Kelley Winters

Entercom Communications Corporation: When Big Business Demonizes Innocent Children

Filed By Kelley Winters | June 07, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: david j. field, entercom communications, glaad, krqx, McDonalds, Michael Rowe, rob williams

The community response to Sacramento radio station KRXQ FM, following hateful and threatening remarks toward gender variant children on May 28th, has been overwhelming and gratifying. A GLAAD Call to Action and a remarkable report by Michael Rowe of the Huffington Post on May 2 sparked a groundswell of outrage and protest from the transcommunity and our advocates.

According to a GLAAD Blog update, McDonald's is the 10th major company so far to withdraw advertising from KRXQ.

Nine days ago, KRXQ morning hosts Rob Williams and Arnie States ridiculed and defamed a transitioned Nebraska child and her loving family, going so far as to promote shame and even violence against gender variant youth. States remarked:

"If my son, God forbid, if my son put on a pair of high heels, I would probably hit him with one of my shoes. I would throw a shoe at him. Because you know what? Boys don't wear high heels. And in my house, they definitely don't wear high heels."

and continued, "I look forward to when they go out into society and society beats them down."

Williams and States hurled hateful epithets toward transpeople and especially children throughout the thirty-minute segment, including "freaks," "abnormal," "idiot," and "dumbass."

While the bulk of the community response as been directed at the station management and its major advertisers, it is the parent corporation that should ultimately be held accountable. KRXQ FM in Sacramento is owned by Entercom Communications, Corp., based near Philadelphia, PA. According to the Entercom web site:

"Entercom is one of the five largest radio broadcasting companies in the United States, with a nationwide portfolio of 110 stations in 23 markets, including San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Denver, Portland, Sacramento and Kansas City."

Mr. David J. Field is listed in the 2008 Annual Report as President and CEO of Entercom Communications. The principal address and contact numbers for him are:

Entercom Communications Corp.
401 City Ave., Suite 809
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
Tel: 610-660-5610
Fax: 610-660-5620

According to Google Finance, Entercom reported total revenues of $439 million in 2008 with 1600 employees. Its top five institutional investors listed on MSN Money Central are:

  • Dimensional Fund Advisors, LP
  • Barclays Global Investors, N.A.
  • Goldman Sachs Asset Management
  • Perkins Investment Management LLC
  • AQR Capital Management LLC

To date, neither Entercom nor KRXQ have offered any apology or retraction. Instead, Arnie States fumed on May 3, "I'm not apologizing for what I said," He went so far as to threaten to quit before apologizing to the children and families harmed by his words, "If I was forced to apologize about this, I would have walked out the door."

In his responsibility to oversee the KRXQ station, CEO David Field has perhaps forgotten the principle emphasized on his own corporate web site, "The company has a long-standing commitment to responsible corporate citizenship ..." It is time for Entercom Communications to step up, to live up to this commitment.


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Renée Thomas | June 7, 2009 2:52 PM

Please consider specifically writing and emailing your comments to the Entercom Board of Directors at:

directors@entercom.com - place "ETM Board Message" in the subject line to bypass the site's spam filters.

When writing to Entercom, it should be noted that Entercom founder and Chairman Joseph Field serves on the advisory board for the University of Pennsylvania Field Center for Children's Policy, Practice and Research, which is overseen by the School of Social Policy. Pressure applied from this angle might have some effect.

I extend my deepest thanks to everyone who voiced their concern to the management at KRQX FM radio and Entercom Communications. Your voices were heard.

A short while ago, all content on the home page for the Rob, Arnie and Dawn in the Morning show at KRQX FM was replaced by this message:

TO OUR LOYAL ROB, ARNIE AND DAWN FOLLOWERS,

WE HAVE FAILED YOU. AS A SHOW, AS PEOPLE, AS BROADCASTERS, WE HAVE SIMPLY FAILED ON ALMOST EVERY LEVEL.

WE PRESENTED OUR OPINIONS ON A VERY SENSITIVE SUBJECT IN A HATEFUL, CHILDISH AND CRUDE FASHION; AND THEN, GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO RETRACT THOSE REMARKS, WE DEFENDED THEM.

