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Litigation between Big Joe and RFD-TV
  • jrodg46 November 2010
    As a big fan of the Big Joe Show, which is currently carried several times weekly on RFD-TV, I was dismayed to read reports ( dated August, 2010) stating that the show's parent company , Polka Cassettes of Nebraska , has been engaged in "multiple lawsuits" with RFD in 2010, the latest of which , according to the reports, which cite Nebraska court records,is a "multi-million dollar anti-defamation suit" brought by RFD against Big Joe's company in August, this year ( The outcome of this suit, according to the reports, was not yet known.) .
    Like many others, I believe, at Big Joe's urging , I contacted both Big Joe himself and Mr. Gottsch, President of RFD-TV, asking them to please try to find some compromise which would enable Big Joe's wonderful programming to go forward. their initial hostility toward each other seemed to be decreasing in the early summer , and Mr. Gottsch, who reacted in an extremely belligerant way to all contacts initially ( His stock reponse to alt. music polka contacts at the time was "Your website should be shut down for spreading rumors."etc.) , adopted a much more conciliatory tone. Because of this, it's particularly sad to see the terrible state this situation has apparently now reached . I wonder if anyone has more up-to-date info on this lawsuit situation : More details of this report can be found on multiple sites, and most easily, I think, by googling "Wikipedia-RFD"-- The Big Joe Show problem appears as the subject of the second paragraph there -- or simply " RFD-Big Joe litigation".
    Most importantly, I continue to feel that the polka field in general greatly underestimates the importance of the potential loss of the only multi-band, multi-ethnic, nationwide televised polka programming to the polka field in general. Loss of this popular program, which has made a prominent name for itself nationwide during the many years it's been on the air, will not only sadden the thousands who loved watching it year-round -- It will deprive polka music of its main national television platform and exposure, which is really tantamount to driving another nail in the music's coffin. Ironically , this is apparently happening just at a time when the show was dramatically increasing its outreach , sponsoring and filming major festivals, with the participation of dozens of bands from all around the country. At this point , once again it looks like its situation is a dire one, but I would hope that , in view of the importance of the stakes , all individuals and organizations who seek to keep polka music's national public media exposure alive would , at the very least, contact the parties ( by email, which is easy enough, by phone, or if possible , by petition) , urging restraint and compromise ( Inside sources indicate that this situation has deteriorated to this point mainly because of a bitter falling out between the two principal parties concerned ) for the sake of all concerned.
    Certainly, as is the case in most dispute situations worldwide ( As a United Nations professional, I learned this lesson repeatedly throughout the entire course of my main career) , a negotiated settlement , even at the "last hour" ( in fact , that is when most such settlements come about) would be much better for all concerned than months and years of bitter , destructive lawsuits , accompanied, of course, by the loss of this wonderful programming and the profit and benefits it brings to broadcasters , artists, the public and the entire cause of polka music.
  • CanadianPolkaGuy November 2010
    That doesn't sound good at all. While it was a contractual dispute I thought there would be hope for a resolution. Now it looks like it's turning nasty and personal in which case there probably isn't much hope.
    If Big Joe doesn't get a bad financial hit from this, maybe he can start with a new broadcaster although that would also appear to be a big stretch.
    I would really love to see the Buffalo tapings and I'll put that in my letter to Santa.
  • LGomulka November 2010
    This is some pretty harry discussion on Big Joe. Who knows what's true or false? We need Big Joe to hop in here and give his story to set the record straight. I vote that we send out an APB to Big Joe. Don't tell me Joe isn't an on-line user!

