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How Much Responsibility Does Radio Bear for the Capitol Riot? Cumulus Takes Action

While fingers point at Social and Digital Media, radio needs to ask itself if it is complicit in the Capitol riot. A Cumulus memo makes a statement…

Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC

By Paul Marszalek

For a medium that is struggling to attract advertisers, this is not going to help.

Corporate America is already putting its money where its mouth is, but cutting off political donations is merely the first step. Next will come deeper analyses of all expenditures, such as advertising, that in any way relate to last week’s riot at the Capitol.

For decades, major radio companies have backed and promoted hosts who have methodically groomed audiences for what happened Wednesday on The Hill.

While hosts like Michael Savage and Alex Jones have been relegated from the airwaves owned by the public, others such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Mark Levin, and Dan Bongino have been cornerstones of talk lineups for iHeart Media, which owns Premiere Networks, and Cumulus, which owns Westwood One.

If I were selling against any of their affiliates, I would put together a portfolio of riot photos and simply say, “that’s my competitor’s audience.” It wouldn’t be 100% true, but it would be true enough.

Brian Philips, who many of us have worked with over the years, is now an EVP at Cumulus. In a leaked memo to staff, he put his foot down:

“Cumulus and Westwood One will not tolerate any suggestion that the election has not ended. The election has resolved, there are no alternate acceptable ‘paths.’ Please inform your staffs that we have ZERO TOLERANCE for any suggestion otherwise. If you transgress this policy, you can expect to separate from the company immediately. There will be no dog-whistle talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘civil wars’ or any other language that infers violent public disobedience is warranted, ever. Through all of our communication channels, including social, we will work to urge restoration of PEACE AND ORDER.”

Radio stations will try to defend themselves with a “free speech” talking point. However, spend any time on the AM dial and you’ll hear more shouting in a crowded theater than corporate radio would like to admit.

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