Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More news, in bite-size pieces

And now, with apologies to Paul Harvey, is the rest of the story.

First, we start with an Air America Radio host who has evidently inspired a new movie. No, I'm not talking about Stuart Saves His Family. This one is a documentary. The 11th Hour, created, produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio. The film is an environmental film, somewhat in the spirit of last year's Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth. It features former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, physicist Stephen Hawking and others. And it was inspired by Thom Hartmann's book, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight. DiCaprio admitted this in a guest appearance on Hartmann's show last Friday (8/17).

"You really got me, as a reader, to take a step back and try to understand how this all came about and where oil is extracted from," said DiCaprio. "The light that fell on the fields was the most that humanity could use in a certain amount of time -- and when we actually started taking this ancient sunlight out of the ground was when our population exploded on this mass level... and has led us to the situation that we’re in today. So thank you for your book, truly. It made me want to take a different perspective on this documentary as far as mankind’s relationship to the planet, and the resources that we use."

For his part, Hartmann is helping to promote the film, making appearances in Los Angeles and New York for the opening weekend, as well as a planned promotional appearance in San Francisco this week. Hartmann appears in the film as well.

You can check out the trailer here.

And speaking of Air America hosts branching out into the visual media, we check in with former Majority Report co-host Janeane Garofalo, who has, ironically, been added to the cast of the slowly fading "24" on FOX this fall. The show, which is some sort of Tom Clancyesque spy yarn about civil servants yelling and sweating in high-tech control rooms while its sleepless hero beats the shit out of terrorists, is produced by Joel Surnow, a self-confessed "right-wing nut job" fresh of his fizzled unfunny comedy "The Half Hour News Hour," recently shelved by FOX News Channel. Granted, Garafalo hasn't been with Air America in well over a year (and probably longer than that), though some disturbingly obsessed souls still seem to think she's there. Go figure.

Anyhoo, the seventh season of "24" will premiere on FOX sometime this decade, possibly in January 2008.

And back to current Air America shows, as Orlando attorney John Morgan is the newest addition to Ring of Fire, joining Mike Papantonio and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Out is David Bender, who is leaving the network to work on a book.

Morgan, also a consumer advocate, entrepreneur and self-described "Democrat on strike," made his debut on the show this past weekend.

He decided the time was right to jump into radio, thinking that more people are tuning out conservative commentators. "They're saying: 'We drank the Kool-Aid. And now we're sick.'" Morgan will appear on the show, which airs Saturday afternoons from 3-6P ET, via his own radio studio in his downtown Orlando law office.

And finally, resident GM hater Ralph Nader is hopping mad once again. No, they're not bringing back the Corvair. This time, Nader is going straight to government regulators in regard to what he deems payola on the part of General Motors.

It seems that GM is lending out cars and purchasing advertising on a variety of radio shows. They've offered cars to the likes of AM radio staples such as Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, 'Dr.' Laura Schlessinger and Sean Hannity. Representing the FM side of the medium are Whoopi Goldberg (yeah, she's in radio), overrated, lame-ass Dick Clark wannabe Ryan Seacrest and a few local radio personalities in Los Angeles and Dallas. And representing the left are none other than Ed Schultz (wait! I thought he was a Ford guy!) and Bill Press.

With this little offering, a fine line is being crossed. The FCC recently cracked down on the practice called ''payola,'' which involves the giving of lavish gifts from record labels to program directors to pimp their latest piece of shit hit recordings on FM radio. In April, four of the largest U.S. radio companies agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle these claims.

So, how exactly does talk radio fit into this whole payola thing? Is it payola? Well, we are comparing apples to oranges somewhat. The recording industry was using bribery to get their music played on the radio, while GM is going after independent radio show hosts, buying advertising time, loaning them cars and encouraging them to say nice things about them. Is this wrong? On many levels, yes. But is it illegal? I guess that's what we'll soon find out. If I were a prominent radio host, would I do it? Well, um, that new Corvette is nice.

What's interesting is the role that journalism plays in all of this. O'Reilly passes himself off as one. Hannity also hosts a show on FOX Noise Channel. With most of the rest, it seems like a fine line between journalism and entertainment (which in my opinion is really what talk radio is about).

Of course, no self-respecting 'journalist' would accept a gift such as this. But these people are not really journalists. Only O'Reilly really claims to be one, so I guess this settles that matter once and for all. Regardless, is this where the line between 'journalist' and 'radio talk show host' finally ceases to blur? I won't pass final judgement just now, as this is such a grey area. I am a bit suspicious of a host accepting a free car from a manufacturer that often makes the news. There is that whole 'conflict of interest' cloud looming large over all of this. Will Schultz, for example, be torn between saying nice things about GM and commenting frankly on union issues regarding the manufacturer? Or is this all just similar to a really big advertising buy on the show? In this case, I'll report, you decide, and I'll most certainly welcome your comments below.


Lu Cifer said...

What blew my mind about Fox Nazi "News" is how Pukert Murdoch spend $100,000,000.00 A YEAR to keep that crap network on the air for it's first FIVE YEARS of existence, until it then started (somehow!) churning a profit! Let's ponder that, shall we!? That ads up to...HALF A BILLION BUCKS! JUST to keep a PROPAGANDA NETWORK on the air! Great use of money, huh? Thanks for absolutely NOTHING Rupert. Godsakes, that couldn't have been spent to help HOMELESS PEOPLE or people with AIDS or CANCER or wahtever...no no no, keeping HATE on the air, THAT was this guy's priority. Disgusting.

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