Thursday, November 30, 2006

Ed Schultz to go head-to-head with Limbaugh, Franken, Hartmann

Ed Schultz, the nation’s largest progressive talk radio host, is moving head-to-head with Rush Limbaugh’s show effective December 11, according to RAW STORY. The move – which puts Schultz in the choice noon to 3 p.m. window – will also bring him face-to-face with Air America’s flagship talker, Al Franken, as well as Thom Hartmann, also syndicated by Air America.

Schultz announced the change on Thursday’s program. (mp3)

The move from drive-time to early afternoon is designed to expose The Ed Schultz Show to a rapidly growing national audience. Schultz's pending move could put another nail in the coffin of Air America, which filed for bankruptcy Oct. 13.

A 2006 survey by Talkers Magazine pegged the Fargo talker’s listenership at 2.25 million, tying Schultz at #10 among radio hosts nationwide. Air America’s Al Franken rated #12, with an audience of 1.5 million.

Limbaugh's listening audience is still tops in talk radio, with an estimated audience of 13.5 million, according to the Talker’s survey, down from 14.75 million in 2005. Sean Hannity pulls in roughly 12.5 million listeners.

The Ed Schultz show is owned by Product First, a company held by former Clear Channel executive Randy Michaels. Product First president Stuart Krane, erstwhile vice president of ABC, was among those who helped pivot Limbaugh onto the national stage.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Talk USA update/correction

While I was away for the past week, I have gotten quite a few emails from readers. One that I particularly want to publish is from Tom Athans, formerly of Democracy Radio, Air America and his latest endeavor, Talk USA Radio. In a previous entry, Talk USA was described as a 'network'. That is not the case, and LTR regrets the misunderstanding, and would also like to thank Tom for checking in.

Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006
From: "Tom Athans"
Subject: Thank You

Just a short note to thank you for the recent mention in your blog regarding the launch of Talk USA. I should be announcing some new developments in the next few weeks that might interest you.

There were a few points that weren't quite accurate in your article. First, Talk USA is not a "liberal network." It is a "programming company" that develops and launches talk radio programming into national syndication. As I have been one of the principle founders of progressive talk radio, I believe in its commercial viability. Which means Talk USA will definitely produce progressive talk programs, but not exclusively. Other programs will be developed (with the obvious exception of conservative talk).


You're doing a great job with the blog.


Tom Athans
Talk USA

And from today's All Access:

Envision Radio Networks has partnered with Talk USA Radio to syndicate newly developed talk radio programming.

"Talk USA Radio will provide a new generation of entertaining talk show hosts for radio stations to offer their listeners," says ERN Pres./CEO Danno Wolkoff. "We look forward to working with [Tom] Athans, who has a proven track record of identifying great talk talent."

Added Athans, "Our mission is simple, to create great talk radio. With the market being overwhelmingly saturated with the same style of general talkers, we hope to develop shows that offer entertaining and compelling alternatives to what is currently available to listeners. Danno and his team know what it takes to make radio programs succeed. So there’s no question that Envision will be a great strategic partner to Talk USA."

Athans, most recently with Air America Radio, founded liberal talk programming developer Democracy Radio and is the husband of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

Rally for The Mic

Thanks to Valerie Walasek for sending us this press release:

Madison, WI December 12, 2006 - A rally and press conference is being held at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, Wisconsin on December 12th from 7-8 pm. The event is being organized by for businesses and citizens to show their support for the Mic 92.1 and their desire for Clear Channel Madison to keep the station on the air.

The Mic has been a valuable resource for Madison residents to voice their opinions and discuss important local issues. Jeff Tyler, Vice President of Marketing with Clear Channel Madison, has requested feedback from businesses who feel the Mic is a good advertising avenue. Madison businesses and organizations will be speaking briefly about why they support the Mic, including representatives from The Dardanelles, High Noon Saloon, Tap It/New Works Theater, Community Action Coalition, the Alliance for Animals, WI Democracy Campaign, and Amnesty International. Valerie Walasek has created a petition to keep the Mic on the air, and during the event will be releasing the final number of signatures for delivery to Clear Channel. The petition is online here.

The High Noon Saloon is located in Madison, WI at 701 E. Washington Ave, at the corner of Blount Street, or online at

Valerie Walasek is a Mic listener and life-time Madison resident. "The Mic has been a forum where Madison residents and groups can discuss important issues such as animal rights, abortion, veteran issues, cleaning up government, etc. It is a part of what makes Madison unique and we cannot lose it to more 'coverage of local high school and collegiate sports.' Clear Channel needs to hear how much we love this station! They need to know that we appreciate the freedom the hosts have been given and that we value the chance we have to discuss issues we really care about even when the popular media is not covering them."

You can contact Valerie via email for more information and telephone number.

And The Capital Times published another article about WXXM recently, featuring listeners' reactions to the pending format flip of the station. Here are a few excerpts:

• I listen to Air America on 92.1 every weekday, religiously. Where else can we find real news, or real truth? It is by far my favorite station in the area, and has me listening to much more radio than I otherwise would. I would say that I listen to Air America three or more hours a day and often more.

Many more people listen to 92.1 than I think is reported in its ratings, as there really is no accurate way of determining how many listeners a show is truly generating, in my opinion. The thing I'll miss most is Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes' insights. (Christopher Brickman, Sauk City)

• Please save AAR in Madison! It is all I listen to. It would be a shame for Madison, of all places, to lose AAR to another sports channel. (John Glowacki, DeForest)

• I listen to public radio, but they do not have the edge that Air America has. I like Randi Rhodes and the local shows. Air America is needed here. (Karen Bechlem, Middleton)

• Losing progressive radio in Madison seems unthinkable. Stephanie Miller is my favorite and I like Thom Hartmann, but The Mic is on all day in my house and my car. It has replaced TV for me.

I am a senior citizen, which didn't stop me from being at the Barrymore at 6:30 a.m. to see Stephanie Miller. I buy the products advertised on The Mic. Lee Rayburn was especially good with local advertising. Madison doesn't need more sports coverage. We need progressive talk. (Marilyn Ryan, Madison)

Monday, November 20, 2006

It was a stunt (WLBY is back)

A few days ago, WLBY (1290AM) in Ann Arbor, MI broke away from its liberal talk format and went into format stunting mode, featuring the University of Michigan fight song "Hail To The Victors" all weekend, in tribute to the legendary rivalry game with THE Ohio State University this past Saturday.

But it appears to be just a weekend stunt.

As of today, WLBY's (outdated) progressive talk site is back online, and appears to be airing the format. Since the station has no webstream, and no news sources have reported on this as of yet, it is assumed that WLBY will not be changing its format.

By the way, Michigan lost to Ohio State 42-39. Nonetheless, Michigan is still #2 in the rankings behind OSU. GO BUCKEYES!

Air America sale: One more week

NEW YORK (AP) - Air America Radio has another week to find a buyer.

A lawyer for the network, Tracy Klestadt, told a bankruptcy hearing Monday that the company was in "advanced negotiations with a few parties" about a sale, and expected to have more definitive news on a deal in a week.

Under its financing agreement, the network had faced a deadline of this Wednesday to have a deal in place for a buyer, but Klestadt said the network's lender had informally agreed to extend the deadline by about a week.

It is continuing to operate in the meantime as it searches for a buyer. Klestadt declined to say who the potential buyers are.

