Fight for the Savage Nation

This is one of the toughest pieces I will ever write.

It’s about talk show host Michael Savage who has found a significant radio following crossing the line – in my opinion – of good judgment.

His recent comments that he claims were taken out of context regarding autism were awful no matter how he and his syndicator Talk Radio Network decides to spin them.

Some press accounts say he has lost over $1 million in advertising. Lost some affiliates. But has not lost the support of his syndicator and the majority of affiliates.

Some of Savage’s tactics such as suing the Council on America-Islamic Relations for allegedly using four minutes of air time for fund raising in violation of racketeering laws hasn’t made it past a San Francisco court – yet.

Some, but not all, of my readers think I don’t care for any national programs – that everything must be local. That is not my position.

I favor lots of local shows – especially in the morning – and using local radio to grow the next batch of talent. An occasional national show – a good one – could be an asset. But it does not replace local programming. My beef is that operators are loading up on syndication – especially after 7pm to turn their stations into duplication centers. No cost, just content produced somewhere else.

Back to the Savage controversy.

I personally have no time for his act. I recognize that his followers and many stations do.

I’m on the side of the autism support groups that are outraged by the comments that Savage and TRN are spinning now (TRN set up to explain his side – their right).

But here’s how I think it works.

All of us in broadcasting need to fight for Michael Savage’s right to speak freely over the airwaves – hold our noses if necessary – but fight nonetheless. All our freedoms are on the line. We don’t get to choose which free speech we like and which comments we don’t like if we are to truly have a free media.

One more thing.

Local stations are right to make decisions whether to continue carrying Savage’s program based on local community standards. That’s their job (contrary to how some larger consolidators act these days).

If Savage terminally offended the community in the minds of a local affiliate, then they have the right – and obligation – to remove the show temporarily or permanently. It’s their call, but it shouldn’t be made because the management was offended.

Free speech applies to all our brethren – we shouldn't choose sides.

Freedom to reflect the local audience’s tastes and standards is what a fiduciary is – and that’s how radio has always worked best.

Talk radio has missed its chance to appeal to the next generation. Michael Savage is the anti-Gen Y host. Maybe that's fine with him and I'm not trying to change it, but keep in mind that one of the few things radio has left for its available audience is the talk radio many of them love.

Whether they will ever listen to a radio talk show or not, the example we ought to set for the next generation is that freedom of speech must be taken very seriously.

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