Clearchannel internal memo on the impending war
February 13, 2003 4:47 AM   Subscribe

YOU CANNOT OVERKILL this story Everybody loves Clearchannel, it's true. Here's another reason, as an internal memo from some eager executive is leaked. He's just counting down the seconds until war begins and wants to make sure his affiliates are prepared. Here's a nice sample: "People who have never listened to our stations will be tuning in out of curiosity, desperation, panic and a hunger for information. RIGHT NOW, convert them to P-1's . . ."
posted by jeremias (39 comments total)
As much as I yield to no one in my hate Clear Channel, and as much as I particularly loathe the kind of overweening, latter-day Herb Tarlek this mofo clearly is, this actually looks like a fairly responsible op order for a media business.

They're a business. They need clear, unambiguous marching orders "should contingencies arise." This guy is actually being, 'ow you say, "proactive." I can't really fault him for it.

Except he's a CC-0wn3D mofo assblanket.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:54 AM on February 13, 2003

posted by adamgreenfield at 4:55 AM on February 13, 2003

What can you, say they have to make a living, and a "good war" is their best beef. In this business, good news is bad news: no one wants to know about the living habits of shepperds in Spain or the birth of an almost-instinct animal in some local zoo, noooooooooooooo sir. WAR, that's what it's all about. Glue people to the screen, build the fear and let them come.

Sweet times.
posted by XiBe at 5:04 AM on February 13, 2003

err... Make that "What can you say, they have to make a living", thanks...
posted by XiBe at 5:11 AM on February 13, 2003

Is this normally a news station or a music station? If the former, I can understand the contingency plans, but if the latter, I would be hitting the scan button immediately.

Oh, what am I talking about? I only listen to CDs in the car anyway, and I don't have a radio at home except for the clock radio that sounds like shit.
posted by mischief at 5:19 AM on February 13, 2003

In other words, mischief: "This Clear Channel - is it something you need to have a radio to have heard of?"
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:23 AM on February 13, 2003

infotainment. Chomsky was right.
posted by dmt at 5:35 AM on February 13, 2003

Well, I guess I'm more amused than anything else, it's rare that we see such open admittance that war is a great opportunity for new customers. We all know that's what these executives think, for example the producers of 'Third Watch' (the network show about police and fireman) probably had discussions about how to maximize ratings after 9/11.

Monitor TV networks and local stations for contacts and leads. If they have good ideas, turn them around and quickly make them our own.

Yep, that's what makes Clearchannel "the global leader in the out-of-home advertising industry"
posted by jeremias at 5:40 AM on February 13, 2003

KFBK and KSTE appear to be AM stations in Sacramento, CA with a sister FM station KGBY also in Sacramento. KFBK is Sacramento's oldest radio station.

The note was written by Ken Kohl, the operations manager and program director for both KFBK and KSTE. Here's the thing about these stations though, and what makes this post a little more poignant:

Rush Limbaugh's first successful radio show was broadcast from the station in the '80s.

I hate clear channel, for many, many reasons, I really, really do. I hope this memo leaking is some sort of karmic concussion for something related to Limbaugh.

Also interesting, this is just a Sacramento family of three or four radio stations. . . but goes to show the American Media juggernaut is really gearing up for war. . .

...bread and circuses.
posted by jdaura at 5:51 AM on February 13, 2003

Our Coverage will be called America's War with Iraq. In writing copy please call our coverage, 'LIVE In-Depth Team Coverage of America's War with Iraq.'

Jeez, Britain commits more than 40,000 troops, $2.8 billion, warships, fighters, and doesn't even get second billing. They could at least call it: "America & Friends take on Iraq" or just "Gulf War II."
posted by Ljubljana at 6:07 AM on February 13, 2003

Ljubljana, I think most Brits and other contributing players would be quite happy to remain uncredited in this performance of Blasterpiece Theater, lest some in the audience take it into their minds to start throwing ricin-laced tomatoes at the stage, if you get my drift.
posted by stonerose at 6:22 AM on February 13, 2003

While I, too, would love to have more wood for the fire of my loathing of Clear Channel, this memo doesn't do it for me; sorry. What did make me chuckle/want to weep was this comparison:

