A short while later, he received the following email: “Thank you for auditioning for Premiere On Call,” it said. “Your audition was great! We’d like to invite you to join our official roster of ‘ready-to-work’ actors.” The job, the email indicated, paid $40 an hour, with one hour guaranteed per day.
But what exactly was the work? The question popped up during the audition and was explained, the actor said, clearly and simply: If he passed the audition, he would be invited periodically to call in to various talk shows and recite various scenarios that made for interesting radio. He would never be identified as an actor, and his scenarios would never be identified as fabricated—which they always were.
Curious, the actor did some snooping and learned that Premiere On Call was a service offered by Premiere Radio Networks, the largest syndication company in the United States and a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, the entertainment and advertising giant. Premiere syndicates some of the more sterling names in radio, including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity. But a great radio show depends as much on great callers as it does on great hosts: Enter Premiere On Call.
Rachel Nelson, a Premiere Radio Networks spokesperson, defended the Premiere on Call service and said that responsibility for how it is employed falls ultimately to those who use it.
“Premiere provides a wide variety of audio services for radio stations across the country, one of which is connecting local stations in major markets with great voice talent to supplement their programming needs,” Nelson wrote in an email. “Voice actors know this service as Premiere On Call. Premiere, like many other content providers, facilitates casting—while character and script development, and how the talent’s contribution is integrated into programs, are handled by the varied stations.”
That may be the case on a limited basis but I doubt many local stations or even the national talkers and their staffs do much of this. The main national right wing talkers are well coordinated as a unit. The main ones regurgitate much of the same material. They’re getting paid millions to sell national GOP talking points. To be useful the call needs to be timed right and be on topic. And to be successful they have to get past the call screener. Paid callers are not going to be waiting for 2 hours and maybe not get on. How does the call screener know he needs to let the paid caller through? Maybe they have their own area code. Or password.
Do the Heritage Foundation, US Chamber of Commerce, and the Pentagon have their own paid caller banks? Do lobbyists use them to stop or push legislation? The Abramoff emails had some references to coordinating radio when trying to influence politicians. Local right wing talkers often reinforce the national shows and coordinate with state and local GOP political needs. Are they getting preferred topics lists and how are these coordinated with paid callers on a national scale?
What percentage of the calls that make it through to Limbaugh and Hannity during a day, reaching many millions of listeners, are from real callers? The real answer may be very embarrassing considering how few they usually take in a day. How will their loyal callers, who try in vain for years, feel when they find out the paid callers always get bumped to the top?
How much do Limbaugh and Hannity depend on paid callers to reinforce, worship, prompt a talking point, start a buzz, inject a rumor, attack a political enemy, distort, divert blame, or make an excuse. Or cheer on the teabaggers screaming 2+2=3 in town hall meetings. Or teach a nation of teabaggers 2+2=3.
What part did paid callers play to reinforce and rationalize the talking points for going into Iraq, make excuses for a dry drunk AWOL dictator wannabe, sell wall street deregulation, praise an unqualified supreme court nominee, swiftboat a war hero or dedicated public servant, and attack publicly financed broadcasting. Or call single payer communist or talk about death panels and ACORN voter fraud. How many were paid to repeat the phrase "Tiller the baby killer?"
If the GOP has a problem and wants to turn a molehill into a mountain to distract the media they can just get a few paid callers on 200 or 400 or 600 radio stations, with a host that not only agrees but reinforces it, never asks for facts, and makes sure his call screeners keep out the truth tellers.
Randi Rhodes and Thom Hartmann like to call them out or play with them when they hit their shows. But they may not be obvious.
On several occasions I have heard what seemed like a staged series of calls coordinated to lay out all the most important RW talking points on a particular topic, like attacking Iraq. And by the way, life on an aircraft carrier is fun! Ending with a nasty jerk with an arab accent badmouthing America. Or a slurred-mouthed hippie asking "What about peace, dude... can't we all just get along?" And now for some more calls, folks, doesn't that last guy make you mad? All lines are open!
How many politicians were made or destroyed and how much legislation was passed or obstructed because the Karl Roves could inject a groundswell buzz of worship or lies into the national media whenever they wanted? Or present ten possible excuses for why such and such a GOP politician shouldn't go to jail?
It makes a total joke of the claim that right wing talk radio dominance is based on market forces and popular demand. Right wing talkers are constantly saying “The American people want so and so” and the rest of the media often agree. Talk radio talkers on TV are often asked what their callers have been saying.
And how can our universities continue to rationalize broadcasting their sports on stations using paid callers to deny global warming/climate change?
If Americans don't demand investigations they are democratically suicidal. Whistleblowers need to be encouraged- not only the paid callers but call screeners and other radio staff.
Americans need to take this seriously. Free speech is a joke until the radio is fixed.
Note: Thorn recently posted this on the same topic:
Thanks for all the recs. Have to run, be back later.
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