Our Common Good

Clear Channel, the largest radio station operator in the country, is partially owned by Bain Capital, which is the company founded and previously run by former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Debt-ridden Clear Channel, headquartered in San Antonio, has been quietly pruning its corporate structure since late 2011.

On-air talent and behind-the-scenes employees have been shown the door or programming has been eliminated in markets that include Los Angeles, Boston, Tampa, San Diego, Madison, Wis., Springfield, Mo., Oklahoma City, Nashville, and, most recently, Toledo.

[…]

Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners, two private-equity firms, finalized their $26.7 billion purchase of Clear Channel in July, 2008, loading the company with debt. According to Clear Channel’s Nov. 2 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company had $16.4 billion in debt.

The company’s debt must be repaid throughout the decade and comes due as soon as 2014. The 2008 sale was the catalyst for thousands of layoffs as Clear Channel restructured.

[…]

Clear Channel has been strategically firing employees in small numbers so it doesn’t appear that the company is undergoing large-scale layoffs, he said, adding that it would have looked bad for Mr. Romney if his former company fired Clear Channel’s workers en masse.

“They’ve been nipping and tucking a lot since last November,” Mr. Del Colliano said. “There has been a substantial number of people [let go]. I can’t estimate it, [but] a handful of people every week for 52 weeks.

“It’s my belief that what they wanted to do was keep attention off of their Bain founder, Mitt Romney.”

[…]

Dan Stroud, former co-host of a morning show on KXXY-FM in Oklahoma City, spent 31 years at the station before he was laid off in March. He said he was one of six people let go.

“It was the briefest, most concise meeting I’ve ever been to in my life,” he said. “They never mentioned why it was happening and if I’d done anything wrong; they just said my job was being eliminated — no ‘thank you’ for 31-plus years at the same station doing a great job. No handshake, no good-bye.

“I got off the air, went to a meeting, was escorted out, and that was the last day I worked.”

Mr. Stroud, who has not found work since he was laid off, said he most likely was targeted because he was one of the longest-serving employees at the station, which had garnered him a higher salary than other workers.

Mr. Stroud said the general manager who laid him off read from a highlighted script — the two had known each other since college. The general manager wasn’t allowed to deviate from the script, he said.

“I just think they could have done it a lot better,” Mr. Stroud said.

[…]

Mr. Del Colliano said Clear Channel’s future is on shaky ground as Bain Capital looks to turn the once-profitable business around, which could mean more cuts. Clear Channel most likely will be sold to another media company, but only time will tell how its employees fare, he said.

Keynote speaker NORM PATTIZ of COURTSIDE ENTERTAINMENT discussed the need to deal with change in the radio business, from the “dwindling” advertising base for conservative talk radio to competition from new technology.  “The audience for conservative talk radio is still there,” PATTIZ declared, but noted that the RUSH LIMBAUGH-SANDRA FLUKE controversy was used by MEDIA MATTERS FOR AMERICA and others with a political agenda against talk radio; he recounted how advertisers (many of whom were unaware they were advertising on talk radio at all) were targeted and a “tremendous chunk of advertising revenue… was wiped out.”  He said that the result was a loss of revenue for all talk radio, adding that media companies’ debt load is placing “intense” pressure on the creative end of the business.  “Those rules are changing” because servicing debt is more important to the business than the quality of the content, PATTIZ said.  He criticized the practice of giving programming away online for free or “peanuts,” saying that he is “going to try to do something about it.”

Touching on a variety of bullet points, the former Westwood One honcho [Norm Pattiz ]commented that, despite the fact audience size is unchanged, there is dwindling support for conservative talk radio from national advertisers

Today on the Iowa conservative radio show “Mickelson in the Morning,” host Jan Mickelson had on Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) to talk about the Nuns on the Bus tour and the Ryan budget. Objecting to the tour, Mickelson asked Latham whether he had any power to pull over the bus and “pistol whip” the nuns…

There is a little known regulation at the FCC called the Zapple Doctrine, which is an offshoot of the Fairness Doctrine and of Section 315(a) of the Communications Act, which says that, in the 60 days prior to an election, if a broadcaster offers free airtime to one major party candidate, it must offer free airtime to the other major party candidate. Zapple expands this definition to include supporters of candidates.

