Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Adventures in right-wing radio

Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at a typical conservative talk radio station? Well, former WABC host Richard Bey, a liberal talker who later hosted a morning show for rival WWRL, is spilling the beans, via a New York radio message board.

What prompted the following diatribe is the recent sudden resignation of Phil Boyce, program director of the biggest conservative talk station in the country, WABC in New York. Boyce is often credited (or blamed, based on one's perspective) for the rise of Sean Hannity and other reactionary talk show hosts. While others on the site, which serves mostly as a tribute to WABC's past heritage as one of the biggest Top 40 stations in the country, sung the praises of the talk programmer, Bey had another story to tell, that of an insecure man who absolutely loathed liberals.

A reader forwarded this link to me, suggesting I save it immediately, fearing the pro-WABC board operator would remove it. Just in case it is removed, here are the three posts by Bey:

Posted by Richard Bey on October 12, 2008 at 16:11:12:

The Phil Boyce depicted here bears little resemblance to the petty, vindictive and ruthlessly ideological man I worked with for almost four years. If one was not a right winger one was treated poorly by Boyce. He was not a hands on PD, but rather seemed a lonely insecure man who spent much of his time in the office reading and writing emails to listeners. Over the years I was there his most substantive contribution to our show was the ridiculous idea to change its name to ‘The Osama Hour.”

I was well liked and remain friends with most employees at the station from board ops to call screeners and producers. When Boyce asked WABC hosts to show up for a live Mike Gallagher broadcast at Condemi Motors, I was the only host to drive over and sit in for the show on my day off. I appeared at every station promotion requested, even picking up and driving home hosts and staff to WABC events without reimbursement.

I made every effort to support the station and its lineup but for Boyce I had the wrong ideology. If one was not a supportive Dominionist right winger one was treated on a level that was below second class.

His petty discriminations were there from the beginning though I never complained. At the station every conservative received work places and desks. After asking politely if he could show me a secure drawer where I could stash headphones and research Boyce brusquely told me to go out and find one myself. One day he called Steve and me in for a meeting at 3 pm and kept us waiting outside his office until 5:45 while he sat flirtatiously talking with a pretty women who had written a book on relationships. Finally, after almost three hours, when I mentioned that his disregard for us was inconsiderate, rather than apologize, he exploded that Mitch Dolan did the same to him, keeping him waiting so late that he missed his train home. “Did I KNOW HOW THAT FELT?!?” he ranted, eyes wide. Unfortunately, yes, I did. At other times Boyce had the veins sticking out his neck complaining to Steve and me that ‘we were not loyal enough to him’ and that he ‘paid us boys good money to work for him’ and we should show him more gratitude. He would threaten Steve by demanding he think about his son and how would he eat if he was fired. Such petulant rants were puerile and sad, rather than scary. It was a sorry sight to observe someone who craved so much reassurance of his worth and importance.

Posted by Richard Bey on October 12, 2008 at 16:12:35:

After I was fired, Boyce remained vindictive and small. KABC called and offered me a part time job as a fill in host. Twice they booked me and twice I was cancelled, after the second time I was told Boyce would not allow me to use a studio at WABC. When I filled in for Jim Bohannon at Westwood 1, their management told my agent that Boyce had ‘trashed me up and down’.

According to the Pueblo Chieftain, Boyce visits and confers with fellow Dominionist James Dobson when returning to Pueblo, Colorado. He refers in that article to Dobson as “one of his favorites” and indeed his relationship to the Dobson Dominionist empire does influence his stewardship. Recently, in the NY Daily News, Boyce asserted that it was the influence of his right wing radio hosts that pressured McCain to choose Sarah Palin for the ticket. Dobson originally said he would not endorse McCain but did so after Boyce’s minions pressured him into adding Palin. When Bruce Anderson went on vacation, Boyce would fly in a guy all the way from Colorado to sit in for him. It was embarrassing to hear this amateur with no knowledge of NYC or its politics try to prepare a NY broadcast in a high pitched and unprofessional voice. His first name escapes me but his last name was ‘Trout’. Later I learned that Mike Trout was the co-host of ‘Focus on the Family’ with Dr. Dobson for 15 years until the discovery that he was cheating on his wife. Perhaps there is no connection between the ‘Trouts’ from Colorado. But I doubt it.

