On November 19, 2007, Jim Talbott, owner of Millinocket radio station WSYY, discovered that tax-supported Millinocket Area Growth & Investment Council (MAGIC) filed an application with the FCC to acquire a radio station which will directly compete with WSYY, 94.9 FM and 1240 AM, which broadcasts throughout the Katahdin Region.
Since that time, he has dedicated a large portion of each of his 3-hour show on Monday through Thursday to discussing the ethical problems as well as possible illegality of a nonprofit organization using tax dollars to compete against a struggling private sector radio station owner.
MAGIC has been the source of controversy in the Katahdin Region for the past seven years, inspiring accusations of conflicts of interest of its executive director, Town Councilor Bruce McLean, who is a business partner with two different businessmen for whom he has gotten grants, illegal meetings between MAGIC co-founder Councilor Matthew A. Polstein and three other members of the Millinocket Town Council, and violations of the federal and state Freedom of Information laws by both co-founder Polstein and McLean.
Talbott has stated repeatedly on his radio show that he has contacted Senator Olympia Snow and Senator Susan Collins but has been roundly ignored by both. Collins, who secured a controversial grant for MAGIC's "Home to Katahdin" project, has now apparently decided to hide from the issue of MAGIC's improprieties rather than face the fact that she has helped them financially and get to the bottom of the alleged misconduct.
According to Senator Collins' communications director, the Senator's office sent Talbott a letter explaining how to go about filing a complaint with the FCC.
Talbott told the Magic City Morning Star that he told her office in December that he intends to object to the FCC and that his December 13 letter to her office "should have made clear to anyone who had bothered to take the time to read and understand our Dec. 13th letter that we already know how to file the objection. We wrote to Sen. Collins, not because we needed her advice, but because we needed her help. She has refused to help."
Talbott has retained an attorney to represent him in the matter.
"Sen. Collins has lost touch with the people of Northern Maine and is actively supporting a grant and government supported economic development group, MAGIC (which she has gotten grants for in the past), against a 46+ year old taxpaying business, that employs local citizens, who also pay taxes. As we stated in our letter to Sen. Collins, MAGIC intends to put us out of business with the government grants she provides them. Millinocket is an economically depressed area, that has trouble supporting one radio station, let alone two."
"Sen. Collins' letter proves only one thing: She doesn't care. I used to respect Sen. Collins, but no longer. I therefore implore all the voting citizens of Maine to remember that fact when Sen. Collins comes to you for re-election as our Senator for the State of Maine this November."
In launching his on-air protest, Talbott has been interviewing various people from entirely separate walks of life who have experienced or witnessed MAGIC's economic sanctions against independent businesses.
Among those he has recently interviewed are:
- an East Millinocket woman, Donna Patton, who told the radio audience that when she opened her business, Creations, with her own money, MAGIC executive director Bruce McLean appeared at her store to get his picture taken with her for an article which subsequently declared that hers was one of the businesses MAGIC had helped. Patton went on to explain that she never saw McLean again, and that the help he and MAGIC had offered, which included help setting up her books and help getting a web page online, never materialized.
- Roger Ek, an experrienced expert on environmental groups and their impact on and plans, and what he terms rural cleansing and the implementation of the green agenda.
- Ray Campbell, Millinocket native who elaborated on the "MAGIC is a Cancer" speech he made before the Millinocket Town Council. On air, he discussed MAGIC, Bruce McLean, Matt Polstein, the Nature Conservancy, anti-snowmobiling policies, and what has been going on in the Katahdin region for years.
- State Representative Henry Joy, (House District 9) who discussed what he terms the "War for the Northern Forest." He discussed with Talbott LURC and their upcoming hearings, what they have planned for Northern Maine, and Land for Maine's Future, as well as MAGIC's involvement with environmental groups."
Talbott's radio show has, from all reports, been listened to more than previously, and the web site which provides the sound clips from his show, has been getting steady traffic of between 4,000 and 5,000 hits per day from all over Maine as well as Washington, D.C., New York, and Atlanta, among other cities.
Although he has, from day one, repeatedly invited MAGIC or any spokesperson to come on the show to explain themselves, or just to call and give one MAGIC success story, the quasi-economic development agency has remained silent.
Although MAGIC supporters have repeatedly suggested that non-profit MAGIC's entry into the radio business is ethical and benign, Talbott has asked on the air about whether it would be okay for them to use tax money to start a grocery store or a hardware store in competition with existing independently maintained stores.
Talbott has garnered himself quite a few advocates, many of whom are calling for an accounting of MAGIC's expenditure of taxpayer dollars. He has also made a few enemies, including Lincoln News reporter Lisa Pelkey Hayes, who originally broke the story about MAGIC's FCC application for its own radio station, and who has used a sparsely trafficked online forum to personally attack Talbott.