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WAMU Rewrites, Moves Don Beyer Volvo Underwriting Spots

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Here at WAMU, listeners often hear what are known as "underwriting spots," which list the businesses and organizations that support the station. Among those businesses is one owned by Don Beyer, who is currently running for Congress in Virginia.

Those spots are now being rewritten and moved to prevent any perception of a conflict of interest.

If Beyer's name is familiar, it's not just because he's a candidate in a hotly contested Democratic primary for the Eighth Congressional District. It may be because he and his siblings own Don Beyer Volvo, a business their family started 40 years ago. Over the years the business has underwritten a number of WAMU programs, a relationship that's come under criticism now that Don Beyer is running for Congress.

"It's just been part of the family's commitment to public radio for three decades," Beyer says. "So I.. thought it was the silly season when I heard that so many opponents were objecting to them."

WAMU suspended the underwriting spots this week to see if they met legal and ethical guidelines. Lawyers determined that the spots were legal, although the radio station is rewriting them to make sure they meet ethical standards. The spots will start airing again later this week, but not in morning or afternoon drive time.

"The concern is whether this promotional spot will function as a political advertisement during a campaign, and that concern remains the same no matter what time a day it airs," says Kelly McBride, senior faculty for ethics at the Poynter Institute.

WAMU Interim General Manager Carey Needham says underwriting in support of the car dealership is different than political promotion and that the rewritten spots will avoid confusion between the two.

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