Entertainment Industry

Category: Clear Channel

Rush Limbaugh gets 0 days suspension, but KFI's John & Ken got 7

Rush Limbaugh’s continuing battle with his critics over his attack on a Georgetown law student as a “slut” and a “prostitute” has focused largely on several dozen advertisers reported to have pulled away from his radio show.

There has been no serious talk at Premiere Radio Networks — the company that syndicates Limbaugh’s show to more than 600 stations — about suspending or otherwise disciplining America’s most popular talk radio host. That's what Premiere management has said.

But that might seem like an unlikely position for the outfit to stake out so unequivocally, since Premiere is a subsidiary of Clear Channel and Clear Channel just last month suspended KFI-AM (640) radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou for calling the late Whitney Houston a “crack ho.” KFI carries both Limbaugh and John & Ken.

The acerbic duo missed seven programs in late February when the Los Angeles station called them out  for what management called “insensitive and inappropriate comments.” Kobylt and Chiampou apologized to their listeners and to Houston's family both before and after their suspension.

Clear Channel-owned KFI also made a series of other pledges to increase sensitivity to minorities at the station, which activists complain features only white hosts. Kobylt and Chiampou agreed to take part in “cultural sensitivity training," the station said, "furthering their awareness of the cultural melting pot that is Southern California.”

When rumors circulated that Limbaugh might also be suspended, a Premiere spokeswoman quickly knocked that idea down. Bottom line: Kobylt and Chiampou got seven shows off for their “crack ho” comment. Limbaugh got zero time away from the mike for “slut” and “prostitute.”

A coalition of African American media professionals in Los Angeles called this week for Limbaugh’s suspension. It also demanded that Clear Channel develop a set of policies to restrain its hosts from insensitive comments.

A source familiar with the company's thinking on the two episodes said Premiere executives felt that   Limbaugh’s remarks had political intent, even if his words were misguided, whereas the Clear Channel bosses overseeing the Los Angeles duo felt their words were entirely gratuitous. The source declined to be quoted by name while sharing the confidential thinking of insiders at Clear Channel and its subsidiary.

In case anyone thought the Limbaugh furor had run out of steam by week's end, feminist attorney Gloria Allred called on Friday for prosecutors in Florida to charge the radio host with criminal defamation. Officials in Florida had no immediate comment.


Don't rush to write off Limbaugh, analysts say

Rush Limbaugh's 'slut' comment draws rebukes from all sides

Rush Limbaugh to advertiser: I don't want you back

— James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: Conservative talk radio duo Ken Chiampou, left, and John Kobylt. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times 

Rush Limbaugh to advertiser: I don't want you back

The intense campaign to cut advertising to “The Rush Limbaugh Show” took another turn Thursday when one of the first companies to pull its ads reportedly asked to return to the radio show -- only to be told by Team Limbaugh that the conservative host no longer would give his endorsement.

A Limbaugh spokesman said that California mattress company Sleep Train asked to restart a “voiced endorsement” from Limbaugh that it had publicly cut off last week. The company said at the time that it “does not condone such negative comments toward any person.”

Several activist groups have called for companies to drop their ads after Limbaugh called a Georgetown law school student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her support of a proposal to mandate birth control in standard healthcare coverage.

PATRICIA HEATON: Twitter woes recall past Rush Limbaugh firestorm

Sleep Train's departure from the program had been billed by some observers as particularly significant because the mattress retailer had been with Limbaugh show for 25 years. Yet the tone of Sleep Train's withdrawal statement last Friday hinted it might not be pulling out for the long run.

“As a diverse company, Sleep Train does not condone such negative comments directed toward any person,” Sleep Train said at the time. “We have currently pulled our ads with Rush Limbaugh.”

Still, Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple called Sleep Train's decision "an act worth crediting," saying that lost ads would have more of an effect on Limbaugh than "well-crafted expressions of outrage from the usual organs."

Limbaugh spokesman Brian Glicklich on Thursday forwarded a copy of an email that he said had been sent to Sleep Train Chief Executive Dale Carlsen. In it, Glicklich wrote that Limbaugh had personally received the company's requests to resume advertising on his show. 

“Unfortunately," Glicklich wrote, "your public comments were not well received by our audience, and did not accurately portray either Rush Limbaugh's character or the intent of his remarks. Thus, we regret to inform you that Rush will be unable to endorse Sleep Train in the future.”

Limbaugh and Carlsen met in the 1980s, when the conservative host was based in Sacramento and still trying to make a significant mark in the radio business. Carlsen’s mattress store, which now claims to be the biggest such retailer in the West, was also in its formative stages.

Glicklich said Limbaugh received a strong response from fans displeased with Sleep Train and other sponsors that pulled out of the show.

