Advertisement
Share

Larry Elder’s Talk Show Picked Up by Syndicator

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Conservative KABC talk-show host Larry Elder is taking his controversial show national.

Elder signed a deal this week with Synergy Broadcasting--the Newport Beach-based syndicator behind the top-rated Dr. Laura Schlessinger show--in a move he hopes will bring him a national audience, though Los Angeles’ KABC-AM (790) will remain his flagship station. The move may help defuse the shadowy boycott threat he has faced for about two years from a group that has been identified as the Talking Drum, by giving him a wider pool of potential advertisers.

Synergy’s offices were closed for the holidays Tuesday; the firm’s general counsel declined to comment on Elder’s agreement when reached by phone. But sources say Elder has been talking to Synergy head John Shanahan since late October, when he was given permission by KABC to syndicate his show.

Elder, who is black, has been controversial since he first went on the air in 1995. His conservative beliefs--including his opposition to affirmative action--have not sat well with some members of the black community. His critics launched an appeal to advertisers to boycott his show, charging that he has said on the air that African Americans are lazy and immoral.

Advertisement

The show’s syndication renders moot the counterattack, the “Keep Larry Elder on the Air” television ad campaign launched by neoconservative author David Horowitz several weeks ago. The TV ads ask viewers to send donations to fund more ads in support of Elder; to date, says Horowitz aide Leigh Stein, about half a million dollars in donations have been received.

“As for now, KABC has new management,” Elder said. “I’m still on the air despite the boycott, and my salary was never cut. I prefer to look ahead.”

It is hard to measure how much ongoing effect the boycott threats have had. The show’s protesters have not been forthcoming to the press about who they are and how many people are involved.

Until executives under new station manager Bill Sommers spoke last week, KABC remained virtually mum on the subject. The amount of advertising revenue KABC has lost in the last two years has been reported at $3 million. The show remains fully sponsored, but at lower ad rates. KABC does not lose money on the show, but it doesn’t make as much as it would like to.

KABC executives insist they have stood by Elder since the boycott effort began, although Elder’s show was cut back from four to two hours last month. “Larry Elder is on the air, and he has never left the air,” said Sommers.

KABC community relations representative Nelkane Benton said, “I think [the TV ads] might have stirred the pot. I can’t figure out the reason for fund-raising for someone who’s still on the air.”

In an interview at the time the ads launched, Horowitz said the sole reason for the ads was to “lend support” to Elder, who Horowitz said was someone whose right of free speech was being threatened.

The boycott was in the form of fliers and letters sent to advertisers, accusing Elder and fellow KABC host Dennis Prager of using anti-black hate speech in an ongoing campaign to denigrate African Americans. Elder and KABC executives have always denied he made such statements. “If he had really said those things, he would be off the air,” says Sommers

KABC acted no differently than many other media outlets when faced with boycott threats, but station executives realize the decision to remain mum may not have been wise in hindsight. Benton admits she and others at the station figured the situation would blow over, so they just “circled the wagons” and decided not to speak out. Several protesters were invited to KABC for a meeting; Benton says they were not open to real discussion of ending the boycott.

In two phone interviews, a man who identified himself as Re Taharka denied the Talking Drum was behind the boycott but insisted that “thousands” in the black community were still actively boycotting. He insisted the boycott was more about KABC parent Disney than the individual host; he pointed out many Jewish executives of Disney and KABC, saying the issue was one between Jewish and black individuals.

According to community activist Ted Hayes and Malaika Evans--who used to associate with the Talking Drum--Talking Drum’s members have often used intimidation tactics against those who disagree with their views. Evans herself says she has been harassed after breaking with the group.

Elder will still have an uphill battle in establishing himself as a national radio personality. Though talk radio thrives on controversy, a host like Schlessinger who emphasizes morals over politics has recently become more popular with listeners and advertisers than a conservative political commentator, such as Rush Limbaugh. The moralizing therapist is in more than 400 markets, and has been gaining steadily on Limbaugh since before her show was sold to Jacor for $71.5 million in September.


Advertisement