Fox News to do their own "Daily Show"

In case you don't already think the programming on the FOX 'News' Channel is a joke, The Hollywood Reporter says that the "Fair and Balanced" network has taken an interest in a "Daily Show"-like program with their own patented 'fair and balanced' approach (read: wingnut whining) come late January. They're shooting for a test run on a few Saturday nights, with the possibility that it could become a weekly series.

In other words, a 'fake news' comedy/satire show created by people with no sense of humor for people with no sense of humor. Okay.

And I thought "The O'Reilly Factor" already filled this void, unless that show is really supposed to be serious. Then again, isn't their whole schedule already filled with fake news?

Perhaps they could do a show where a talking head reads John Moody's hilarious talking points memos. Never mind, they do that already.

Anyways, this half-hour Faux News "Daily Show" knock-off will be produced by "24's" Joel Surnow (Rush Limbaugh's Dominican Republic-hopping, Viagara-fueled party buddy), Manny Cota and creator Ned Rice, who previously wrote for "Politically Incorrect" and "Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson". This show plans on taking aim at what Surnow calls "the sacred cows of the left" that don't get made as much fun of by other comedy shows.

"It's a satirical news format that would play more to the Fox 'News' audience than the Michael Moore channel," Surnow said. "It would tip more right as 'The Daily Show' tips left."

The "Michael Moore channel"? How come I don't get that one on my cable system? Better call Time Warner Cable about that one.

The show was pitched with the working title "This Just In" (until HBO laid claim to the title) when it first got life as a 20-minute pilot presentation for Fox Broadcasting Co.'s late-night division. But when that network passed, Surnow said it attracted the attention of Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes.

"I showed it to Roger, and he really liked it and thought it could work on Fox News if we could make it conform to some of the restraints" of a cable news channel. Fox News Channel confirmed that talks were going on.

Taped before a studio audience in Los Angeles, the show will feature two co-anchors, actor/comedian Kurt Long ("Cuts," "Games Across America") and bit actress Susan Yeagley (episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and "Reno 911!", and wife of ex-SNL'er Kevin Nealon). It also will feature person-on-the-street interviews and correspondent reports like other shows. No word on any other personalities that are lined up for the show, but I do hear Michael Richards (aka Kramer of "Seinfeld") is available.

But Surnow said that it's not going to be strictly conservative but more in the spirit of the old and rebellious "Saturday Night Live," though I'm sure the "Not Ready for Primetime Players" were a far cry from what FOX News has in mind. Maybe they could hire Al Franken to write for them.

"It's not going to hit you over the head with partisan politics," Surnow said. "It'll hit anything that deserves to be hit."

Of course, right-wingers in search of whiny, angry humor are elated at the arrival of more fake news to their televisions. Some of the posters at Free Republic are even pitching gag ideas. Though, with suggestions like these, "The FAUX News Half-Hour Comedy Hour" could be headed for a quick demise:

One example would be when Katie Couric was interviewing the priest of Mark Foley and asking him about how he massaged Foley with his hands, etc.. I would have presented a parody where Katie goes beyond that and asked if the priest massaged the inside of Foley's thighs and whether he gave Foley a tongue bath. All the while Katie is getting hotter and hotter until she can't even do her broadcast because she is moaning in ecstasy at the images she is conjuring up while questioning the priest.

Another great parody clip would be when Nancy Pelosi (made up like the Joker) announces that Steny Hoyer has been elected Majority Leader while Murtha is angrily standing in the background. Murtha is getting angrier and angrier until he can't stand it any more and wrestles Hoyer to the ground while yelling that they must now all learn to work together.

The incident where Chuck Schumer told Kerry to get lost in the Senate hallway would also be great for parody. Maybe have a hurt looking Kerry in the background scream "PLEASE!" and a somewhat chastened Schumer returns and tosses Kerry a towel in a way reminiscent to that old cola commercial where the football player tosses a kid his towel outside the locker room.


Okay, not really.

The main obstacle in the way of this would-be "Daily Show" is that conservative humor is an oxymoron. The best topical comedy often pokes fun at the 'establishment' or 'authority', and you can't get more establishment or authority than the Republican Party. Case in point, how many funny right-wing comedians are even out there? No, Dennis Miller is not funny. And the "Blue Collar Comedy" guys like Jeff Foxworthy and the "Git R Done" guy are more about dumb redneck jokes than gags about Nancy Pelosi. Conservative writer and pundit P.J. O'Rourke is an exception, and admittedly one of the funniest political writers in America. But on TV, he's basically a doofus. So what does that leave? An overabundance of Monica Lewinsky jokes? Been there, done that.

Sad thing is, conservative attempts at comedy tend to be whiny, mean-spirited, unintentional, unfunny, or just plain moronic.

Well, I guess all I can say is 'good luck'. They'll certainly need it.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Madison: WTDY sticking with their local approach

Don't look for WTDY (1670AM) in Madison to pick up any programming being abandoned by WXXM (92.1FM) in January. They've been down that road before and are a bit sore from the experience. Seems they've been burned once too often by radio syndicators. WTDY program director and afternoon host John "Sly" Sylvester explains:

There has been much speculation on whether or not another Madison radio station will pick up some of the syndicated programming that is being abandoned by Clear Channel.

The Capital Times recently urged Madison radio stations to consider picking up the Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller programs, which are distributed by Jones Media, a national syndicator. These shows will NOT be returning to Madison 1670 The Pulse (WTDY) for a number of reasons.

First, and most importantly, our prime-time programming is dedicated to live, local talk radio, and employs local announcers who live in Wisconsin. We pay them a living wage, and provide decent health care insurance. We also give Madison listeners a chance to talk about what is going on in our community. We feel this is the primary responsibility of our news-talk station in Madison.

We're very lucky that many of our owners are behind the microphones and in the offices at our Rayovac Drive studios. Our programming decisions are made right here in Madison at our employee-owned company.

Another very important factor in not re-taking Schultz or Miller is this: Jones Media, the syndication company, did not act in an ethical manner when they removed the programs from The Pulse and buckled to Clear Channel pressure. Here is the story.

In 2003, Jones contacted us and asked us to carry this talk show host, Ed Schultz, whose program originated from North Dakota. As WTDY's program director at the time, I figured that Schultz would make a good addition to our lineup, as he was a Midwest voice. Such talent comes second to our local hosts during prime time, so Schultz was delayed from his live afternoon broadcast to an evening slot, certainly not an uncommon tactic.

Not long after that came Clear Channel's decision to change the format of WXXM to progressive talk. I received a phone call from Jones Media and they said that if we wanted to keep Ed Schultz, we would have to run him live, and also run Stephanie Miller's show in the evening. Since we were running Sean Hannity in the afternoon, it made sense to capitulate to Jones' wish. This did not make Clear Channel very happy. They had picked up Air America for many of their stations from around the country, and supplemented Air America's product with Jones' Schultz and Miller. So they put pressure on Jones to take Schultz and Miller away from us.

At that point, I decided that we had been betrayed by far too many syndicated programmers. You may remember that Clear Channel also used corporate clout to move Rush Limbaugh and eight hours a day of other programming from WTDY back in 2001. WTDY was one of Rush's first 80 affiliates in 1988 - we didn't just run the syndicated programming, we spent thousands of dollars promoting it, and running their inventory of commercials.

With a good portion of our programming being live and local already, we decided we'd make a full-time commitment, and make all of our prime time live and local. It is for this reason that we will not reward Jones or any other syndicator that operates in this manner. Progressives in Madison and other cities should be pushing for more local programming rather than trying to mimic the Limbaugh-Hannity model. As a proud reader of The Capital Times, a locally owned newspaper, I hope that its readers will appreciate our identical commitment to Madison.

