Controversy and Misinformation of Radio Advertising Keeps Rush Limbaugh in the News; Host Reportedly Refuses to Take Back Advertiser. The consumer media continues to hang onto the Rush Limbaugh–Sandra Fluke issue with numerous stories and segments being published and produced over the weekend about the extent to which the controversy may be hurting advertising on Premiere Networks’ Rush Limbaugh show as well as a wider swath of conservative talk radio. In addition to the fluctuating count of advertisers that may or may not have left the Limbaugh program (depending on whether or not they actually advertised on the show in the first place as many reports cite firms that did not), outlets such as New York Magazine and The Daily Beast are writing about a memo from Premiere to affiliate stations detailing 98 companies that don’t want their goods or services advertised on controversial programming. The memo gives examples of hosts including Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis (shows how old that memo is), Michael Savage, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity. TALKERS has pointed out to countless consumer media that have contacted our offices regarding this issue that “no controversial programming” dictates are common and practically as old as talk radio itself and not a unique reaction to the Limbaugh case – although certainly reiterated as a result of it. TALKERS has also pointed out that monitoring a station’s internet feed does not reflect the same commercial content as the air feed since union regulations affect the degree to which union talent-voiced spots can air on the web. Meanwhile, the Sacramento Bee is reporting Rush Limbaugh is refusing to take retailer Sleep Train back as an advertiser. The story cites Limbaugh spokesman Brian Glicklich stating the company sought to return to the Limbaugh show and the program replied to the Sacramento-based mattress retailer, “Rush received your requests personally. Unfortunately, your public comments were not well received by our audience, and did not accurately portray either Rush Limbaugh’s character or the intent of his remarks. Thus, we regret to inform you that Rush will be unable to endorse Sleep Train in the future. Rush appreciates your long friendship and your past support, and we wish you good luck in the future.”
Celebrity-Founded Women’s Media Center Piles on Rush Limbaugh. The organization co-founded by Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan is using the Rush Limbaugh controversy to call to arms like-minded activists to petition the FCC to take Limbaugh off the air. In an op-ed piece on CNN.com, the group reasons that Limbaugh – through his language and political opinions – is a purveyor of “hate speech” and therefore is not acting in the public interest. The group is suggesting the stations whose licenses are up for renewal that carry Limbaugh’s program are not serving the “public interest” and need either pull the show or not have their licenses renewed. The group states in the piece, “This isn’t political. While we disagree with Limbaugh’s politics, what’s at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he’s really “doing humor” or “entertainment.” He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people’s airways.” It’s hard to tell what the motive here is – beyond polemicizing – since the FCC does not deal with issues of content in this way during the license renewal process.
Special Interest Group Intent on Hounding KFI, Los Angeles; Picks on Bill Handel’s Comment. Time will tell if the latest salvo from the Los Angeles-based Black Media Alliance sticks to Clear Channel’s KFI, Los Angeles or ricochets back to harm the goals of the very organization that fired it. What’s for certain is the Black Media Alliance is taking a page from other special interest media “watchdog” groups and is recording every minute of KFI’s broadcasts and, when it hears something it doesn’t like, is firing off press releases and hoping for some traction. It used a March 9 broadcast from the Bill Handel show for this purpose. During a segment in which Handel comments on the news of the day with Gary Hoffman and Neil Saavedra, the topic of a California bill that would allow nurse practitioners to perform aspiration abortions came up. Handel commented on a law in Kansas where doctors are required to have the women see sonograms prior to having an abortion and offered his opinion that those who don’t already understand the procedure are “dumb-ass women.” BMA is using this comment to imply Handel has attacked all women. Listen to the segment here. There are numerous issues at play here but TALKERS will address the primary ones. The tenor of Bill Handel’s program hasn’t changed and presumably his advertisers know what they’re buying. If an advertiser boycott of Handel’s program is what the BMA seeks, it may find the going tougher for Handel’s Southern California show than national groups are for the Rush Limbaugh controversy. That’s generally the way these cases work. Handel broke no FCC rules and we believe it’s unlikely he or KFI will apologize – so far neither has. During the discussion, you can hear both sides of the issue being debated by the air talent. This is exactly the kind of public debate of important issues Supreme Court rulings, such as New York Times v. Sullivan, protects and which the Court admits could be controversial. Justice Brennan even wrote of the “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” The most important issue for the BMA is whether this tactic will cause it to be perceived by the public as nitpicking and a pest instead of being seen as an organization with goals of diversity and fairness.
