The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

31 January 2007

Turner Broadcasting, Cartoon Terrorism, Adult Swim, Boston


Suspicious Devices Alarm Boston, News-Talk Buzzes

*** Update: suspects make fools of themselves during press conference ***

Suspicious- looking electronic devices planted at key intersections in the Boston area had residents extremely worried and turning to news- talk radio station for updates and advice today.

After major road closures causing traffic nightmares, transit systems shut down, emergency officials tied up for the entire day and residents cancelling medical and other appointments, it emerged just moments ago that the entire incident was part of a promotional stunt for one of Turner Broadcasting's "Adult Swim" cartoons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

ABC has more here, Bloomberg has a different version here.

In addition, according to CNN, even the Pentagon was monitoring the situation:

A Turner Broadcasting source said the devices were a component of a third-party advertising campaign conducted by the New York advertising firm Interference Inc. That company had no comment on the incident.

The discovery of nine of the devices around metro Boston led state, local and federal authorities to close the Boston University and Longfellow Bridges, and block boat traffic from the Charles River to Boston Harbor.

In addition, the Pentagon said U.S. Northern Command was monitoring the situation from its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but said none of its units were sent to assist.

Elsewhere, the Gothamist believes New Yorkers would respond to such a stunt far more harshly. Will Bostonians force heads to roll at Turner? Right now, people are furious.

The network itself has since confirmed earlier speculation as to the cause, though oddly, it calls the devices "billboards":

Turner Broadcasting statement

Wednesday, January 31, 2007 - Updated: 05:02 PM EST

The‘packages‘ in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger.

They are part of an outdoor marketing campaign in 10 cities in support of Adult Swim’s animated television show Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

They have been in place for two to three weeks in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, Austin, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

Parent company Turner Broadcasting is in contact with local and federal law enforcement on the exact locations of the billboards.

We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger.

Public reaction, including by local and state officials, has already been one of intense anger over what we might call "cartoon terrorism".

Struggling through a press conference, Mayor Tom "Mumbles" Menino repeatedly suggested the devices were part of a "bomb" hoax.

All day long, area news-talk stations were flooded with calls from angry residents, with some calling in observations from the scenes of these discoveries.

Some callers pointed out just how easily it would have been for terrorists to have planted real bombs in these locations.

One woman who phoned the Howie Carr Show and identified herself as an American soldier called the stunt "network- sponsored terrorism". Another said her husband lost income because he was unable to complete his delivery route.

Elsewhere, authorities in Seattle are now looking for the devices in their city. Orbusmax is tracking developments from the Northwest.

UPDATE: Reuters claims Turner Broadcasting has apologized:

BOSTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Turner Broadcasting apologized on Wednesday for a marketing campaign that sparked Boston's biggest security scare since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks -- closing bridges, shutting major roads and putting hundreds of police on alert.

The day-long scare began when a suspicious package was found on a steel beam under a bridge in the morning. Police stopped traffic on a major interstate highway north of Boston, cordoned off the area, deployed a bomb squad and blew it up.

By afternoon, at least eight other similar suspicious packages were discovered, each triggering a security alert involving emergency crews, federal agents, bomb squads, police and the U.S. Coast Guard.

"The 'packages' in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger," Turner Broadcasting System Inc., a unit of Time Warner Inc., said in statement.

How do you feel Boston radio stations handled coverage of the situation? See SaveWRKO.

FURTHER UPDATES: Arlington artist Peter Berdovsky has been arrested for his role in this stunt/ prank/ hoax, according to the Boston Globe. But will he prove to be a mere low- level fall guy, while the real criminals work for Turner Broadcasting?

Also: mayor, governor threaten lawsuits. From the Boston Herald: competing ad agencies work overtime to distance themselves from this promotional stunt. From the Globe: bloggers had the story first.

San Franciscans have "calmer" reaction, rip Boston counterparts.

The Boston Globe now weighs in with this new editorial:

Turner tricksters should pay

January 31, 2007

Executives at Turner Broadcasting displayed an astounding lack of judgment by planting devices that could be mistaken for explosive devices as a means to publicize an animated television show. Through a sequence of events that Turner could have anticipated, the birdbrain scheme briefly paralyzed a city — and blew up in the face of its creators.

It is not uncommon for radio shock jocks to create elaborate on-air hoaxes. Usually, they result in the humiliation of a few innocent people. But Turner's ad gimmick, undertaken in 10 cities from coast to coast, affected tens of thousands of people in the Greater Boston area. Businesses lost customers. Commuters lost time. Even more serious, first responders from local, state, and federal public safety agencies were called away from their legitimate duties.

One wouldn't expect the promoters of the TV program ‘‘Aqua Teen Hunger Force'' to score high on a maturity index. But anyone older than 8 or 9 should be able to understand the dangers of staging such a stunt in the post-Sept. 11 world. Homeland Security experts will need to review the response of local law enforcement. Public safety personnel may have overreacted; local bloggers apparently identified the guerrilla advertising campaign early on. But it's hardly surprising if others who weren't in on the gag were suspicious. As a rule, first responders are left little choice but to assume they are facing a legitimate threat.

Perpetrators of terror hoaxes can anticipate prison sentences of up to five years if apprehended. But potential criminal prosecution is only one consideration. The tricksters at Turner, a unit of Time Warner, Inc., should pay the bill for the consequences of its lame marketing gimmick.