Neither Schultz nor Miller ever lifted a finger to say no to the corporate greed that caused their downfall in Madison. They "talk the talk" about being for progressive causes, but when push came to shove they decided to gorge from the Clear Channel trough.

Franken's not leaving, but he is going to Iraq

Okay, we can finally put this rumor to bed. According to Steve Young at Huffington Post, Al Franken will not be giving up his Air America Radio show anytime soon.

Right Wing media outlets in the know about liberal talk, reported the breaking "news" that Al Franken would be leaving Air America on 12/8.Newsbusters, Brian Maloney's Radioequalizer, and a number of other sites all gleefully reported Al's departure from AAR.

One right wing site announced that they only reported on the story because it could be "verified via the affiliates." Perhaps they got the info from the same guy at the Quake in San Francisco who has posted premature and inaccurate news of Al's departure in the past.

Yessir, they were right on the money. Except for a couple little things.

1. Al is leaving all right...for Iraq and Afghanistan on a USO Tour.

This is Al's third trip to entertain the troops in the war torn area. You know, like Sean Hannity and O'Reil... Oh, yeah. Better nix those last two. I forgot. It's only the ones who undermine the troops who head over to the front lines with our guys. The ones pushing to send them over...well, you know. Busy, busy.

2. While some have said he's leaving Air America, he hasn't. As Al told me last night, at this point, he's "made no decision on leaving the show." And it is up to him. Which means, as of today, when he returns, he could just as well be back at the Air America mike as begin a run for Senate or study the history of bakliva. Nothing has been determined.

So, if you've heard of Al's AA demise, even from some quack in the Huffington Post, it might serve well not to believe everything you read. It's kind of like believing right wing talk radio. You'll only get misinformation and quite possibly, lose an election. Better to listen directly to Al. And you still can.

Steve "I Stand Corrected" Young

Friday, November 17, 2006

Radical Russ is the next "Progressive Talk Radio Star"

Congratulations are in order for "Radical" Russ Belville of Portland, OR, who has won a national contest to find America's next Progressive Talk Radio Star.

The contest was sponsored by Clear Channel Radio, The Center for American Progress Action Fund, Jones Radio Networks, and Media Syndication Services, Inc.

Belville, who won a local contest sponsored by Clear Channel progressive talker KPOJ (620AM) in Portland, went on to defeat Curtis Hannum of Boulder, Colo., in the finals of the contest, a two-hour broadcast in Washington, D.C. hosted by veteran television broadcaster and nationally syndicated radio host Bill Press.

Judges for the final broadcast included Product First syndicated talker Ed Schultz, Melody Barnes, executive VP for Policy at the Center for American Progress; Paul Woodhull, founder and president of Media Syndication Services; Jessica Sherman, VP of Affiliate Sales for Jones Radio Networks, and Bill Hess, program director for Clear Channel talk WWRC (1260AM) in Washington, DC.

As the winner, Belville will now get an opportunity to develop and host his own syndicated radio show in conjunction with the contest's sponsors.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Meanwhile, over in Madison...

As WXXM-FM (92.1 The Mic) in Madison, WI readies it's pending all-sports format, set to debut January 1, the format flip is the talk of the city. Syndicated hosts Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz have mentioned it, and many of the station's listeners are livid. An online petition to keep the format on WXXM has logged 3,000 signers since last Saturday.

Response has been so strong that even Clear Channel-Madison market manager Jeff Tyler has had to backpedal a bit. "We put this station on the air 2 years ago to support intelligent dialogue," Tyler claimed in a statement sent to the petitioners. "We are listening to people and discussing some of the alternative concepts we have to continue to provide these ideas to Madison." Tyler also asked for input from local sponsors that are supportive of the format, and that feel "they are losing a marketing choice." He closed by saying, "We are listening."

WXXM's flip to sports will also create somewhat of a ripple in local radio, as they will assume the Clear Channel-owned FOX Sports Radio affiliation from rimshot rival station WTLX (100.5FM), a station with a limited signal in Madison, but with plans to move closer to the city.

As devoted listeners of The Mic began flooding WTLX owner Craig Karmazin's email box, he finally spoke to Madison-based The Isthmus about the future of his Madison sports station. As Karmazin, owner of Good Karma Broadcasting, points out, the station currently carries one FOX Sports show during the day, Steve Czaban, from noon-2PM (FOX Sports programming does appear on the station during the evenings and weekends). Karmazin does plan to emphasize more local sports talk programming, in contrast to the mostly syndicated approach which will likely be on WXXM.

No mention was made of any potential interest in the liberal talk format currently on WXXM, though Karmazin did consider picking up Air America Radio for WTLX a couple years ago. Since then, Good Karma has been concentrating on sports radio, building up properties in Milwaukee, West Palm Beach and most recently Cleveland, among others. He hired local hosts for his sports talk stations and was recently awarded the rights to Marquette University basketball broadcasts (to be aired on his Milwaukee and Madison stations). So as of now, there doesn't seem to be any plans for WTLX to pick up The Mic's liberal talk format, despite their strong ratings, even though WTLX has rarely appeared in the Madison ratings book.

Sports to claim another liberal talk station (WLBY, Ann Arbor)

After a few nationwide format flips involving the all-sports format, WLBY (1290AM) in Ann Arbor, MI looks to be the latest to jettison it's liberal talk format and will begin stunting with what it's calling an "all-Victors, all the time" format concentrating on the University of Michigan.

So, goodbye Air America Radio and Ed Schultz, and hello Wolverines. Liberal talk in Ann Arbor appears to be going the way of Brian Maloney's failed radio career.

The stunting format will consist of marching band tunes, "Michigan Memories" clips, and sports updates, coinciding with the Saturday's big game against Ohio State, one of the most famous rivalries in all of college football.

The format kicks off just after midnight on Friday, November 17. What format will follow is unknown, but is rumored to be sports.

After many years and many format changes, WLBY, a low-powered AM station with limited nighttime power, has made some inroads since it picked up liberal talk in 2004, maintaining a 1.2 share for the past year. The station is currently owned by Clear Channel, but a pending sale to Cumulus Broadcasting is in the works.

UPDATE 11/20: It looks like this was just a stunt.

Clear Channel: Under new ownership

Clear Channel Communications Inc. (NYSE:CCU - news), the No. 1 U.S. radio company, has agreed to be acquired by private equity firms Thomas H. Lee Partners (THL.UL) and Bain Capital for nearly $19 billion, a source familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

The bid values Clear Channel, which has about 1,150 radio stations, at $37.60 a share, the source said. Clear Channel shares closed at $34 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Two teams of bidders submitted offers for the company, sources previously told Reuters. The other consortium was made up of Providence Equity Partners, Blackstone Group (BG.UL) and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR.UL).

In a separate announcement Thursday, Clear Channel said it plans to sell 448 of its radio stations, all located outside the top 100 media markets in the U.S., and its 42-station television group.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It can't be a success if they don't try

Ed Schultz read an email on his show yesterday from a devoted listener (mp3). The listener also happens to own a home construction business, and tried to purchase advertising time on one of Schultz' affiliates, a progressive talk station. The station's account executive tried to talk him out of it, and steer him toward advertising on one of the company's other stations. The potential client was furious, and fired off the email to Schultz.

