Friday, January 05, 2007

The wrath of Spocko

One mere blogger took on Disney, and so far, he's winning.

'Spocko' is a blogger who became increasingly offended by the vicious right-wing talk show hosts on KSFO in San Francisco, part of Disney's ABC radio division. And he wasn't going to let it slide. Spocko posted audio clips and transcripts of the hosts' programs on his blog and decided to hit Disney where it really hurts, by setting out on a letter-writing campaign that led a few blue-chip national advertisers to flee the station. Disney responded with a cease-and-desist letter to Spocko and his ISP, effectively leading to the closing of his web site, "Spocko's Brain".

KSFO is perhaps one of the most ultra-right-wing talk radio stations in America, in contrast to their co-owned, more left-leaning KGO. Spocko alleges that hosts such as Melanie Morgan (pictured), Lee Rogers, Tom Brenner and Brian Sussman endorse torture, bash Muslims, spew racist rhetoric and have even encouraged threats against their 'enemies', such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the editor of the New York Times.

Spocko recorded the station's programming and posted audio files on his site, calling attention to the hate speech. He also began sending letters to KSFO's advertisers, including AT&T, Bank of America, Visa, MasterCard and others, pointing out the station's content and directing them to his blog to hear proof, via his audio files. He also noted that Rogers is the local voice for AT&T radio ads, and that Morgan likewise voices ads for Cingular Wireless.

The campaign was effective. Netflix, MasterCard, Bank of America, and most recently, Visa pulled their advertising from the station. According to Spocko, Federal Express, AT&T and Kaiser Permanente are weighing their departure as well.

Staffers at KSFO fought back. Someone from the station even threatened Spocko, and revealed his true identity on a counter blog. The same person also threatened legal action for posting airchecks of the hosts, as well as violent retaliation. On December 22, corporate stepped in, as ABC Radio's lawyers sent a cease-and-desist order to Spocko and his ISP, claiming unauthorized use of copyrighted material (the sound files). The ISP, trying to avoid legal hassles, gave Spocko one week to pull the sound files, and when he did not comply, citing "Fair Use" copyright provisions, they moved to shut down his site on January 2. Since Spocko lacks the financial resources to take on Disney, Spocko's Brain is currently offline.

What has happened since is likely to mushroom into a full-scale storm. Mike Stark of Calling All Wingnuts brought to light Spocko's situation on Daily Kos. Many other blogs (almost two hundred as of this posting) have also reported on Spocko's plight. As this story unfolds, it could have some serious ramifications on talk radio's ethical responsibility to its advertisers, and most importantly, the community at large. We wish Spocko the best of luck in his fight.

You can read a Google cache of Spocko's site here. Online Blogintegrity has saved the audio files as well.

BIG UPDATE: This thing is blowing up! Since the word got out, roughly 1,400 blogs and news sites have reported on Spocko's plight. Quite a few are now hosting Spocko's audio files of KSFO programming. Mike Stark wrote a few more articles for Daily Kos and Huffington Post (which includes mp3 files). And Spocko's Brain is back online, with Marc Perkel offering to host it. And you can hear snippets of the KSFO audio at YouTube. Whatever side of the political spectrum you may be on, you certainly can't deny that this could be a test case for all independent bloggers and their conflicts with large corporations and entities. Stay tuned.


Interrobang said...

Thank you for the great roundup. I'm a friend of Spocko's, and trying to do as much as I can to help him out. Since he can't be everywhere at once, I'm kind of riding point for him.

You're so right to file this entry under "Stupid Conservatives." Apparently they haven't quite gotten the picture (despite the existence of sites like The Memory Hole, The Smoking Gun, and The Tobacco Papers) that the Internet perceives censorship as damage and routes around it. If they hadn't made a big fuss about this, Spocko would still be a self-described "fifth-tier blog" with "nineteen readers," and now, despite not having a blog anymore, he has guest-blogging gigs on several different blogs (including mine), a featured entry at DailyKos, the attention of MediaMatters and Joe Conason, and about a dozen people offering to host the audio files in question within the first 24 hours. Way to go, guys!

