Squawkers Give Radio Waves To Stealth Advertisers

Conservative talk-radio hosts, according to Politico, are peppering their commentary with paid plugs from think tanks looking for donors.

If you’re a regular listener of Glenn Beck’s radio show and you wanted to contribute to a political group that would advance the populist conservative ideals he touts on his show, you’d have plenty of reason to think that FreedomWorks was your best investment.

But if you’re a fan of Mark Levin’s radio show, you’d have just as much cause to believe that Americans for Prosperity, a FreedomWorks rival, was the most effective conservative advocacy group. And, if Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity are who you listen to, you’d be hearing a steady stream of entreaties to support the important work of the Heritage Foundation.

That’s not coincidence. In search of donations and influence, the three prominent conservative groups are paying hefty sponsorship fees to the popular talk show hosts. Those fees buy them a variety of promotional tie-ins, as well as regular on-air plugs – praising or sometimes defending the groups, while urging listeners to donate – often woven seamlessly into programming in ways that do not seem like paid advertising.

Or sometimes that does, as in this clip from Beck’s radio show (plug starts around 6:45):

But that’s the exception that proves the rule.

So, you’re thinking, talk radio has more plugs than Joe Biden’s head. So what?

So this: when you hear radio hosts flacking this teeth-whitening service or that lawn & garden center, those are clearly promotional messages the host is paid to deliver.

But start tossing around the policy positions of a think tank, and the lines get a lot blurrier.

The hardworking staff has long believed that right-wing radio was selling listeners a bill of goods. We just didn’t realize how far it went.

Originally posted in Sneak ADtack

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4 Responses to Squawkers Give Radio Waves To Stealth Advertisers

  1. Laurence Glavin says:

    I’m not a lawyer, I don’t even play one on TV, but don’t these blurbs constitute pay-for-play ads? During the segment linked with this story, Beck does say he’s going to read a spot for the, um “non-profit Freedom Works and their website”. But from then on, did he promote the entity WITHOUT mentioning their payments to him? The estimable Media Matters for America frequently cites tie-ins between the Fox Right-wing Propaganda Network television hosts and special interests, and they may reach more people than the radio hosts do. Typically, radio audiences are more ephemeral (even those listening to AM) while television viewers settle in for an hour or two, as I will tonight to Lawrence and Rachel (I now have Current TV and will hunker down with Keith next Monday and yes I did read David Carr’s story in today’s Times), thus missing the Broonz game. Actually I won’t MISS it because I don’t care who wins, and shouldn’t the police be guarding the populace from those hooligans attending the Boston Early Music Festival? Have you ever seen mobs after hours and hours of Frescobaldi and Hildegard von Bingen?. Anyway,getting back to the subject at hand, is it about time for the toothless tiger that is the FCC to look into this?

  2. Laurence Glavin says:

    How can I be WRONG when I write that “I don’t care who wins”? It’s almost a question of epistemology…I can state a “truth” about some objective fact and you can argue about that, but not about a pure opinion. I don’t connect spectator sports teams to the cities whose names are imprinted on the uniforms of players usually from elsewhere. When I was a yute, my father took me to some Red Sox games, but I outgrew that brush with fandom early, and have NEVAH under my own power been to a Red Sox game, Patriots game (even when tickets were cheap and readily available), Celtics game or Broonz game. When I observed that the channel that calls itself channel 5 (really channel 20) was providing coverage of the aftermath of the game, I watched Jimmy Kimmel on NH’s channel 9 (which is still on channel 9). BTW, I heard you on WBUR discussing social networking sites; Kimmel has built a career of ridiculing Facebook, which apparently has suffered some declines in usage. I only use it to connect to websites and blogs that require it.

    • Campaign Outsider says:

      I’m saying it’s wrong not to care about the Bruins, Laurence. Can’t argue with that, right?

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