In November of last year I wrote the following letter to the CFO of Disney. It followed a letter to management at ABC Radio and Disney in October. I know that several high-level people in management read it.
This is significant since Disney management supported KSFO as part of the Disney family. Disney knew a long time ago of the violent rhetoric spewing from the KSFO hosts. They made a choice to continue to support them.
The Disney/ABC lawyers response was to silence me for bringing this to their attention. They had my blog, Spocko's Brain, shut down so they could keep supporting violent rhetoric on commercially supported broadcast radio. This was the response at the highest corporate levels.
- Disney allowed Lee Rodgers to proudly not apologize, Melanie Morgan, to deny she said what she said, (twice) and then try and spin her way out of it.
- Sussman apologized for some things he said that I busted him on, but I have other repugnant clips from him that would now be dismissed as "old or out of context" (of course they still use the Dean scream which really IS old and out of context). It seems pointless to demonstrate again and again his transgressions to management since they clearly support him even in the face of multiple advertisers agreeing that his rhetoric has gone too far. Disneyland thought he went too far and pulled their ads! How much more direct a message did they need?
- Tom Benner, who used the pseudonym "Officer Vic" although he is neither an police officer nor named Vic, dodged accountability by using the "'it's a joke" card about his graphic description of Bill Keller being electrocuted and avoided the $350, 000 obscenity fine by convincing people his word was something other than it was.
Disney chose to tie their fortunes to the KSFO "talent" and have their brand tainted by them internationally to keep the money rolling in from KSFO and to not lose this "talent"-- which would mess up the 2.7 billion dollar Citadel deal that closes June 6, 2007. They continued to ignore my very polite suggestions. So I took the evidence to the advertisers. It was pretty effective. At least 28 advertisers left.
Months later a few have returned and others, who were unaware of the pattern of behavior and history of abuses, replaced them. How much did it cost them? $500,000? More? What about the brand hit Disney took? I don't know how to calculate that.
At the "talent" level they attacked me, viciously. Do you think that if I wrote under my real name they would hold back? No. They would dig deeper to do to me what they did to Cindy Sheehan and all of people they disagree with. This is their method. And they will continue to use it because they make everyone who challenges them a public figure. Then they bully and destroy them over the publics airwaves with the support of corporate management.
This is one reason WHY good people don't engage these people or challenge corporations for their ethical lapses. They will be financially threatened, as I was, and their character impugned and reputations will be trashed, as mine was, and even if you strive to be accurate and polite they don't respond in kind. They bear no accountability. When I hear people talk about the low level of "discourse" and lack of civility in our world today I point to the source of much of this. "Conservative" talk radio hosts.
This is the "talent" that Disney used their brand reputation to support. This is who Farid Suleman, Citadel’s Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, and directors Theodore J. Forstmann, and J. Anthony Forstmann have brought into their Citadel family. And Disney? They are STILL profiting from these people. They will be the majority shareholder of Citadel Broadcasting.
Nov. 29, 2006
Thomas O. Staggs, Senior Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
The Walt Disney
I know how CFOs really like to stay in the loop regarding financials, and I hate to alert you about losing potential revenue under 40 million, especially since the people who work for you should really be tracking this, however it looks like there might be a short fall from one of your properties.
Right now the VPs of marketing of four national advertisers (Visa, Kaiser, FedEx and AT&T) are concerned about what is going out over the air waves at one of your ABC Radio stations, KSFO in San Francisco. They haven’t decided to pull their ads yet, but they have consulted with their agencies of record (BBDO and GSD&M) and media planners and it looks like they don’t want to be associated with hosts who talk about torturing and murdering people. When one of the hosts, Melanie Morgan, says "We've got a bull's-eye painted on [Pelosi's] big, wide laughing eyes" it makes them uncomfortable. Morgan’s comments reached the national stage last week with coverage on MSNBC and on the media watchdog site, Media Matters.
Luckily it’s not your job to protect the ABC Radio Disney brand; just the money, so this might not be a problem for you. Sadly it appears that the people whose job it is to protect the ABC Radio Disney brand clearly are quite fine with what Melanie Morgan, Lee Rogers, Tom Brenner and Brian Sussman say on the air at KSFO.