Meanwhile, at a press conference earlier today, the two arrested suspects make complete asses of themselves:

They aren't doing themselves any favors here, are they?

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Images: WBZ, CNN, Boston traffic snarl resulting from bomb scare: Matt Stone, Boston Herald

Rush Limbaugh, Seattle Radio Ratings


In Seattle, Rush Now Leads All News And Talk Shows

*** Updates at SaveWRKO ***

For any successful talk station, just how important is Rush Limbaugh?

In Seattle, an ultra- competitive talk radio market, new ratings results representing the all- important Fall 2006 Arbitron Ratings Survey underscore the tremendous impact of featuring the nation's number one host.

For the first time in recent memory, El Rushbo is not only fending off four competitors during his 9am - noon timeslot, he's beating every news and talk show heard anywhere in the region, liberal or conservative and regardless of the time slot.

With a staggering 116% percent surge in the key adults aged 25-54 demographic, Rush clobbered everything the Puget Sound Area had to offer, with an enormous 5.4 share of the audience.

Heard on Bonneville's newly- acquired KTTH-AM, the talk titan scored three times the audience of longtime KIRO libtalker Dave Ross, who has been struggling for some time. And Rush ran circles around the liberal- conservative team of Ken Schram and John Carlson on the once- proud KVI, beating them by a factor of four.

In addition, he more than doubled his "progressive" competition at CBS Radio's KPTK- AM.

Beyond his own results, a carryover effect was felt on KTTH for programs that precede and follow his, leading to an overall surge for the station. Meanwhile, Limbaugh's former Seattle - Tacoma outlet, KVI- AM, has been badly hurt by the loss of his program.

Amplifying the damage, the addition of local shows featuring liberals and moderates has likely alienated KVI's traditional audience. Once a ratings powerhouse, KVI now ranks fifth overall among news and talk stations in the area.

In addition to KVI's significant weakness, KTTH is troubled between 3pm and midnight, while KIRO is in very bad shape during the evenings and some midday hours. In fact, KTTH now beats KIRO overall in the 25-54 demo.

So far, an hour- long local daily show hosted by former MSNBC anchor Ron Reagan Jr has not produced ratings results for KIRO, or much of a buzz in the Emerald City.

Previously, we've mentioned Limbaugh's strong ratings results in other cities, including Boston. So far, Rush has seen a small decline in Chicago and a larger one in Portland, Oregon. But overall, he's still going strong.

Disclosure note: your Radio Equalizer has previously worked as a host at KVI, in addition to KIRO, under its outgoing ownership regime.

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30 January 2007

Stephen Green, Mark Green, Air America Buyout


When Did It Ever Succeed In The First Place?

As one could have expected, there's an avalanche of mainstream media coverage today on Air America Radio's buyout by "progressive" Manhattan real estate developer Stephen L Green.

And, as the dust settles, it's becoming clear his purchase of the long- suffering liberal radio network is designed to ensure his brother Mark (seen in photo), a perennial local political candidate and occasional fill-in host, is locked into his own talk shift there.

At the same time, much of the media coverage examines how Air America can be "restored" to its supposed former glory. One problem: when did it ever succeed in the first place?

In an example from the New York Daily News, David Hinckley yet again makes no effort to quote the network's real critics, instead focusing on its longtime industry apologists:

To restore Air, say pros, try new formula


The first thing Air America's new owner has to do if he wants to give the progressive talk network a future, say people in radio, is come up with a business model that has a chance to succeed.

Air America went on the air March 31, 2004, and filed for bankruptcy last Oct. 13, saying it had lost $41 million in those 2-1/2 years.

Sheldon Green, who yesterday signed a deal under which he could take control by midFebruary, has made a fortune with SL Green Realty Corp., which controls 27 million square feet of commercial property. His brother, Mark Green, has been a major player in New York Democratic politics for decades, with two terms as public advocate.

"I hope they can make it viable," says Paul Woodhull, president of Washington-based Media Syndication Services, which creates and produces radio shows. "But it won't happen unless Mr. Green listens to people who understand how radio works."

Air America's original network plan, says Woodhull, "was based on the idea they could control programs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on someone else's station. That's just not the way it works."

More often, most of Air America's approximately 100 affiliates pick up some of the network's programs. That's even true on flagship WWRL (1600 AM) in New York, which carries its own morning show and most of its own weekend shows.

That makes Air America less a "network" and more of a syndicator, a company that offers a menu of programs from which individual stations can choose.

The Premiere Network, for instance, syndicates Rush Limbaugh to WABC.

"Many people feel Air America would be much better off going the syndicator route," says Tom Taylor, editor of the trade magazine Inside Radio. "The costs are much lower."

Here's a common industry sentiment that's completely left out of the piece: why attempt to keep this sick horse alive (apologies to Barbaro)?

It's clear by now that only a handful of liberal talk shows have a chance at survival (Stephanie Miller, Ed Schutz and perhaps one or two others) and those are overseen by JonesMediaAmerica.

Worst of all, it is just plain wrong to assert the network has anywhere near 100 affiliates when half that number is much closer to the truth.

Funny enough, a far more honest take on Air America comes directly from the left, by none other than Mother Jones!