“They have had a very long relationship and friendship as well,” Glicklich said of Carlsen and Limbaugh. He would not speculate on whether the relationship would be permanently broken by the dispute.

Carlsen and Sleep Train representatives could not immediately be reached.

Limbaugh opened his show Thursday again disputing claims by liberal groups that he had suffered severe advertising losses. 

Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group, strongly disagreed. The organization said 46 advertisers had reported leaving the three-hour program, which is syndicated to more than 600 stations. The organization said that it monitored WABC in New York and that there were two periods of "dead" air Thursday, when no advertisements filled normal sponsorship spots.

"This all comes after he said yesterday lost advertisers aren't a problem," said Jess Levin, a spokeswoman for Media Matters.

Conservatives, meanwhile, said the furor had been used to distract from the underlying issue of whether it was appropriate to mandate that birth control be part of health insurance policies. They have also protested that other media figures received much less blowback than Limbaugh for their sexist or derogatory remarks.

More than a week into the episode, the campaign over Limbaugh advertising -- and the meaning of the advertising defections -- showed little sign of slowing. 


Don't Rush to write off Limbaugh, analysts say

Rush Limbaugh's 'slut' comment draws rebukes from all sides

Rush Limbaugh: Loss of ads amounts to 'a couple of French fries' 

--James Rainey

Twitter: latimesrainey

Photo: Rush Limbaugh said through a spokesman Thursday that he would not welcome back Sleep Train, an advertiser that left his show last week in protest of Limbaugh's comments on a student activist at Georgetown. Credit: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press

Rush Limbaugh: Loss of ads amounts to 'a couple of French fries'

Rush Limbaugh
The flight of advertisers from “The Rush Limbaugh Show” continued Wednesday, with a total of 45 national and local companies pulling their spots, according to the liberal activist groups angered by the talk radio host for calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

But Limbaugh told his audience that the reports of advertiser defections had been greatly exaggerated by his opponents, and that the companies that pulled ads accounted for a small minority of the overall ad inventory on the 600 affiliates that carry his show.

“That's like losing a couple of French fries in the container when it's delivered to you at the drive-through,” Limbaugh said. “You don’t even notice it.”

OP-ED: Limbaugh and the hypocrisy of the gaffe

An industry expert at the trade magazine “Talkers” said that the system for buying radio advertising is extremely complex and it would be hard to assess Limbaugh’s ad losses in the short run.

The liberal advocacy group Media Matters said it had recorded a list of 45 sponsors — mostly national, but including a dozen that aired spots on WABC in New York, which the group monitors — that had abandoned Limbaugh by Wednesday afternoon. They included big companies like J.C. Penney and Capital One and also local advertisers like Norway Savings Bank.

Several different activist groups chronicled, and encouraged, the advertiser defections, with much of the news about their decisions delivered on Facebook and Twitter. The individual social media missives revealed a complicated situation, including instances in which advertisers said they had maintained a “no run” policy for the Limbaugh show, even before the Fluke controversy.

OBAMA: I thought of my daughters when I called Sandra Fluke

J.C. Penney said via Facebook: “It has come to our attention that a handful of local radio stations may have played jcpenney radio spots adjacent to or during The Rush Limbaugh Show. To be clear, jcpenney is not a national advertiser of this show. We have a strict 'No Run' policy in place specifically regarding The Rush Limbaugh Show.  After jcpenney confirms the facts, we will contact any local radio station that is in violation of our radio advertising parameters to ensure that our 'No Run' policy is adhered to regarding this program."

The liberal interest group Think Progress reported that Capital One had dropped its Limbaugh ads. It quoted the bank as saying: “Yes. We have reiterated our advertising choices to our media partners. If an ad did run, it was not authorized by us, and we do not want it to happen again.”

Netflix told the digital culture website Boing Boing: “Spotted your tweets and wanted to let you know that Netflix has not purchased and does not purchase advertising on the Rush Limbaugh show. We do buy network radio advertising and have confirmed that two Netflix spots were picked up in error as part of local news breaks during the Rush Limbaugh show. We have instructed our advertising agency to make sure that this error will not happen again.”

Limbaugh told his audience Wednesday that any defections had been inconsequential. He said some new advertisers already had signed on, following his commentaries on Fluke last week. “Everything is fine on the business side.  Everything's cool,” he said. “There is not a thing to worry about. What you're seeing on television about this program and sponsors and advertisers is just incorrect.”

Angelo Carusone, campaign director for Media Matters, suggested that a review of Limbaugh’s website or radio show suggested otherwise. He said that a position on the Limbaugh homepage long occupied by the computer security firm Carbonite had been left blank. And Carusone forwarded his group's log of sponsor time during Limbaugh's show Wednesday as it aired on WABC in New York, showing that many spots were occupied by free public-service ads.

