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by spocko

The Magic and Beauty of Hiding Behind Front Groups

2:45 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

From a great diary at Daily Kos, ”Industry Expert Says StopRush Has Destroyed Limbaugh’s Business For Good“ by Proglegs:

Speaking yesterday on the Ed Schultz radio show, industry insider Holland Cooke credited a persistent online activist movement with completely destroying right wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s business model by using the very free speech that El Rushbo claims gives him carte blanche to do what he does.

The piece quotes Cooke on the Ed Show and discusses the lower ratings, Rush’s move to smaller stations and the impact of less income for Rush’s distributors and radio stations.
Cover up False Front
Being the self-important Vulcan I am, I commented on the piece and my role in the process that lead to this.

Discussing the article with my friend Jeff Tiedrich of the Smirking Chimp there was some confusion.

Wait, how does losing advertisers result in fewer listeners? Seems to me they’re two different problems.

I explained they they were indeed separate issues. I created the Spocko Method specifically to reduce revenue in an environment where the ratings wouldn’t necessarily be impacted by an action and could even increase the ratings because of controversy.

I know that when KSFO, Savage, Beck or Limbaugh lost advertisers that didn’t necessarily mean they would lose ratings. In fact. they would keep bragging about the ratings because people were tuning in to hear the controversy. See the Streisand Effect

Higher ratings usually translate to higher ad rates. But if no one wants to advertise or sponsor the show, then high ratings are moot, especially to the people wanting to make money off of ratings. However, the ratings are still useful to people who want to push a message.

People who like a message, and want it to continue, needed to find new sponsors who love the message but are not vulnerable to pressure the way customer facing advertisers are. These new sponsors could stand behind someone who would normally be sanctioned or be fired for violating the normal HR policies found in most corporations. The groups could even support views that a huge percent of the population find offensive.

Front Groups are Magical

Front groups like the Heritage Foundation, Freedom Works and Americans For Prosperity can deflect connection and responsibility from individuals, corporations or brands who love a “no regulations ever” message, but can’t be seen supporting a sick and twisted host or his comments.

When you don’t want your brand tainted by association, you find or create a group of anonymous donors and ask them to pass money through to the messenger they don’t want to be associated with anymore.

Front groups funding right wing radio isn’t new, Politico did a piece on them funding right wing radio back in 2011. Here is another from this week. There are still reasons people and companies hide. There are marketing and brand considerations that remain. If you, as the person driving a message, find that activists have developed and harnessed a customer facing advertiser alert programs that challenges their brand, you work to remove those sponsors identities from the equation. Then you give them the option of funding you via the ‘cut out’ front group, like the Chamber of Commerce does. The other option is to reform the messenger, and that isn’t going to happen.

Customer facing advertisers, like the ones listed here at, had a hard time justifying sponsoring a sexist bigot who would be fired for violating all their own HR policies. But a front group doesn’t have to answer to HR policies, brand managers, customers or shareholders.

The people who want the money to keep rolling in do suggest the host change or tone down his views to appease the sponsors, and some of that does happen behind the scenes, although they will never admit it. The current procedure is to embrace the offensive comments and look for other sponsors.

The consumer facing advertisers were, (and some still are) a weak link in the game. They could be convinced to move away from Limbaugh. However dark money doesn’t care about what anyone thinks. They can “lose” money for decades on an influential narrative shaper, because they ARE getting an ROI. The advertisers could measure their short term ROI with new sales. But the front groups don’t have those short horizon metrics.

They are earning the money that they beg for every year from donors by pointing to their cultural impact.  They have:

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by spocko

Radio Hosts Bring Guns into Studios, Violating Firearm Policies. Response Salem CEO Astinger?

1:23 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

I’ve been listening to the fringes of talk radio for years. The people running the media companies that distribute these shows usually don’t listen. If they did they would be appalled. The hosts often say things that would never be allowed if that host worked in that company’s office.

What would get someone fired for sexual harassment or bigotry is classified, “entertainment” since supposedly off the air the hosts follow the corporate HR guidelines and their words or actions are different.

While listening to Armed American Radio, carried nationwide by Salem Communications Corporation, (NASDAQ: SALM) I heard the two hosts talk about ignoring signs about no guns in the studio. I got confirmation they did bring their guns into the studio and it sounded like they violated the corporation policy when doing so.  Salem is the top Christian broadcast radio company in the nation and the third ranked radio company overall, but no one from headquarters wanted to talk to me about the policies or consequences for violation so I wrote them one of my patented Spocko letters to ask about the apparent disconnect between their corporate stance on firearms and what their hosts are saying and doing on air.  Some of my questions were:

  • How should a corporation act when the hosts both violate and mock a company’s policies about bringing firearms into the company’s office?
  • Did your HR people give them permission to violate your policies?
  • Have other employees been advised of guns in the office? Do other employees have any rights to safe working conditions?
  • Have people who work in the same building as the radio studio been advised of firearms in the building?
  • Do workers in surrounding offices have a right to know that some people either got a waiver to bring firearms into the building, or that there were/are no consequences for firearm violations?
  • Does the building management have a no firearms clause in their lease? Have they been alerted that it is being violated? Are there any consequences for violation of the lease?
  • Have the insurance companies who cover the liability of the corporation been alerted? Do they want to re-evaluate the premiums that the corporation is paying?