"YOU CANNOT OVERKILL this story. It's like disc jockeys playing records. When the jock gets tired of it, the public is just getting warmed up."

posted by UKnowForKids at 6:47 AM on February 13, 2003

Clear Channel minions have a real knack for assblanket internal memos: our Columbia disaster coverage .... "blew away everyone".
posted by yhbc at 6:57 AM on February 13, 2003

I like the list of " INTERVIEW AND NEWS POSSIBILITIES:", especially:

Local families with loved ones currently in the Middle East
Local families of business types working in the Middle East
Psychologists for effects on children

Vampires. I hate vampires.
posted by moonbiter at 7:00 AM on February 13, 2003

Blasterpiece Theater

Holy crap, that was funny. Thanks, stonerose.
posted by drinkcoffee at 7:26 AM on February 13, 2003

I wonder about the "panic"........sounds like they are planning for a scheduled terrorist incident.
posted by troutfishing at 7:28 AM on February 13, 2003

I'm more disturbed by the length of that internal memo. That's not a memo, that's a dissertation.
posted by archimago at 7:45 AM on February 13, 2003

funny (or not actually...) internal memos is blocked here at work...
/runs home to read memo and see if own company is on site
posted by Big_B at 7:59 AM on February 13, 2003

Remember to ask me if regular programming should continue to run on weekends and if we have specialty shows that can't or won't talk about the war. we will probably blow them off. Even Dr. Laura.

Dr. Laura rappin' about Saddam's relationship issues to avoid being blown off by the suits. Now that would be worth hearing.
posted by rory at 8:16 AM on February 13, 2003

RIGHT NOW, convert them to P-1's, or at least make them a future cumer.

posted by quonsar at 8:20 AM on February 13, 2003

It should come as no surprise that this happens in the newspaper industry, as well:

From: [snipped]
Sent: Wednesday, February 12, 2003 1:00 PM
To: [snipped]
Cc: [snipped]
Subject: Planning for the war: the impact on advertising

I wanted to take this opportunity to review with you some strategic and tactical things you can do now in advertising with a potential war with Iraq looming.

Obviously, we want to make our revenue plans, but we don't want to come across as "profiting from the war." We need to take care of our advertising customers coaching them through the tough times. Readership from our news coverage of the war will be at an all time high providing the perfect backdrop for advertisers to maintain business as usual.

Tactically, I'd recommend that you put together a research flyer, single sheet or brochure that outlines your newspaper's dominance and coverage in your NDM. Constantly remind your advertisers that cutting back in tough times will only set them back even further in sales now and for the remainder of the year. Businesses that continue to advertise in tough times will see market share increases in their respective category.

Critical categories that you will want to work closely with are the automotive, recruitment, real estate and big ticket item categories like furniture. In a recent article from the American Town Network newsletter, a Moody's senior analyst Glenn Eckert, predicted ad spending to drop 2% during the war. The article goes to report that the 2% reduction in ad spending is tied directly to a decisive outcome of the war.

Conversely, the effects going forward from a quick decisive war are predicted to be relatively mild. Predictions vary widely from a 2% increase to as high as 6% increase in ad spending following the war.

So what can you do now to be proactive and avoid a reduction in ad spending?

Sell patriotic ads tied to sponsorship that support your local military troops and national guard units.
Carry through patriotic themes in general sales ads to increase readership and effectiveness.
Sell patriotic flags with sig ads on the back.
Sell maps that define the Middle East territory with advertising support.
Sell ads to businesses that have a higher degree of national guard or military units as employees. These could be ads honoring current soldiers and past veterans as well.

In addition to these ideas, we should share ideas across [company name snipped] making them tem plated and easy to execute in our newspapers.

Lastly, you should continue to keep a close eye on your media competitors, who typically in times like these, coach advertisers to reduce their newspaper advertising budget in favor of an overall reduction in spending. Radio and cable are notorious for targeting our best customers telling them that using radio or cable is a better reach at a lower cpm which we all know is false. Arming your sales teams, today, with competitive research will go along way in keeping your best customers informed.

