Clear Channel's 'progressive' ploy backfires

Something revolutionary was brewing on Ohio radio last month. Or so it seemed.

Something revolutionary was brewing on Ohio radio last month. Or so it seemed.

A group calling itself Radio Free Ohio began interrupting broadcasts on Clear Channel stations with cryptic rants against corporate radio and a promise that change was on the way.

An amateurish-looking website, RadioFreeOhio.org, also appeared. "Radio in Ohio sucks," it read. "We know, we've listened." The rambling text railed against "corporate mandated opinions" and "corporate controlled music playlists." It listed local stations that should "turn over their licenses to the FCC." It demanded "barf bags" to get through the Rush Limbaugh-Sean Hannity-Michael Savage lineup.

Naturally the "movement" caught the attention of many local bloggers and media watchers. So it didn't take long for the truth to come out.

Turns out it was a promotion by Clear Channel itself, a fact revealed when someone from local station WOXY looked up the website's registration.

Clear Channel quickly owned up to it, admitting the whole thing was a PR stunt to garner excitement for their launch of a sports channel as a "progressive talk" station.

"Once we [decided] we were changing the format, we tried to get into the mindset of people who'd listen to this new station," Clear Channel VP Dan Lankford told The New York Times.

Mission accomplished, if by "get into the mindset" he meant "alienate the hell out of." As of last week, local blogs and message boards made Radio Free Ohio's rant sound like a love ballad to corporate media.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the type of people who resent corporate radio don't like having their idealism exploited, particularly to promote corporate radio. If this is "progressive talk," Ohio may need those barf bags after all.

  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's news editor.

    Ratings:

    1. Clueless

    2. Ill-advised

    3. On the right track

    4. Savvy

    5. Ingenious

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