Michael Harrison, publisher of “Talkers,” said he opposes economic campaigns against radio hosts, whether they are liberal or conservative. He argued that such campaigns, if successful, tend to stifle free speech.

But Harrison contended that only a decline in audience would do serious damage to Limbaugh.

“If the listeners are bailing out, then I would say there is a long-term problem,” Harrison said. “Then he would lose sponsors and new ones would be harder to find.” But Harrison said there are not yet indications of a listener exodus from the Limbaugh program.

“His audience is not outraged,” Harrison said, adding that Limbaugh was turning the issue already into a campaign against allegedly untrustworthy mainstream media. “If you listen to his show, he is making it an us-against-them thing. That’s how he built his whole show in the first place.”


Don't Rush to write off Limbaugh, analysts say

Rush Limbaugh's 'slut' comment draws rebukes from all sides

Patricia Heaton: Twitter woes recall past Rush Limbaugh firestorm

--James Rainey


Photo: Radio host Rush Limbaugh, who last week called law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified in favor of a requirement that health insurance companies provide free contraceptives. Credit: Rob Carr / Associated Press

Clear Channel elevates John Hogan to chairman and CEO

Clear Channel's John Hogan got a promotion
Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, the nation's largest radio operator, has upped John Hogan to chairman and chief executive.

The promotion of Hogan, who had been president and CEO, comes as the company continues to try to make itself over as a general entertainment company. It recently changed its name to Clear Channel Media and Entertainment from Clear Channel Radio and is planning an expansion into television and live entertainment.

Hogan has been with Clear Channel since 1999 and has managed to survive a few ownership changes during that time. The company is now part of CC Media Holdings Inc., whose chief executive is former AOL boss Bob Pittman and whose majority owners are private equity firms Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

Earlier this month, the companies deepened their relationship with Ryan Seacrest, whose morning show is carried by the radio giant. Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners committed up to $300 million to acquire and develop properties with Ryan Seacrest Media.

Last month, Clear Channel hired veteran cable and radio executive John Sykes as president of its newly created entertainment enterprise unit.


Ryan Seacrest and Clear Channel strengthen ties

Clear Channel hires John Sykes as part of expansion

Bob Pittman tapped as CEO of Clear Channel parent

-- Joe Flint

Photo: John Hogan. Credit: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

Ryan Seacrest and Clear Channel deepen business relationship

Ryan Seacrest is building his empire

Ryan Seacrest and his radio show partner Clear Channel Communications are taking their relationship to the next level.

Not only have private equity funds controlled by Clear Channel's majority owners, Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL) and Bain Capital, have committed up to $300 million to acquire and develop propeties with Ryan Seacrest Media, the producer and television and radio personality's holding company, but Clear Channel is also taking a minority stake in Seacrest's production company.

“We aim to build Ryan Seacrest Media into a leading multimedia company with diversified assets and interests,” Seacrest said in a statement. Already the host of a radio show that airs on Clear Channel stations, Seacrest also hosts Fox's "American Idol and has a growing television production company whose credits include E!'s "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" and ABC's "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.”

For Clear Channel, the investment in Ryan Seacrest Productions allows the radio giant, which wants to expand further into entertainment, to stay in business with the ubiquitous Seacrest even if the radio show eventually goes away. Seacrest has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Matt Lauer when the latter's contract is up on NBC's "Today" show. Such a gig would likely mean Seacrest either moving his radio show to afternoons or scrapping it. 

“Ryan is an unmatched creative talent with success across more media platforms and involvement with a greater variety of programming and venues than anyone else in the industry,” said Bob Pittman, chief executive of Clear Channel parent CC Media Holdings.

Seacrest has also recently partnered with entrepreneur Mark Cuban and entertainment giant AEG on a new cable channel called AXS that will debut this year and focus primarily on covering the entertainment and music industries.


Seacrest, Cuban and AEG team up on new channel

Clear Channel hires John Sykes as part of expansion

A Ryan Seacrest 'Today' gig would not be without risk

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Ryan Seacrest. Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press


Clear Channel taps industry veteran John Sykes for key position

Media industry veteran John Sykes is joining radio giant Clear Channel as president of its newly created entertainment enterprise unit.

In his new role, Sykes will look to expand Clear Channel, which has 850 radio stations, into television, digital platforms and live entertainment. 

In an interview, Sykes, who had stints as president of cable channel VH1 and CBS Radio, said he wants to use the “muscle and reach” of Clear Channel to turn it from “850 independent shops” to a “large-scale media company.”

