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“It was not to send a message to [Disney/ABC], but to send a message to my listeners. I had a responsibility, as one who attacked these kind of power grabs, not to back away from one that would affect me, or could affect me. I had a responsibility to my listeners.” explain to listeners what had happened, to say goodbye, to thank themeven the niceties that one would like to have had.” Hightower believes Raphael was straight with him “insofar as he knew,” but he believes the pending merger was the show’s death sentence. Raphael returns Hightower’s compliments, but insists that the decision was based solely on lack of “market penetration”particularly the defection of major city stationsand was his decision alone. Raphael emphasized that, since the merger was not concluded, it would have been illegal for Disney even to contact ABC concerning the program, and he reiterated: “The decision was made, by me, exclusively for the reasons I have maintained from the get-go. Anybody who says otherwise is just wrong.” He added that when Hightower insisted on publicly blaming Disney for the termination, he had no choice but to take him off the air immediately. HIGHTOWER SAYS he has no regrets, either about the overall approach and quality of his show or about his frank willingness to directly criticize Disney and ABC. He describes the program as “a good show, a fun, lively, and hard-hitting show, which is everything that talk radio is supposed to be,” crediting not just the show’s format but its consistently progressive, populist politics. He says the network would have been happier and he might have even survived the merger if he had abandoned his anti-corporate stance and become just another “Washingtonbasher.” But he and his staff had long ago decided that if they were going to do the show at all, they were going to give it their best shot. They believe they did themselves proud: “It was the most hard-hitting message on the air-waves in my lifetime.” As for his refusal, immediately following the merger, to temper his criticisms of the deal at least until he knew how he stood with his new bosses, he believes he really had no other choice: “It was not to send a message to [Disney/ABC], but to send a message to my listeners. I had a responsibility, as one who attacked these kind of power grabs, not to back away from one that would affect me, or could affect me. I had a responsibility to my listeners.” Even among large corporations, the Disney company has earned a reputation for an extremely conservative corporate climate, dating back to Walt Disney himselfwhom Hightower had earlier criticized, on the air, ALAN POGUE as being both a union-buster and a confirmed informant for the FBI in its notorious investigations of “communists” in the entertainment industry. It was not likely that Walt’s successor, Michael Eisneralso bashed repeatedly by Hightowerwould look kindly on the most forthrightly progressive voice emanating from his newest acquisition, whatever the show’s ratings. Skeptics have suggested that if Hightower’s numbers were as good as he says they wereif he were making money for the corporationthey wouldn’t have cared if he had accused Mickey and Minnie of living in sin. Hightower counters that even before the merger, the network had turned down advertising \(recruited by Hightower’s Mother Jones magazine, calling it “advocacy” instead of “product” advertisingthis in an industry which wallows in the dollars derived from “image” advertising of corporations. If they had accepted union advertising, says Hightower, “I could have brought them a good quarter of a million dollars a year” just from unions. Raphael defended the network policy, saying that if they accepted “political agenda” ads from unions, they would have to do the same “from the NRA or the American Nazi Party….I don’t think [Jim] would have liked that.” Hightower also says his core audience had thus far been borrowed or stolen from the socalled “conservative” audience of right-wing talk shows like Limbaugh or their local imitators. He was pleased with those resultsit confirmed his belief in the essential “pop ulism” of most ordinary Americans, who do not subscribe to the orthodox Republican agendabut when his staff suggested an advertising campaign to broaden the audience by reaching out to progressive, alternative stations and other media, ABC had no interest. “They put ads in the broadcasters’ magazines, but otherwise they didn’t have a clue how to find [a progressive] audience. This from people who supposedly make their living at this stuff.” In short, Hightower remains convinced that it was not his numbers, but his message, that dismayed his corporate bosses. They approve of Washington-bashing, from the right or the left, he believes, because “these corporate powers want everybody to think that Washington is the enemy, because government is the only entity in the country that gives us the collective power to battle with these global monoliths. So they want us to think that our enemy is us.” Hightower’s message was unique on the talk-show circuit, he points out, because rather than, like conservatives and liberals alike, just slamming Congress or dishing on the hot-button social issueswelfare, immigration, abortion, O.J.he reiterated his progressive populist message “the real political spectrum in this country is not left-to-right,’ it’s ‘top-to-bottom.'” A persistent Hightower slogan, borrowed from an Austin bumpersticker, was “Question Authority.” When callers would blame the country’s problems on welfare cheats or immigrants he would listen politely and then respond, “‘They’re getting you to look down the economic ladder, or looking sideto-side at each other, instead of looking up at them, the real power. And as for the people in Washington, they’re only the puppets of the power.’ A constant theme in our show is ‘follow the money.’ If you want to know what’s going on in any issue in Washington, follow the money.” Hightower never tires of insisting that “the real challenge to our political and economic democracy is in the great concentrations of economic power at the top,” and he promotes his own brand of “populism” as the antidote. For Hightower, populism is “fundamentally a belief in ordinary people, and in as much decentralization of economic and political power as we can sensibly achieve.” He considers himself to be carrying on the populist tradition of the nineteenth century, and looks to his predecessors also to provide an example of how 6 NOVEMBER 10, 1995