Thursday, January 11, 2007

ABC shut down blogger who criticized violent rhetoric on one of its radio stations

In 2006, a blogger named Spocko began spotlighting inflammatory rhetoric common to several talk radio hosts on KSFO, an ABC Radio-owned station in San Francisco. Spocko compiled a litany of examples on both his weblog, Spocko's Brain, and in numerous letters to corporations advertising on KSFO. He noted that KSFO hosts had claimed to have put "a bull's-eye" on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), advocated hanging various New York Times editors, called for the murder of millions of Muslims, and so on.

This letter-writing campaign apparently got results, as major advertisers such as MasterCard, Bank of America, and Visa reportedly pulled their ads from the station. But as numerous blogs have noted in recent days, on December 21, ABC Inc., a subsidiary of the Disney-ABC Television Group, apparently issued a cease-and-desist letter targeting Spocko and his blog for copyright violation. Specifically, ABC alleged that by posting brief audio clips of various talk radio hosts on KSFO, the site was "in clear violation" of the station's copyright. The letter demanded that the owner of the site "remove the content immediately." Soon after, according to Spocko, his Internet service provider shut down his blog.

But while this story has received widespread coverage in the blogosphere, the mainstream media have yet to report on it.

In the past year, Media Matters for America has documented several inflammatory statements by KSFO hosts Melanie Morgan and Brian Sussman (here, here, and here). On his blog, Spocko featured numerous additional examples by these and other KSFO personalities, such as Lee Rodgers and Officer Vic. Spocko also wrote to KSFO's corporate sponsors calling their attention to these statements. For instance, in a November 20, 2006, letter to telecommunications giant AT&T, he wrote: "Thanks to radio hosts from KSFO your brand is being associated with torturing and killing people." He included in the letter numerous examples of the hosts' invective:

Rodgers on a repeat offender in Lincoln, Nebraska: "Some SOB like this -- you know, lock him up, throw away the key. Better yet, put a bullet between his eyes and get it over, because he's never gonna be worth a damn, never gonna be anything but a criminal anyway. ... Now, you start with the Sears DieHard -- the battery cables connected to his testicles and you entertain him with that for a while, and then you blow his bleeping head off." (8/16/06)

Rodgers' suggestion of how to punish an arsonist responsible for a forest fire: "I say they catch the person, tie 'em to a post and burn 'em. Set 'em on fire." Morgan added: "Hog tie 'em first. That would be good." (10/27/06)

Sussman asking a caller to prove that he is not a Muslim: "Say Allah is a whore. ... Say that you love eating pig." (October 2005)

Rodgers on Indonesia: "Indonesia is really just another enemy Muslim nation. ... You keep screwing around with stuff like this, we're going to kill a bunch of you. Millions of you." (10/25/06)

Morgan on Pelosi: "We've got a bull's-eye painted on her big, wide laughing eyes." (11/14/06)

Morgan on New York Times executive editor Bill Keller and other Times editors: "Hang 'em." (6/27/06) Spocko went on to urge AT&T to drop its advertisements from these KSFO shows. He concluded the letter as follows:

"I want to emphasize that if you withdrawal [sic] your ads you aren't limiting their free speech, just removing your paid support of it. Some other company without the values you describe on the AT&T website can support them. You can choose to advertise elsewhere. This is really about YOU. Do YOU want to be associated with these comments? Do you want your company and brand to be associated with these comments?

"I urge you to discontinue advertising on KSFO during the shows hosted by Melanie Morgan, Lee Rogers, Tom Brenner and Brian Sussman."

Following Spocko's communications, advertisers such as Netflix, MasterCard, Bank of America, and Visa all reportedly withdrew their KSFO advertising, as a January 5 Online Media Daily article reported. Spocko has further claimed that Federal Express, AT&T, and Kaiser Permanente are considering pulling their ads from the station.

But on December 21, Spocko's Internet hosting service, 1&1 Internet Inc., received a cease-and-desist letter bearing ABC's logo. In the letter, Enid J.H. Karpeh, who identified herself as ABC's counsel, claimed that Spocko's use of brief audio clips of Rodgers, Morgan, and other hosts was "in clear violation of KSFO's copyright." The letter signed by Karpeh went on to demand that 1&1 Internet "remove the content immediately."

Following is the letter (click here to see full-size version):

To contact KSFO in San Francisco: