Seamans: Free speech or civil discourse?

Print More

(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans has been following a story that has to do with civil discourse, public opinion and the almighty dollar.

(SEAMANS) It could be a major breakthrough. It could be the first lifeline thrown out to help rescue civility in our political discourse now drowning in the vulgarism of radio and tv toxic talk shows.  It’s been reported in recent days that perhaps up to twenty sponsors have pulled their commercials off conservative Glenn Beck’s controversial radio and tv talk shows.  Among the impressive names are State Farm, Men’s Wearhouse, Geico, Proctor & Gamble, S.C. Johnson, RadioShack and very significantly, Wal-Mart.  It’s said that some of their commercials might still appear on their repeat programs until they are edited out of the tapes.

The drop outs have been reluctant to comment on the politically sensitive commercial cancelations – although one company did reflect an unspoken reason – that they wanted to avoid the perception that they endorse Glenn Beck’s opinions which less gentle critics allege are contributing to an atmosphere of hatred threatening President Barack Obama’s safety.  Beck openly called President Obama a "racist" and has urged his audience to turn out large anti-Obama demonstrations.

Glenn Beck is regarded by critics as another member of what they call the Limbaugh/Hannity/Levin/O’Reilly toxic talk show axis who say they purvey free speech and patriotically protect our Constitution and that they are a prime example of capitalistic enterprise because they make a lot of money.

So the withdrawal of major commercial money from Glenn Beck is truly significant.  It’s the strongest possible signal that some leading corporations that write the checks finally are listening to the disapproval of their audiences which could degrade their product’s image and sales.  Having sat in on network discussions with sponsors during my checkered career I know how heavily public opinion weighs on the business men who buy their company’s commercials.  They have the huge responsibility and difficult job of effectively advertising their products while avoiding the suggestion that they are supporting particularly egregious and offensive social and political commentary.

The world of broadcast advertising is extremely important and competitive because commercials can directly influence the success or failure of a client’s whole sales program.  The uncountable number of e-mails, letters to the editor, petitions and so forth from we the people complaining  about talk show vulgarism, disinformation and hate mongering has been answered at least partially concerning Glenn Beck’s programs.  Some major commercial sponsors have walked the walk by withdrawing their financial support – whether the fight for civility will spread to other toxic talk shows now has the public’s attention and their sponsors will be listening.

Comments are closed.