SINCE THEN, YOU, OUR LOYAL LISTENERS, HAVE MADE IT CLEAR TO US THAT WE WENT TOO FAR. THE RESPONSE HAS BEEN OVERWHELMING. NONE OF YOU SAID THAT WE COULDN’T HAVE OPINIONS, YET SO MANY OF YOU SAID THAT THE WAY WE GAVE THEM CROSSED THE LINE. FURTHER, YOU SAID THAT OUR ATTEMPT TO MASK OUR COMMENTS AS “JOKES THAT WOULD BE UNDERSTOOD BY OUR AUDIENCE,” WAS UNACCEPTABLE. I WOULD SAY NOW THAT IT WAS WORSE THAN THAT, IT WAS COWARDLY. YOU HAVE MADE THAT CLEAR.

WE HAVE REACHED OUT TO VARIOUS GROUPS AND ASKED FOR A CHANCE TO MAKE THIS RIGHT; TO RESPOND, WITH THEIR PARTICIPATION, TO THE EDUCATION THAT OUR AUDIENCE HAS PROVIDED US. THAT OPPORTUNITY HAS BEEN GRACIOUSLY GRANTED THIS THURSDAY MORNING, JUNE 11TH. AT 7:30 A.M.

THE WORD APOLOGY APPEARS NO WHERE IN THIS LETTER FOR A REASON. WE ALREADY HID FROM DOING THE RIGHT THING ONCE AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE THAT MISTAKE AGAIN. APOLOGIZING IN A WRITTEN, POSTED STATEMENT IS A FORM OF COWARDICE. WE WILL SAY WHAT NEEDS TO BE SAID THIS THURSDAY.

ON A FINAL, PERSONAL NOTE, AS THE LEADER AND OWNER OF THE SHOW, I HAVE MADE THE DECISION THAT WE NEED TO REFRAIN FROM BROADCASTING NEW EPISODES UNTIL WE CAN ADDRESS THIS ON THURSDAY . WE WILL RETURN TO THE AIR AT 7:30 A.M. JUNE 11TH.

ROB WILLIAMS
ROB, ARNIE AND DAWN

THAT sets exactly the right tone.

I'll wait till Thursday to make the call, but that statement is what I personally was looking for from them. So far, so good.

Fuck Entercom. They're destroying American music, and if they weren't called out for this one they wouldn't have apologized.

I mean, it sends a good signal, and it's a great action that GLAAD and the trans community have organized against them. They completely deserve it. But I don't really feel any sympathy for any of the companies here, they're all set on destroying America... grumble grumble.

I'll take my hippie-ness elsewhere.

But on this subject, seriously, good work to everyone who's been working on this. This sort of ridiculous transphobia's been going on too long in all sorts of media.

Before we go lauding this statement and whatever they may say on Thursday, let's not forget the the most basic reality of talk radio: It's a business, and because it's a business, this is really all about money.

First and foremost, at least ten sponsors, including biggies like McDonald's and ATT have pulled their ads on the station. That has to be a major financial loss for the station.

Second, these people clearly thought that bashing trans children was an acceptable topic for their show. The fact is, as little as a few years ago probably few outside our own community would have noticed or cared.

Michael Savage, Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, and many others have bashed transpeople with impunity for years, but they get away with it because through syndication of their shows they probably generate far more money for their employers in a day than this little local show probably generates in an entire year.

Add to that the fact that the Dana Rivers case, which happened in Sacramento about six years ago, had sensitized local listeners to transgender people and our lives. Also add in the media coverage of the Gwen Araujo case, which happened in the nearby San Francisco area.

Bottom line reality:

What these people did might have seemed like a good idea from a show content point of view, but from a business point of view, it was nothing less than astoundingly stupid and dangerous to the station itself.

They completely misjudged the sensibilities of a large portion of their listenership and probably their own value to their employer.

Apparently, a lot of Californians now have a lot less tolerance for this kind of bigotry, particularly after Prop 8 and the relatively recent murders of Gwen Araujo and Larry King.

