Talk Show Host Raps Judge, Is Off the Air : Radio: KIEV suspends clinical psychologist after he criticizes judge who denied him custody of his two children.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owners of Glendale radio station KIEV have suspended atalk show host who used his show to lambaste the dependency court judge who denied him custody of his two children.

Len Bergantino, a clinical psychologist who hosted a one-hour talk show Sundays at midnight, was suspended last week by station owner Ron Beaton for criticizing Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Frances Rothschild on the air.

KIEV program manager Dick Sinclair said Bergantino used the station to "vent his spleen" against Rothschild, who denied Bergantino's request for custody of his 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. The children live with Bergantino's ex-wife.

Bergantino's attacks violated a KIEV rule prohibiting talk show hosts from using the airwaves for private vendettas, Sinclair said.

Bergantino's call-in show had "become his personal weapon in his custody battle with his wife," Sinclair said.

Beaton suspended Bergantino last week as the psychologist was being interviewed by a KCBS-TV reporter at KIEV. Bergantino said he called the news crew to publicize flaws in the county's child welfare system. During the interview, he accused Rothschild of being biased against men.

Moments later, Beaton came in to the room and notified Bergantino that he was suspended. The cameras were rolling, and the scene was later shown on the KCBS news.

Bergantino, who had been hosting a KIEV show for about a year, said he intends to consult a communications lawyer to see whether the station has the right to suspend him or whether his comments are protected as free speech.

Station officials said they had the right to suspend Bergantino because his comments violated a station policy. They also said he was warned in May against making personal attacks.

A Federal Communications Commission official said the FCC has no rule against such comments but gives stations discretion in such cases.

Bergantino launched his call-in show "Psychotherapy Live" about a year ago using air time that he bought from the station, which broadcasts at 870 AM. At first, he provided short psychotherapy sessions for callers with problems.

But later Bergantino--who has been fighting for custody of his children since he and his wife separated in 1986--changed the name of his show to "Abused Parents for Total Reversal of Child Custody" and turned it into a forum for parents unhappy with the results of their own child custody battles.

During the show, Bergantino characterized his own struggle as "a heroic effort to save his children's emotional well-being in the face of a system that is morally corrupt" and urged listeners to vote Rothschild off the bench.

Rothschild has declined comment.

Sinclair said station officials learned of the attacks when KCBS reporters called and questioned him about a previous episode of Bergantino's show.

Sinclair said he had conducted spot checks of the show but had heard nothing objectionable.

Station co-owner Fred Beaton said Bergantino has been suspended indefinitely and will probably not be allowed to resume his program.

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