plant. During a Feb. 22 show, for example, former Councilman Oliver Thomas questioned whether the plant would bring about economic opportunities for black residents of New Orleans East.
Other shows have featured Pat Bryant, leader of the group Justice and Beyond, and Logan Atkinson Burke, of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, prominent critics of the plant who have said Entergy should instead focus on upgrading its transmission lines and renewable electricity sources and charged that the company is concerned only with its profits, not its customers.
Though WBOK has repeatedly invited Rice to give Entergy’s position, he has declined, Henry said.
On Wednesday, the day before the council’s vote, Henry got a call from Rice, who said he would ask the bank to stop payment on WBOK’s check until both sides could have a conversation.
Pollard later called Henry and informed her the partnership would be discontinued, she said. The bank stopped the check Friday.
Henry said the station will continue to report on the power plant issue and the community’s reaction to it.
”You can’t dangle your sponsorship over our head and expect us to be silent because you are giving us money,” Henry said.