Schultz also brought up an example of a business owner in Miami, who had never purchased radio time before deciding to advertise with WINZ (940AM). The client was thrilled with the results. This stuff can and does happen.

Which begs the question, are the owners and sales executives of the various progressive talk stations across the country even trying to support it? Do they even care, or are they just trying to force them to switch formats (as will happen in Madison at the end of the year)? Suffice it to say, the format can work. But if account executives and owners refuse to support it, then they're in the wrong business.

This point was brought up by a few people. Former Madison, WI mayor Paul Soglin cites mismanagement and lack of effort at WXXM-FM (92.1 The Mic). "The research is wrong," said Soglin on his blog. "It is well documented that The Mic was doing just fine. Perhaps the owners fell that they were not making enough money from Oreck Vacuum Cleaner ads."

"The decision to end the Mic is a result of poor marketing and sales of advertising for the station. There were no Toyota or Honda commercial(s) or the type of big revenue radio spots that fill the coffers."

"You have just seen capitalism and the free market at its worst. A business discontinues a product. The product failed not because of the consumer but because of the mismanagement by the owner."

Jesse Russell at Madison-based blog Dane 101 wonders why too, wondering if it was because "Liberals obviously don't drive cars," but thinks that the answer could lie with Clear Channel's Sales Manager for Madison Eric West, a highly-active Republican.

In addition, the blogger also says, "With the Mic off the air, many Madison businesses lost their one Clear Channel venue for advertising, including the High Noon Saloon, Mad Cat, the Willie Street Co-op, Quivey's Grove, Madison Community Land Trust, and more."

The Mic's situation is quite bizarre. In the most recent Arbitron ratings, WXXM ranked #11 overall in the market with a 3.7 share. It did even better in demographic and daypart breakdowns, in some instances finishing #1 and beating its sister talk station. And unlike the typical demographics of conservative talk radio (which attracts a less desireable older audience), WXXM and many others like it are attracting a younger crowd, highly sought after by advertisers. Following the announcement of a pending format change to all-sports, listeners are highly vocal and extremely outraged. So why aren't sales and managers taking advantage of this?

Schultz is a good example of someone in the progressive talk business who understand this. Over the past several years since the Fargo, ND host went into syndication, he has effectively cultivated a strong relationship with his sponsors. And he's even lined up brand name companies such as Office Depot, Glaxo Smith Kline (makers of Zantac), Ricola and others. And he's lined up the usual network radio advertisers like Select Comfort and Oreck. In short, he doesn't just settle for the obscure co-ops and blue-friendly sponsors that are often gimmes for progressive radio. Rather, he goes after the ones that advertise on other radio formats, with the attitude that he's just as good as anyone else. In short, he gained credibility with them. And he's successfully been able to balance his relationship and credibility with his listeners as well as his sponsors, who keep him on the air. Schultz gets it.

But whereas Schultz' syndicator, Jones Radio Networks, has obviously succeeded with Schultz and Stephanie Miller, they are still flawed. Mike Malloy explained this as well when he claimed recently that Jones, which contracts with Air America Radio to do advertising sales, didn't even bother to try and sell time on his show, an occurance that likely led to his dismissal. And Air America doesn't exactly have what could be considered A-list sponsors, since many of their network spots are for "Impeached" board games, progressive magazines, health food and labor unions. Granted, this is not a put-down of those advertisers, since it's important to have any kinds of dedicated sponsors supporting their programming. But in order for the likes of Air America to succeed, they do need a stronger roster of clients.

Many have read about the ABC Radio Networks 'blackout' memo a few weeks back. It was essentially a list of companies that refused to allow their network spots to air during Air America programming. Only thing is, those kinds of lists exist for many other types of controversial or polarizing programming. Air America is not really being singled out here. Rush Limbaugh has a boycott list. So does Sean Hannity. And Howard Stern. And Opie and Anthony. This list is nothing new. Some advertisers don't like any kind of talk radio, while a scant few like eHarmony do in fact favor conservative talk radio. But there are still a lot of companies, services and small business owners out there that will support this kind of programming, and would love to target the dedicated audience that progressive talk radio attracts.

Some question the committment of local station managers. When WSMB in New Orleans dropped progressive talk last week in favor of "WWL On Demand," essentially a time-shifting of local shows from WSMB's sister station, the reason given was that "...because of the storm, it was hard to launch that kind of programming in the marketplace, when so many people were concerned with survival, not philosophy. We think this is a better use of the 1350 frequency at this place and this time. This is a better choice based on what audiences and advertisers are telling us.”

What they didn't explain (or what the newspaper reporter didn't ask) is why, if (station owner) Entercom thinks New Orleanians can’t handle “philosophy,” they should continue to be subjected to Rush Limbaugh’s rantings on WWL in the prime midday schedule. He never questioned why, if Entercom is so interested in the survival issues of New Orleans residents, it broadcasts 15 hours a week of sports, 20 hours a week of time travel and alien abductions, and 15 hours a week of food talk. He never asked what content Entercom provides on the other three radio stations it owns in New Orleans. And just this past Monday, Clear Channel in New Orleans debuted a new talk station, as "The New 995FM" took to the air. The new format’s mission is “to be an activist voice in the improvement of New Orleans,” said Dick Lewis, New Orleans-based regional vice president for Clear Channel, though no one knows for sure how Hannity, Mark Levin, Bill O’Reilly, convicted insurance commissioner Jim Brown, and Ray Nagin’s key advisor and Republican mayoral election rival Rob Couhig are to do that in post-Katrina New Orleans, where Republicans are likely held in low regard. At least they didn't hire ex-FEMA head Mike (heckuva job) Brown.

One final thing that merits mentioning is the fact that, compared to other radio formats, syndicated progressive talk is an outrageously inexpensive format to run. All of the programming is offered on a 'barter' basis, that is, affiliates pay nothing for it. It's offered for free. The only catch is that the network syndicating the show asks for five minutes or so per hour to air their own ads. The rest, outside of the shows, is available to the affiliates to do whatever they want with it. According to Air America's programming clock, in a given hour, they hold back five minutes for their own network sponsors. The affiliates get 17 minutes for themselves, which also includes news breaks (most air some sort of network news feed from the likes of ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, or AAR, plus their respective bartered one minute or so of time). So, in essence, a typical talk station will get about 10-12 minutes per hour to slot in ads, which is a few minutes more than a typical music format. And, unless the station has local shows, there's no jocks to pay, subtracting from the overhead. Not bad.

All in all, the progressive talk format works, so long as some effort is put into it. The listeners will come, if station management even bothers to promote it. Businesses will advertise, if given the chance.

In short, a station can't succeed if they don't even try.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

FOX News internal memo says terrorists love Democratic Congress

Ever wonder what goes on inside the offices of the FOX 'News' Channel on a day like, oh, the 2006 Election? A day that saw their benefactors in the GOP get their asses handed to them as a depressed (and constipated)-looking Brit Hume delivered the RNC marching orders to the faithful flock?

Well, Huffington Post has obtained an internal Fox 'News' talking points memo written by the network's Vice President of 'news'. The memo details FOX's game plan the day Democrats won control of both the Senate and the House. And it shows just how 'fair and balanced' they really are. And it shows that you too can be a VP of 'news' at FOX, even if your grammar sucks!

According to Media Matters for America, the VP who writes these words of wit is John Moody. And he's been entertaining staffers with these 'marching orders' for several years now.