Aeris Gainsborough said...

God, I wish KSFO, could go up the dial (along with 910 AM KNEW, 1220 KNTS, and 650 KSTE, since technically, KSTE has Insanity live, and KSTE can reach San Francisco) to 1690 AM, and those stations are powered down to 1,000 watts, in the daytime, and 100 watts during the night.

Now, there is a offensive "hourly jingle" in 560 KSFO, and it occurs around 11:00 A.M. (this is when the Pig Man is on).

Sometimes, a Pre-Recorded Pig Man says:

"It's 11:00. Time for welfare recipients to get up!!!"

God, I wish KQKE can get that 560 AM slot.

blogicalthought said...

Because one is offended by one's free speech, does that give one the right to try to stop another's free speech?

Does it give one the right to unlawfully steal the personal property of another and disseminate over a public domain?

If one is offended by free speech, one has many options:

1. They can choose to simply not listen to it
2. They can debate the points they don't agree with

That is the premise behind freedom and free speech.

One does NOT have the right to try to squelch or silence free speech. That is facism and that is what the anonymous blogger was trying to do.

My question? Does liberal talk radio really believe that only liberals should have the right to free speech. Because it is exactly what your report is advocating.

Does it mean you only interpret free speech for Democrats?

Scary stuff there, bordering if not being actual facism.

ltr said...

I guess you hate us for our freedom, huh?

blogicalthought, you bring up a good point. And I expected at least one of these kinds of responses to this article, particularly since conservatives are notorious for 'playing the victim'.

So, to answer your question, no, I don't see what Spocko is doing as squelching free speech.

While broadcast properties are indeed a business, and should very well be, they are also licensed from the government, namely the people of the United States. All radio stations have to abide by rules, which strictly govern content that may be seen as offensive. They also maintain what's known as a public file, meaning that if listeners find the station's actions to be irresponsible toward the community, listeners are encouraged to speak up. This goes all the way back to Orson Welles' "War Of The Worlds" broadcast, which sparked widespread panic and riots in 1939.

And I do believe that everyone has the right to free speech. I've always been in favor of conservatives, for example, doing everything in their power to make complete fools of themselves. It's their right. And unlike them, I won't call them 'traitors', 'un-American' or threaten them. That's just plain foolish.

However, Spocko in no way tried to squash KSFO's right to free speech. KSFO can go on doing what they're doing for as long as they want. Hell, they could run it without advertising if they see fit. They've got the money. But companies that advertise with them should realize what exactly it is they're supporting. Are you honestly trying to say that a mere obscure blogger was trying to suppress the right of free speech of THE FRIGGIN' WALT DISNEY COMPANY??? Please step away from the crack pipe! Let's face it, who has the larger voice here? Considering that Disney has the resources and the bigger microphones, I'd say that their freedom of speech is perhaps a bit freer than Spocko's.

Listeners often don't have much say in what goes out over our airwaves. That power goes to the entities that own the broadcast properties. If any broadcast entity uses the airwaves to broadcast offensive, racist and hostile or threatening programming (and yes, I did cite examples of this) then the listening public has the right to not support it. That goes for both sides. And by this, I don't consider some liberal host complaining about Bush to be offensive. Only wingnuts are offended by that. But when hosts start advocation violence toward other racial, ethnic or religious groups or even law-abiding individuals, then that sure sounds like facism to me. Shit, it sounds like al Qaeda to me.

And yes, people can do something about it. They have the right to complain about it. And the right to not support advertisers who sponsor this kind of program. Right-wingers have been doing it for years. Ever hear of Donald Wildmon? He's the wild-eyed evangelist who complained about Mighty Mouse snorting flowers!

And where is this 'stealing' that you're referring to? The argument put forward here is the "fair use" provision of the copyright act. And it sure sounds like the folks at KSFO and Disney are trying to stifle Spocko's right to free speech.

Facism is a pretty heavy term for you to be throwing around so casually. Perhaps you need to look at the big picture instead of playing your 'conservatives good, liberals bad' line. Sounds like you don't support our right to free speech. Now who's the facist here?

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