[contact info snipped]

posted by *burp* at 8:32 AM on February 13, 2003

I love the interpolation of national urgency ("We are at WAR") with orders to ensure commercial success as a spoil of that war. I'm sure he just wants to make the world a safer place.

I also recoil from the number of off-hours demands the writer places on people, and the order to try and book guests without regard for when they are likely asleep, etc. A class act, all the way.
posted by holycola at 8:50 AM on February 13, 2003

Wow. Some of you folks need to chill out. "Bread and circuses"? Fine. When war starts, don't listen to the radio, read the newspaper, watch TV, or read any news stories on the web. But you know what? Many people will be grateful to their local radio stations for carrying news coverage of the war.

Why are reporters "vampires" for interviewing local people with loved ones living in the Middle East? Are we supposed to ignore the fact that a war on the other side of the globe affects local families? Let's say a Kurdish family lives in the radio station's listening area, and many of that family's relatives are killed in the war. Are you saying that the reporters covering that story are vampires? If so, does that mean you would prefer that the media not mention civilian deaths in a war? Or should the media mention only the deaths of faceless civilians who have no connection to people in the United States? Also, are you saying that it is vampirish for a reporter to interview a psychologist to advise parents how to explain the war to their children?

The criticisms I read in this thread boil down to three arguments:
1. It is wrong to offer round-the-clock news coverage of a war started by the United States. Radio stations should play music instead.
2. It is wrong to do stories about local people who are directly affected by the war. Instead, we should say, "Ten thousand civilians were killed" and leave it at that. We should refuse to interview friends and relatives of civilians in the Middle East or of military personnel.
3. It is wrong to convert listeners to a radio station by offering them news of a war started by the United States.

I disagree with all three criticisms. Go back to listening to your CDs and calling reporters "vampires," and let people listen to news of the war in ... well, peace.
posted by Holden at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2003

I've worked in the newspaper media. It goes without saying that we got geeked up at the prospect of covering big stories. The stuff in the memo about "war branding" was a bit excessive, even for journalists, but there are hundreds of Ken Kohls in newsrooms who have to worry about stuff like that.

Are any radio pros here? The term "cumer" appears to be some kind of weird industry jargon like "P1," which is what a station's most-loyal listeners are called.

The spelling lends itself to some frightening things, like this excerpt from a radio seminar page:
The most fascinating session was one done by Paragon Research. It was called "Dear Diary: Why Didn't I Remember That Station? Signed, Phantom Cumer." Paragon's research concluded that 46% of diaries do not include all of the stations that the diary keeper actually listened to. This session explored how we can go about making sure that the "Phantom Cumer" records every time he/she listens to your station. The main strength of Christian radio is that our listeners are more loyal than any other format's.
posted by rcade at 9:16 AM on February 13, 2003

Yeah I have to agree with Holden I've seen this email and the other about "blowing away the coverage" and neither has really said anything.

Emails like this have probably gone out to every single news orgainization in the world
posted by bitdamaged at 9:25 AM on February 13, 2003

Media (as all other businesses) responds to the interests of it at 11, or not.
posted by Bag Man at 9:29 AM on February 13, 2003

worked for Charles Foster Kane.
posted by condour75 at 9:52 AM on February 13, 2003

Yeah I have to agree with Holden
holden is just being deliberately obtuse. (i was gonna say asshat). the thread is obviously not about any of those things he listed, and it's disingenous of him to pretend it is. it is about registering disgust with the whole foaming at the mouth blather which passes for news coverage, and the barely concealed glee with which chumps like kohl prepare for the next round.

Emails like this have probably gone out to every single news orgainization in the world

probably true. probably hundreds of children were raped, thousands of barbaric murders committed, and hundreds of thousands of people ripped off by corporate greedmeisters, and half a million lies and outright distortions printed or reported in the media today all over the world, so i guess that makes all those things ok, huh?
posted by quonsar at 10:11 AM on February 13, 2003

Did any of you notice that in the whole INTERVIEW AND NEWS POSSIBILITIES list that antiwar types is at the bottom of the list as if it were an afterthought?
posted by whirlwind29 at 10:43 AM on February 13, 2003

Oh I'm sorry I missed the part in the email saying "okay people make sure we skew this event properly we need the oil". I did however see the long list of people who could possibly be interviewed which seemed to cover virtually every point of view.

