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August 14, 2007

General Motors Giving Payola To Radio Talk Shot Hosts

Ralph Nader writes in a recent column that General Motors has a huge payola deal going with talk show hosts across the political spectrum. GM gives the hosts new cars two weeks each month and brings them to Detroit for meetings with company executives. Those signed up for the deal include Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Laura Schlessinger, but also Bill Press and Ed Schultz.

Much of Nader's column is based on a story in Automotive News, which has a lot of damning detail which Nader didn't include. It's subscription only, but I've liberated it from the Automotive News website in the public interest, below.


General Motors Payola
GM woos the radio stars
Rush, Whoopi and others plug vehicles on the air

By Mary Connelly

(Detroit) General Motors is recruiting many of America's best known radio personalities - including Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Laura Schlessinger and Whoopi Goldberg - to talk up its vehicles on the air.

GM says it doesn't pay the stars directly for their endorsements, although it advertises on their shows. It gives them new GM cars and trucks to drive for two weeks each month. The company also invites the celebrities to Detroit for private meetings with top executives and VIP tours of GM facilities.

The attention is paying off. One day last month, for example, Limbaugh - who has the largest audience in talk radio - told his listeners that "GM cars and trucks have never been better.

"GM has a ton of momentum,'' Limbaugh enthused. "They are working hard and they are thinking smart. Believe in General Motors, folks. They're a classic American company doing it all.''

A Dallas disc jockey named Atom Smasher told his listeners: "I am driving around in this Cadillac, and I am not going to want to give it back - the Cadillac SRX. Named best luxury SUV three years in a row. And do they look good blinged-out. To all of the guys at GM: Good job.''

Said another Dallas DJ, Chris Ryan: "Have you seen all the cool things that's going on at GM? I have. If you're thinking about a new car, you got to look to GM.''

'Emotional connection'

Sam Mancuso, GM's director of brand marketing alliances and operations, said the company initiated contacts this spring with 17 national radio hosts, as well as dozens of local personalities in cities such as Dallas and Los Angeles.

Mancuso said he and Betsy Lazar, GM executive director of advertising and media operations, have done much of the wooing.

"Radio personalities have unique relationships with their listeners,'' Mancuso told Automotive News. "They make a real emotional connection. The audience knows they are being genuine.

"We said, 'Let's provide them with information about the vehicles and let them engage and discuss.' And that is what they are doing. When they come out here and get to meet with us, their eyes open wide. They are so excited about the product.''

GM's monitoring confirms that the personalities are talking about the company's vehicles on their programs, Mancuso said. But he insisted that GM does not give any of them a script.

"They are not required to mention GM,'' he said. "Do they mention the product? Yes. Do they mention GM? Some yes, some no.''

Limbaugh and both Dallas radio hosts said in their spiels that GM has "24 models that get an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway.'' They used the words "more than any other manufacturer.'' And they all cited E85 flex-fuel vehicles and the Saturn Aura Green Line in discussing GM's environmental initiatives.

Mancuso would not say how much GM spends to advertise on the hosts' radio shows.

Limbaugh visited GM headquarters in early May, Mancuso said. He met with Vice Chairman Bob Lutz and design chief Ed Welburn and toured the company's design center.

Right and left

Mancuso said the radio hosts whom GM works with fall along a broad spectrum of political opinions. The list includes conservative commentators such as Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Schlessinger, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. But it also includes liberals such as Bill Press and Ed Schultz.

Other personalities, such as Goldberg, Ryan Seacrest and John Tesh, host essentially apolitical entertainment and music-oriented programs. Jim Rome hosts a daily sports talk show. Other local and national personalities host shows aimed at black and Hispanic audiences.

"There is no political agenda here,'' Mancuso said. "We don't associate ourselves with what (the hosts') beliefs are.''

Several of the celebrities appear on TV as well as radio. O'Reilly and Hannity host nightly programs on Fox News Channel. Beck is a host on CNN Headline News and contributes to ABC's "Good Morning America.'' Seacrest hosts Fox's "American Idol'' - which is sponsored by Ford Motor Co.

While the personalities may also discuss their GM experiences on TV, Mancuso said, the company is "not involved in that.''

* * *

Talk talk

GM has enlisted these national radio personalities to talk up its vehicles on their shows.

Michael Baisden, talk show host

Glenn Beck, talk show host

Delilah, song request show

Whoopi Goldberg, talk show host

Sean Hannity, talk show host

Laura Ingraham, talk show host

Rush Limbaugh, talk show host

George Noory, talk show host

Bill O'Reilly, talk show host

Bill Press, talk show host

Jim Rome, sports talk show host

Laura Schlessinger, advice call-in show

Ed Schultz, talk show host

Ryan Seacrest, variety/talk show host

Keith Sweat, music show host

John Tesh, music show host

Big Tigger, music show host

Source: GM

Posted at August 14, 2007 01:24 AM | TrackBack

I guess paying off radio personalities is easier than building cars that are fuel efficient and and don't start falling apart as you drive them off the lot.

Posted by: ran at August 14, 2007 08:33 AM

Two weeks use of a car? The news here isn't that they can be bought, but that they can be bought so cheaply.

And what's up with this:

Limbaugh and both Dallas radio hosts said in their spiels that GM has "24 models that get an EPA-estimated 30 miles per gallon or more on the highway.'' They used the words "more than any other manufacturer.'' And they all cited E85 flex-fuel vehicles and the Saturn Aura Green Line in discussing GM's environmental initiatives.

So Limbaugh's an environmentalist now?

Posted by: SteveB at August 14, 2007 10:44 AM

My Ex-Brother-in -Law (still friends)went into radio. Why oh why didn't I LISTEN?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 14, 2007 12:14 PM

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, SteveB. Limbaugh is not opposed to environmentalism, he is merely a faithful servant of corporate America. So it behooves him to attack environmentalists when they run up against corporate interests, but when those same ideas may be used for a nice bit of green corporate propaganda, they are no longer verboten. The bottom line is: does this benefit my masters? If it does, it is kosher. If it does not, it is traif. That's as deep as Limbaugh needs to examine things, here.

Posted by: saurabh at August 14, 2007 12:44 PM

So when GM finally realizes that the only way it can stay competitive with the Japanese (and Chinese) is by offloading its employee and retiree health care costs on to a single-payer system, Limbaugh will forget his opposition to socialized medicine?

Surely, there must be limits to this sort of thing...

Posted by: SteveB at August 14, 2007 01:14 PM

Not ... not ...

Ryan Seacrest, variety/talk show host


My dreams have been shattered.

Next thing you'll tell me ... what? Who?!

John Tesh, music show host


Posted by: Lame Man at August 14, 2007 01:23 PM

hehehe, SteveB, did you miss the "it was killing me to be shilling for the man" speech? there's always a miraculous technicality to differentiate their socialist program from our wise course.

Posted by: hapa at August 14, 2007 01:25 PM

"but also Bill Press and Ed Schultz."

but also?

Posted by: sam at August 15, 2007 10:23 PM