Seattle's KJR-FM, a Clear Channel radio affiliate, quickly and quietly altered its playlist, following an amusing online tirade accusing the station and its Program Director of "false advertising."
Negativland, known for their media-critiquing music collage and culture jamming hoaxes and pranks, outed KJR-FM on charges that it played at least 114 different songs from the early to mid-1980s, despite marketing themselves as being a "Just the Greatest Hits of the '60s and '70s" radio station. Negativland members noticed that it was virtually impossible to listen for even a short period of time without hearing hits from such quintessential '80s artists as Huey Lewis and the News, Air Supply, Men at Work, Cyndi Lauper, and many others. KJR recently pushed the envelope further by adding Kokomo, a 1988 hit by The Beach Boys.
In a moment
of maniacal inspiration, Negativland decided to point out this ridiculous
deception by sabotaging the public's perception of the station. The group
created an online rebuffing of Clear Channel, KJR-FM, and KJR Program
Director Bob Case, in a tabloid-style internet magazine parody, complete
with damning evidence and scathing audio commentary.
Timing of the event added injury to insult. Negativland's expose was unveiled August 10 on the eve of a massive promotion by Clear Channel to improve KJR's continued poor ratings. Popular local celebrity Pat Cashman was poised to make a much-heralded debut as KJR's new morning announcer, with festivities that included a high-profile live broadcast at the base of Seattle's famous Space Needle. Pat Cashman is well known across the country as the co-star of Disney's Bill Nye the Science Guy, and had a series on Comedy Central a few years ago. In Seattle, Pat is a phenomenon with a huge fan-base known as "The Pat Pack."
To generate support for their mission, the URL to Negativland's new "Jack Diekobiscz" website was leaked to a popular Pat Cashman message board where hundreds of fans and lurkers had gathered to discuss Pat's triumphant return to radio after a year-long absence. Within minutes, visitors to the site began contacting Clear Channel as instructed by "Jack."
Fearing negative publicity, and not wanting to take unnecessary chances with their newest audience, KJR-FM pulled all 1980s songs from their playlist less than 12 hours later. Said Negativland members, "We were amazed that they caved in so quickly. When we do creative projects that might be considered 'culture jamming' we always try to pursue it in a funny and oblique way, and this prank is a good example of that. Truth is, we really don't care so much that KJR-FM plays so many songs from the '80s, but their lying and disrespect for the listening audience gave us a good idea for a prank, and it was inspiring to us to see how quickly Clear Channel folded under the pressure."
Negativland's dubious association with KJR and Clear Channel is nothing new. One year ago, Negativland was invited to contribute audio material to a massive micro-radio invasion of the Seattle airwaves as part of "Reclaim The Media," an event sponsored by the Seattle Indy Media Center that was scheduled to take place at the 2002 National Association of Broadcasters Convention being held at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center in Downtown Seattle. Rather than composing a predictable narrative criticism of Clear Channel, Negativland decided to strike out with a more engaging approach that would hit local radio listeners where they lived. The strange absurdity of a Clear Channel station that refused to stay true to its own heavily marketed identity seemed an obvious way to showcase the company's attitude toward its listeners.
KJR's own canned liners and jingles, Negativland produced a convincing
24-minute recording that simulated a telescoped version of KJR's format.
Host "Jack Diekobiscz" ranted against Clear Channel and named KJR's program
director Bob Case as responsible for the misrepresentation, as he played
one 1980s hit from KJR's playlist after another. For the duration of the
NAB convention, six pirate micro-radio stations across the FM dial streamed
anti-Clear Channel programming, including repeated performances of the
Negativland/Diekobiscz show, sometimes playing in a 24-minute loop for
seven hours at a time. Despite some bad publicity and a flurry of e-mails,
Clear Channel and Bob Case refused to remove the songs from their playlist
until hit with the events of last week.
Jack Diekobiscz LISTEN HERE website and hear Jack's microradio attack
Channel with your questions or comments: Lisa Dollinger, VP of Corporate
Communication Tel. 210-822-2828
Program Director Bob Case at: Tel. 206-421-9595
Pack" Pat Cashman message board
More excellent coverage on "Radio's Big Bully": http://archive.salon.com/ent/clear_channel
Negativland (c/o Fanatic Promotion): Tel. - 1-888-385-1231
For more... email [email protected] with the message, "Put me on your mailing list."