11 April 2012

Huckster Exposed?

On Monday, the Mike Huckabee Show premiered on about 40 stations nationwide, syndicated by Cumulus Media (the current owners of ABC Radio).  The show is slotted to compete head to head with the Rush Limbaugh show from Noon to Three p.m.. To distinguish himself from the King of Talk Radio, former Governor Huckabee’s (R-AR) slogan is “Less Confrontation, More Conversation”, which is meant to appeal to the mushy middle of news-talk listeners.

Huckabee took his first phone call fifty minutes into the show from “Mike in San-Francisco”.  The caller chimed in:

Well Governor, let me start by saying it's great to have a different opinion and a different person on the radio and I'm very, very happy that you're doing this radio show. One of the reasons why I want to listen to your program every day is because you ran for office and you've been a politician, you have a different perspective I think.

What a wonderful way to start off your show. Unfortunately, the background behind this sterling first call may expose the Huck-ster.

The first thing impeaching the bone fides of this call is that the host had not given out the call-in line for first fifty minutes of the show.  Huckabee gave the toll free number and immediately “Mike from San Francisco” was cued up and ready to flatter.  That was a miracle!  It was kind of fishy that a spontaneous caller could parrot the talking points for the show in the first hour of broadcasting, but perhaps “Mike” was a groupie

However, Jeffrey Lord from the American Spectator was able to discern that the caller was Mike McVay, the Senior Vice President of Cumulus Media (the syndicator of the Mike Huckabee Show). McVay never identified himself or his affiliation with the show.  It is remarkable that Huckabee could have a radio colloquy with “Mike” for a couple of minutes and not recognize the voice, with whom the Governor presumably had hours of conversations in the run up to the premiere. Huckabee is no newbie to radio, so it is unlikely that nerves overcame his manners or morality.

Politically, Huckabee is not my cup of tea but I have no animus against him.  Huckabee can be charming on his Fox News Saturday Night cable show, picking the guitar while fiddling with politics. In fact, I believe that Huckabee’s first candidate forum with questions from state Attorney-Generals was probably the best of the score of GOP debates.

It seems quixotic to challenge Rush Limbaugh head-to-head, as challengers like Bill O’Reilly, Al Franken, former Governor Mario Cuomo (D-NY) et ali have been felled in the same field.  My media gut check is that Cumulus is vying to create a moderate success on the cheap.  Cumulus may offer enticing terms (like less expensive syndication fees and more local commercial slots).  Moreover, it is likely that Cumulus may leverage their  their Owned and Operated stations (like DC’s WMAL and New York’s WABC when contracts expire) migrating from Premiere Radio to their own Cumulus network.  Considering how the Obama Administration and the campaign continues to demonize Limbaugh, as seen with the Fluck Flap, Cumulus can champion any stations switching as a groundswell against Rush.  Furthermore, Limbaugh is looking to upgrade his affilates to FM carrier (as was recently seen when Rush left Philadelphia’s powerhouse WPHT-AM for WKDN-FM), which opens up AM signals for Cumulus to syndicate and gives them dubious bragging rights that they replaced Rush.

Maybe only media junkies will notice or remember this disingenuous commencement of the Mike Huckabee show.  Fifteen hours of broadcasting a week is a long time over the airways.  Loyal listeners will quickly figure out who is the real Mike Huckabee.  Good luck in the future.

h/t: American Spectator

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