Boyce used his position as PD to create a cadre that was loyal to him, not to the company we worked for, nor to the listeners, nor to our obligation to tell them the truth. During later years at WABC it was becoming clear that there would be no more Flippers. On my show new hires as board ops and call screeners were now radical conservatives. Even the new interns at the station in many cases were imported from red states with conservative political credentials. One call screener was a young waitress Boyce met delivering his food at the diner. Boyce did to that station what Gonzales did to the justice department, hiring based on ideology and personal loyalty rather than talent and competence. Boyce did hire his daughter’s young boyfriend from Oklahoma to produce Batchelor and Alexander and later promoted him to the John Gambling show. When his daughter dumped the boyfriend for Andrew Wilcow, the old boyfriend was fired and the new boyfriend was given his own show. The old boyfriend was even forbidden at the last minute from attending the company Christmas party to say goodbye to his old friends because Boyce’s daughter would be there with her new boyfriend. Talk about Mayberry Machiavellis!

When Hannity was in tough negotiations with ABC Network, Boyce took Hannity’s side against the corporation (something I’ve never seen a PD do in 25 years of broadcasting). When Hannity refused to do his live reads (in violation of his contract) throwing them on the floor and storming out of the studio, Boyce blamed the board-op and threatened him with firing.

Observe the evolution of this station: David Limbaugh (Rush’s brother) is the lawyer and negotiator for Hannity, Hannity’s friend, cohort and frequent guest Mark Levin gets his two hour lead out. That’s eight hours of broadcasting all connected by inter-personal as well as political relationships. Boyce was the gardener for a media kudzu that strangled all life out of real political argument at WABC.

Posted by Richard Bey on October 12, 2008 at 16:15:28:

Tim McCarthy was GM at the time. He called me at home to talk about my firing. He was a complete gentleman, a real leader and a consummate broadcasting professional who allowed Boyce to take credit for several of HIS broadcast ideas. He did this because, unlike Boyce, he does not need the constant deference and reassurance of toadying co-workers. I would work with Tim again anywhere, anytime so this is not sour grapes about a dismissal.

The assertion that what we hear on WABC these days is entertainment is ludicrous. It is in denial of the stated assertions of Boyce and his hosts. Recently, Boyce asserted in the NY Daily News that “McCain would not have picked Palin if it weren’t for pressure from talk radio” Hannity asserted on FoxNews that he was a ‘journalist’. The hosts proudly crowed about killing Congress’ immigration bill, eliciting a complaint from the former Republican Senate leader about their undue influence.. Anyone who thinks this is entertainment needs a trip to Blockbuster to rent Elia Kazan’s ‘A FACE IN THE CROWD’.

I have often been accused of dumbing down television with my old syndicated program and indeed my show was followed by imitators in daytime and now in primetime. It’s my opinion that my show had a satirical edge that is always lacking in its imitators but I most probably will never escape the stereotype that I was in part responsible for lowering the standards of television. So be it. In any respect, the standards of daytime TV were never particularly high.

Boyce is responsible for something far more serious. Lowering the standards of talk radio to the most simplistic and inaccurate of baselines, lowering them to a level where every issue is stereotyped as US vs. the Other, lowering them and supercharging them with the most base and dangerous of human emotions: hatred and fear.

One may observe its repercussions in the hateful shouts of those at current political rallies where cries of ‘Terrorist!’, ‘Kill him’ and “Traitor!” ring out across the auditorium. These poor ignorant angry people have been primed to explode by the handiwork of Boyce and his cadre.

That is his legacy.


FSL said...

Bey's characterization of Phil Boyce is spot on. If you doubt this, do a search on Radio-Info for Boyce's posts.

Lest we forget, however, Bey sold out a long time ago when he became an infomercial pitchman and did a Springeresque tabloid trailer-trash talk show.

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