San Francisco blogger Spocko, by reposting some of the more controversial sound clips from Melanie Morgan and other KSFO 560 AM personalities, in 2006 convinced several major advertisers to pull their accounts from the station. ABC, which owned the station at the time, in turn convinced Spocko’s Internet hosting company – by threatening it with a copyright-infringement lawsuit – to axe the blog.
UPDATE @ 6:06 P.M. WEDNESDAY: See my newest posting on this, with comments from KSFO’s marketing director and other info, here.
Spocko, long since back in business on another hosting company, responded to my request for a comment in the wee hours of this morning, but I only just now found it (having been in court and reporting all day on the same-sex marriage issue).
Read Spocko’s thoughts, after the jump…
“KSFO was unable to renew Melanie’s contract because of across-the-board budget cuts mandated by our parent company,” Hmmm, how…emotionless. Of course that is how they will position it because they don’t want anyone to know the real role KSFO’s hosts played in Citadel’s poor financial showing. What do I mean?
At a macro level last year KSFO was in the middle of a 2.7 billion dollar deal where Disney spun out ABC radio station to sell them to Cidadel. The number one source of revenue for the ABC Radio network is advertising. With Disney gone they will no longer have the brand muscle to sell bulk ads or the deep pockets to sustain them from other sources during down times.
During this critical time in the transition Morgan, Rodgers, “Officer Vic” and Brian Sussman made international headlines with their horrific comments. No other ABC Radio station had such high negative publicity during this period. This bad publicity cost them money. A lot of it. They won’t say exactly how many but based on my letters at least 28 advertisers left. Major national advertisers like Visa, Mastercard, Bank of America, In and Out Burger, Borders Books and FedEX pulled their ads. Many advertisers finally decided that this kind of radio is not a safe place to advertise on, especially given the possibly that prior to or following one of their ads one or more of the hosts will joke about:
someone being raped in prison torturing someone burning a person alive blowing someones brains out after being tortured tracking down and killing their critics.
Advertisers found out they had alternatives and didn’t need to run the risk of being the corporate sponsor behind the people who joke about electrocuting journalists or calling for the death of millions of Muslims.
What I also want to point out is how active the management was in supporting these horrific comments. Instead of asking the hosts to tone down their violent rhetoric, they decided to embrace those views. How do I know? Well first they deciding to have my blog shut down with a bogus copyright claim and then they threating me with financial ruin. All this rather than asking the hosts to refrain from talking about killing people on the air. Also, Lee Rodgers revealed on the air last fall that the Disney lawyers wanted him to apologize for his comments during the very special 3 hour “Get Spocko” show on January 12th, 2007 but he refused. (I have the clip somewhere if you want to hear) Rodgers could not have done that without the full support of station management. Of course Jack Swanson, Operations Manager,for KSFO who is Morgan’s husband would support them, but only someone as powerful as Mickey Luckoff, President and GM of KGO/KSFO could have made the decision to keep Rodgers, Sussman, “Officer Vic” and Morgan after what they said AND the dozens of lost advertisers they cost the entire station.
I doubt Luckoff paid any price for his decision to embrace the horrific comments by his “hot talk’ hosts. Most likely he will pretend he is a champion of diverse “free speech” rather than a purveyor of violent rhetoric that seeks only to divide and enrage for advertiser gold.
Will The Station’s Story Change? Will Morgan’s?
Positioned as a cost cutting measure Morgan should not be able to play victim and cry about being”silenced by her critics” (although that might stop her). Saying your speech is silenced is always a nice rallying cry that even liberal “platitude free speech” supporters get behind. (As someone who ACTUALLY had a corporation shut down my blog, I know the difference between having your speech silenced and not getting your contract renewed on commercially supported radio.) I like to point out that Morgan’s speech was always a privilege granted to her by the public when she is on the broadcast airwaves. In addition . Morgan spent years viciously attacking liberals, democrats, journalists and anti-war activists like Cindy Sheehan. When I finally alerted advertisers to her horrific comments they pulled their ads. Morgan may cry that she is a victim of censorship from those nasty liberals, yet we had no power to fire her, it was KSFO/KGO management and the advertisers who chose to “silence” her. Morgan has no one to blame but herself for the station losing money when the advertisers chose to go elsewhere rather than be associated with her and her co-hosts.
Blaming it on the parent company avoids taking responsibility for her own role in losing advertisers. And just how horrific were her comments compared to others? Her parent company decided to hire Don Imus! They were willing to back a man known for racist and sexist comments, yet they got rid of Morgan. Perhaps people should note that one way they decided to pay for the multi-million dollar salary of Imus will be by getting rid of hosts who are more repugnant than Imus.
Why Morgan and not Rodgers, Sussman or “Officer Vic”?
It is curious to me that Morgan was the one whose contract was not renewed. Lee Rodgers, “Officer Vic” and Brian Sussman were also responsible for KSFO’s loss of over 28 national and local advertisers in 2007 because of their violent rhetoric and anti-Muslim comments. Yes some advertisers were replaced, but a local ad might not pay as much as a national. Why are they still employed? Perhaps Citadel still sees them as an asset and not a liability. Maybe they are paid less and are cheaper to keep.
Since you are the political and legal affairs reporter you might also want to ask if there was any question about Morgan using KSFO as a cash register for her organization. Morgan blurred the line daily with her endorsement of candidates one second and her begging for money for Move America Forward the next. I did some research into this topic and the one thing that the head of a 501 c 3 is NOT supposed to do is endorse a candidate. She did on more than one occasion. I’m sure she would find some line of reasoning to explain how she was not speaking as the head of MAF but as an ABC Radio employee when she endorsed Fred Thompson (even though her identification as MAF’s head was 10 seconds before her endorsement.)
Since you mentioned Code Pink and the Berkeley Marine recruiting site in your story I will also bring up another area that I was concerned about for some time. If you gather a group of people for the express purpose of “fighting back” against peaceful protesters and someone then is hurt or dies, are the people who used the public air waves to assemble them responsible?
Are the bosses of those people, who are aware of and encourage these activities, responsible? In addition to using KSFO as a cash register for MAF, Morgan used it to verbally attack anti-war activists. On October 8th I wrote to Citadel management about Morgan’s using the public airwaves to gather a bunch of people for the express purpose of a “show down” at “high noon” and asked them if someone is seriously injured at a MAF/Gathering Of Eagles event that was promoted on their station by their employees, who do they think was going to be financially libel?
I spoke to the Code Pink leader in Berkeley after the October 17th MAF counter protest in Berkeley. She told me that during the “show down” at “high noon” (Morgan’s words) someone from Morgan’s camp pulled a knife and slashed the cord to Medea Benjamin’s microphone. I asked them to file a police report for future reference, but I’m not sure anyone did.
I fully expect Morgan to pop up again in some other venue. I’d like to hope that her brand of vitriol will not find decent corporate sponsors in the future. Maybe a Scaife funded “think tank” will snap her up and she won’t have to worry about disgusting her sponsors or rabid fans.
As I said in my last post before the “Get Spocko” show, their time is over.
From now on, for the rest of this station’s time in this format and Morgan’s time in the public eye they will always be “that station” and “that woman” and a little asterisk* will be next to their name in computers of the hard working media buyers and savvy ad agency’s around the world to tell them, “Be careful who you put on This Station. Be careful who you use to read your product promos. Don’t associate your brand with them, it is bad for the brand.”