Wednesday, October 11, 2006

KEZX/Medford, OR flips to progressive talk (sort of)

Al Franken picks up a new affiliate soon as KEZX (730AM) in Medford, OR will soon dump their current easy listening format and switch to talk. But, it doesn't look like they'll be a typical Northwest progressive talk station.

In addition to Franken, the station will also air Don Imus and Neal Boortz. Yes, you heard that right. The management, in their infinite wisdom, thinks it will be a strong competitor in the market with a delayed Imus in the morning drive shift and C-list conservative screamer Boortz.

This newspaper article makes it look like KEZX is doing something cutting edge. No. Not to put down Medford, but it seems like 'cutting edge' talk radio there has a much different meaning than in other places. KEZX's new format will be what General Manager Dean Flock considers an alternative to the area's conservative outlets.

"There are two right-wing talkers in town and they're both going after the same audience," Flock said. "There's a large audience of people who have an alternative viewpoint. We felt this was a need that hadn't been satisfied in this market. It's not the most popular perspective in Southern Oregon, but there is a large Democrat and independent vote in the area."

"This is a format that has had some success on the West Coast and other parts of the United States," Flock said. "It has also faltered in places."

Unfortunately, Flock doesn't seem to understand the format. Progressive talkers on the West Coast are succeeding with an all-progressive talk format, and personalities such as Stephanie Miller and Thom Hartmann. Liberals are not going to listen to Boortz and likely nobody will listen to Imus (who does rather poorly outside of East Coast markets). Flock's vision of the format is not exactly the same thing that's being done in other West Coast markets. KPOJ and KPTK are benchmark stations for upper Northwest progressive talk stations. They do very well. Only problem is, KEZX's planned format seems a bit far off that template. Even KTTH in Corvallis and KOPT in Eugene are full-blown progressive talk.

There is no mention in the article what the rest of the schedule will look like. But it is assumed that Imus will be delayed, since he is on during morning drive in the Eastern time zone, which translates to a 3AM start in the West. And since Franken and Boortz air their shows at the same time, it looks like at least one of them will be delayed.

Sure, a liberal/conservative mix of talk can work, and I admire stations that do this, but if KEZX is looking to compete in what seems to be a rather crowded Medford talk market, I'm not sure this is the way to go. As far as I'm concerned, an all-or-nothing approach would be a better route to take. Either they're true progressive talk or they're not. If KEZX is planning to go to war against their much stronger competition, they need to truly offer something different. Imus and Boortz aren't all that different. Better to go with hosts like Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann or Schultz. Al Franken will not prop up a station on his own.

The station will compete against the market's public radio offerings, and particularly with top-rated KMED, home of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck, and KCMX, which gets the leftovers (Bill O'Reilly, Lars Larson) and the usual conservocrap from TRN (Laura Ingraham, Jerry Doyle, and Michael Savage). Which begs the question: If they're looking for something different than the competiton, why Boortz? On a so-called 'progressive talk' station? Who knows?

I guess Medford listeners will just have to stay tuned. No flip date has been announced, since they're still trying to work out some technical issues in regard to the satellite and automation stuff.


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