Monday, February 12, 2007

Hate Radio Hacks

Since the U.S. election, conservative talk-show hosts have found themselves with diminishing audiences. Hey, the country is turning blue and progressive Democrats (the opposite of neo-conservative Republicans) swept both houses of the Congress and many state houses as well.

It seems, as a result, some hosts are seeking to hold their already questionable, fringe audiences by ratcheting-up the rhetoric. At least that's the case in southern Oregon where I live. In a Friday morning talk-show program, local hosts called some of my personal associates "bottom-feeders," and suggested they should be taken out and hung. Uh huh. That's right. As hard to believe as it is.

So while my colleagues were taking care of business, at work, at home, tending to their children in some cases, these hosts were slamming them on the air in really despicable language. Now that's brave, don't you think? Publicly picking on folks from a safe distance, without their knowledge and with little or no chance to respond. That's the American Way, according to this "entertainment" model.

Naturally, I took umbrage at the comments and did an extensive search on "talk radio"+incitement+negligence. I learned a lot. Read about the really egregious case of KSFO in San Francisco (ironically an ABC/Disney station) that resulted in a lot of very bad publicity, some firings and a lawsuit. In one of KSFO's many episodes, a drunk talk-show listener who had been angered by comments he heard called a state senator five times with death threats.

According to the Missouri Bar: "Negligence" is a well-known ground for lawsuits. More and more, courts are subjecting the media to negligence suits, making the media pay when they expose others to risk of bodily harm."

In other words, journalists and talk-show hosts encounter a measure of predictable financial harm to themselves if they fail to observe the doctrine of negligence as it applies to their broadcasts. Short of actual financial or tort liability, radio stations that feature hate-filled talk radio shows risk (1) bad publicity; (2) loss of advertising revenue; (3) reprimand and unwanted attention from parent corporations; (4) FCC Complaints; (5) local efforts to interfere with regular station licensing; and, (6) potential time- and resource-draining lawsuits. I am working on a draft strategic campaign plan that will make these real, meaurable risks.

To make matters even better for those of us with complaints in this area, Radio is suffering from a significant loss of listenership and market. That makes sense with the advent of satellite and IP radio. One can receive streaming broadcasts from sources worldwide. That gives us more leverage, because it amplifies the effects of our efforts. And, we've got allies like Media Matters for America. Here in Jackson County, we're evaluating our alternatives. Local Station management is not unresponsive to the community and we'll see just what happens. More later. Leave me a comment if you've had a similar experience.


roberto said...

Do you happen to have a recording of this incident of inciting, incendiary talk show? It would be good to have it at least in transcript form so that it can be presented as evidence to the station/corporate owner.

It seemed to me it took quite a while before the Rush Limbaugh show began to be recorded for posterity... and for proof of his outrageous, demagogic lies.

Sunny said...

Not only are these "hosts" negligent in many ways, they have on occasion become aggressive to the point harassment. The last time my husband wrote a letter to the editor expressing his opinions about school funding, he and I were both called repeatedly, over a period of 6 days and verbally attacked by a local radio talk show host (in his opinion, any public funds used in support of education, especially higher education, was theft of his hard earned money). We were also invited to be a "guest" on the show.

Vicious talk radio does nothing demean the political process.