What's All This Then?

commentary on the passing parade

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Until further notice, you can assume that any gap in posting on this blog is due to ridiculous health problems. The further notice, if and when it comes, should be that some health improvement has been achieved. Maybe successful back surgery.

Meanwhile…. Not with a bang and not even with a whimper, Jerry Springer has departed from the radio air ways. Not from his horrible television show. No way the guy is going to give up the vehicle that allows him to be flown around the country by his own private pilot in his private Lear Jet.

I’ve been listening on and off since his show was picked up in Chicago and I hadn’t heard anything about him quitting until he spoke of yesterday’s show as being his last. And he’s gone.

For a while, he was part of Air America - and certainly he was part of whatever "progressive" broadcasting is going on in this country. So I was surprised when no mention of his departure was made by any of the other "progressive" talk show hosts I listened to yesterday or this morning. And there’s very little mention on the Internet - mostly by sites that cover talk radio and liberal talk radio in particular. If there was any print press mention, I can’t find it.

What really surprises me is that my Google inquiry didn’t unearth any right wing blogs gloating over his demise and extrapolating from his departure, the imminent demise of all liberal radio.

I won’t miss Springer’s effort to show us that he’s much more than the ringmaster of a television circus show. He’s not an unintelligent man, but like Al Franken, who also is no dummy - he’s no radio man. Success in the radio talk show business calls for the kind of je ne sais pas talent that you hear during drive time on major radio stations Don Imus on WFAN in New York - Spike O’Dell on WGN in Chicago. Springer didn’t have it. Franken, who may be the next to call it quits, doesn’t have it either. Listen long enough to Al, as I have done, and his show becomes virtually predictable, with the same line up of guests week after week saying pretty much the same thing week after week.

Don’t get me wrong. For the most part, I enjoy listening to "progressive" talk radio. It’s usually more sensible than the stuff being broadcast from the other end of the spectrum. Except maybe for the advertising. I listen to progressive radio on WCPT - a struggling station based many miles outside of Chicago with a weak, daytime only signal. Since it began broadcasting liberal talk a year or so ago, major advertisers have not flocked to the station. Not too many minor advertisers either. Very few of the advertisers that you hear on Chicago’s "regular" line up of stations can be heard on WCPT. But you can hear ads that you’re not likely to hear on those more established stations.

Most I’m sure are on behalf of legitimate enterprises offering legitimate goods and services. But there are some whose odor of illegitimacy is such that they defy the laws of science and send their smell over the airways and into your unsuspecting nostrils. Here are two that I think have places reserved for them in the radio ad hall of shame.

One advertises foreclosed properties that can be acquired with very little cash investment. There’s nothing illegitimate about this kind of business. People default on mortgages. The homes are repossessed and offered for sale - sometimes at bargain prices depending on the amounts still owed. But this particular ad says things that make you think something else is going on. It starts out by telling you that "This is a Public Announcement" - and then goes on to explain that there are government and bank foreclosed properties which can be acquired for "little or no money down." It then says that people whose last names begin with letters A through O are allowed to call "NOW" and people whose last names begin with letters N through Z "may start calling at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning." Since the ad runs again and again and at different times, the "now and tomorrow" is nonsensical come on. The ad only has to run two days in a row for the admonition of when you are "allowed" to call and the inferred importance of that timing - connected to the initial of your last name - to become close to being fraudulently moot..

A second one is reminiscent of peddlers of old who would go door to door in poor neighborhoods, selling merchandise for weekly payments which they would collect in person and which would sometimes go on for years. This is an ad aimed at people with poor credit. Indeed it says that no credit check is required. All that is required is that you have a checking account and can afford to pay $29.99 a week for twelve months. A total of $1559.48. And what do you get for that hefty sum? A computer. The make and type unknown. The ad doesn’t tell you. But if you pay up, you might get some extras, like a printer - again, make unknown. It’s pretty obvious that the ad is aimed at people who don’t have funds to buy a computer for cash and might have difficulty buying one on credit. So, in their generosity, they’re offering to provide one at a price for which you might be able to acquire as many as three - depending on how many bells and whistles you want. I have a two year old Dell with 160 GB hard drive, loaded with software - a 17 inch flat monitor and a basic color printer which cost me about half of what this company wants to wheedle out of the unsuspecting potential victims at whom their ad is directed.

It’s a caveat emptor world, but when ads are aimed at people who didn’t take Latin in high school or college - or very likely didn’t get much past grade school - it isn’t that much different from what those old time peddlers used to do to people in poor neighborhoods. . It does put a limit on the number of weekly payments - but the relationship between what they’re selling and how much they’re charging - puts them in the same category. People who take advantage of misery.

What surprises me somewhat is that these people with these kinds of products would choose to spend advertising dollars on "progressive" radio . One would think that there would be few people listening to liberal talk shows who would be potential responders to these kinds of products and services. Maybe they’re persuaded to place their ads there because the rates are ridiculously low - which I presume to be the case. Or maybe I’m all wrong about the kind of people who are listening to progressive talk radio and that these odoriferous outfits are actually getting responses to their advertising come-ons. In which case I’d have to admit that I know a lot less than I thought I did about talk radio and about people in general.

Which shows you what having a bad back and Bell’s Palsy can do to a person.