Air America Goes Green (& Al Franken Takes the Green and Runs)

The latest chapter in the looooong saga of Air America has evidently been penned, but I must say that even those of us who'd wondered if the network's tortured history had become parody/proof of the right's criticism of the left didn't quite see this one coming.

AA or Ax2 or Asquared will, it seems, be acquired by NYC real estate mogul Stephen Green, brother of perennial NY mayor/senate/attorney general candiate Mark Green. "Speaking only as the brother of the purchaser," Mark Green, who's also played guest host on AA, told the NYT that "no hiring or programming positions had been decided for the network, should the deal go through."

None 'cept one, I'd guess.

And if Brother Green becomes a permanent AA personality, he won't have to live in the shadow of Al Franken. Franken, who'd been paid a truly outrageous $2 million a year—10 times more than "many other syndicated hosts with a similar audience reach"—will host his last show on Valentine's Day.

Franken's outsized salary makes him an easy target for those who mourn AA's passing, but to my mind it's just further proof that the people behind the network (and there have been lots) just had too much money and little idea of the media terrain. Wishing you (and why would you?) had a lefty 24-hour equivalent to Rush/Imus don't make it so people.

Meanwhile, Spinsanity Alert: Green said the sale will, in the words of the NYT, "usher in a new phase for Air America, focused on digital content distribution rather than radio."

“In this digital era, the tech changes by the day and Air America Radio has to become something of a new media company,” Mark Green said. “We look forward to an A.A.R. 2.0 that has sharp smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?”

So does this mean that Stephen is buying his brother a podcast? If so, Senator Chris Dodd has some programming suggestions.

Exactly: perhaps Mother Jones doesn't want to claim Air America any more than conservatives want to be saddled with Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck, Joe Scarborough and the like. Political baggage is a bipartisan concept.

As for Green's "Air America 2.0" silliness, does he really believe the network wasn't already streaming, as well as offering podcasts? Yes, we know AAR had planned to beef up its video content for some time, but in this era of YouTube, that's really not a big deal.

Mark Green image: Wikipedia, Outhouse: David A Lunde

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29 January 2007

Air America Radio Buyout, Stephen L Green


AAR Buyer Finally Emerges, Franken Bye-Bye

*** Also: give Maria Bartiromo a break! And: new items at SaveWRKO, and see main page for new Air America updates ***

With a deal finally
announced, the only surprise is that the "winning" bidder was a late entrant to the Air America Radio bailout race.

Who wants to waste millions more on this debacle? Apparently, several people do.

According to media sources, including the bankrupt company itself, Air America has been sold to Stephen L Green, a real estate baron and political player in New York City's lefty circles. He's also the brother of Mayor Bloomberg's most recent opponent, Mark Green.

The deal is still preliminary and must be approved by the bankruptcy court.

What isn't news is the added announcement that Al Franken will depart in mid- February, though he did remain on the air for several weeks longer than most thought he would, including us. His expected Minnesota US Senate announcement is now a certainty.

Oddly, during today's show, Franken apparently referred to both Green brothers as new owners, indicating a key role for Mark. Will he soon be added to the weekday schedule?

In its press release, Air America is still making crazy claims about having 81 affiliates and reaching 54 percent of the country:

Upon entering into the Letter of Intent, Stephen Green provided funds to Democracy Allies LLC, which has been funding Air America during the bankruptcy proceeding and which will continue to fund the company as it prepares a definitive purchase agreement for submission to the Bankruptcy Court.

Air America, which does business as Piquant, LLC and is headquartered in New York City, currently produces 19 hours of original programming a day and is heard on 81 affiliates reaching 54 percent of the country. Air America affiliates reach 1.9 million listeners per week, Mon-Sun 6am-12m.

From the Huffington Post:

Air America Radio, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings since October, will be rescued at the 11th hour by Manhattan real estate developer Stephen L. Green.

Al Franken, the best-known host of the liberal network, will announce his expected departure on his show later today, to explore a run for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota.

Green is the brother of Mark Green, the New York Democrat who served as the city's public advocate in the 90s and ran for mayor against Michael Bloomberg in 2001.

He has already signed a letter of intent, and plans to finalize a purchase agreement within the week.

Air America CEO Scott Elberg confirmed the sale. "This is a great thing, for our affiliates, the company, the audience and every employee in our organization."

Green is chairman of SL Green Realty Corp, a real estate investment trust specializing in office buildings with a market cap of $12 billion.

If Green hadn't stepped in, Air America's shutdown would have been a sure bet, as negotiations with the French family had been breaking down for over a month. But as recently as last week, the Wall Street Journal was reporting the French deal as a nearly- done deal.

As for the troubled network's future, we see no reason why its outlook would improve under this scenario. Though it's losing the huge expense of Franken and his overpriced help, he was also the top ratings- earner and best- known name in the lineup.

Even with Franken, Air America's ratings show no signs of growth and the network continues to lose affiliates, with more on the way. There's simply no business reason to keep it going.

Its biggest challenge will be to convince the public that it still exists! Some people assumed that it shut down at the time it declared bankruptcy.

In the end, what has changed is that a new guy is now in charge of moving deck chairs on the Titanic.

ELSEWHERE: updates at SaveWRKO.

The Money Pit: Pete at IHillary

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Maria Bartiromo Flap, CNBC, Citigroup


Under Pressure, CNBC'S Bartiromo Sinking Fast

*** Watch for AAR sale / Franken exit updates ***

What's behind the sudden piling- on against longtime CNBC anchor and radio commentator Maria Bartiromo?