The only programs which are exempt from this definition must qualify as “Bonafide News.” To qualify as “bonafide news,” programs must be non-political and not support any candidates.

[…]

So we found five monitors and had them count how many minutes each program was specifically supporting Scott Walker or bashing his Democratic opponent Tom Barrett, or supporting the GOP and bashing Democrats, and vice versa, how many minutes they were supporting Democrats in the race.

We discovered that each Right Wing Talk radio station in Milwaukee is giving about 80 minutes every day to the GOP side. Out of fifteen hours of programming, that doesn’t sound like much, but it would cost between $34,000 and $68,000 for supporters of Tom Barrett and the Democrats to buy that time. That’s $34,000 -68,000 - every single day.

[…]

But the FCC needs to hear from people all over the country who want this narrow rule, that in the 60 days prior to an election, stations must provide comparable airtime to BOTH major political parties, to survive. Please sign the Media Action Center’s petition to help this once in a lifetime effort to change the Talk Radio dynamic for once - and for ALL.

shortformblog:

The activist campaign against Rush Limbaugh is starting to lose steam, The Washington Post reports. A month after Limbaugh’s comments on Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke put the talk-radio icon on notice, the longtime figure is even starting to get some of his advertisers back. “I think certainly the pressure has been reduced,” noted Angelo Carusone, who has led an anti-Rush campaign for Media Matters for America. “To a certain extent, that’s okay and acceptable … Obviously, the intensity is gone, but the engagement remains high.” Do you think Rush will eventually shake off the controversy? Or will he go the way of Glenn Beck, who never really recovered from his advertiser exodus?

shortformblog:

The activist campaign against Rush Limbaugh is starting to lose steam, The Washington Post reports. A month after Limbaugh’s comments on Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke put the talk-radio icon on notice, the longtime figure is even starting to get some of his advertisers back. “I think certainly the pressure has been reduced,” noted Angelo Carusone, who has led an anti-Rush campaign for Media Matters for America. “To a certain extent, that’s okay and acceptable … Obviously, the intensity is gone, but the engagement remains high.” Do you think Rush will eventually shake off the controversy? Or will he go the way of Glenn Beck, who never really recovered from his advertiser exodus?

cognitivedissonance:

From ThinkProgress:

Radio-Info.com reports that Premiere Networks, which syndicates the Rush Limbaugh show, told its affiliate radio stations that they are suspending national advertising for two weeks. Rush Limbaugh is normally provided to afflilates for free in return for running several minutes of national advertisements provided by Premiere each hour. These ads called “barter spots.” These spots are how Premiere makes its money off of Rush Limbaugh and other shows it syndicates.

But without explanation, Premiere has supended these national advertisements for two weeks. Radio-Info.com calls the move “unusual.” The development suggests that Rush Limbaughs incessant sexist attacks on Sandra Fluke have caused severe damage to the show.

Talk radio is larger than any other media platform and it is dominated by conservative programming. The raw numbers of Americans listening to talk radio dwarf all other political media. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck are the top three talk personalities in the nation who reach a combined near 40 million listeners each week — nearly ten times greater than the combined audiences of Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, Headline News and CNBC. According to the Pew Research Center for People & the Press, Republican listeners make up only 41 percent of that audience with 28 percent being Democrats and Independents making up 31 percent. Despite that demographic spread, roughly 90 percent of all weekday talk radio programming is conservative and less than 10 percent is progressive.

The last time Democrats focused any strategic attention on radio was in 2004 when Air America launched the national careers of Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, and Randi Rhodes. That same year, I created The Ed Schultz Show and The Stephanie Miller Show. Still stinging over a lost election in 2000 (that they really won), Democrats endeavored to create communications infrastructure to rival the well-established Republican message machine. With a rather diminutive amount of financial investment by progressives, substantial gains were made with the emergence of Schultz, Maddow, Miller and others.