Here's the memo - typos, fake news, warts and all. And remember, I report, you decide:

A couple of thumpees -- to use a variation of Bush's term -- speak today.
Webb has won in Virginia. The balance of power in the Senate is now 51-49 Dem (Sanders and Lieberman will organize with the D's). He'll come out and concede. Let's take it.'

Rumsfeld had a previous speaking engagement in Kansas. He ought to be in a fine mood. Can one fake smile hide that much frustration? We'll take that too.

The elections and Rumsfeld's resignation were a major event, but not the end of the world. The war on terror goes on without interruption. Jennifer Griffin sent in info on Hamas' call for attacks on American interests. And let's be on the lookout for any statements from the Iraqi insurgents, who must be thrilled at the prospect of a Dem-controlled congress.

The question of the day, and indeed for the rest of bush's term, is: What's the Dem plan for Iraq? THis could be a very short live shot for Jim Angle, but he'll try.

In the House, the newly empowered Dems will shed some fraternal blood before settling in. Murtha will challenge HOyer for the leadership. A former hawk v. a political hack. Garrett will observe.

We'll continue to work the Hamas threat to the US that came hours after the election results. Griffin and Tobin will include in their lives. Just because the Dems won, the war on terror isnt' over.

Yes indeed, that's "Real Journalism - Fair and Balanced". Granted, I'm sure most people realized that the FOX 'News' Channel was really the FOX Infotainment Channel. Particularly since what they do can't really be considered 'real news'. Let's face it, most of their programming consists of vapid bimbettes and know-nothing pundits screaming talking points at each other. The faithful amuse themselves to the sight of Bill O'Reilly interviewing himself every night. And "Asshat and Doormat"... er, "Hannity and 'Liberal To Be Determined'" featuring the screechers and howlers of the day. And don't forget the one and only Geraldo Rivera, '70s porno moustache and all, in his overzealous ambition to play soldier, helping to further the cause of journalism by giving out U.S. troop movements and hiding in ditches on live TV. Yes, that's FOX 'News' for ya! And I guess we owe them a round of applause for keeping freepers stupid for Ten Whole Years!

After all, they might as well go for broke now, especially since their aging audience is either dying off, turning to "Wheel Of Fortune" or just plain changing the channel. What's this about Olbermann getting close to toppling O'Reilly in the ratings? Nah, can't be! 'Cuz if you don't watch FOX 'News', you're not a real American. Kinda like their Australian owner, right?

And I'll bet most of you learned more about current events from watching "The Simpsons" on their bread-and-butter network. Oh, stop being so silly! And "Shut up, shut up, shut up!!!"

Oh, and if you really want to see what goes on inside the belly of the beast, and find out why they say the things they do, check out the great 2004 documentary "Outfoxed". Both parts one and two are on the YouTube, or you can buy the DVD through the official website. Don't forget the popcorn!

UPDATE: Doesn't look like a very good day for FOX 'News'. And article in World Net Daily (linked at Buzzflash) says that FOX News (or someone representing them) paid a $2 million ransom to free two of their reporters several months ago. The Palestinian terrorist group that did the kidnapping then used the money to buy more weapons, the intent being "to hit the Zionists." And yes, whoever paid the money could be charged under U.S. anti-terrorist legislation. As Bill-O would say, "Who's looking out for you?"

And if you really care, the FOX TV network will be interviewing O.J. Simpson on November 27 and 28, as Orenthal James tells all how he would have killed Nicole. That is, if he did it.

Can anyone say, "jump the shark"?

UPDATE: Slate has even more Moody memos!

The Mic's Lee Rayburn comments on station's demise

Here's an email from Lee Rayburn, former morning show host of WXXM-FM in Madison:

I'm not quite sure how to respond to the overwhelming reaction at the loss of progressive talk radio in Madison. First and foremost thank you, thank you, thank you for listening to the Mic 92.1. In just two quick years, we created an intelligent and entertaining listening post for the galvanized left not just in Madison, but throughout Wisconsin. Our listener ratings were released the day before Jodie and I found out that the Pro Show was cancelled and the Mic 92.1 was being turned off. Simply said, our ratings walloped the other talk radio stations in town in the key advertising demographics. The Mic 92.1 continued to grow until the decision was made to turn it off.

I, honestly, don't know why Clear Channel has decided to turn off the Mic 92.1. I was never offered an explanation. Personally, the loss of the station has been a bit devastating. I want to publicly thank my co-workers who have become my family. I started at the Mic 92.1 the day it began broadcasting in 2004. Brian Turany, the former Program Director of the Mic 92.1, has been the patron saint of progressive talk radio in Madison. His tireless work created the quality you heard on the radio everyday. Brian was the one committed to creating a community radio station using corporate resources. With his passion and kindness, working for Brian everyday was never work. Not once. Jodie Shawback, my former co-host on the Pro Show, made great local radio out of my best intentions. She is a consummate radio pro that completed our local programming. The Pro Show on the Mic 92.1 was my baby, and that baby didn't start to sing, dance, and laugh until Jodie arrived. Right now, it's impossible to consider radio again without her. She's also been kind enough to help me find the unemployment office. Chris Bowman did all of my dirty work at the Mic 92.1 and he deserves nothing but future success in radio. I also want to thank Clear Channel Madison's FM Operations Manager, Mike Ferris, who truly believed in progressive talk radio in Madison while not always agreeing with the politics.

One of the greatest pleasures of my job at the Mic 92.1 was meeting all the people in our community working tirelessly to make this world a little better place. Most of them had never been on the radio before and I was always proud to provide a forum for them. Our community forum was made possible by our local advertisers. Another of the great joys of the job was meeting the many local business owners who use their business to benefit the community. I want to sincerely thank all of our local advertisers. Without you, there would be no debate right now as to why the Mic 92.1 is being turned off. You are too numerous to mention here by name without forgetting some, but your suport was never lost on our listeners. I know we delivered results to our advertisers. So did management.

Many of you asked me how we save progressive talk radio in Madison and I honestly just don't know. I don't have much more information than you. I do know that the airwaves, in theory, belong to the people. I also know that I would love nothing more than to be back together with you, Jodie and Brian. You have every right to express your support of progressive talk radio in Madison. There are only three major radio groups in the Madison market: Clear Channel, Entercom, and Mid-West Family. If you're asking me, I'm guessing the most likely radio group to pick-up progressive talk radio in Madison is... Clear Channel. After all, I hear they have a new Fox Sports radio station at a perfect place on the FM dial. If I have to give any advice, here it is: Don't Stop! Whatever you are doing to keep progressive commercial talk radio on the air in Madison, don't stop! I signed the petition to keep the station on the air. This is our community. These are our airwaves. The Mic 92.1 was a great and growing radio station that shared it's communities values and aspirations. If you think that it deserves a place in Madison, say so.

I may not know your name or your face but, if you ever listened to the Pro Show, I know you. You were my friend and my confidante. You were quite literally the closest person to me. Brian and Jodie will attest to that. Everyday, you and I talked about all those things we never mention in mixed company: politics, sex, religion, drugs. I was never any good at small-talk anyway. I will forever be proud of the work we did at the Mic 92.1. Thank you for listening...

If you need to sign the petition here's the link.

A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives Michael Moore

I caught this article by Michael Moore this morning, and I felt it was worthy enough to pass along to readers of this blog. Enjoy!