From daily newspapers, blogs and television news programs, there has been a nearly non- stop series of damning reports against the popular cable personality in recent days.

Between revelations of private rides on a corporate jet, to a re- hash of her previous share position flap, it's clear more than one media insider has it in for the network's famous "Money Honey".

Even that tag has created trouble for Bartiromo, after her attempt to trademark the handle was ridiculed on the Internet. At the TVNewser blog, which has been a Maria critic for some time, it was suggested that "jealousy" of emerging co- workers sparked the move.

Excerpted from the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz:

CNBC's Bartiromo Flies Into Citigroup Controversy

Maria Bartiromo, CNBC's star business anchor, has been thrust into the spotlight by the disclosure that her friendship and travels with a top Citigroup executive played a role in his ouster.

Now it turns out that Bartiromo made nearly 50 appearances last year for corporations, trade associations and other groups, with three of them involving Citigroup in such far-flung locales as London and Hong Kong.

CNBC executives say they approved and paid for each trip, and reimbursed Citigroup for the corporate flight. But the time and distance involved raise questions about how close Bartiromo has gotten to some companies she covers and whether she has become more of a celebrity journalist than the Wall Street workhorse of her earlier years.

Todd Thomson, chief of Citigroup's wealth management unit, was forced out last weekend, and part of the reason, the Wall Street Journal reported, was that Thomson spent more than $5 million to sponsor a Sundance Channel program whose hosts were to include Bartiromo and actor Robert Redford.

In one instance, the Journal said, Bartiromo spoke to Citigroup's private-banking clients at luncheons in Hong Kong and Shanghai at Thomson's request, and flew back to the United States with him on the firm's corporate jet. After that, the Journal said, their friendship became an issue and Thomson's boss ordered him not to spend any further company money on events involving Bartiromo.

While some of the 46 events involved other major corporations, such as Google, Charles Schwab and General Electric, they also included appearances on behalf of the AARP, Milken Institute, New York University and various charities.

CNBC executives say that Bartiromo was fostering positive publicity for herself and her network while developing high-level sources among companies she covers. "I don't think there's even the appearance of a conflict of interest," said one executive who asked not to be identified while discussing personnel matters. "We paid our way. This is what we cover. This is what we do."

So far, NBC has
stood by Bartiromo, who maintains a loyal fan following. But negative publicity appears to be growing by the day. Will the network cave under pressure?

While it's entirely possible excessive use of Citigroup's corporate jets does indeed raise an ethical red flag, if she had network approval to take these trips, it's hard to understand the intensity of this controversy.

Let's face it: whether other TV news insiders like it or not, Maria is the primary face of CNBC and a key element of its brand imaging.

As it's vital to generating contacts that lead to important news tips, one would expect her to hobnob with corporate executives on a regular basis.

In addition, her attendence at company events and conferences brings her face- to- face with the business channel's primary viewership constituency.

As a result, she's in a tough position, as she needs to become close to industry leaders, but not too comfortable with them. At the same time, Maria must continue to report critically on corporate developments.

That creates a fine line for Bartiromo to walk and she may have crossed it a bit this time. But nothing justifies the level of media outrage we've seen over her practices.

So what explains the piling- on? Her background may provide a clue: has her rise to the top ruffled a few too many media feathers?

Take a look at this New York Post coverage:

January 28, 2007 -- Maria Bartiromo climbed a long way from hatcheck girl at her father's Brooklyn restaurant to TV star - and married into one of New York's richest and most famous families.

In a career marked by hard work and chutzpah, Bartiromo has matured from the young "Money Honey" reporting from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to the most marketable and recognizable personality on CNBC - grabbing the biggest assignments and appearing off-camera at advertiser-driven events dozens of times a year.

Along the way, the 39-year-old Bay Ridge native has emerged unscathed after some professional missteps - like the time she gushed during an interview with then Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill that she owned 1,000 shares of Citigroup..

She has also had to deal with the very public scandal related to the family of her husband, Jonathan Steinberg. His father, Saul, the noted 1980s financier, saw his $2 billion insurance empire go up in flames after a series of bad business decisions.

All the hope of becoming a Big Apple power couple evaporated as the Steinberg family Quogue mansion where Bartiromo was wed was sold - as was the $40 million Fifth Avenue palace and the $50 million art collection.

Through it all, Bartiromo shown bright.

But last week, Bartiromo friend Todd Thomson, a top executive at Citigroup, was fired for, among other transgressions, allegedly lavishing company money inappropriately on the gorgeous TV journalist.

And now her fame and reputation is under assault.

As a longtime viewer, your Radio Equalizer was a CNBC addict before there was such a concept, even before the FNN merger. We've never had particularly strong feelings about Bartiromo in the past, but now wonder who exactly is behind the sudden avalanche of attack pieces.

Part of our cynicism comes from working in the media, where knives sometimes emerge from odd places.

From TVNewser, here's a hint as to what may be brewing behind the scenes:

Bartiromo's "Mile-High Club"

"Is this the end for Maria Bartiromo?," a veteran CNBC insider asks TVNewser. "She's creating her own mile-high club... and this could be the last straw of years and years of abuse."

