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Lions deny that radio change was driven by censorship

In Detroit, a significant change has been made regarding the way Lions games will be broadcast. And it sounds like the decision had less to do with cashing checks and more to do with shaking pom-poms.

WXYT, a CBS Radio affiliate, is out and WJR is in. And WXYT is speaking out about the perception that the change arises from its willingness to speak out about the Lions.

Debbie Kenyon, the senior V.P. and marketing manager for CBS Radio in Detroit, attributed the move to a desire by the Lions to have sugar-coated coverage of the team.

“It is sad to say goodbye, but in the end it came down to the integrity of CBS -- the refusal to be censored in talking about the team and making honest assessments on the air about this team,” Kenyon said, via Steve Schrader of the Detroit Free Press.

As Schrader explains it, the problem doesn’t arise from the home team’s desire for homerish home-team radio broadcasts. CBS Radio apparently believes the Lions didn’t appreciate the team being criticized by the various programs aired by the station when games aren’t being played.

At WJR, it won’t be a problem. WJR doesn’t have day-long sports programming, so it’s impossible for the team to be bashed on that station.

The Lions have denied that censorship had anything to do with the decision.

“I know there’s a bit of narrative out there regarding the notion that, somehow the Lions are practicing some sort of censorship,” said Elizabeth Parkinson, Lions senior V.P. of marketing and corporate sponsorships, via Tony Paul of the Detroit News. “If we were trying to practice any sort of censorship, we certainly would’ve done it much sooner.”

Still, Mike Stone of WXYT said Friday (via Paul) that the Lions had long tried to control the message regarding the team. And Parkinson didn’t deny that efforts had been made to raise concerns, based not on opinions but on facts.

“Anytime that our media is either not factual or misrepresenting the content that they’re sharing, those calls are made,” Parkinson said. “Our media team is working with all the media to correct inaccuracies. Absolutely, they were working with CBS to correct inaccuracies, you name any media outlet, and they’ve worked closely with our media teammates. If there are inaccuracies, somebody’s going to get a call.”

While Parkinson opted not to name names, the agent of WXYT host Mike Valenti claims that the Lions wanted Valenti to be fired in exchange for a renewal of the relationship.

“Mike is a clever and creative talent who speaks his mind and that is why he is so spectacularly successful,” Mort Meisner told the News. “To [Debbie Kenyon’s] credit, she stood firm and let the Lions walk as opposed to surrendering to a ridiculous form of censorship.”

The good news is that WXYT can no speak freely about the franchise’s ridiculous form of football.