To My Conservative Brothers and Sisters,

I know you are dismayed and disheartened at the results of last week's election. You're worried that the country is heading toward a very bad place you don't want it to go. Your 12-year Republican Revolution has ended with so much yet to do, so many promises left unfulfilled. You are in a funk, and I understand.

Well, cheer up, my friends! Do not despair. I have good news for you. I, and the millions of others who are now in charge with our Democratic Congress, have a pledge we would like to make to you, a list of promises that we offer you because we value you as our fellow Americans. You deserve to know what we plan to do with our newfound power -- and, to be specific, what we will do to you and for you.

Thus, here is our Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives:

Dear Conservatives and Republicans,

I, and my fellow signatories, hereby make these promises to you:

1. We will always respect you for your conservative beliefs. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2. We will let you marry whomever you want, even when some of us consider your behavior to be "different" or "immoral." Who you marry is none of our business. Love and be in love -- it's a wonderful gift.

3. We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook, too, and we will balance it for you.

4. When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home, too. They deserve to live. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on either a mistake or a lie.

5. When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you, too, will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that affect you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family, too.

6. Even though you have opposed environmental regulation, when we clean up our air and water, we, the Democratic majority, will let you, too, breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water.

7. Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8. We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9. We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, pick up another sport. We will make our streets and schools as free as we can from these weapons and we will protect your children just as we would protect ours.

10. When we raise the minimum wage, we will pay you -- and your employees -- that new wage, too. When women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage, too.

11. We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't put those beliefs into practice. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the poor," "Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God," and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world.

12. We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and who are bought and paid for by the rich. We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country, too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans -- and for the rest of the world.


Michael Moore
(Click here to sign the pledge)

P.S. Please feel free to pass this on.

Monday, November 13, 2006

WRVC and WCMI do a switcheroo in Huntington/Ashland

Several people have emailed me regarding WRVC in Huntington, WV, and their flip to sports talk.

Well, there's good news and there's bad news in this. First, the bad news is obviously WRVC, a station that previously dropped all of their progressive talk programming except for Al Franken and Ed Schultz a few months ago. As of today, they are a fulltime ESPN Radio-affiliated sports talk station.

But there's also some good news. Co-owned WCMI (1340AM), in nearby Ashland, KY, cedes its sports programming to WRVC and picks up a full-time progressive talk roster, consisting mostly of Air America Radio programming and Ed Schultz live.

The only semi-bad news in this is that WCMI's 700 1000 watt signal may be a bit weak in Huntington, though its city grade signal does cover the city's outskirts. Plans are in the works to upgrade to 1000 watts in the future. WRVC is currently the most powerful signal in the area, blasting 5000 watts during the day, though a bit hampered with a highly directional 1000 watts at night.

WCMI's schedule is mostly Air America, though they will air Thom Hartmann's midday show in place of Al Franken's, and also pick up Schultz live. Randi Rhodes' show will be delayed to the 6-9PM slot. The skipping over of Franken lends more credence to rumors that he will leave radio in the near future, a rumor I still have not been able to confirm or debunk.

UPDATE 1/11/07: Thanks to KCMI chief engineer Cameron Smith for an email update on the station's signal:

I saw on your blog that you had WCMI listed as 700 watts.

WCMI is licensed by the FCC for 1000 watts - non-directional fulltime.

The license was granted 7/5/2005 and the facilities are at the full licensed power of 1kW.

(Now you have a nearly-30% power-increase just by doing a little fact-checking).

Thank you for your time,

Cameron Smith
Director of Engineering
Kindred Communications
Marshall University / ISP Radio Network

Thanks for the update, Cameron. Obviously, I put too much faith in sites other than the FCC's (which can sometimes lag in updating). And it looks like the other guys have their information straight as well. Sorry about that, especially considering how seriously engineers take their masterwork.

Update: Freeper busted in fake anthrax threats

A California man was arrested this weekend, accused of mailing threatening letters laced with white powder to Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, David Letterman, Keith Olbermann and other high-profile figures, the FBI announced Sunday.

FBI agents took Chad Conrad Castagana, 39, of Woodland Hills, California, into custody Saturday on charges of conveying false information and sending threats via the U.S. mail, the bureau said in a statement.

Castagana, of Los Angeles, was being held in a federal detention center pending an initial court appearance Monday, when prosecutors were expected to file charges.

According to a federal search warrant, among those who received threatening letters were Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show;” talk show host David Letterman; Keith Olbermann of MSNBC; Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, who is set to become Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, both Democrats.

In some cases, the threatening letters included expressions such as “Death to Demagogues” and references to Alan Berg, a Jewish talk radio host murdered by white supremacists in Denver in 1984, the document said.

Tests determined that the white powder sent in the letters was nonhazardous, the statement said.

So, who is this guy, this Chad Conrad Castagana? Well, thanks to "The Google", many across the blogosphere have done a good job of profiling this whackjob domestic terrorist. It appears Castagana's a 39 year-old unemployed sci-fi geek who lives at home and has a deep affection for Katherine Harris and disease flicks.

And, in a turn of events that will likely surprise nobody, he's a freeper! No, I'm not making this up, and no, you should not be surprised. See, "Triple C" is an avid poster at many websites, message boards, and blogs. One of his favorite sites is Free Republic, where he posts under the alias "Marc Costanzo". Many of his posts there are similar to ones found elsewhere, though his ruminations in Freeperland may have done him in.

Most striking is this Costanzo comment from September, weeks before the anti-Bush MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann was sent a threatening fake anthrax letter in New York: "This partisan loudmouth Olbermann is a demagogue! Someone should find out where he lives and mail him a Ted Kazcinski letter."

After Olbermann received the fake anthrax, Costanzo posted the following:

"Not to make light of the situation, but drama queen Olbermann put on quite a production even after he'd been told the powder was harmless and checked out by doctors and told he was fine. He demanded that he be rushed to the hospital for more tests. I wouldn't be even remotely surprised if he mailed it to himself. I've never seen someone more desperate for attention and approval. I heard from a liberal blog that Olbermann was a prima donna at the hospital, giving the medical staff and the cops a hard time. Keith is a whiny little b@tch! Accepting that, I do not believe he sent it to himself. But that is just guess work.
A few weeks later, after fake anthrax was sent to the New York offices of Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, Costanzo wrote, "Hold it here now, what are the facts? The links provide few details. This info is very sketchy!"

And when the Washington Post recently received a piece of mail with suspicious white powder, Costanzo commented, "I heard recently that The Washington Post got interrupted beifly the other day becaue of a 'suspicious letter'. I read about this at They said that this letter only contained harmless powder of Boric Acid."

So yes, Free Republic, that last bastion of liberty protecting us from terraists is in fact harboring them. And of course, in classic freeper form, the site went down briefly this morning as head freeper Jim Robinson, aka JimRob (or as I like to call him, RimJob) and his lackeys were likely busy scrubbing the evidence from the site (though they must have missed one). Not to worry, as "The Google" does have a nifty caching option. Hopefully, the fancy RV that RimJob bought with freeper donations won't break down as he flees the country. Karma would dictate that whatever country he winds up in forces him to speak their language.

Or, in freepspeak, "we are screwn".

UPDATE: Looks like this whole white powder scare has hit the New York studios of Air America Radio. Yesterday, they received three suspicious packages. An employee made the find at the stations' headquarters at 641 Sixth Ave.

The three packages - one of which was addressed to on-air personality Al Franken, and another allegedly to Randi Rhodes - contained a powder-like substance, which proved to be harmless.

