** List Broker Claims Innocence in Scandal

One of the list companies fired as the broker for a public broadcasting station cried foul last week, saying the stations themselves should ultimately be responsible for making sure the lists they use comply with their own policies.

Although Mark Rickard, president of Rickard List Marketing, Farmingdale, NY, said he has no ill feelings toward WGBH-TV, Boston, he did say the station used his company as a scapegoat to absorb part of the blame for the scandal in which WGBH and other publicly funded stations have been accused of exchanging their donor lists with those of politically affiliated organizations.

WGBH set off a political firestorm when it was reported that the station had swapped donor lists with the Democratic National Committee, which violated the station's own policies and possibly the federal tax codes prohibiting nonprofit groups from participating in political activities.

“The controversy arose out of a single order that was a clearance processed by our organization and approved by a high-level official at WGBH,” Rickard said. “We're not in the business of making policy for our clients. I maintain, and I will maintain until my dying day, that we did nothing wrong.”

In addition, Richard said, instances of list exchanges with political groups were found to have occurred before he became the station's broker two years ago.

WGBH officials admitted that part of the blame rests with their own organization for approving the list but said Rickard was aware of the station's policy and should not have suggested such a swap in the first place.

“We would have expected them not to bring us a request to exchange lists with the DNC,” said Jeanne Hopkins, vice president of corporate communications at WGBH.

However, Rickard said he can't expect his list brokers to determine which lists might violate the policies of public TV stations.

“I don't pay my people enough to make those sorts of policy decisions for the stations,” he said, citing the fact that some donor lists — such as those for Planned Parenthood or those supporting handgun control — might be construed as being either political or apolitical.

WGBH is part of a co-op of 12 stations around the country that pool their marketing efforts through agency McPherson Associates Inc., Malverne, PA. When WGBH terminated its relationship with Rickard, the other stations in the co-op followed suit, said Dick McPherson, president of the ad agency, who suggested that the blame be shared.

“The truth is, the stations rarely and inadvertently didn't apply their own policy,” he said, “and Rickard rarely and inadvertently recommended a list that was against the station's policy.”

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