Thursday, November 09, 2006

UPDATE: More advertisers respond to AAR blacklist accusations

A few weeks back, a storm erupted in the blogosphere when an internal ABC Radio Networks memo was leaked out into the open, detailing what many referred to as, essentially, an advertiser blacklist targeting Air America Radio.

The memo angered many on the left, who saw it as yet another example of liberal talk radio being kept down while right-wing radio was being shoved down their throats.

Air America considers the memo 'business as usual'. "This is nothing new. We have been dealing with this since we launched two years ago. It is unfortunate that some advertisers are afraid of supporting the progressive voice in this country," wrote station spokeswoman Jaime Horn in an email to the Pasadena Weekly last week.

Some have questioned the legitimacy of the memo. However, I have seen similar memos myself, and I will attest to its legitimacy. It is the real deal.
ABC did not deny its existence, claiming that they do not do the blacklisting themselves, but only cater to their clients' wishes.

But, as I mentioned previously, there is an explanation for all of this.

First of all, many have wondered what exactly ABC has to do with all of this. After all, ABC does not carry progressive talk programming on any of their owned-and-operated stations. ABC Radio Networks syndicates a wide array of programming in various formats. They also syndicate ABC News updates to affiliates. And they also have a different kind of syndication service, national ad buys, which air on affiliates nationwide. Here's how it all works: ABC Radio acts as its own ad selling agency, geared toward national advertisers. Westwood One (CBS) and Premiere Radio (Clear Channel) do this too. The network then sends the national spots to stations across the country. This enables national companies like Wal-Mart, Oreck, Coca-Cola and many others to efficiently place ad buys without having to go to each of the thousands of stations across the country. Then the affiliates air the commercials and get their cut.

Of course, advertisers can specify which radio formats they would like their ads to air on, effectively targeting whatever listener demographics they want to reach. For example, the makers of Secret deodorant would obviously like to reach female consumers, so they aim more toward, say, woman-friendly adult contemporary stations than male-oriented sports talk formats. Some companies desire certain formats and shun others.

The main purpose of dissecting this memo should be to see if there is any kind of bias against Air America and the progressive/liberal talk format in general, rather than companies that just don't plain advertise on talk radio.

While ABC admitted that advertising blackout lists are common for more than just Air America, they declined to discuss any lists related to the conservative Sean Hannity and Larry Elder shows.

Media activists Josh Silver and Robert McChesney, co-founders of the media reform group Free Press, are alarmed.

"The crime isn't that Air America is partisan," they wrote in an article for the blog Huffington Post. "It gives airtime to reports that are critical of corporations and the powerful politicians they keep in Washington. This is the heart of the problem: Air America commits a crime called journalism."

One of the companies on the list, REI, claims that it had no knowledge of their being on the blacklist.

Another, Office Depot, is a major sponsor of the Ed Schultz Show, which airs on many Air America affiliates.

Some of the other advertisers on this list, however, say they aren't blacklisting Air America -- just making different choices.

The US Navy avoids news and talk-formatted radio stations, preferring to target stations that potential recruits are more likely to listen to (which makes sense, since teenagers aren't known for being heavy listeners to talk radio).

Others, such as Nestle and HP, try to stay out of political talk altogether, preferring to avoid controversial programming that may alienate customers.

Staff at, a popular Internet dating service based in Pasadena and founded by evangelical Christian activist and author Neil Clark Warren, did not comment. They do, however, advertise on conservative talk programs.

As mentioned here previously, Allstate, Aventis, Bank Of America, Bayer, Chattem, Cingular, Clorox, Dell, eHarmony, ExxonMobil, Farmers Insurance Group FedEx, General Electric, Gillette, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hyatt, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, McDonalds, Merck/Schering-Plough, MGM, Michelin, Office Depot, Paramount, Philip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, Nissan, Red Lobster, RE/MAX, Rentway, Sherwin-Williams, Sony, State Farm Insurance,, True Value, United Healthcare Services, Visa, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and Wyeth are among the listed companies that advertise on the FOX News Channel, home of such controversial and polarizing conservative-leaning shows as The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes, according to the website Spending Liberally.

See also:

Internal document reveals Air America advertiser blacklist

ABC, REI respond to Air America blacklist memo

This article and the previous two on this topic are linked at


Anonymous said...

I've read this over and over at the "jumpier" LW blogs. Thanks for the excellent clarigification.

Positive reinforcement always wins, so it is sad that AAR supporters, indeed those that clearly support LW causes, may get hurt by this.

the internet may be the savior of a free press, but we've got to question, question, question.

Great work--thank you.

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