In addition, they seriously misjudged the reaction of the LGBT community. After Prop 8, this community, especially in California, has finally decided that it's mad as hell as we're not going to take it anymore.

As with Dr. Laura, we're now smart enough to realize that complaining to station management accomplishes nothing as long as the show continues to generate sponsorship money.

By successfully going after the show's sponsors, the free-flowing money tap was likely cut down to relative trickle, no doubt prompting station management to tell Rob Williams that he'd better fix this but quick or his show would be replaced with a better income generator, one that doesn't cause big-money sponsors to avoid advertising on their station. It worked for Dr. Laura and it's likely working here as well.

So, make no mistake that this apology is a sudden change of heart or anything truly positive or progressive. What we're seeing here is a man desperately trying to save his job and those of his co-hosts before it's too late, before their bigotry costs their station so much revenue that they'll have no choice but to fire them in the interest of protecting the station's profitability.

Again, like everything else in commercial media, in the end it's all about money, not about social responsibility. Yes, it's a great thing that the tide is flowing our way (this time), but let's not kid ourselves that in the end this is anything other than protecting business interests.

Yes, Kelley, I like your emphasis on corporate choices on how they go about their money making, rather than trying to make this into an issue about free speech (which is where conservatives/libertarians desperately want to take it). This is not an issue of freedom, it's about a large corporation's decision to sponsor hate speech to make a buck. Yes, Ms. Juro is right it's all about money, which is why people who share concern about media which portrays them in this manner need to aim for the where it hurts... advertising revenue. This case doesn't mean the future will always be sunny, but it sure is the first time loudmouth talk radio bullies got roasted over the coals for it. And if we did it for relatively small potatoes like Rob and Arnie, it can be done for Michael Savage (who I was delighted to hear was recently denied entry into England because of his hate speech). FYI, The Dana Rivers case was back in 1999--already a decade ago. Time flies when you're trying to find societal equality.

Isn't it amazing what losing a lot of advertisers will do?

Brianna Harris | June 9, 2009 6:35 PM

Am I the only one to make note of the fact that this BS statement from Williams is NOT an apology? He even goes so far as to say so. Everyone seems so happy to have gotten this statement out of them. Wake up people, Williams is just buying time until Thursday, by, sort of, admitting that he's a jackass. Myself, I'll withold my final judgement until I hear what he has to say for himself on Thursday.

Kelli McMillan | June 10, 2009 5:33 PM

Before you go off half cocked and say "fuck Entercom" you might want to know that this transgender employee who transitioned on the job at Entercom has been treated very well by the company. Yes, enough that I am willing to stand up for them and take heat for it.

Remember also, RAD is syndicated and merely rents studio space from Entercom and the show is aired on one Entercom station. It is also aired on a station owned by a different company in a different market.

RAD are uneducated fools and deserve the backlash to teach them a lesson about transgender people and what we won't stand for, but don't shoot Entercom in the process. They are a transgender-friendly company and I am proud to work for them.

Kelli, I am delighted to hear that you were treated well at Entercom Communications. However, that does not excuse the role of these executives in paying for this broadcast and profiting from it at the expense of children born like us. This conduct is nothing to be proud of.

A. Entercom and its executives are entirely responsible for the content of the programming that they broadcast on publicly owned airways.

B. Williams Broadcasting Incorporated is located at 5345 Madison Ave. Sacramento, CA. The address for KRXQ is the same, suggesting that the RAD show is produced at the KRXQ studio. That the show is structured into a separate corporation, and that it is also sold to a Reno station, are technicalities irrelevant to Entercom's accountability to the public trust and principles of human decency.

C. Entercom forfeited any good will as a 'transgender-friendly company' when it failed to stop this broadcast as it spun out of control, or to apologize or take responsibility for this unconscionable attack on innocent children.

Kelli McMillan | June 10, 2009 7:03 PM

Kelley,

Respectfully... Without even getting into the rest of it... Words mean more than actions? Just a thought for you. What was experienced on that show were mere words. I've experienced actions.

I've taken a lot of heat for what I have said but I will stand by it. I don't speak for them BTW, I speak for me. One day everyone crying censorship is going to wish they hadn't.

Kelli