The company responsible for syndicating big conservative radio names like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity has been using paid actors to call in to their radio shows.
According to a recent report in Tablet Magazine
, Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, hired actors to call in as guests.
A website for the Premiere On Call service was taken offline before the report was published, but a cached version of the website is still available.
However, when Raw Story contacted Premiere's entertainment division, one individual who spoke off the record claimed that the service was still being offered.
"Premiere On Call is our new custom caller service," the website said. "We supply voice talent to take/make your on-air calls, improvise your scenes or deliver your scripts. Using our simple online booking tool, specify the kind of voice you need, and we'll get your the right person fast. Unless you request it, you won't hear that same voice again for at least two months, ensuring the authenticity of your programming for avid listeners."
An audition request form asked actors to sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to divulge details of their work.
"By requesting an audition you are also agreeing to keep the details of the audition and the type of work that you may perform confidential. This applies to information acquired while working for Premiere or any of its affiliates," the agreement said. "Disclosure to any third party, sharing project information or publicizing what you do (including via social media) may be considered grounds for dismissal or further action."
The audition form indicated that Premiere was looking for distinct voice types that included gruff, light, clean, crisp, high, deep and textured voices.
On actor told Tablet
that for his audition, he called in to a fake radio show claiming he had been to a bachelor party that was ruined by a girlfriend that tagged along.
"Thank you for auditioning for Premiere On Call," a follow-up e-mail told him. "Your audition was great! We'd like to invite you to join our official roster of 'ready-to-work' actors."
The pay rate was $40/hour with at least one hour a day guaranteed.
The job was explained to him this way: "If he passed the audition, he would be invited periodically to call in to various talk shows and recite various scenarios that made for interesting radio. He would never be identified as an actor, and his scenarios would never be identified as fabricated -- which they always were."
Premiere Radio Networks spokesperson Rachel Nelson defended the service by saying that the radio shows that use the service were responsible for how it was used.
"Premiere provides a wide variety of audio services for radio stations across the country, one of which is connecting local stations in major markets with great voice talent to supplement their programming needs," Nelson told Tablet in an e-mail. "Voice actors know this service as Premiere On Call. Premiere, like many other content providers, facilitates casting -- while character and script development, and how the talent's contribution is integrated into programs, are handled by the varied stations."
While it's unclear which syndicated shows used the service, Op Ed News' Gustav Wynn speculated that Sean Hannity would be a prime candidate.
"Hannity's record of being caught manipulating public opinion, deceptively editing video, suppressing opposing views, and lopsided call ratios through the decades speaks for itself," Wynn wrote.
A call to Rush Limbaugh's spokesman was not returned at the time of publication.