Since that time, Democrats have offered virtually no structural support to encourage the growth of progressive media. They simply don’t see the value. Amazingly, democratic campaign advertising dollars continue to flow to conservative radio stations throughout the nation (because they have the biggest audience), and the President (who is a Democrat) is more likely to be a guest on a conservative program over its progressive counterpart. Having supported the creation of progressive media eight years ago, Democrats mistakenly believe it needs to survive and grow on its own without Democratic support. That’s like giving birth to a baby then putting it out on the street to fend for itself. In the meantime, Republican organizations continue to fully support conservative talk radio maintaining their overwhelming media advantage.

If a person who heard what Limbaugh said about Sandra Fluke got an emailed list of local advertisers whose commercials aired during the Limbaugh show, that person can pick up the phone and call each local or regional business on that list. They can tell them, “I will not be eating at your restaurant for as long as you advertise with that man. When you stop, I will come back. And, by the way, I am tweeting, emailing, and Facebook messaging every person I know to tell them the same thing. We’ll be listening tomorrow to see if you are still supporting him.”

Limbaugh may not care about that, but the restaurant owner sure does, even if he likes Limbaugh. If even a few people make that intention known, that owner will call the radio station and demand that his ads be pulled out of the Limbaugh show and spread elsewhere. He may even post a sign on his door expressing his support for Limbaugh, but he will eventually move his ads. In order to not lose that ad business, the station will quickly comply. Eventually, if enough advertisers bail on the program, the program gets replaced. No more Limbaugh in that town.

Limbaugh himself said it yesterday, “They’re just saying they don’t want their spots to appear in my show.” Exactly.

Limbaugh’s website says he has over 600 stations in his stable. Calls from individuals, especially people not even in the listening area, will have little effect on the decisions a station makes. But calls from the advertisers are treated like messages from God. Limbaugh maythink say that those advertisers are like a few french fries. But, the local stations do not. There are people at those stations whose job it is to beat the pavement and sell ads. They work on commission. They build relationships with those advertisers. It is in their best interests to keep those advertisers informed about where their money is best spent. If there is a huge stench around a program, local and regional advertisers will abandon it. Stations will then eventually drop it, not on principle, but out of economic necessity. And thus, the listener base dwindles. They simply won’t have it to listen to unless they subscribe online. Then, the chain effect begins. The cost of regional ads drops due to a smaller listener base. So, ad sales people have to sell more commercials to recover the lost revenue. No one wants to support a sinkhole. Eventually, the show folds.

quickhits:

Limbaugh’s slut-shaming could cripple right wing talk radio.

John Avlon, The Daily Beast:

Rush Limbaugh made the right-wing talk-radio industry, and he just might break it.
Because now the fallout from the “slut” slurs against Sandra Fluke is extending to the entire political shock-jock genre.


Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”
This is big. According to the radio-industry website Radio-Info.com, which first posted excerpts of the Premiere memo, among the 98 companies that have decided to no longer sponsor these programs are “carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm), and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway).” Together, these talk-radio advertising staples represent millions of dollars in revenue.
“I have talked with several reps who report that they’re having conversations with their clients, who are asking not to be associated with specifically polarizing controversial hosts, particularly if those hosts are ‘mean-spirited,’” says author and industry expert Valerie Geller. “While most products and services offered on these shows have strong competitors, and enjoy purchasing the exposure that many of these shows and hosts can offer, they do not wish to be ‘tarred’ with the brush of anger, or endure customer anger, or, worse, product boycotts.”
Limbaugh’s a child. When he started to get pushback over his initial rant, he went on a three-day bender to prove that no one could push him around. In his hubris, he may have damaged his entire industry.

quickhits:

Limbaugh’s slut-shaming could cripple right wing talk radio.

John Avlon, The Daily Beast:

Rush Limbaugh made the right-wing talk-radio industry, and he just might break it.

Because now the fallout from the “slut” slurs against Sandra Fluke is extending to the entire political shock-jock genre.

Premiere Networks, which distributes Limbaugh as well as a host of other right-wing talkers, sent an email out to its affiliates early Friday listing 98 large corporations that have requested their ads appear only on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).”
This is big. According to the radio-industry website Radio-Info.com, which first posted excerpts of the Premiere memo, among the 98 companies that have decided to no longer sponsor these programs are “carmakers (Ford, GM, Toyota), insurance companies (Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm), and restaurants (McDonald’s, Subway).” Together, these talk-radio advertising staples represent millions of dollars in revenue.

