Keith Olbermann Not Only One in Media Who Donates to Politicians

1:22 PM PST 11/09/2010 by Philiana Ng

Television and radio hosts like Glenn Beck often do “live-read” advertisements on their respective shows, asking viewers to support or join a specific political group.

The line between political advertisements and media personalities has increasingly blurred, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Glenn Beck, who has endorsed Washington, D.C.-based libertarian advocacy group FreedomWorks on his show since May, often does "live-read" advertisements, asking his 10 million weekly listeners to join. He has publicly supported FreedomWorks before the team-up this year.

Though Beck endorses FreedomWorks, Christopher Balfe, president and COO of Beck's production company, said Beck has the ability to terminate support for "any service or product he doesn't believe in," adding that the host once dropped an advertiser because he no longer supported the company.

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann was suspended "indefinitely" late last week -- and then subsequently brought back -- for donating $2,400 each to three Democratic candidates during the most recent election cycle.

Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert recently hosted a rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in October that attracted several Democratic groups. The Wall Street Journal writes that Democratic National Committee greeted several buses arriving in D.C. for the Stewart/Colbert rally, though the cable network said there were no official political sponsors for the event.

More conservative hosts, like Sean Hannity, reported in nearby locales during tea-party rallies though Fox News said it pulled Hannity from one in April. So where is the line drawn?

Industry experts note that paid live-read spots -- more common in radio than in television -- "have reached a new level," especially with the most recent election cycle. For instance, Americans for Prosperity spent millions to defeat Democratic incumbents, the WSJ reports. The group sponsors live-read ads by radio host Mark Levin, who has also spoken at events sponsored by the group. His show has reach to 8.5 million.

How much groups pay for live-read commercials could go into hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the host, the length of the sponsorship and the frequency, the Journal writes.

Television networks often do not air live-read spots like they allow in radio, but there are some exceptions.

"Because Glenn Beck's Mercury Radio Arts agreement predates his agreement with Fox News, Glenn has certain radio obligations with which he needs to comply," Dianne Brandi, Fox News evp for legal and biz affairs told the Journal.

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