An internal memo from ABC Radio Networks to its affiliates reveals scores of powerful sponsors have a standing order that their commercials never be placed on syndicated Air America programming that airs on ABC affiliates.
The October 25 memo was provided to FAIR by the Peter B. Collins Show, a syndicated radio show originating on the West Coast.
Headlined "Air America Blackout" and addressed "Dear Traffic Director"—referring to the radio station staffer who coordinates programming and advertising—the memo gives the following order to affiliates:
The directive then advises ABC Radio Network affiliates to take note of a list of other sponsors who do not want their programming to run during Air America programming.
The list, totaling 90 advertisers, includes some of largest and most well-known corporations advertising in the U.S.: Wal-Mart, GE, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Bank of America, Fed-Ex, Visa, Allstate, McDonald's, Sony and Johnson & Johnson. The U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Navy are also listed as advertisers who don't want their commercials to air on Air America.
The ABC memo is evidence of the potentially censorious effect that advertisers' political preferences can have on the range of views presented in the media. When Al Gore proposed launching a progressive TV network, a Fox News executive told Advertising Age (10/13/03): "The problem with being associated as liberal is that they wouldn't be going in a direction that advertisers are really interested in.... If you go out and say that you are a liberal network, you are cutting your potential audience, and certainly your potential advertising pool, right off the bat." (See Extra!, 11-12/03.)
FAIR's call to the ABC contact person listed on the memo, to ask if similar "blackout" lists exist for other shows, including conservative-leaning programs, has not been returned.