Unconfirmed: "There are people currently on staff here who have been summoned by the company's outside auditor to produce brokerage statements, tax returns, sign releases for the IRS to turn over past tax returns to CNBC," according to another tipster. It's apparently part of an effort to "appear squeaky clean" on the stock ownership issue.

And that's why a lot of people in Engelwood Cliffs are "hot under the collar," the insider says, adding: "This is a major bone of contention in the newsroom."

Does Maria have a huge ego? Most likely, the answer is yes, but so what? Just try succeeding in this business without one; you'll be fed to the wolves in no time at all.

In addition, there's no doubt her type of personality is usually very difficult to deal with in the newsroom. But that's the nature of the beast.

And her attempt to trademark "Money Honey" is just good business sense, otherwise, it could easily be stolen by someone else. She should have done this years ago!

With that, until there is more substantial evidence of significant wrongdoing beyond journalistic misdemeanors, this smells way too much like a media campaign to get her canned.

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Some images: Wikipedia

28 January 2007

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Talk Radio


Glenn Beck In NPR Interview Flap

What explains the mainstream media's new fascination with loose cannon talker Glenn Beck? Depending on a particular story's slant, the syndicated host is either a right- wing extremist or an independent, non- partisan thinker.

In recent days, coverage of Beck, who also hosts a cable talk show on CNN's Headline News Channel, has leaned toward the latter.

In a world full of "divisive" conservative characters such as Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, is Glenn the new voice of "reason", they ask?

In the past, your Radio Equalizer has been tough on Beck, mostly because this site objects to his careless (and often inconsistent) rhetoric, in addition to the way he was forced upon talk radio stations nationwide as part of a corporate mandate.

Many Clear Channel talk stations have been compelled to carry his show without regard for a local outlet's optimal programming needs. In addition, some non- Clear Channel stations have found they must run Beck in order to obtain (or merely maintain) major syndicated talent.

And for conservatives, Beck represents baggage the movement certainly doesn't need at the moment.

To be fair, however, some regular Radio Equalizer readers love Beck and our criticism of him has generated a decent amount of angry mail.

A particularly compelling reason for concern is his recent hiring as a regular commentator for ABC's Good Morning America, a bastion of televised liberalism if there ever was one. Was the network looking for a cartoonish "conservative" to provide easy fodder for their anchors?

Now, it appears Beck has once again found himself in the middle of a flap, one he swears isn't his fault. But it's his dubious need to appear "independent" that brought on this controversy in the first place.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Beck appeared to be attacking Rush Limbaugh for his supposedly "divisive" rhetoric:

Republican leaders say Limbaugh's ability to energize listeners was a big help to them in winning control of Congress in 1994. Nowadays, the conservative media landscape is far more crowded. But there's no true left-of-center radio counterpart to Limbaugh. The liberal Air America talk radio network has struggled, and its finances are in shambles.

But Rush Limbaugh keeps on going. Even with a changing political landscape, Limbaugh sees no need to change the format of his show.

"I'm the expert. I don't need to talk to somebody else to find out what's going on," he says. "There's a whole psychology of doing the program the way that I do it."

And that often involves barbs aimed directly at liberals. Some feminist leaders become "Feminazis." Recently, Limbaugh joked that new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — the first woman in U.S. history to hold that position — might well breastfeed a child sitting on her lap during official ceremonies.

Limbaugh says he is just using humor to make a point. But a rival conservative talk show host, Glenn Beck, says such severe rhetoric only drives people apart.

"I truly believe it's going to be the death of us. It's going to be the death of our industry, and the death of our country, if we don't stop dividing ourselves like this," Beck says. "It's not right."

In response, Beck claims his quote was taken out of context, according to Tim Graham at NewsBusters:

After conducting a 30 minute interview with me on the supposed topic of 'does conservative talk radio reach across party lines, and if so, how?' NPR chose to take a quote from me and use it completely out of context. The quote was not about Rush Limbaugh, which is how it was made to look in the story, it was in response to how the country is dangerously divided along party lines and how that division may be the death of us all. I was also commenting about my disdain for the breed of talk radio hosts whose sole AGENDA is get people elected; they are contributing to this division.

"As Rush said in the story, his goal is to attract the largest possible audience, and that's my goal as well. Rush and I are not "rival" talk hosts, as the story states, since my show precedes him on the same network, and we both work for the same company. I was disappointed to see how NPR chose to make it look like I was insulting Rush, which is something I would never do.

Graham also points to this transcript from Beck's Friday program:

“This [story] was supposed to be about talk radio, I thought. When I was doing the interview, it was about talk radio. This seems to be a hatchet piece on Rush Limbaugh. This has nothing to do—I spent half the interview talking about people on the left, and air America.

I talked about how people are being divided---In fact, I said good things about Rush and Franken, because they actually believe these things. Limbaugh is a conservative that believes in the conservative agenda. Franken is insane and he actually believes in his insane thoughts.

Now Air America was built to win elections. Built to win elections. And that's the problem. It's not a problem to have a conservative viewpoint or a liberal viewpoint. It is a problem when all you care about is politics and you want to win elections...”

We'd be tempted to cut Beck a great deal of slack here, but we're not sold on the idea he was primarily referring to Air America Radio.

If so, how would Franken and Rhodes represent the "death of our industry"? It's libtalk that's near death, not the industry, as Limbaugh's ratings are solid and FNC's O'Reilly Factor is going strong.

It could be that Beck is talking out of both sides of his mouth: one viewpoint to please the suits at CNN and ABC, where he needs to seem "moderate" and the other to maintain street cred with conservative talk radio listeners who don't want to see Rush Limbaugh trashed in print.

Given Beck's track record, it's hard to accept his word alone that NPR's liberal reporters merely took his words out of context.

And more publicity came Beck's way this week from the Washington Post, which used him to attack Limbaugh and O'Reilly, portraying Glenn as a talker with "something new" to offer:

The Right & the Wrong

Conservative Talker Glenn Beck Puts His Own Failings Up Front

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer


The set of Glenn Beck's talk show on CNN Headline News looks like the rooftop patio of a posh apartment, complete with simulated bricks and a huge photo-realist mural of a SoHo block. Beck is standing in the middle of this fake aerie, riffing about porn.

He avoids X-rated movies and magazines, he says, but won't offer the righteous condemnations you'd expect from the God-fearing conservative that he constantly reminds viewers he is. Porn isn't for him -- but neither is legislating morality.

"I'm just trying to live the best life I know how to," he explains, gesticulating in his somewhat manic style. "For example, I'm an alcoholic. If I have one drink, my life will spiral out of control. But man, if you can have a few drinks and not end up at a Denny's in Tijuana, God bless you, brother. It's your right!"

When the program "Glenn Beck" joined the revamped Headline News lineup in May, initially it looked as if CNN was simply peddling a younger, folksier version of Bill O'Reilly -- a self-appointed truth-squadding right-winger who will not shut up. But Beck, who was recently tapped to make editorial cameos on ABC's "Good Morning America," has brought something new to the TV blowhard genre.

While most sermonizing conservatives wait for a public debacle to expose their failings -- think of William Bennett and his slot-machine addiction, or Rush Limbaugh and his pill problem -- Beck and his many inner demons are on a first-name basis, and he's constantly introducing them to viewers. His alcoholism is just part of it.

Plus, where O'Reilly traffics in absolute truths and certitudes, Beck is a hand-wringer, forever rummaging around the gray areas in any debate, pontificating even as he wonders aloud if his instincts are wrong, or at least worthy of reexamination. He's more culture worrier than culture warrior.

"The show is a little too high-and-mighty today," Beck tells his producer during a commercial break last week when the porn segment is over. "A little too 'Here's how to live your life.' "

The WaPo story's primary focus is on Beck's jerky track record and how past failings have made him the "humble" fellow he is today.

Regardless of his true personal nature, however, it's clear he's merely being used by the mainstream media to further an anti- Limbaugh and O'Reilly agenda. Doesn't he realize this?

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26 January 2007

Liberal Talk Radio, Monterey Bay Area, KOMY


Lacking Advertisers, Libtalk Signs Off In Monterey Bay Area

*** Big updates at SaveWRKO ***

Following the lead of stations in a number of cities across the country, Santa Cruz station KOMY- AM has given up on liberal talk radio for good, citing a total lack of financial support from the Monterey Bay Area's "progressive" community.

Broadcasting from one of the country's most liberal regions, KOMY didn't exactly find much in the way of ratings strength, either: in the most recent Monterey / Salinas / Santa Cruz figures, the station failed to even register.

Meanwhile, distant conservative talk signals from San Francisco (KSFO, which isn't easy to pick up there) and Fresno (Limbaugh powerhouse KMJ- AM) did show up in the ratings survey. Another Monterey- area libtalker, KRXA- AM, also appeared near the bottom, with a 0.6 overall share.

And with KOMY's sister station KSCO (where your Radio Equalizer worked as a host in the early to mid- nineties) now once again carrying Rush Limbaugh, its conservative future is assured, while the former will now switch to an oldies format.

From today's Santa Cruz Sentinel:

Liberal AM radio fails to pay its own way in Santa Cruz

By Shanna McCord
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ — Al Franken, Randi Rhodes and Sam Seeder — articulate liberal pundits — don't sell well, even in Santa Cruz.

The trio are part of the nationally syndicated Air America, which was dropped from Santa Cruz radio station KOMY 1340 AM on Thursday and replaced with music from the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

The left-leaning radio network, aimed at taking on Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk shows, debuted on Central Coast airwaves in July 2005, but local advertisers never bought in, station owner Michael Zwerling said.

"We didn't sell a single ad in a year and a half," Zwerling said Thursday. "I thought liberal radio would work as a viable advertising business in the most liberal town in America. I was wrong"

Santa Cruz isn't the only place Air America has problems. The network is struggling nationwide and filed for bankruptcy four months ago.

Zwerling put Air America on the air as an alternative to the Limbaugh program, which plays on KOMY's sister station KSCO 1080 AM every morning.

Limbaugh is a major moneymaker for the station, Zwerling said, and his show pulls the highest ratings of any program on KSCO or KOMY.

However, in Santa Cruz, where the vast majority of registered voters are Democrats and voted for Sen. John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, Zwerling wanted to give listeners a program that better plays to their political beliefs.

Some Santa Cruzans loved Air America, Zwerling said.

But advertisers either didn't want to be associated with a station long known for a conservative stance or they simply didn't believe the show was a good place to spend their money, Zwerling said, speculating why ad sales never got off the ground despite decent ratings.

