SuperTalk: The Biggest Scam in Mississippi

State’s taxpayers paying millions for one-sided coverage

Mississippi’s talk radio network, SuperTalk, has been in the crosshairs of true conservatives since the race between Chris McDaniel and Thad Cochran began last October. Many in the know could already perceive a bias, but from the coverage of that race it became blatantly obvious that the network favored Cochran and the establishment over conservatives, especially the Tea Party. Today a notable article takes dead aim at the one-sided network, which has its snout deeply in the pockets of Mississippi’s taxpayers.

From Steve Wilson at Mississippi Watchdog, Mississippi Radio Group Has Gotten $8 Million From Taxpayers:

A Mississippi radio group is an all-too-frequent feeder at the state trough.

TeleSouth Communications, which owns 14 radio stations throughout the state and broadcasts the SuperTalk Mississippi network, has received $8,229,294.45 in advertising revenue from state taxpayers since 2004, according to an analysis of records by Mississippi Watchdog. The state has spent more than $128 million on public information campaigns on radio, TV and in print since 2003.

TeleSouth’s SuperTalk network is home to two of Mississippi’s local right-leaning political talk radio shows, the Gallo Radio Show and The JT Show. Gallo played a big role in the Mississippi U.S. Senate race. He scored the first interview of challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel after a scandal broke involving a blogger who tried to photograph U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife in a nursing home. Gallo’s show has poked fun at McDaniel’s candidacy and its tea party supporters.

“Taxpayers should not foot the bill stemming from a propaganda-infested radio show,” said Justin Thornton, a Bay St. Louis resident. “Taxpayers did not agree to this. The blame rests with the Legislature who allocated and approved these funds.”

State agencies use paid radio spots for everything from DUI prevention, “Drive sober or get pulled over,” or to inform the public on the state’s new law on youth sports concussions. They’ve also used them to promote agencies or advertise events. These are different than Federal Communications Commission-mandated public service announcements, where a station gives up some of its airtime for free to run the PSAs.

The gravy train almost stopped in 2012, as Senate Bill 2736 would’ve ended the practice of paid advertising on radio and TV from state coffers, but that bill died in committee.

“Radio stations that receive funding from the government will be biased — it’s predictable,” said Nicole Kaeding, a budget analyst for the Cato Institute who focuses on state and federal spending policy. “The station’s likelihood is interconnected with the government. Publishing critical stories could lead to lower levels of funding jeopardizing the station’s viability.

“The state of Mississippi should not be funding radio stations either directly through grants or appropriations, or indirectly through advertising.”

The state agencies that have advertised on TeleSouth include:

  • Rehabilitation Services
  • Agriculture
  • Rehabilitation Services
  • Employment Security
  • Environmental Quality
  • Forestry Commission
  • Mississippi State Fair Commission
  • Human Services
  • Insurance
  • Medicaid
  • Secretary of State
  • Transportation
  • Wildlife and Fisheries

TeleSouth is getting the biggest piece of the state’s public information pie since 2004. Here are the yearly totals:

TeleSouth has crowded out its competitors for state advertising dollars. Clear Channel, which owns 13 stations in Hattiesburg, Jackson and Biloxi, has received $218,919.25 since 2004. Clear Channel’s Memphis stations, which service much of northern Mississippi, received more than $45,000. Capstar Radio, which owns 10 stations in the state, received $101,804. Urban Radio, which owns eight stations in the Columbus/Starkville and Tupelo markets, received $228,547.

MCD – For further reading on this issue, we should also point out a great piece by Will Stauff at Red State on this issue: SuperTalk Mississippi: Haley Barbour’s Propaganda Tool

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Comments

  1. William Smith says:

    The taxpayers pay taxes. The legislature appropriates the funds to the state agencies. The agencies expend funds according to their budgets. They buy ads on radio stations to disseminate information to the public. This could be good or bad use of the money – only studies could establish that one way or another. I expect the reason they buy ad time on this network is because of the bang they get for their buck. Taxpayers are not paying radio stations to provide unbalanced news reports, talk shows, etc. It is not accurate to “report” otherwise.

    • Are you saying that the taxpayer-funding, being used in this case to subsidize the operations of a mass-media outlet, are not pork? Or are you just saying, that since the legislature approved it, the pork is acceptable?

      Why is the state buying adverts on the radio, to disseminate information to the public, would be my question. Don’t they have a website? Don’t they have county-level offices in all 82 counties, where printed versions (or even better computers to access the electronic versions) could be had? Radio adverts don’t sound like information-dissemination, they sound like propaganda. Having listened to Gallo, that seems more apt.

      There is such as thing as corruption, and there is such a thing as bias. Even if there was no intent to corrupt the media, the end result is still the same. Mark Twain said it best, when he talked about corn-pone-opinions: Paul Gallo is inherently going to be incapable of holding anti-Cochran sentiment, otherwise, he would not be in the job he is in. Similarly, Alan Lange, who has a company MuniStrategies which needs the federal legislature to re-approve funding for their public-private-porkership business model, is inherently conflicted when it comes to his political stances.

      All that doesn’t mean Lange and Gallo are bad people, or that corruption is the intent here, or that the bias is avoidable (*some* type of bias is unavoidable). But it is a fact that both of them are financially incentivized, by sweetheart deals that involve government largesse at taxpayer expense, to report the way they do. MCD is not unbiased, of course, in this blog… but MCD is not expecting any financial kickback from McDaniel, either, beyond a general return to constitutionalism.

      p.s. MCD, please fix this typo: “The station’s likelihood is interconnected with the government.” (livelihood)

  2. Excellent post, i did read it two times so sorry for that,
    i have passed it on to my associates, so hopefully they will enjoy it as well.

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