Programming isn't just a time slot. I've worked in broadcast and knew this was true.
Glenn Beck's syndicator runs a astroturf-on-demand call-in service for radio programs
Premiere On Call, a division of the Clear Channel subsidiary that distributes Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, is a service that hires actors to call into radio shows and read a script that purports to be a true story presented by the public. They bind their actors to confidentiality agreements, and disavow any involvement in fraud, saying "Premiere, like many other content providers, facilitates casting--while character and script development, and how the talent's contribution is integrated into programs, are handled by the varied stations."
The actors hired by Premiere to provide the aforementioned voice talents sign confidentiality agreements and so would not go on the record. But their accounts leave little room for doubt. All of the actors I questioned reported receiving scripts, calling in to real shows, pretending to be real people. Frequently, one actor said, the calls were live, sometimes recorded in advance, but never presented on-air as anything but real.
Michael Harrison, the editor of Talkers Magazine, the talk-radio world's leading trade publication, said he knew nothing of this particular service but was not altogether surprised to hear that it was in place. There was, he said, a tradition of "creating fake phone calls for the sake of entertainment on some of the funny shows, shock jocks shows, the kind of shows you hear on FM music stations in the morning, they would regularly have scenarios, crazy scenarios of people calling up and doing pranks."
Radio Daze (via Making Light)
(Image: Astroturf, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from purpleslog's photostream)
This week’s parasha introduces a medium for distinguishing truth from falsehood. On the radio, where actors are hired to read scripts and pretend to be real people, things aren’t so simple.
Last year, a young man called in to a radio station with a problem. He’d recently attended a bachelor party, he said, and a friend of the groom-to-be, clueless of the unwritten etiquette of maledom, brought his girlfriend along, derailing what was supposed to be a weekend of gambling, girls, and general debauchery. The caller told his story with passion and verve, and then asked the station’s listeners for their advice on how to treat his clueless pal.
Or at least he would have, had this been a real conversation. The young man—who asked to remain nameless in order to protect his chances for future employment—was an actor, and the staged call an audition. A short while later, he received the following email: “Thank you for auditioning for Premiere On Call,” it said. “Your audition was great! We’d like to invite you to join our official roster of ‘ready-to-work’ actors.” The job, the email indicated, paid $40 an hour, with one hour guaranteed per day.
But what exactly was the work? The question popped up during the audition and was explained, the actor said, clearly and simply: If he passed the audition, he would be invited periodically to call in to various talk shows and recite various scenarios that made for interesting radio. He would never be identified as an actor, and his scenarios would never be identified as fabricated—which they always were.
“I was surprised that it seemed so open,” the actor told me in an interview. “There was really no pretense of covering it up.”