Salem Communications’ WNYM, New York Rebrands as “The Answer.” The New York news/talk outlet formerly known as “The Apple” hits the air today with an altered programming schedule and the new handle, “The Answer.” Salem Communications VP and director of the spoken word format Phil Boyce states, “The new name will more accurately reflect who we are and what the benefit is to listening to us. ‘The Answer’ just popped into my head my first week here, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. We are the answer to so many questions, from ‘what happened while you slept?’ to ‘is it gonna rain?’ to ‘why am I stuck in traffic?’” The company notes the new station lineup is as follows: Salem Radio Network syndicated Bill Bennett‘s “Morning in America” from 5:00 am to 7:00 am, local host Curtis Sliwa from 7:00 am to 10:00 am, Dial Global’s Dennis Miller from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon, SRN’s Dennis Prager from 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm, SRN’s Michael Medved from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm; Curtis and attorney Jeffrey Lichtman from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm; and SRN’s Hugh Hewitt from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Boyce says new imaging will create a hip, younger sound for the station, heavy on a New York-style attitude. “New Yorkers are slightly jaded and a little sarcastic, so we wanted the sound of our station to reflect the city we serve.” In describing his collaboration with voiceover talent Lonnie Perkins, Boyce gushed, “I told him to sound like that ‘Mayhem Man’ commercial for Allstate Insurance.” The new imaging includes new top of hour ID’s, promos, and show opens. Boyce wanted to re-arrange the lineup to “put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle” together in the right order.
Heidi Harris Exits KDWN. Word from Las Vegas is that KDWN, Las Vegas morning talk show host Heidi Harris has exited her position at the Beasley Broadcasting-owned news/talker. Sources inside the station tell TALKERS that the relationship between Harris and KDWN management had been strained for some time now and finally reached the breaking point. Heidi Harris, a multi-repeat member of the TALKERS Heavy Hundred is considered by industry observers to be a rising star. The conservative host has been a regular contributor and guest on the progressive Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC and speaker at the New Media Seminar. Harris has not responded to e-mail requests by TALKERS for comment and confirmation but her presence on the KDWN website has been removed. More details as they are available.
WMAL, Washington Re-Positions AM Drive Show; Mary Katherine Ham Exits. The former “Morning Majority” AM drive show at Cumulus Media’s WMAL-AM/FM, Washington is now “Mornings on the Mall” with Brian Wilson and Bryan Nehman as Mary Katherine Ham – who joined WMAL last summer – leaves the program. Ham wrote on her blog earlier this week, “It has been a pleasure to work with Bryan Nehman and Brian Wilson – two consummate broadcast professionals who generously taught this n00b as much as they could. And, though I’m new to radio, it’d be hard to imagine a producer more capable than our executive producer Heather Smith, who I remain convinced does not require sleep (in an industrious way, not a vampire way). The folks at the company had a vision for a different, independent role for me at the station, but we just weren’t able to come to an agreement that would make it work, so I’m off to do my other jobs. I’m constantly thankful I have the freedom to make decisions like that, and realize it’s a tremendous blessing to have such options.” Ham is an analyst at Fox News Channel and is a contributing writer for The Daily Caller.
Firesign Theater Founder Peter Bergman Dies. One of the founders of the radio comedy show Firesign Theater has died at age 72 after a battle with Leukemia. Peter Bergman and three fellow comedians — Phillip Proctor, David Ossman and Phil Austin – created the radio program that spawned four must-have comedy albums (released between 1968 and 1972) for college-age hippies of the time. Bergman was hosting a late-night talk show on Pacifica’s KPFK, Los Angeles when he started the Firesign Theater program. Bergman revived the Firesign Theater show on the internet in 2010.
Salem Radio Network Correspondent Dan Hackel Passes Away. Longtime news pro Dan Hackel died in Israel over the weekend after a battle with cancer. He had been Salem Radio Network’s primary correspondent in Israel for the past four years. Hackel was a founding anchor for CNN International and a frequent anchor on Headline News. He served as Washington correspondent covering the White House for ABC News, and he reported on the U. S. Congress for the Mutual Broadcasting System.
TRN’s and WGST, Atlanta’s Rusty Humphries Named Kentucky Colonel. Kentucky colonel is the highest title of honor bestowed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Commissions for Kentucky colonels are given by the governor and the secretary of state to individuals in recognition of noteworthy accomplishments and outstanding service to a community, state or the nation. Other notable Colonels include Bob Hope, Pope John Paul II, Winston Churchill and of course Col. Sanders. Pictured with Colonel Rusty Humphries is Melissa Forrest, president and market manager of Clear Channel Atlanta where Humphries works at news/talk WGST.