I saw this item on Keith Olbermann's new blog (FOK News Channel) and it seems to confirm what I've long wondered when trapped within earshot of right-wing talk radio: who the hell are these brainwashed zombies calling in to Oxy-addled or delusional or just plain dumb radio jocks? I mean, they can't all be for real, right?
From FOK News Channel:
The latest evidence to support a brilliant but heinous effort to forcibly swing public opinion via the use of phony advocates? A remarkable piece by a website on Jewish faith called The Tablet nonchalantly reveals that the same company that syndicates the shows of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity has also employed actors to call in to those shows and pretend to be real people with real opinions and real problems.
Last year, a young man called in to a radio station with a problem. He’d recently attended a bachelor party, he said, and a friend of the groom-to-be, clueless of the unwritten etiquette of maledom, brought his girlfriend along, derailing what was supposed to be a weekend of gambling, girls, and general debauchery. The caller told his story with passion and verve, and then asked the station’s listeners for their advice on how to treat his clueless pal.
Or at least he would have, had this been a real conversation. The young man—who asked to remain nameless in order to protect his chances for future employment—was an actor, and the staged call an audition. 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.
“I was surprised that it seemed so open,” the actor told me in an interview. “There was really no pretense of covering it up.”
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.
“Premiere On Call is our new custom caller service,” read the service’s website, which disappeared as this story was being reported (for a cached version of the site click here). “We supply voice talent to take/make your on-air calls, improvise your scenes or deliver your scripts. Using our simple online booking tool, specify the kind of voice you need, and we’ll get your the right person fast. Unless you request it, you won’t hear that same voice again for at least two months, ensuring the authenticity of your programming for avid listeners.”
That last part--"ensuring the authenticity of your programming"--compliments of paid voice actors!
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Limbaugh, though, took the article personally, even if he waited a long time to respond. On his radio show, he called Tablet a "radical, left-wing operation" and said that the implication of the article was "that this program is hiring actors to portray callers." This, he said repeatedly, was not true.
"If somebody had told me we were going to do this, I would put the kibosh on this," he said. "There is no way we're going to pay people to pretend to be callers here. Nothing on this program is scripted...I have never heard of this. Nothing is staged on this program, ever."
Premiere released a statement reading in part: "Premiere On Call is not utilized by any of Premiere’s nationally syndicated talent, including Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck."