TV and politics: Do they mix?

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Television and politics march hand-in-hand across the U.S. political landscape, and as the nation goes, so goes Aspen – only more so.Three of Aspen’s political candidates in the upcoming municipal election – Bonnie Behrend, Andrew Kole and Torre – have been broadcast personalities for local television stations.At least two of them, Behrend and Torre, now have lost those ties and, in Torre’s case, the split was clearly due to political considerations.Kole, however, will soon be starting up an entirely new live show on GrassRoots TV – a political talk show focusing on the spring election, which will air whether or not he decides to become a candidate himself.At present, the mayoral race is between declared candidates Mick Ireland, a former Pitkin County Commissioner; former city councilman Tim Semrau; and Torre, a current councilman and was previously a co-host on the Plum TV show “Morning, Noon and Night” – until this week.One citizen, local construction manager Dwayne Romero, has formally declared as a candidate for one of the two open seats on City Council. Behrend and Kole have only announced they may soon seek candidacies.

Behrend, who was news director and anchor for TV Aspen (KXCP Channel 19) since 2006, announced her resignation earlier this month, after mentioning she was thinking about running for mayor.She had earlier tried to interview candidate Tim Semrau on TV, but her request was denied by the Semrau campaign, who felt it would be inappropriate for a potential candidate to do an interview. When she quit, according to a statement issued by the station, Behrend was intending to pursue an independent course in television and radio reporting and producing. She was not available for comment Thursday.As for Torre, he was ordered this week to give up his spot on Plum TV Aspen, the local outlet of a national, but small, resort-oriented network based in New York, at the insistence of the station’s management and legal staff.”We’re obeying the law,” said Kutcher Miller, general manager at Plum TV Aspen, referring to the Federal Communications Commission’s rules requiring equal time to all candidates. He said the decision was made “in our best interests, in Torre’s best interests and in the best interests of the people he’s running against.”But, Miller continued, “Torre is still a member of the Plum TV family.”

Torre is scheduled to appear on this morning’s show “to let the viewing public know what’s going on,” and his job as co-host will be open to him after the campaign, win or lose.Torre noted the move is “unfortunate” and “a blow to my financials,” because he will not be drawing a paycheck while he’s off the air.”But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make,” he concluded, adding he was interviewed by Behrend on her last day and expects to be on Kole’s show in the future.Kole’s been a host on Grassroots TV for years, including times when he was running for different elective positions – and with the blessing of station management.Grassroots Executive Director John Masters said Kole has not been a regular on-the-air host for some time, other than his appearances on special shows during the recent U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.Kole will be starting up new, hour-long talk show on March 15, which will run at 6 p.m. every Thursday through election season, Masters said.

Masters said community TV stations such as GrassRoots TV were specifically created to be outside the purview of the FCC, and to take its marching orders directly from “the community that they serve.”Both he and Kole said there is no fairness issue involved, because anyone can have a show on GrassRoots TV, including other candidates.”I don’t know what anyone does outside the confines of the studio,” Masters said, adding that “it’s not any of my business.”Kole said his show will be unedited, live television where “we hope it can be a combination of entertainment and informative at the same time.”He also acknowledged, “I’m pretty much the long shot of long shots, so it’s not like I’m going to gather a lot of steam” from being on TV every week.John Colson’s e-mail address is