Something dangerous is emerging in radio.
A recent study entitled Advertiser Perceptions Trust Report, published by Inside Radio, states more corporate advertisers are growing concerned with “safety issues” and brand placement when it comes to ‘trust’ factors.”
Here is an excerpt:
“According to the 2021 Advertiser Perceptions Trust Report, it shows a majority (54%) of advertisers said they would alter their media plan to defund media outlets promoting disinformation, and four in ten surveyed said they had already cut a media partner or shrunk their share of an ad buy this year based on trust factors.”
‘Defund media if they spread disinformation.‘ Sounds like cancel culture, doesn’t it?
More from the article:
“Concerns about brand safety have become so important that Ad Results Media has said it plans to create a new system. it will rely on whether “key words” appear in content, and how many times, this is an awareness index,”
An awareness index. That’s code for monitoring speech. “key words” are how banks and Homeland Security detect fraud or security issues. It will now be used to monitor what is being written and what is being said over the air.
What this will mean for Talk Radio?
First, it will mean the spoken-word medium (Talk, Sports) will be starved of advertising oxygen.
It will also drive people out of the medium.
Think of how many people have been fired for saying the wrong thing.
Just this week a CEO of a major video game company (Sony) resigned for tweeting his support for the Texas Abortion law. Almost everyday you hear of some announcer, either local or national, who loses their job for saying something inappropriate against people of color, gender or religion.
This isn’t new, but what is new is the back-end approach of using curation to determine who gets cancelled on air or online.
Recall only recently Joe Rogan and the stir he caused last week by telling his listeners he took Ivermectin which cured his COVID.
The media went crazy.
How dare he promote something that is not approved by the FDA! How dare he go against the grain and not get vaccinated. Shame on him!
This despite the fact that millions of people in India and elsewhere with COVID-19 have been saved from the very same drug that has been given to U.S. soldiers for decades without issue.
How long before the folks at Spotify bow to pressure and pay off Rogans’ deal and shut him down?
The pressure, or “awareness index,” is too strong.
Resistance is Futile
In Spoken Word anyone who deviates from ‘the script,’ whether it’s about coronavirus, or hydroxychloroquine, or perhaps a position about ‘gender dysphoria,’ (a real diagnosis), or you interview an expert who disagrees about man-made Climate Change, all of these things will be detected by the “awareness index” to make sure you are a safe space for advertisers who wish to avoid those keywords, as determined by….who?
Which keywords cause issues?
Look at Facebook, or Twitter or Google Search and how they ban words and phrases “to prevent misinformation.”
Today it’s a drug for Covid you shouldn’t use, tomorrow it will be about terms you cannot say or people you cannot mention, or things you aren’t supposed to think, like say, leaving your house to take your kids to school.
If national dollars dry up for News Talk based on algorithms or “an awareness index” that collates speech-to-text algorithms, how long before people like Hannity and Prager just move off the radio (which is the ultimate goal of the Left in their efforts, as Joy Reid quipped, “to purify the airwaves of hatred and white supremacy.”)?
Dennis Miller became unaffordable because Talk Radio became “toxic” with Madison Avenue ad-buyers who wouldn’t support his show (or his million dollar salary).
Michael Savage, who almost always had superior ratings performance throughout his tenure right after 9-11 to just last year, also became unaffordable to network syndicators. He too was deemed toxic andad buyers starved him out of existence. You might also recall the UK even banned Savage from traveling to any UK territory for using the worked Islamic Terrorist.
Rush Limbaugh held on because he had generational support; he was the 800-pound gorilla. But was there really a serious replacement from his network?
The same company who replaced Rush with milquetoast lesser players at the same time launched the Black Information Network, a hard-left series of programs that promotes CRT, defund the police and BLM activism, while also receiving huge funding from corporations like Nike and Chase Bank who “shy away from controversy.”
Meanwhile, right-leaning News talk divisions barely hang on for life as ad dollars dry up on the national level for Conservative Talk Radio.
Several ad execs told me it’s all about what makes money. But if this was true, certainly an argument could be made half the country supports conservatism, so why wouldn’t ad buyers flock to the loyalty-base of Spoken Word?
Because ad-buyers are typically, though not always, mid-30’s to mid-40’s Gen Xers from New York who hate conservatives and see conservatism itself as dangerous to the public. This is not new, it’s just they have been empowered by new Left-activism that has taken over movies, music, sports and even the Olympics.
When ad support dries up, so does talent. You can’t pay the high salaries needed to bring people like a Joe Rogan or a Tucker Carlson to the radio. Today there are brilliant minds on radio, but if they lack ad support, they die. It’s that simple.
This is why things like “an awareness index” will worsen an already tenuous situation for broadcasters.
As we saw in January right after the elections, many national talk show hosts (and presumably local hosts as well) were advised to “refrain” from saying the “the elections were stolen;” not long after, they were also told to avoid question about vaccines efficacy, mask-wearing and other subjects that went against the grain of public policy determined by those in power at the top.
The whole point of national talk radio is to provide a public forum where people can be allowed to express and hear ideas and, yes, argue about the merits of their case. When this forum loses advertiser support, or when such a forum is deemed “dangerous to one’s corporate brand,” we lose a valuable asset in our democracy: the right for both sides to be heard and for the free exchange of ideas.
It is a wake-up call for those who believe and support Spoken Word Talk Radio.
Free speech was never free, and those words have never been more true than they are today when censorship, or “an awareness index” is being used to shut down a radio format that is essential to the free flow of information in a democratic society.
Jim Watkins ia a Spoken Word radio consultant and former National Talk Show host