Yes indeed, folks. They hate us for our freedom.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Air America Radio programming returning to Inland Empire (KCAA)

Anyone remember KCAA?

KCAA in Loma Linda, CA (near San Bernadino) was one of the initial afilliates of the fledgeling Air America Radio network when they debuted in March 2004. They slotted in Al Franken and Randi Rhodes along with other programming, including morning host Don Imus and a host of others, including G. Gordon Liddy.

Over time, the schedule consisted of conspiracy theorists such as Alex Jones, religious shows and infomercials. Many changes have been made to the on-air schedule since. It got to the point that all hosts except for Imus were on for only an hour or two. Over time, Air America programming disappeared from the lineup. But that's about to change yet again.

KCAA, a low-powered daytime-only station, has finally gotten approval for nighttime service, as well as a tweaking of their daytime signal. Granted, their nighttime signal will me a mere 35 watts, to go along with their directional 1400 watt daytime signal. Nonetheless, this will allow them to schedule a full roster of whatever it is they program.

Pending schedule changes will include the return of Franken and Rhodes. In addition, Alex Jones "will be back."

Right now, nothing in regard to the schedule is permanent. Music-oriented and religious programming will have a place there. Then there is Jeff Rense, whose interest in the paranormal and supernatural have led many to consider him more Art Bell than Art Bell. His show will air midnight-1AM on Saturdays and Sundays.

A radio replay of "Meet the Press" will be on at noon Sunday. And Vince Daniels, Chef Piero, George Putnam and Barry Gordon will remain.

All this is still subject to change and will result in a fair amount of experimentation over the next several weeks with more announcements upcoming. The station will be "a work in progress at this point." And it sounds like they'll stick with the one hour snippets of syndicated shows.

KCAA will fill the void somewhat for fans of Air America, since the other Air America affilliates in Southern California, KTLK in Los Angeles, KLSD in San Diego and KPTR in Palm Springs have signal limitations in the area.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


As the election has passed, it should be no surprise that a few liberal talk stations are moving on to other formats, anticipating a likely decline in listenership to political talk radio in general.

The first station to make a move was WSMB in New Orleans, which flipped to a format of time-shifted programming from sister station WWL.

Next was WXXM in Madison, WI, announcing a pending flip to a local-oriented sports format.

And now WYOS in Binghamton, NY, which was not heavily promoted outside of its sister talk station, will be picking up the straight ESPN Radio feed effective Monday, according to program director Roger Neel, who announced the move on sister station, WNBF-AM Friday morning.

The move means WYOS will go head-to-head with Endicott-based WENE AM-1430, which airs a Fox Sports Radio format except for the "Imus in the Morning" show in the morning drive-time slot.

Programming on ESPN Radio includes "Mike & Mike in the Morning," "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" and "The Dan Patrick Show."

WYOS will continue to carry Syracuse University broadcasts, Neel said.

And in Huntington, WV, WRVC, which added a heavy amount of sports programming in September, drops Al Franken and Ed Schultz as the station becomes a 24/7 sports outlet as ESPN 930.

Friday, November 10, 2006

"The Mic" to shut off in Madison, flip to sports talk

From the "Stupidest Radio Decisions Ever" department, WXXM (92.1FM) Madison has announced a pending flip to sports talk, right after they had one of their best ratings periods yet (3.7 overall, 11th place).

This means that Air America Radio programming, Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz will make way for, ummm... The Madison Mallards.

Local programming, including the weekday morning The Pro Show with Lee Rayburn and Jodie Shawback has been dropped. The Forward Forum, a weekend show, was cancelled last weekend.

Here's the official statement:

November 10, 2007

Statement: The change in formats on WXXM 92.1FM to FOX SPORTS RADIO 92.1:

"Our programming decisions are based entirely on audience research and our knowledge of the communities we serve. We have built and established a strong brand for broadcast sports. We are the market’s source for everything professional sports including the Packers, Brewers, Bucks and their league’s playoffs and championships. We are the local flagship for the Wisconsin Badgers offering our listeners football, men’s and women’s basketball and hockey. We provide coverage of NASCAR and High School sports including the WIAA State Championships in football, boys and girl’s basketball and hockey.

Our research indicated that listeners want more coverage of local high school and collegiate sports, not currently carried on local radio. We have only been able to provide limited exposure for UW Badger Volleyball. We have had listener requests and interest in High School Baseball and our local Northwood’s League Baseball team (The Madison Mallards). We have also had requests to air some programming currently carried on our WTSO AM [ESPN RADIO 1070] live and not time shifted. The need and the appetite for sports in the market have only grown stronger in the past few years. The addition of FOX SPORTS RADIO on WXXM FM 92.1 starting January 1, 2007 will allow us to carry more of what sports fans in the Madison area want, more programming that highlights the local sports scene and more top sports programs live.”

- Jeff Tyler, Vice President / Market Manager for Clear Channel Radio-Madison

All programming carried on WXXM FM through December 31, 2006, can also be streamed via the internet at,;

Clear Channel Radio owns and operates six Madison area radio stations including, WIBA AM 1310, WIBA FM 101.5, WZEE FM 104.1, WMAD FM 96.3, WXXM FM 92.1, and WTSO AM 1070.

So, in essence, Clear Channel-Madison is blowing up one of the most successful stations in the market, as well as in the progressive talk format, for yet another sports talk station. And Madison already has a FOX Sports affiliate in rimshot station WTLX (100.5FM), though their ratings are crap in the Madison market. The station's signal is weak in some parts of the Madison market. WTLX does have plans to change its city of license to neighboring Monona, which will allow them to become a full-fledged Madison station.

Many have wondered why Clear Channel-Madison is making this move, with some even donning the proverbial aluminum foil helmet. Most Clear Channel station decisions are made at the local level, particularly with a market as small as Madison. My theory is that they have sponsors lined up to finance high school baseball, UW Volleyball, intramural basketweaving and whatever other crap they want to put on WXXM. Believe it or not, advertisers are actually willing to sponsor stuff like this, and while the conventional wisdom is that nobody will listen, companies will throw a lot of money at it nonetheless.

It doesn't look like this is based on ratings, and with the new format for 92.1, I don't think Clear Channel-Madison will really care about ratings so long as they can line up sponsors to pay for it.

Clear Channel also owns ESPN-affiliated all-sports WTSO, in addition to news/talk station WIBA, the Madison-area flagship for the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, and Wisconsin Badgers football. WXXM's switch could be a sales re-emphasis toward selling male-dominated sports programming, rather than trying to sell talk radio.

It is likely that station management is making a pre-emptive move to protect their modestly successful sports station WTSO and strong franchise WIBA from WTLX's pending upgrades. It is unknown how WTLX will react to the introduction of a new competitor and the likely loss of its station identity (they currently ID themselves as "FOX Sports 100.5 Madison"). They could pick up Sporting News Radio if they remain sports, or they may even look at picking up The Mic's format, as a way of attracting much-needed listenership via a locally-established format.

Another possibility is rival Madison radio station owner, Mid-West Family. They own several area stations, including WTDY (1670AM), which in 2004 was involved in a skirmish with Clear Channel when they started calling the station "Progressive Talk 1670". They also carried Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller at the time. WTDY has since gone to a mostly-local format with talk shows spanning the political spectrum. However, Glen Gardner, program director at WTDY, said his station would likely continue to focus on locally produced shows.