"It's an angry, nasty, pissing and moaning format where the only thing they say is 'Bush stinks' or 'Bush is bad'," he said. "No commercial advertiser wants to be associated with that"

If libtalk can't make it in Santa Cruz, what hope does it have anywhere else?

Now, of course, it's again time for that stale round of excuses: it wasn't promoted properly, not enough of a signal, it's a right- wing conspiracy to make Air America fail, you know the drill!

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25 January 2007

La Ley FM Listener Contest, Chicago, Illegal Immigration


In Chicago, Illegal Alien Refused Radio Contest Prize

In another controversy related to the immigration status of contest entrants, a former Chicago woman has been denied the Corvette she won in a radio station's promotional event.

According to the Chicago Sun - Times, Maribel Nava Alvarez would have been awarded the vehicle, but because she's an illegal alien, lacked the Social Security number necessary for tax reporting purposes.

As a result, Spanish Broadcasting Systems- owned La Ley FM has found itself in the center of a growing controversy over how it handled the situation. Some in the Hispanic community are objecting to the station's refusal to turn over the car to Alvarez.

According to the Sun - Times:

What's worse, she said, is that an SBS attorney allegedly threatened to alert authorities of her immigration status once he learned she intended to take her battle to court.

"I was very sad. I cried. ... My feelings were hurt because I was mocked," Alvarez, 22, said in her native Spanish on Wednesday. "It's unjust."

Despite La Ley's claims, Alvarez said she was never informed verbally or in print that she had to be U.S. citizen or legal resident to be eligible to win Mexican- American singer Juan Rivera's old car during the July 4, 2005, contest at the Plaza Garibaldi, 2600 S. California.

The only condition was that the potential winner had to be present at the drawing, said Alvarez, who recently sued both companies for breach of contract and emotional distress.

"I will caution you that if you insist on filing suit against SBS, I will in turn be forced to refer this matter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as I believe your client is in this country illegally. Please communicate that to your client for her consideration," Cueva wrote in a Dec. 19, 2005, letter to Alvarez's attorney, Federico Rodriguez.

Alvarez, who came to Chicago from Mexico when she was 7 and attended public schools, said she was so frightened she would be deported that she fled Illinois eight months ago with her two children to an undisclosed location. Only her mother knows where she currently resides.

Alvarez, a laundry worker, has not seen any relatives since, which makes it especially hard given she was just diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer, she said.

"I'm in hiding. I had to leave my family behind. It was like starting over," said Alvarez, with Rodriguez at her side.

La Ley is required by law to get a valid Social Security number or tax identification number from all winners of prizes worth more than $500, according to a written statement from the Spanish language station. A station official said she did not want to comment because the matter is in litigation.

The station, which refers to itself as a champion for Latinos and the legalization of undocumented immigrants, tried giving Alvarez the hard-top car even though her tax reporting information could not be verified, the statement said.

The 1999 Corvette hasn't been awarded to any other contestants and is believed to be in SBS' possession.

In a separate incident earlier this month, Toys R Us agreed to award a Chinese-American infant born in New York a $25,000 prize in a New Year's baby contest after the company was criticized for disqualifying the girl because her mother was an illegal immigrant.

Although promotional materials recruited "all expectant New Year's mothers" to apply for the contest, eligibility rules required the babies' mothers to be legal residents.

Meanwhile, at La Ley's website, listeners have added negative comments to the station's web forum:

25 Jan 07, 17:33
JJJJJ: Demandan a “la Ley”

25 Jan 07, 17:28
juan: noticias/10787048/detail.html

25 Jan 07, 17:20
juan: que mala onda que la ley no entrege premios y aparte amenaze con echar la migra a la raza

25 Jan 07, 21:06
JORGE: esta esacion de radio es de gente sin escrupulos, amenasaron a maribel con echarle la migra para no pagarle el carro que se gano

The Telemundo link referenced above takes readers to this Spanish- language article:

Demandan a “la Ley”

PUBLICADO: 18 de enero de 2007, a las 5:26 pm (centro)

CHICAGO, Illinois -- Una radioemisora local en español ha sido demandada por negarse a entregar un premio ganado por una radio oyente durante un festival. ¿La razón? Según la ganadora demandante, por ser inmigrante indocumentada.

Se trata de una emisora que fue líder en las marchas pro inmigrantes en Chicago. Sin embargo al ser demanda, son los abogados de la misma estación radial los que amenazan con reportar la ganadora a inmigración.

“En Chicago manda la Ley”, es la frase que identifica la emisora "la Ley, 107.9 FM". La misma fue clave en motivar a los hispanos inmigrantes a marchar por las calles. Sin embargo ahora es objeto de fuertes criticas después de que un abogado de la emisora amenazara con denunciar a una radio escucha ante el servicio de inmigración.

Lo que se dijo bien claro en la carta era que si seguía insistiendo con un caso legal, ellos llamarían a inmigración.

Regardless of how one might feel about illegal immigration and enforcement of existing laws, this one ought to be quite simple: without a way to report these earnings to the IRS, the station's hands are tied.

If La Rey could give her the car, it would represent untaxed winnings to the tune of thousands of dollars, which simply isn't fair to law- abiding, taxpaying residents who would have to report the income had they instead won the contest.

In effect, handing the keys to Alvarez means giving an illegal immigrant a special tax break. Is that reasonable?