Did you even read the email in question? I can care less if you have an issue with big media in general and want to take it out on Clear Channel but dumping on the basis of this email is ridiculous.

You're right the business clowns in the media are foaming at the mouth about this, from a financial perspective they're probably the only industry to be affected positively by the impending war. But for a reporter/news editor or producer no matter what the media or message this is a huge event and dotting the i's and crossing the t's before news happens is just professionalism. Disingenous is trying to bathe someone with that rape and murder rhetoric when he's just doing his job well.
posted by bitdamaged at 10:50 AM on February 13, 2003

Psychologists for effects on children
Is there a foreign consulate nearby (Israel has one in Houston)
Keep focused on the wires whatever for story angles occurring in CC markets
If a local TV station sends someone to the area find a way to use them, radio exclusive
Anti-war types

Oh yea, don't forget about those "anti-war types."
posted by iamck at 10:53 AM on February 13, 2003

Well, interesting straw man argument holden. For me this thread isn't about any of the things you mentioned. It's merely a behind the scenes look at what passes for media these days. Of course it's this guys job to maximize profit for his station, convert new listeners. I'm sure he's very effective at his job and gets grrreat performance reviews.

I just find amusing the juxtaposition of lines like this:

After a major terror attack or after the war begins take all presidential addresses and public appearances.

Branding liners have been produced and are in the system. Michael please issue a memo making it clear where board ops will find this important imaging.

So when that smallpox outbreak happens you can take comfort in the fact that a 15 second promo is all set to go . . .
posted by jeremias at 11:02 AM on February 13, 2003

War coverage is a positive thing and is something that radio should provide. I think that what is at issue here is the idea of exploiting the war for commercial gain. More specifically, exploiting people's need for news of the war for commercial gain.

What I find a little troubling is the "Clear Channel TM presents the Second Gulf WarTM brought to you by [insert product name]TM" attitude suggested in the memo. Is it morally wrong for a business to make money off of war or national tragedy, or is it just good business? Maybe it is both morally wrong and good business.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:10 AM on February 13, 2003

This is why I listen to NPR here in the River City. KFBK and KSTE are the local "must-listen-to" AM chat stations on opposite ends of the dial (KFBK being differentiated as the newsier one).

Fairly soon after the September 11th bombings, the post evening-drive shift started being "The War Room", wherein the host fear baits and plays soundbites Every Good American should love and believe in. This surprises me not at all.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:45 PM on February 13, 2003

We should refuse to interview friends and relatives...
I only wish they had! Interviews centered on the feelings of friends and relatives of victims, perpetrators and whoever were the biggest reason I stopped watching televised news. Such segments are not news in any way; they are filler.
posted by mischief at 1:02 PM on February 13, 2003

"If there is imminent danger, under the FCC rules, AM stations may remain at full power through the night as long as they are in a non-commercial mode."

Thereby fucking over any other AM stations within full-powered station's range.
posted by mrbula at 2:57 PM on February 13, 2003

"cumer" is a back-formed noun from Arbitron's cumulative reports that they get from listening diaries. It's analogous to "unique visitors" on a website.
posted by anildash at 3:00 PM on February 13, 2003

...and not, as you naughty children thought, a backformation from that other large pool of cumers, the adult entertainment industry.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:00 PM on February 13, 2003

If I ran the stations:

"Once the war hits, IGNORE IT. It'll end soon enough of it isn't backed by public interest. If a Iraq strike happens, IMMEDIATELY play some Peter, Paul & Mary. Also, make sure our advertisers are in the dark AT ALL TIMES. Lord knows we can't stand to lose any more money. And if a terror strike happens on our soil, make sure to send out a list of 'inapproriate' songs to our DJs so they won't make us look bad. Also, leak this list to the public, so that we end up looking worse for our abuse of authority. And the low-end of those 'Anti-War' promos and commercial bumpers had better be so powerful that they make my head ring."
posted by Down10 at 2:32 AM on February 14, 2003

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