    Lenny Gomulka
  • jrodg46 November 2010
    Thanks, Lenny , for the good idea. At this point it would be great to have some direct clarification from BJ---and maybe ( just maybe ) if he were communicating with a site like this , more people might be able to influence him to compromise. To date, occasional communications about the show's troubles with the network have just come to alt. polkas indirectly ( most recently as an anonymous communication , which some noticed had his co's logo at the very bottom ---and before that through one-time messages from apparent BJ supporters in Pennsylvania , who only came on the newsgroup on that one occasion for that specific purpose. I called him once a year or so ago re a deal he offers ( making cds of our lps for free and giving us 50 copies of each in exchange for authorizing him to sell as many of the cds as he can) , and he was very cordial and spoke at great length on that subject, as well as on his plans to offer more and better polka programming from around the country . People should be able to talk to him directly about this ( There's contact info on the Polkacatalog site) , but I haven't tried to : It would be better to have a clear statement for everyone (including suggestions, if any, as to how the "field" might help ) , rather than just one or more individuals' takes on a talk they have with him.
    That having been said, maybe it would be best and most effective if , say, M. Stapinski, the site administrator (and "group leader" really) were to communicate with Joe , ask him for a statement on the situation and ask if Polkasunited and/or the greater polka field could help in any way. Actually, I get the feeling that Joe isn't very tuned in to online sites and communications ( while his staff members, who are more "tech savvy," run his website and online business, etc. leave all the business issues and communicating ( for better or worse) to him. While he seems quite willing to talk to individual bandleaders or fans, I would think that the site administrator, who is of course making a dedicated effort to promote polkas on this site, would be the best person to contact Joe , on behalf of the entire online polka community. Someone else could be designated , and others could , and probably should, try contacts on their own, but contact by the organization's administrator, who is a noted professional in his own right, would probably be the best way to go --- and hopefully would result in a clear statement on the situation by Joe and/or his organization.
  • CanadianPolkaGuy November 2010
    People who are being sued typically will not talk to the media.
    The anti-defamation suit is probably about things Big Joe has already said, so continuing to "talk" may not be a wise thing for him to do.
  • jrodg46 November 2010
    Good point--but in any case, a contact by one "administrator/coordinator" with a constituency and contacts in the polka field nation-wide might still be helpful: If Big Joe can't speak on the issues, Mike S. might ask him how a coordinated approach by the polka field might help; i.e. if he were to try to get the show on another network ( I think there are a couple more "country" networks out there , which, like RFD originally, could be approached with the argument that polka music is a form of ethnic country music , which is popular nation-wide ---Also PBS , which carries shows like Austin City limits (=country) and occasional ethnic music specials and programming , might be induced to pick up the show ---or some of its member stations ,which can make independent programming choices, might do so ----Another possibiliity is the ethnic programming networks on satellite TV , which can and do insert independent , US-made programming in their European programming schedules : The German-American network "German Kino Plus", carried on Dish Network, is managed in the US (Check the website--I think they're known as German Kino + there) ---and the man in charge seems very friendly and anxious to include any programming that will make the network more popular --He already carries advertising by the Schlauberger and broadcasts English language programs on a German -American sauerkraut company (!?) ---The argument that the show features countless German ( and other ethnic ) bands , and that it has an impressive track record ( the net is loaded with blogs,etc. praising the show) should interest him---The Polish programmer PolSat2 could be approached, too, with the argument that the show is a unique and nationally popular Polish-American "folklore" offering (Polsat2 has Chicago offices, extensive Polish-American (Polish language) advertising , news and other features , and should, I'd think, be interested in the prospect of gaining thousands of new subscribers ;; i.e the Big Joe following...Virtually anyone who can now see Big Joe could view those stations, too ( on Dish Network , at least) for a fee of about 10$ per month. (-- In general, it seems to me that an effort to secure some polka programming on one or more of these "ethnic" channels in the furture is a very good idea that should be pursued---but, if Big Joe agrees, I think it would be best to begin this effort with his show,which already has an impressive satellite-tv track record). Anyone , like Mr. Mike Stapinski, hopefully, contacting Big Joe could present him those ideas ( which just occurred to me and I think they are well worth trying ) --- whether or not BJ is in a position to say more about the situation. Once again, having one coordinator/spokesman for the entire field, as it were, contact Big Joe on these issues could well make the contact , and ,hopefully, its results, more productive than various individual contacts , as useful as those might also be.
  • jrodg46 November 2010
    PS--In any contacts with the German Kino+ channel it would be good to stress that this programming features German, Austrian and Swiss musical groups and dance events throughout the US ( Those ethnic groups are the main target audience of German Kino + ) , as well as Czech, Slovenian, Scandinavian , Polish, etc.= more prospective viewers --- and the Germans enjoy , and particularly admire , Czech and Slovenian styles).
    In contacts with PolSat2, it would be best to stress the Polish-American roots of the programming; i.e. that Big Joe Siedlik, his family and much of his staff, as well as many of the bands , dancers and events, are Polish-American; as well as the fact that the program travels across the land, seeking out places, festivals and , bands --"pockets," as Big Joe puts it-- of Polish-American roots music and folk culture.
    In contacts with PBS, it would be good to stress the fact that "polka music" is the popular folk/dance music of most Americans of European origin ( i.e. Germans, Poles,Austrians, Swiss, Czechs, Swiss , Sandinavians(!) , Lithuanians, Mexicans, even Irish (!) and more ---and that the BJ show regularly features the music of most or all of these ethnic groups, combined in each hour-long segment in a way that features several different ethnic groups playing and dancing in every program; i.e., that the program is much more than just " a Polish" or "German" show --- and that this music has , over the centuries , evolved into a type of American roots music nationwide, as well.
  • CanadianPolkaGuy November 2010
    I don't think Big Joe will be doing any new stuff until the lawsuits are concluded.

    After that, the best bet might be the Internet. Many of us now listen to polka radio on the Internet and I feel watching video programs is not too far behind.
    It is far more cost effective than any broadcast tv stations. Almost all new tv's are Internet ready and as soon as many of us can watch the Internet over our tv's, rather than pc monitors, this type of viewing will explode. Even now I know a few people who only watch the network programs on their pc's.

    Regarding PBS, Scranton has (had?) an excellent weekly polka show Pennsylvania Polka with good bands and good sound and camera work. I wrote to the PBS station in Buffalo recommending that they buy this show as is from Scranton. With Buffalo's large Polish population and the tens of thousands of people that show up for Dyngus Day, I said it would be a sure cost effective hit. I didn't even get a reply.
  • jrodg46 November 2010
    Internet streaming is an interesting new possibility --- I mentioned that TV Polonia is online 24/7. Big Joe's situation is unclear to us all : The only "known quantity" is that he has a good year's worth of episodes "in the can" ---which I've heard he wants to award to whoever will work with him in a way acceptable to him .That material, I understand, is his property, which he refuses to relinquish to RFD, since he claims that they wrongfully used his programming from the prior year, in violation of the terms of their contract --and that , I think , is basically what they're fighting about.
    "One swallow doesn't make the spring" ---and a failure to reply by one , or even many more PBS stations, shouldn't discourage overall efforts to achieve something in this area. As I think anyone who's ever looked for a job knows, what counts are not those who don't reply or help you, but those who do---Everything else is meaningless. It's proverbial in many (probably all) languages in the world that you have to "try, try again"---"Persistence is the secret of success."