I notified several ABC and Disney executives between October 26-29, 2006 about the continuing violent rhetoric on the show and it appears they chose to ignore it. John Hare of ABC, Zenia Mucha, Heather Rim and Alan Braverman were all alerted, but chose to continue to support this talk and these hosts. Since the time of those emails co-host Rogers has talked about hanging liberals from a post (audio link), and “joked” about cutting off the test*icles of a liberal radio host from KGO (audio) (another ABC Radio property and the number one station in the SF Bay area.) On two different days,11/14 and 11/20, Morgan talked about “putting a bulls-eye on House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi.” She recently gave a non-apology and pretended she never used the terminology of an assassin when referring to Speaker-elect Pelosi. (link)
I suppose from a financial point of view all that is irrelevant just as long as they make their numbers and projections, and I suppose from their point of view the Disney brand is so far removed from KSFO that they can say anything on the air with no consequences. They are rolling the dice that there will be no financial consequences and they are probably right. But if advertisers start leaving, you will at least be aware of WHY it happened. If the FCC fines Morgan, Rogers or Sussman for inciting violence it will be your fine to pay.
When I told people I was going to write you they said, “Don’t bother. Tom will only care if KSFO loses enough money to be noticed by Wall Street. And they were right.
When Brian Sussman, the substitute morning host and evening drive time host, first lost multiple national advertisers like MasterCard, Bank of America, Borders Books, Aetna Insurance, Toyota and even Disneyland, I thought that management would do something. Even after Sussman demanded a caller, “Say Allah is a Wh*re” nothing happened. (You can check with KSFO to confirm this, I’m sure they would be eager to show you the canceled or curtailed ad runs.)
So now it looks like the hosts at KSFO are embarrassing you nationally. I still was told that it didn’t matter since it wasn’t big enough. They hadn’t lost enough money. I guess it is part of the Disney principles to stand up for these hosts as they call for people to be murdered, tortured and set on fire. They want millions of "Muslims scum" to be KILLED. On Monday, Nov. 27, Lee Rogers proclaimed that in Arab and Egyptian cultures “lying is as natural as breathing.” Those are some fine Disney ABC corporate values he is spreading to Bay Area listeners.
How do I know that the Disney values are being invoked to promote and protect KSFO radio hosts? When corresponding with Riviana Foods, parent company of advertiser Mahatma Rice, I was told that KSFO is using the Disney name as cover for their hate speech, “we do consider whether if (sic) offers a family-friendly environment. In this case, KSFO, a Disney affiliate, was deemed innocuous.” It appears that when it comes time to associate KSFO and its HOSTS with advertisers, KSFO is a Disney station which ensures a “family-friendly” environment. Doesn’t that also mean that when it comes time to associate a KSFO host with “painting a bull’s-eye between the laughing eyes” of Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, that KSFO is still a Disney station?
With the sale of ABC Radio to Citadel it may appear you are one step further removed from KSFO, however if I understand the deal memo correctly, you will maintain controlling interest of 52% in Citadel. It also appears that you have the opportunity to cut loose 11 of the 122 ABC Radio stations. Maybe you could look into making KSFO one of those stations. After all, they hate ABC Radio, they would probably be happier with another parent company. It might be better for all concerned, since some managers seem determined to support these hosts no matter what violent, repugnant things they say to taint the ABC Radio Disney brand.
Todd Milbourn, Sacramento Bee
David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle
Oliver Willis, Eric Boehlart Media Matters
Joe Conason, Salon
Frank Rich, New York Times
David NeiwertAllison Hantschel
Greg Sargent, Talking Points Memo
Izzy Povich, Executive Producer,Countdown MSNBC
Note -----I've retained the spelling errors and grammatical mistakes in the letter. It will give Melanie Morgan's PR firm something to focus on and point out that I have no paid editors unlike say, Newsbusters who get funding from the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation through the Media Research Center
Labels: ABC, Citadel Broadcasting, Disney, Lee Rodgers, Melanie Morgan, spocko