The move to Clear Channel reunites Sykes with Bob Pittman, the chief executive of Clear Channel parent CC Media Holdings Inc. The two worked together on the launch of MTV in 1981 and have remained close since then.

Sykes' hire is part of CC Media’s plan under Pittman to reposition itself as more than a radio company. Last week, CC Media officially changed the name of Clear Channel Radio to Clear Channel Media & Entertainment.

For more on Clear Channel's hiring of John Sykes, see the story in Tuesday's Los Angeles Times.


Bob Pittman believes in radio

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Bob Pittman tapped as CEO of Clear Channel parent

-- Joe Flint

Photo: John Sykes. Credit: Kevin Mazur / WireImage

Clear Channel acquires mobile music streaming company Thumbplay

Clear Channel, the dominant player in traditional radio, is going over the air and into the cloud. The radio company on Monday night announced it has purchased Thumbplay, a mobile digital music company, for an undisclosed sum.

Thumbplay uses cloud-based technology to let users stream music from a catalog of 8 million songs to devices such as BlackBerry, Android or iPhone for $9.99 a month. It also lets users buy song downloads a la carte, with prices ranging from 69 cents to $1.29.

The digital music streaming company, founded six years ago as a purveyor of ringtones by Evan Schwartz, sells its services through thousands of online outlets, including AOL and Clear Channel.

Robert Pittman, chairman of Clear Channel's media and entertainment platforms, said the subscription service rounds out the company's free online radio offerings, which include 750 streaming radio channels from its local stations.

Clear Channel, though a powerhouse in terrestrial over-the-air radio, is just one of many players when it comes to the Web. The dominant player among free Internet radio services is Pandora, an Oakland, Calif.-based company that recently announced plans to sell its shares in an initial public offering.

Among subscription music services, in which members pay a monthly fee to be able to access a large catalog of songs on demand, Thumbplay competes with Rhapsody, Napster, Rdio, eMusic and MOG.

-- Alex Pham








Clear Channel wants to kiss and make up with Howard Stern

When Howard Stern left terrestrial radio for satellite radio in 2006 he did his best to blow up his old relationships. Not only did he blast his former employer, CBS, and its boss, Leslie Moonves, regularly on the air, he also got into a legal tussle with radio giant Clear Channel Communications after it stopped carrying his show in the wake of a Federal Communications Commission crackdown on indecency.

Now though, Stern is toying with coming back to FM radio and Clear Channel might be the ones rolling out the welcome mat. BusinessWeek is the latest to weigh in on a story about Stern's next move and quotes Clear Channel radio head John Hogan saying "we would be the most logical company for him to optimize his exposure and financial return." It might be the only choice as well. Although Clear Channel is willing to forgive and forget about its rough past with Stern, CBS is less likely to want him back. Stern was particularly hostile to CBS and its chief executive, Moonves. That continued when he went to satellite radio as well.

HOWARD Stern was one of radio's biggest stars when he bolted for Sirius in 2006. His exit from so-called free radio was a big blow not only to CBS, but the industry overall. Stern was carried on almost 50 radio stations across the country. His show generated almost $100 million in advertising revenue and an additional $50 million in cash flow for CBS.

He was also one of radio's highest-paid personalities. At CBS, Stern's compensation was around $30 million (that included revenue from the show's syndication deals). When he went to Sirius, his paycheck hit the stratosphere. His package called for compensation of $100 million a year. That figure included salaries for his cast and crew but it still allowed him to take home about $50 million a year.

Sirius is run by Stern's old boss, Mel Karmazin. The two have been in business together for more than two decades, so one would think it would take a lot for Stern to jump back to FM radio when his contract is up at the end of this year.

Speaking at an investor conference last month, Karmazin gave a tongue-in-cheek preview of how his talks with Stern will go.

“It will start with Howard feeling that he is working too hard and doing too many shows and not making enough money,” he said, adding that the response will be "we want you to do more, and get less money."

The terrestrial radio industry was already struggling when Stern left at the end of 2005 and the business has only gotten tougher. It is hard to imagine that Clear Channel would spend anything like what Karmazin spent to lure Stern to Sirius. Of course, considering that Sirius stock now trades for under a dollar, it is also unlikely that Karmazin can afford to keep Stern at his present salary much less give him a raise. 

Money may not be the only factor Stern considers when deciding his future. The plus side of Stern moving to satellite was that it freed him of scrutiny from the government. He can swear and have all the porn stars on his show that he wants. 

The flip side is that since going to satellite Stern has fallen off the cultural zeitgeist. He does not get the attention from the mainstream media and the general public that he used to command when he was on FM radio. And that's not something you can put a price tag on.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Howard Stern. Credit: Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images


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