“I have talked with several reps who report that they’re having conversations with their clients, who are asking not to be associated with specifically polarizing controversial hosts, particularly if those hosts are ‘mean-spirited,’” says author and industry expert Valerie Geller. “While most products and services offered on these shows have strong competitors, and enjoy purchasing the exposure that many of these shows and hosts can offer, they do not wish to be ‘tarred’ with the brush of anger, or endure customer anger, or, worse, product boycotts.”

Limbaugh’s a child. When he started to get pushback over his initial rant, he went on a three-day bender to prove that no one could push him around. In his hubris, he may have damaged his entire industry.

In 2006, Bain Capital, the company Romney founded and still draws profits from in his retirement, joined with another private-equity firm to buy Clear Channel, the largest radio station owner in the country. Clear Channel owns Premiere Radio Networks, the syndicator of Limbaugh, Hannity and Beck.

“If you are wondering why so many talk show hosts are being so incredibly kind to Mitt Romney, this just might be the answer,” wrote Michael Snyder, who blogs at The American Dream. “In the media world, there is a clear understanding that you simply do not bite the hand that feeds you.”

Clay Bowler, who blogs as Bungalow Bill, wrote that the financial connection between Romney and Clear Channel may explain what he considered the otherwise baffling decision of Michael Savage to throw his weight behind Romney. Savage, whose show is broadcast on some Clear Channel-owned stations, made headlines in December by offering Gingrich $1 million to drop out of the race, writing, “Mitt Romney is the only candidate with a chance of defeating Barack Obama.”

Most people in the talk radio industry thought the Clear Channel tie was a non-issue.

“Most people who know talk radio know it’s impossible to control talk radio hosts,” Hewitt said.

But Cooke, who is a frequent guest on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” said there ought to at least be disclosure.

timekiller-s:

Right-wing talk radio union bashers Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity actually themselves belong to a union: AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which is affiliated with AFL-CIO.

Each host has used airtime on their programs in the past year to attack union workers in the state of Wisconsin.

timekiller-s:

latimes:

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz is a rare liberal success in broadcasting: Ed Schultz, who anchors MSNBC’s prime 8 p.m. time slot, has been raising his ratings while talking about the issues of the poor and middle class working people.

Media outlets have tried to speak on behalf of progressive causes before but rarely with success.

Photo:  Ed Schultz is presenting himself as the one true advocate for the working man. On the air and in promotional spots, he reminds viewers that he’s standing up for the unemployed and the middle class. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

I think he, like Rachel Maddow, had once worked for Air America.
Click thru the photo to read a nice LA Times article about Big Ed.

timekiller-s:

latimes:

MSNBC’s Ed Schultz is a rare liberal success in broadcasting: Ed Schultz, who anchors MSNBC’s prime 8 p.m. time slot, has been raising his ratings while talking about the issues of the poor and middle class working people.

Media outlets have tried to speak on behalf of progressive causes before but rarely with success.

Photo: Ed Schultz is presenting himself as the one true advocate for the working man. On the air and in promotional spots, he reminds viewers that he’s standing up for the unemployed and the middle class. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

I think he, like Rachel Maddow, had once worked for Air America.

Click thru the photo to read a nice LA Times article about Big Ed.

jonathan-cunningham:

Media Matters is a great website that monitors conservative misinformation. It’s been so effective that it has Fox and right-wing talk radio hosts absolutely petrified to the point where they’ll suggest violent action.

41 year old James McVay sits in a Dane County, Wisconsin jail for murdering Maybelle Schein, a 75 year old woman from Sioux Falls, South Dakota whom he viewed as “collateral damage” on his way to assassinate President Obama over his “debt ceiling policies”. McVay says he was sitting in jail listening to political talk radio when his plot to kill the president was hatched.

He showed no remorse over his killing of Schein, saying, “People die every day on the way to accomplish a mission.” He claims she was just the first person to be killed on his way to kill the President, with whose “policies” he does not agree. McVay does not believe that voting Obama out of office is a solution to this problem, and claims that his murdering the President would be doing the world a favor. He views his plot to assassinate the United States President as a “war”.