Radio Talk Show Hosts Slapped for Plugging GM Vehicles

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - Consumer advocate and occasional presidential candidate Ralph Nader is asking the Federal Communications Commission to investigate certain radio show hosts -- including Rush Limbaugh -- who are taking part in a General Motors promotion.

Nader pointed to a report in Automotive News, which said GM is "wooing radio stars" -- lending them new vehicles to drive, inviting them to Detroit for private meetings with executives, and giving them VIP tours of GM plants.

In return, the report said, Rush Limbaugh and others are using their microphones to promote GM vehicles. The report quoted Limbaugh as gushing over GM cars -- saying they've "never been better" and urging his listeners to "believe in General Motors."

Nader said Limbaugh and other broadcasters involved in the GM promotion may be violating sponsorship identification rules, which require broadcasters to tell their listeners when they are plugging products in exchange for money, services or "other consideration."

Such disclosures must be made in advance of the broadcast, Nader said.

"In any event, the FCC needs to investigate," Nader insisted.

Nader is a longtime critic of the auto industry. He says the big companies have used their power to block innovation -- at the expense of Americans' health, safety and economic efficiency.

Rush Limbaugh has discussed his relationship with General Motors a number of times on his radio program.

On his May 2 show, Limbaugh told listeners that he would be going to Detroit the following day as part of a new deal with General Motors.

"As you know, ladies and gentlemen, we have a brand-new sponsor, General Motors," Limbaugh announced. He told his listeners that GM had dropped off a car -- "and we're going to have it for about a month, and we're all going to drive it here."

He also explained that he would be meeting with "the GM people" in Detroit the following day, including the executive in charge of future projects.

Limbaugh personally plugs a number of products that are advertised on his radio show, and as an unabashed defender of capitalism and free enterprise, he frequently jokes about "profit-center" breaks when the show pauses for advertisements.

Nader, on the other hand, apparently takes a dim view of advertising on the public airwaves.

In his letter to the FCC, Nader wrote that Herbert Hoover, who was secretary of commerce before he became president, once called radio "a public trust."

Said Nader, Hoover "believed the public airwaves, being owned by the people, should convey no advertisements whatsoever."

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