Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Mic lives!

The announcement this afternoon on Rachel Maddow's show was like music to the ears of thousands of Madison radio listeners. Clear Channel announced that, after weeks of protests and public outcry, The Mic would stay put.

Clear Channel/Madison will announce on-air Friday that WXXM (92.1FM) will drop its plans to switch to an all-sports format at the beginning of the new year and keep its liberal talk format, meaning that Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and Air America Radio will be here to stay in Wisconsin's capital city for the forseeable future.

The announcement, made on the station's site on November 10, resulted in a very negative reaction from the station's listeners, who had helped make it one of the top-rated liberal talk stations in the country. Miller and Schultz even blasted the station on their nationally-syndicated shows, which obviously caused station management a great deal of embarassment.

Thousands of people protested the end of their favorite station through e-mails, phone calls and a signed petition delivered this week. A rally last week drew 500 people and politicians such as Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., denounced the decision.

In addition to Air America personalities like Al Franken, the station features local shows that focused on progressive causes from city politics to animal rights. Lee Rayburn and Jodie Shawback hosted a popular locally-oriented morning show.

"We are overwhelmed by the recent outpouring of support for our progressive talk format from the public, some of our community leaders and some dedicated local advertisers," said Jeff Tyler, Clear Channel's market manager in Madison. "We deeply appreciate the local business leaders who are pledging their advertising support -- they are playing an enormous role in helping to keep progressive talk on the air in our community."

Today, Tyler disclosed more plans for the resurrected WXXM. He said the station would aim to increase its share of the local market but it had no deadline to increase earnings, which were 14th out of 14 local stations that report them despite the station being rated second among the market's news-talk stations and 11th out of 25 stations overall. About 30,100 listeners tuned into the station during any given week, according to the latest ratings from Arbitron Inc.

Tyler said he hoped to improve the quality of the local shows and was encouraged that Air America would do the same for its programming when it emerges from bankruptcy. The radio network said this week that is close to a sealing a deal with an undisclosed buyer.

"We're here to make it work. We're going to put all of our resources into it," he said. "People have spoken out in Madison and said, `This is a great radio station and we support it.' We encourage them to prove it."

He said Clear Channel had to end an agreement with Fox Sports Radio to make the deal possible.

The announcement came just as the opponents of the change appeared to give up, staging a mock funeral procession from the Capitol to Clear Channel's local offices on Wednesday to mourn the death of the station.

Valerie Walasek, a 28-year-old listener who organized the protests, said she had shifted her focus to other options, such as trying to buy a new station. She was shocked by the company's last-minute change of heart.

"It's evidence that as people stand up and demand what they want and demand they are going to take back the airwaves, somebody will listen," she said. "Maybe Clear Channel just came to their senses because it never made sense for them to get rid of it. They were making money."

Of course, the results of this massive grassroots effort will not please all people. Some parasitic, lame-ass bloggers will no doubt be crying in their beers tonight. Not to worry, since Madison is a pretty awesome drinking town. Perhaps they could choke on a bratwurst while they're at it.

So, from a fellow Wisconsinite, I raise my glass to you all. Good job!

UPDATE: The parasite cometh! The Radio Tranquilizer's off on yet another piss, moan and spinfest. And he's still convinced that the media is controlled by 'evil libruls' (if you consider News Corp., Disney, Viacom, General Electric and Clear Channel to be liberal, that is). For the sake of pitiful humor, I'll post the lowlights so you don't have to bother reading that drivel:

...Did the recent protests have an effect? If the station couldn't make money before, how will it do so now with scaled- down Air America programming?

And was this from the beginning a mere stunt designed to generate publicity?

(snip)

One last point: our real agenda at the Radio Equalizer from the beginning has been to counter the mainstream media's pro- Air America hype, not to celebrate libtalk's collapse.

If Clear Channel or anybody else wants to run libtalk on their stations, it's not an issue to this site. They should, however, expect us to provide an alternative to the Frankenfluff reporting that even now permeates the mainstream news media.

The rest is pure drivel and whatever straws Brian Baloney is clutching at today. He even uses a quote from a New York Radio message board(!!!) to defend his point. Uh huh.

Screw him! It's time to party. Merry Kwanzachristmahannukah!

More:

The Capital Times

9 comments:

Ezsuds81 said...

Cheers to those that stood up, voiced their opinion, and helped make this happen. Don't forget those advertisers that also make this a profitable venture.
Looks like a win-win proposition.

Anonymous said...

Does this reek of a big ol' publicity stunt to anyone else? Something just doesn't seem right here, even though the end result is positive.

ltr said...

That thought crossed my mind as well, but there's one thing running against that argument, namely the FOX Sports affiliation. Currently, there's another station in town carrying the FOX Sports banner - WTLX (100.5). They've had it for a few years already. I highly doubt Premiere (which owns the FOX Sports franchise) would be dumb enough to alienate an affiliate like that. And I don't think Good Karma, the station's owner, would go along with the gag. They even came up with a new logo for their station, eliminating the FOX Sports branding. It's not exactly easy to rip a station's programming source right out from under them just for a stunt, even though I'm sure WTLX will welcome them back. WXXM had to back out of the contract.

Quite frankly, I think Clear Channel in Madison botched this whole thing badly, though they did get a ton of press out of it, albeit not-so-nice press.

Anonymous said...

I doubt it was a stunt. The firings were real. The scrambling on CC's part that we saw was also quite real. They expected an outcry, but it was much larger than anyone would have predicted, even those of us working with Val.

Anonymous said...

... media is controlled by 'evil libruls'...

Working on it, pal.

MikeB from Madison
.

ltr said...

Word!

Fred Flintstone said...

It may well have been a stunt. I don't rule that out entirely.

Or - maybe - it was an example of superb office politics.

The "flip" was announced a month and a half in advance. Usually flips happen with little or no advance notice.

Maybe the Madison group manager wanted to keep progressive talk on the Mic. But his boss in Cincinnati, the regional manager, wanted to drop the format.

The guy in Cincinnati has made no secret of his disdain for the format. He's dropping progressive talk in Cincinnati and Columbus. He's made unfavorable comments about the format in the newspaper.

So Cincinnati tells Madison to go to sports. Madison goes public with the expectation of a public outcry. It would not have been hard to predict people would start screaming when the announcement was made. Maybe Madison was counting on public response to get Cincinnati to back down.

rbnrg13 said...

A group of us are fighting the change here in Boston as well...
Join us here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Save_progressive_radio_boston/

Fred Flintstone said...

The article about this in The Times quotes Tyler as saying he thought listeners want local sports.
Few listeners may want local sports on the radio but local advertisers love it.
Outside of Monday through Friday, 6am to 7pm, is dead time for radio. Few listeners and even fewer real advertisers.
Conservative talk stations routinely run ballgames weekends and evenings. There is no reason why liberal talkers should not do so, as well.
Some liberals like sports, too.
Ballgames are a way to get new listeners (and advertisers) to sample a station.
Bottom line: Local sports is a way to make local sales and thereby make money.
Mike Malloy may get bumped by ballgames but so does Michael Savage.
And better local sports in off-hours than infomercials.


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