I Hear Nothing
“Our country is worth all of this,” said Millman, in reference to both the cost of the advertising and the frigid conditions he and a small group of supporters endured Saturday afternoon during a quiet protest outside Clear Channel’s Albany headquarters."
photo: Chris Shields
Posted January 13, 2 005
By: Rick Marshall
After initial resistance, conservative talk bastion WGY-AM agrees to accept a series of locally produced issue ads
Sample an average day’s programming on local Clear Channel talk-radio station WGY-AM 810, and you can expect to hear some unique perspectives on the current headlines and social issues. From women’s rights (“I’ve always loved the women’s movement, especially when I’m walking behind it—it’s when you look at a bunch of feminists from the front that it gets a bit more difficult,” reasoned afternoon host Rush Limbaugh recently) to the psychology of abuse (“Can you be a monogamous pedophile?” asked morning host Glenn Beck), WGY and Clear Channel would appear to place few limits on the subject matter they broadcast into homes, cars and offices around the region. Yet, as Glenville resident Robert Millman recently discovered, some topics are still too taboo for the WGY listening audience.
“This is a paid radio moment,” begins Millman in one of seven 30-second “issue ads” that he recorded, produced and negotiated air time for on WGY. “We’re all nervous about losing our jobs—even politicians. But they can cut a deal to keep their jobs safe. When politicians redraw voting districts, they choose where your vote goes, and they get elected again and again.
“And before they retire, they choose where your vote goes next,” continues Millman. “That’s what redistricting is: a way to steal your vote.”
The ads, which Millman planned to air during both the station’s morning drive programming and—in the case of one ad—during Limbaugh’s afternoon show, addressed a variety of topics including the deficit and voting irregularities (“Voter suppression isn’t a strategy,” says the ad. “It’s a crime”), as well as the war in Iraq and Christianity. And in the spirit of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is, Millman agreed to pony up more than $700 of his money to get the short statements heard.
“I’m not afraid of discourse,” he explained. “I’m more than happy to stack my idea of what’s right against anyone else’s in a public forum.”
Clear Channel and WGY, however, seemed less than thrilled about their
conservative-friendly format becoming such a forum. Along with right-wing pundits Limbaugh and Beck, WGY’s programming includes shows hosted by Michael Savage and Sean Hannity, two radio personalities who have made a career out of bashing—whether on-air, in print or in person—anyone who questions the current administration’s ideology.
“Unfortunately, our programming staff would not approve your ads,” wrote a Clear Channel spokesperson after Millman submitted the recorded statements. The notice gave no further explanation for the rejection.
According to Millman, repeated inquiries about which ads—or portions of the ads—were deemed objectionable, as well as offers to change the ads’ style or content, went unanswered by station officials. It wasn’t until he sent a letter to Clear Channel CEO John Hogan in San Antonio that he finally received a response from the station’s local representatives, said Millman.
“WGY has the right to accept or refuse paid advertisements at the management’s discretion,” wrote Greg Foster, operations manager and program director for Clear Channel Radio in Albany, in a short e-mail response to Millman received shortly after Millman’s letter arrived in San Antonio.
And while Foster’s statement is indeed true—radio stations have the right to reject any advertisement based upon its subject matter—Millman and other free-speech advocates took to the snowy streets last weekend to vent their frustration over what they see as partisan bias in the station’s programming.
“Our country is worth all of this,” said Millman, in reference to both the cost of the advertising and the frigid conditions he and a small group of supporters endured Saturday afternoon during a quiet protest outside Clear Channel’s Albany headquarters. The group later placed black tape over their mouths and stood, American flag held high amid falling snow, next to the station’s entrance.
While Millman acknowledged that the station’s refusal was perfectly legal, he questioned Foster’s added assertion (from the previously mentioned e-mail message) that “WGY operates without religious or political agenda.”
“The topics of my issue ads . . . deficit spending, right to vote, oil dependence, the Iraq war, dissent and Christianity . . . are all subjects regularly discussed on WGY,” reasoned Millman. “But what I’m saying about [these issues] doesn’t agree with the half-truths Rush Limbaugh and the rest are telling us.”
And Millman’s persistence in his quest to get alternative viewpoints on the local airwaves might soon pay off, as a conspicuously more agreeable WGY recently agreed to air the ads—provided Millman includes his e-mail address or other contact information at the end of his statement.
“I know I’m not the only one who’s disappointed with both the radical right and the Democrats these days,” laughed Millman. “So if this lets some of them know that we’re not all happy about the direction the country is headed, I consider it money well spent.”
Numerous calls to Clear Channel and WGY for comment were not returned.
By Rick Marshall - firstname.lastname@example.org
and Metroland Magazine, Albany, New York. Link to article in Metroland Magazine,
Albany - http://www.metroland.net/newsfront.html#2
Letter By: Robert Millman
I’ve had enough of the radical right, vote suppression and the failures of our
current government. For me, it’s time to do something about it.
Starting in early
January, I am putting progressive issue ads on WGY, an AM radio
. Anyone who wants to do the same (in
or anywhere else) is welcome to use the ads I’ve created.
It isn’t difficult
to put an issue ad on the radio. All it takes is an e-mail address, a credit
card, and access to a fax machine.
Issue Ad Topics:
1. DEFICIT SPENDING
3. JUSTIFICATION FOR WAR
4. RIGHT TO VOTE
5. SUSTAINABLE ENERGY
I believe that the ideas expressed in these 30 second recordings will resonate
with anyone who values fair play and good government. And to repeat, they are
available to anyone. My one condition for use is that any spot must be played in
its entirety, other than that; I offer them for public use.
If this idea appeals to you, send me an e-mail and I will send all 7 audio files
to you in mp3 format. Your return e-mail must be able to accept attachments
totaling 3.25 MB. And if you like them I invite anyone to post them on a web
site for public downloads.
We are in a war of ideas, and fair play is a potent idea.
Please forward this letter,