It’s been a week and HQ has not responded to my calls and letter, so I’m posting it here publicly. I’ll let you know if they respond.


Edward Astinger III, CEO
Salem Communications Corp

Dear Edward:

Do you know that two of your radio hosts bring loaded firearms into your studios? Please listen to the following clip of hosts Mark Walters and his producer/sidekick Sean Young aka “Seanto”  LINK.

They talk about ignoring signs saying “no food and drink in the studio” and ignoring signs that say “no guns.” To determine if they actually had guns in the studio, I contacted Mike Moran, the general manager at your Atlanta studio from which Walters was broadcasting on Sunday, January 25.

Moran spoke to Walters who confirmed that he had in fact brought firearms into the studio that day. Additionally, Walters admitted to the GM he had brought firearms into the studio(s) in the past. I haven’t yet confirmed if Young was also carrying that day, however I am copying John Peroyea, VP of Operations & GM for your Dallas/Ft. Worth station on this letter. He may be able to determine when and how often Young carried while in your Dallas studios.

Moran believes Salem has a strict policy that does not permit employees, independent contractors, customers and/or their guests to bring weapons onto your premises. Can you confirm this, and does the policy apply to your properties and leased studios nationwide? I attempted to get a copy of your firearms policies but neither Christopher Henderson, your VP of Legal and HR, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary nor Russel Shubin, Director of your National News and Public Affairs responded.

The reason I want to know your policies on firearms is because many of your company’s hosts and our nation are engaging in a national discussion on public safety. Specifically we are looking at the causes of, and solutions for, violent gun deaths. As a leader in the Christian and conservative communities, your corporate policies on this issue and how you respond to people violating your own policies regarding firearms is important.

Moran told me that Walters assured him that he won’t bring his firearms to the studio again, however, I wonder about the reliability of someone who has flagrantly disregarded your rules in the past and who ends every show with, “Carry on, carry off, carry everywhere. NEVER leave your cave without your club.”  Can Walters be trusted to put the safety of others and compliance with your policies ahead of his own “carry everywhere” brand?

I’m not sure why your staff didn’t respond to my questions or why your policies aren’t published on your website. Perhaps you consider it a private internal matter, however, considering you are the co-creator of the petition site Support Second Amendment  which you and your SRN hosts plan to present to congress, I think the public has a right to know your views on firearms in your own offices and studios.

I know you can’t oversee all your employees or contractors who rent out your studios, that’s why you set up policies. I look forward to hearing back from you or your staff.


Cross posted at Spocko’s Brain

by spocko

KSFO Loses Two More Advertisers because of Anti-Gay Rights Comments

8:24 pm in Uncategorized by spocko

Last week Beach Blanket Babylon and LifetimeTV agreed to stop advertising on KSFO.

The removal of their ads was prompted by letters that I sent at the end of July. (Link to Beach Blanket Babylon letter here) I documented the host’s verbal attacks on gay rights activists. I also documented how the host Brian Sussman actively works to deny gays equal rights. In addition, in my LifetimeTV letter, I pointed out the history of violent rhetoric from the various hosts that were directed toward liberal women.

The advertisers sent a message back to the station. We will not financially support this kind of talk.

Here is an authorized quote from the producer:

"Beach Blanket Babylon will never advertise on any station, like KSFO, that attacks the LGBT community (or any community for that matter) and actively works to deny anyone equal rights."

Jo Schuman Silver, Producer

When I alerted Meredith Wagner, Executive Vice President, Public Affairs & Corporate Communications for Lifetime Networks about the running of Project Runway ads on a station that traffics in violent rhetoric and anti-gay shouting she explained they weren’t aware of this station’s content. Now that they are aware, I asked about future ads; she said, "It’s not happening again."

She said that going forward ad buyers will provide a more detailed list of where the Project Runway ads are going. If Beach Blanket Babylon’s ad buying experience is any example they will still have to look closely, it turns out that because of media consolidation the KSFO parent company sales reps sometimes throw in KSFO as part of package– as if they were just a generic station — instead of the one of the top purveyors of violent rhetoric and genocidal statements directed toward Iraqi’s, Muslims and liberals.

One thing I’ve learned about the right wing media, the hosts will not change Read the rest of this entry →