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Images: AP, La Ley FM

Erich "Mancow" Muller, Talk Radio, Jennifer Strange Death


Longtime Shock Jock Calls For 'Responsibility'

This must be the week for counterintuitive publicity stunts!

Between libtalker Ed Schultz blasting Hillary Clinton and a new "responsi- bility" movement created by none other than shock- jock Mancow Muller, your Radio Equalizer must admit to having fallen for both hook, line and sinker.

In Mancow's case, it's a full- scale war between pot and kettle as the longtime morning host launches his Foundation For Responsible Radio, dedicated to cleansing the medium of antics such as the Entercom- sponsored contest that killed a young Sacramento mother of three.

And if one isn't familiar with his history, this might seem credible, but a look at the past proves he helped pave the way for radio's current sad state of affairs. For a notorious stunt that shut down the Golden Gate Bridge, he's still hated in the Bay Area, even many years later:

Another bridge prank occurred in 1993, when a disc jockey for radio station KSOL - Manfred "Mancow" Muller - tied up traffic on the Bay Bridge by organizing vans to block all the westbound lanes while his sidekick, Jesus "Chuy'' Gomez, got a haircut.

The stunt was a parody of President Clinton's ill-timed haircut in Air Force One a week earlier, which blocked traffic on a Los Angeles International Airport runway for an hour. Muller was prosecuted and given three years' probation, 100 hours of community service and a $500 fine.

And, in a sworn deposition published by the Smoking Gun, fellow shock- jock Howard Stern claims Mancow sent him a box of fecal matter, in addition to having an assistant defecate in the lobby of Stern's building in front of two female employees.

More recently, Mancow has attempted to reinvent himself as a "conservative" commentator, which has earned him regular guest spots on the FOX News Channel. At the same time, his sloppy rhetoric has provided easy fodder for the left. So far, however, most on the right have ignored his attempts to gain political legitimacy.

In the end, the real lesson from recent events is that to gain substantial press attention as a radio personality, it takes a either a new degree of creativity and sophistication, or to descend to a depth so low that it kills a young mother of three.

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24 January 2007

Ed Schultz, Hillary Clinton, Talk Radio


Talker Denounces Treatment From Hillary Clinton

*** With updates below ***

Grab a bag of popcorn and prepare to be entertained!

Here's today's main event: in his now- public battle with Hillary Clinton, syndicated libtalker Ed Schultz has taken the gloves off!

In a tirade posted on his website, the Fargo- based "Big Eddie" faults Hillary's campaign for failing to be accessible and further calls her arrogant:

"What loyal listeners should know about Hillary and her people"

By Ed Schultz

Hillary Clinton is off and running. Great! What does it mean for progressive talk and the audience?

Loyal listeners to the Ed Schultz show have helped us propel into the top 10 of syndicated talk shows in the industry. We are proud of that and our recent numbers coming back show we are beating Sean Hannity is numerous markets. What we do works.

Convincing Hillary Clinton and her arrogant handlers of that is a different battle in itself. We are known for connecting with the newsmakers as well as any talk show.

Many of you have requested hearing from Hillary on progressive talk especially The Ed Schultz Show. I want you to know our producer James Holm tirelessly works the contacts and has repeatedly tried to connect with Clinton's people.

Cutting to the chase, Hillary's people treat us like dirt. We are constantly disregarded, told things that aren't true, and given speculation an interview might happen someday.

Quite frankly, I'm sick of it. This morning I watched Hillary Clinton tell CNN she is accessible. What? To the TV cameras yes, to the base of loyal listeners on progressive talk radio, absolutely not!

Reaching over 2.5 million listeners who are engaged in changing the country I believe qualifies us for some attention. I realize Hillary is an international figure and star but this pattern of treatment to The Ed Schultz Show has been an on-going pattern which tells me all they care about is her mug on TV.

The conservatives have done wonders with audio continually talking to and solidifying their base. It's apparent to me radio is minor to the people surrounding this leading candidate.

When Wendy and I see Hillary from time to time she is more than respectful, likeable, and seemingly interested in how we are doing. But when it comes to supplying any workable connection to helping progressive talk it all falls short.

Hillary tells us how much she cares about progressives on radio but we just don't get the love. I just thought as listeners you might want to know this.

At NewsBusters, Noel Sheppard offers his take on the battle. In addition, Ed's listeners have posted comments about the flap here.

As for our take on this, having been on the receiving end of producer Holm's aggressive tactics, we wonder if that might have something to do with it.

At the same time, Clinton does have a reputation for inaccessibility, with families of 9-11 victims even having past troubles getting a personal meeting with the New York senator.

As for beating Hannity in a number of places, it's possible, but we'd like to see the numbers on that one.

ELSEWHERE: updates at SaveWRKO.

UPDATE: a key radio insider with knowledge of the ratings wrote to us regarding Hannity and Schultz:

When Schultz and Hannity went head to head, Sean often beat Ed in his home market of Fargo, North Dakota.

It's possible that due to certain circumstances, such as weak signals, or being added to a new station, Schultz may beat Hannity in a few places.

The bottom line is that his show is not doing that well, as he never became the "liberal" Rush Limbaugh.

Remember, he took fundraising money from DEMOCRATIC politicians just to even get on the air. He's bought and paid for by partisan operatives.

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Schultz with Alan Colmes: FOX, Clinton image: AP

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