"We now have the opportunity to court the audience that is going to get chased off that station," Gardner said. "We want to be live and local. We can talk about Madison."

Another wildcard could be Terry Kelley, one of the founding members of Air America and a longtime Madison businessman. "I find it puzzling as to the timing given the election results," said Kelly. "There is no business reason that is apparent to me (for the change), therefore, one wonders what the real reasons may be." Whether he may have an influence in another station picking up The Mic's programming remains to be seen.

I'm sure other station owners in the Madison market are looking at the success of The Mic, and wondering how they can fill the void. Remember, most of the stations in the market rank lower than WXXM.

You can email the program director here.

The Capital Times in Madison has an article up, as does the Wisconsin State Journal.

And you can sign a petition to keep progressive talk in Madison here.

Daily Kos linkback here.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In memory, Ed Bradley (1941-2006)

Veteran 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley died Thursday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan of complications from leukemia. He was 65.

"A kind, gentle, strong man. A first-rate reporter and a first-rate human being. And I can not believe what I have heard about his passing. Strong – always in and out of gymnasiums trying to keep in shape. It's just a shock.

When he laughed, he laughed whole-heartedly from down deep. He was just an absolutely delightful man."

– Mike Wallace, correspondent, 60 Minutes

Democrats win, but New Orleans progressive talk listeners lose

Democrats may have won big in the election, as they took back both the House and the Senate, but listeners of WSMB (1350AM) in New Orleans are now without their progressive talk programming, as the Entercom-owned station becomes "WWL On Demand", which will basically be a dumping ground for it's sister station's shows, in a time-shifted format.

The new call letters will be WWWL.

The decision to do this is a bit baffling. Most stations these days just rely on podcasting of local shows via their websites. And since the programming is available on a barter basis, syndicated liberal talk programming is ridiculously cheap to air.

WWL programming can be found already on both the 50,000 watt 870AM frequency, in addition to WWL-FM (105.3FM). Of course, this has been scaled down from the days following Hurrican Katrina, when the station's news/talk programming was carried by almost every station in the market.

So, Air America Radio programming is no longer on 1350AM. And that's too bad.

From The Times-Picayune:

Given the Democratic Party's recent congressional triumph, WSMB 1350 AM picked a trend-defying time to dump Air America in favor of radio reruns from sister station WWL 870 AM.

Gone are Al Franken and the rest of Air America's Bush-bashing gang, replaced by WWL's local talk shows, but directly following their original time slots. WWL's evening sports-talk programming now reruns the next morning on WSMB.

Syndicated Rush Limbaugh isn't rerun. Instead, "The Food Show," live local gustatory gab hosted by Tom Fitzmorris, has shifted from evening drive to 2 to 5 p.m. to air in what would be Limbaugh's time slot in WSMB's almost-parallel universe.

That move was seen by some industry observers as a pre-emptive strike against Texas-based corporate rival Clear Channel Communications, which announced this year that its New Orleans classic rock outlet WRNO 99.5 FM would switch to news-talk.

"The demand for local programming on WWL since the storm . . . seemed to dictate that it would be productive for us, and would be well received by the audience," said Ken Beck, New Orleans vice president and market manager for Entercom. "We're committed to distributing these programs as widely as we can. We do it online (at, we added an FM signal, and now we're time-shifting.

UPDATE: More advertisers respond to AAR blacklist accusations

A few weeks back, a storm erupted in the blogosphere when an internal ABC Radio Networks memo was leaked out into the open, detailing what many referred to as, essentially, an advertiser blacklist targeting Air America Radio.

The memo angered many on the left, who saw it as yet another example of liberal talk radio being kept down while right-wing radio was being shoved down their throats.

Air America considers the memo 'business as usual'. "This is nothing new. We have been dealing with this since we launched two years ago. It is unfortunate that some advertisers are afraid of supporting the progressive voice in this country," wrote station spokeswoman Jaime Horn in an email to the Pasadena Weekly last week.

Some have questioned the legitimacy of the memo. However, I have seen similar memos myself, and I will attest to its legitimacy. It is the real deal.
ABC did not deny its existence, claiming that they do not do the blacklisting themselves, but only cater to their clients' wishes.

But, as I mentioned previously, there is an explanation for all of this.

First of all, many have wondered what exactly ABC has to do with all of this. After all, ABC does not carry progressive talk programming on any of their owned-and-operated stations. ABC Radio Networks syndicates a wide array of programming in various formats. They also syndicate ABC News updates to affiliates. And they also have a different kind of syndication service, national ad buys, which air on affiliates nationwide. Here's how it all works: ABC Radio acts as its own ad selling agency, geared toward national advertisers. Westwood One (CBS) and Premiere Radio (Clear Channel) do this too. The network then sends the national spots to stations across the country. This enables national companies like Wal-Mart, Oreck, Coca-Cola and many others to efficiently place ad buys without having to go to each of the thousands of stations across the country. Then the affiliates air the commercials and get their cut.

Of course, advertisers can specify which radio formats they would like their ads to air on, effectively targeting whatever listener demographics they want to reach. For example, the makers of Secret deodorant would obviously like to reach female consumers, so they aim more toward, say, woman-friendly adult contemporary stations than male-oriented sports talk formats. Some companies desire certain formats and shun others.

The main purpose of dissecting this memo should be to see if there is any kind of bias against Air America and the progressive/liberal talk format in general, rather than companies that just don't plain advertise on talk radio.

While ABC admitted that advertising blackout lists are common for more than just Air America, they declined to discuss any lists related to the conservative Sean Hannity and Larry Elder shows.

Media activists Josh Silver and Robert McChesney, co-founders of the media reform group Free Press, are alarmed.

"The crime isn't that Air America is partisan," they wrote in an article for the blog Huffington Post. "It gives airtime to reports that are critical of corporations and the powerful politicians they keep in Washington. This is the heart of the problem: Air America commits a crime called journalism."

One of the companies on the list, REI, claims that it had no knowledge of their being on the blacklist.

Another, Office Depot, is a major sponsor of the Ed Schultz Show, which airs on many Air America affiliates.

Some of the other advertisers on this list, however, say they aren't blacklisting Air America -- just making different choices.

The US Navy avoids news and talk-formatted radio stations, preferring to target stations that potential recruits are more likely to listen to (which makes sense, since teenagers aren't known for being heavy listeners to talk radio).

Others, such as Nestle and HP, try to stay out of political talk altogether, preferring to avoid controversial programming that may alienate customers.

Staff at, a popular Internet dating service based in Pasadena and founded by evangelical Christian activist and author Neil Clark Warren, did not comment. They do, however, advertise on conservative talk programs.

As mentioned here previously, Allstate, Aventis, Bank Of America, Bayer, Chattem, Cingular, Clorox, Dell, eHarmony, ExxonMobil, Farmers Insurance Group FedEx, General Electric, Gillette, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Hyatt, Johnson & Johnson, Kraft Foods, McDonalds, Merck/Schering-Plough, MGM, Michelin, Office Depot, Paramount, Philip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, Nissan, Red Lobster, RE/MAX, Rentway, Sherwin-Williams, Sony, State Farm Insurance,, True Value, United Healthcare Services, Visa, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, and Wyeth are among the listed companies that advertise on the FOX News Channel, home of such controversial and polarizing conservative-leaning shows as The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes, according to the website Spending Liberally.

See also:

Internal document reveals Air America advertiser blacklist

ABC, REI respond to Air America blacklist memo

This article and the previous two on this topic are linked at

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