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When Commercial Radio Calls

December 17, 2010

A few days ago I received an interesting call from a representative of Citadel Radio, which owns four stations in Grand Rapids.

The reasons for his call was prompted by reading a story I wrote for Recoil magazine (also posted here) about Clear Channel’s decision to eliminate a locally produced show and fill that three-hour slot with syndicated Radio Talk Show personality Glen Beck.

The Citadel spokesperson was responding to my criticism of WOOD radio’s decision to include Beck to a line up that already included Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity. He wanted to assure me that Citadel had a commitment to local programming and that the only program they air that I would find objectionable would be the Mark Levin show.

First, I found it interesting that he would call me at all. The Citadel spokesperson did not bother to note that besides writing for Recoil I have been doing local media watchdog work with GRIID for the past 12 years.

Second, had the Citadel spokesperson bothered to find out more about my politics he would realize that I would object to more than just the Mark Levin show. It is true that I would object to the content of Mark Levin’s show. Levin is included in Rory O’Connor’s important book Shock Jocks, as one of the more racist radio commentator’s in the country. One only has to spend a few minutes on Levin’s webpage to see that he advocates for far right politics.

However, in looking at the four stations that Citadel runs in the Grand Rapids market there isn’t much local about what is broadcast. The station owns WBBL (talk sports radio), WLAV (Classic Rock), HOTFM (pop music station) and WJRW. WJRW went through a major facelift within the past year shifting to talk radio, but with content that is reflective of much of the local radio shows.

Besides the far right ranting of Mark Levin, WJRW also has former Congressman and President candidate Fred Thompson, Jim Bohannon and Allen Hunt, all of which could be included in the right/conservative politic camp.

In addition, WJRW has a show hosted by the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, local businessman Tommy Brann, Tony Gates and WZZM 13 news anchor Lee Van Ameyde. Sure these are all local programs, but the content and politics of each of these four programs are clearly in line with the same reactionary politics of Mark Levin.

For instance, Lee Van Ameyde does not hide his political conservatism. When talk show host Sean Hannity visited Grand Rapids years ago, WZZM 13 allowed him to broadcast his show from their location. Van Ameyde about fell out of his chair telling viewers that “Sean Hannity sat in this very seat.”

Van Ameyde, like most TV news-readers tends to have contempt for the general viewing population. At a GR Summit on Racism breakout session in 2002 Van Ameyde admitted that WZZM 13 dumbed down the news to a fourth grade level, since that it what they think they average level of intelligence is of their viewers. Now, I’m not sure how they can make such determinations, but having monitored channel 13’s content for 10 years I would agree that they do news at a low intelligence level.

While I am sure that the Citadel Radio spokesperson was hoping to win points with GRIID on wanting to distance themselves from the likes of Glen Beck, any reasonable person would conclude that the content of WJRW is not much different than WOOD radio, locally produced or not.



6 Comments leave one →
  1. george bradford permalink
    December 18, 2010 4:59 pm

    “First, I found it interesting that he would call me at all. The Citadel spokesperson did not bother to note that besides writing for Recoil I have been doing local media watchdog work with GRIID for the past 12 years.”

    It makes sense that someone from Citadel would be reading Recoil and not GRIID.ORG (and therefore not know about GRIID’s history) given that the newspaper has a much larger circulation and is relevant Citadel’s business. I also can’t fault them for not finding out more about your politics as there is no statement of politics on this website. The “about” section is pretty darn vague.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    December 18, 2010 11:43 pm

    George, I don’t think that the “about GRIID” section is vague, it simply lays out the areas of work we engage in. Had the Citadel spokesperson bothered to read any of my site they would have known the politics of GRIID.

  3. george bradford permalink
    December 20, 2010 1:59 pm

    I’m confused. You use “we” and then “my”; when I look at the recent articles different people have written blogs (including the most commented one on the GR Press). Is GRIID just you? Do your politics represent the other writers?

    Looking at those blogs, I (possibly like the Citadel person) am confused about the politics. There is one thing that is pretty far to the left: the Cop 16 blog, but that wasn’t written by GRIID. My guess is that this is a liberal blog, but it’s hard to know where it falls on the political spectrum.

  4. george bradford permalink
    December 20, 2010 2:10 pm

    Regarding vagueness….

    Are you familar with the Media Research Center? They do the similar things as you seem to do from a conservative perspective. They are a “media watchdog” and they believe that the media is “failing” them, just as GRIID’s about page argues that the media “can misinform the public on critical issues.”

    Without stating your politics, the about section is just a collection of vague words and concepts. Who doesn’t believe that the media fails them from time to time and who doesn’t want to learn “critical thinking skills”? Concepts such as “independent media” are equally nebulous.

    That section could just as easily be describing a Conservative “media watchdog” site instead of a Liberal one.

    Maybe the Citadel person was a bit off the mark, but I can understand why they wouldn’t have wanted to read through a bunch of blog posts to try to decipher your politics. A more direct “about” section would clear that up.

  5. Jeff Smith permalink*
    December 20, 2010 3:20 pm

    George, GRIID is not a liberal or conservative blog/media entity and feel that these simplistic labels are part of the problem with American politics and American news media. We do not support political candidates or political parties, since both the Democrats and the GOP seem to both support war and a neoliberal economic agenda. GRIID comes out of the 1990s work of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting and the work of media scholars like Noam Chomsky and Bob McChesney.

    But this back and forth evades the initial point of my posting, which was to say that that Citadel called me as an effort to “hopefully” avoid the same scrutiny we gave to Clear Channel’s recent decision to cut local programming and add 3 hours of Glen Beck.

  6. George Bradford permalink
    December 21, 2010 2:06 pm

    Yup, I’m sure Citadel was quaking in their boots over the thought of some low traffic blog doing an “expose” of their publicly advertised radio programs.

    But honestly, this isn’t really a back and forth. I asked questions about the work GRIID (whether GRIID=just you/your opinion is still unclear) and you dodged them like Ben Stiller in Dodge Ball.

    If you don’t support political candidates and parties, what do you support? Why bother with all the stories about elections? Who cares about money in politics then?

    You also write:

    “We do not support political candidates or political parties, since both the Democrats and the GOP seem to both support war and a neoliberal economic agenda.”

    Does that mean you would support them if they didn’t support war and a neoliberal economic agenda? What about the Greens? Etc, etc…….. !?!?

    There are plenty o’ opportunities for confusion on this site and I stand by my assertion that it was entirely unreasonable to axpect the person from Citadel to be able to quickly discern your politics and/or to guess them after reading the most recent posts on here.

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