Friday, June 12, 2009

NASCAR and a GM Boycott
NASCAR and a GM boycott

June 12, 10:57 AM

Sam Donaldson once related his experience in what is known as talk radio, Sam was hosting a show on a Washington radio station about five years ago and his ratings were not up to par, whatever par is for these infantile, puerile, juvenile shows hosted by some desultory individual whose main job is to be a carnival barker or a pencil neck geek between commercials.

At any rate, Donaldson's program director came in and gave the long time ABC News correspondent a primer in what makes a good talk show host. Donaldson needed to be angry about everything which wasn't going to happen in 2004 for Sam who was enjoying life. Donaldson's radio show soon went the way of all flesh, radio programmers want vile and bile because that is good radio and that is all they care about. That "good radio" mantra is killing what is left of the radio industry as young people have found alternatives to radio listening and it is being reflected in radio losing ad revenue and having audiences getting older and older. Listen to the ads on “news” talk radio and it appears that everyone listening has a major illness and a drug is available for the ailment or needs life insurance or should be preparing their estates.

President Bill Clinton's signature on the 1996 Telecommunications Act which allowed radio consolidation and put a great many radio stations under the ownership of either Clear Channel or Infinity was a total disaster for the industry and radio is still reeling from that legislation.

For the record, I was a repeating guest on Donaldson's ABCNewsNow web cast in 2005.

Rush Limbaugh provides vile and bile and his act can only play in the talk radio format or perhaps the cable TV news circuit where people never let the truth get in the way of a good rant about something they consider bad. It is only entertainment.

When Limbaugh took the act to ESPN to be part of their football crew on their Countdown show in 2003, he self destructed. He went on some blather about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb which was pointless and resigned. ESPN executives knew the act and gambled that it would play well in the football field. It didn't.

Limbaugh has stayed out of the sports business since then and his act continues even though his radio bosses are bleeding money and firing people left and right. Limbaugh tangentially re-entered the sports business a few days ago when he told his listeners that they should boycott General Motors because of President Barack Obama's policies. Limbaugh wants Obama's policies to fail.

There is no need to go into Limbaugh's logic or dogma but you kind of wonder whether the France family, the people who own and run NASCAR, really agree with the radio host who by the way makes millions of dollars a year for his daily ratings and has a lifestyle that includes a luxurious Palm Beach, Florida address that is totally at odds with his listeners, some of them General Motors workers who may be out of work shortly.

General Motors, you see, is a major part of the NASCAR business. A smaller General Motors is not a good thing for France's business which has leveled off somewhat after years of growth. General Motors, Chrysler, Ford and Toyota are major players in NASCAR in funding race teams and in marketing deals including race naming rights and television ads.

France's business depends on GM to provide factory support in the various car and truck races. It appears GM will be cutting that support for a few teams and that is not good news. With both GM and Chrysler on the ropes, NASCAR needs to look elsewhere but the entire auto industry is faltering as consumers either have no money or cannot get credit to buy new cars.

If Limbaugh's listeners, and Limbaugh is not the only carnival barker out there wanting a GM boycott, shun GM, NASCAR is also going to be greatly impacted. Last July, GM dropped four of its NASCAR marketing partnership and more cuts are coming. Whether the multimillionaire Limbaugh realizes this or not, and the chances are he doesn't or will not acknowledge it, some of his listeners are being hurt by GM's rapid deterioration but that is not a concern of the desultory, as that would not make good radio. NASCAR fans are more likely to be in Limbaugh's camp because the industry tends to attract Republican supporters and started as a rural southeastern United States business which expanded nationally. That is a non disputably fact and in the 2004 Presidential Election Kenneth Mehlmann, the campaign manager for Bush-Chaney 2004 told me that he was going after "NASCAR dads" which included President George W. Bush showing up at the Daytona 500 while the Republican National Committee set up shop at the racetrack in an attempt to register potential voters.

In 1980, I witnessed the closing of one car factory in Mahwah, New Jersey. It was a Ford plant, if Limbaugh and the other carnival barkers ever thought about how their nonsense plays out, Mahwah is a perfect study for them. When the plant closes, not only did the Ford workers lose their jobs, but all of the support industries around the plant suddenly had no need to exist. These people included the personal who drove the cars out of the factory to showrooms, auto parts suppliers, the little food businesses surrounding the plant and other businesses that sold various items to workers. Mahwah lost a major taxpayer when Ford departed. Someone had to make up those lost local taxes. There is an entire economic chain that comes attached to an auto plant.

The same thing played out in North Tarrytown, New York in 1993, 3,400 workers gone and North Tarrytown lost its biggest taxpayer by the time the place finally shutdown in 1996 although some of the employees were transferred. North Tarrytown, now known as Sleepy Hollow, is still struggling to replace the old plant.

It is playing out now in American Midwest towns. But the carnival barker, the pencil neck geek or the desultory cannot discuss that aspect of the story; it would not make good radio or cable TV news.

The auto industry is a huge sports sponsor but if GM and Chrysler monies disappear someone will have to make up the loss and companies aren't spending as much money on sports sponsorship these days. Getting back to the sports angle, the American Football League in 1965 got a huge contract from NBC which pretty much assured the league's survival. Where did NBC get a good chunk of that money to pay the league? From a Chrysler sponsorship, the joke of the first Super Bowl in January 1967 was not only was it the NFL versus the AFL, the Green Bay Packers versus the Kansas City Chiefs, but it was also CBS, the NFL's network, versus NBC, the AFL's network and Ford, the NFL's sponsor vs. Dodge, the AFL's sponsor.

Why people pay attention to the desultory or carnival barker, and really it is the news media that pays attention for whatever reason, is a good question. The desultory brings nothing to the table. Just ask NASCAR people what a boycott of GM would do and you probably would get a very different answer from the adults who run that business than the puerile, juvenile, desultory, pencil neck geek, carnival barker.

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