There's an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Hopefully, this little year-in-review spotlight will prevent us all from insanity in 2008. Okay, maybe not.
Nonetheless, here are ten things we learned in 2008:
1. Give your listeners what they want
Air America Radio has been through quite a lot this year. The network was sold out of bankruptcy back in January and the on-air roster went through many changes. Some changes were very well received (sliding Thom Hartmann into the vacated Al Franken slot) but some were real head scratchers. Hiring Lionel to replace Sam Seder in late mornings was a move toward legitimacy in the radio market, and on paper, it made sense. Lionel already had a successful late night show on the WOR Radio Network and was well-regarded in the industry. But the bungling of he change, and what was perceived as rather crappy treatment of Seder, royally pissed off fans who vowed to completely avoid Lionel's show. It's not Lionel's fault, and Lionel is very good at what he does. But if this whole thing were handled a bit smoother, he would have had a better reception.
Aside from the whole Lionel thing, the other additions of "Air America 2.0" were a bit strange. A nightly show, The Air Americans, was a non-starter and complete dud with no direction that occupied four hours every weeknight. It was replaced by weekender Richard Greene, a likable person who needs new bumper music (unless there's a deal in place to send Sting and his bandmates in The Police royalty money for repeated plays). On weekends, they added pay-for-play programming dealing with veganism and atheism. And of course, the network's new president Mark Green gave himself an hour to play with.
With the on-air roster again expected to change once again in January, with morning man Cenk Uygur calling it a day, Air America at this time has decided not to do a morning show (which would obviously be good news for rival Bill Press). Perhaps they could heal a few old wounds by giving the hardcore fans what they want - a Sam Seder/Marc Maron morning show. But that would just make too much sense.
2. Don't jump to conclusions
A freak accident in New York back in October involving Randi Rhodes has yet to be resolved. It may very well have been just that. But what would normally have been a molehill was turned into a whole mountain when, in a game of 'telephone' gone awry, nighttime host Jon Elliott and his listeners assumed more was behind it. Blogs and message boards blew up, claiming it was some sort of political hate crime, not out of the realm of possibility. When all was said and done, there was no hate crime. It was simply a freak accident. In the aftermath, there were quite a few people with egg on their faces, who simply overreacted. Hopefully, we'll all learn to stop, take a deep breath, and think before we post. This is why I said in the initial article not to point the finger until suspects are in custody, why I only post strong rumors and why I don't believe in simple conspiracy theories. Things can easily go horribly wrong.
3. Right-wingers should stop being so whiny.
When the accusations in the whole Randi Rhodes incident came to be unfounded, the other side of the blogosphere went apeshit, and when the whole hate crime accusations came to be unfounded, they - get this - demanded that the accusers apologize to them, as if they were the ones victimized! Oh boo fucking hoo! No, I'm not making this up! But this should all come as no surprise. After all, right-wing pundits and bloggers are perhaps the most insecure and whiniest people on the planet. The crybaby conservative brigade can dish it out, using clever terms like 'unhinged,' 'traitor,' ''communist' and the like. Try throwing similar terms in the direction of these asshats and look out! They go nuts!
As Harry S. Truman once said, if you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.
4. Don't go out of your way to be funny if your programming is already a joke.
FOX News is taken seriously only by those already drinking the Flavorade. Lots of screaming and yelling, wrong facts, errors, fluffy news and ridiculous posturing by on-air hosts have made the 'fair and balanced' network a bit of a joke. So why did they go out of their way to do a right-wing knockoff of "The Daily Show" when the rest of their on-air lineup is a parody in itself?
Oh yeah, the intentional comedy attempt was a dud.
5. Don't bite the hand that feeds
We've been though this one before. The recording industry has been in somewhat of a funk. CDs are fading in popularity, since iPods don't play them. Distraction has also come in the way of video games and DVDs. So, sales basically suck. So what to do? Piss off your listeners even more. The RIAA, fresh off their scorch-and-burn campaign of suing their ardent fans into oblivion for alleged filesharing, has officially shown that they are clueless when it comes to the internet. This time, they tried shaking down internet radio. Early last year, their extortion arm, Sound Exchange, tried to impose a riciculous royalty rate structure on webcasters, one that would have killed the most independent of all of them. Sound Exchange turned a deaf ear, taking a "let them eat cake" approach and to figure out how to sell more advertising to pay the shakedown money.
Well, the webcasters weren't going to take this sitting down, so they banded together and went to Congress. The result was a bipartisan effort that more or less forced Sound Exchange to pull back and try to play nice. Currently, the RIAA is going after terrestrial radio to help pad their bottom line, rather than the other way around, helping to ensure that in the future, all radio stations will air either talk or sports.
And as the major recording labels tried to shove inane garbage like rapper Akon's concept album about strip clubs and crass marketing projects like the Pussycat Dolls, some notable artists proved that they could do better without the music cartel. They went indie. Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead took their current projects directly to the web. Older artists such as Paul McCartney and The Eagles broke away from the major labels and partnered with retailers such as Starbucks and Wal-Mart to market their new albums, to spectacular results. An up-and-coming singer named Colbie Caillat went on to sell a million copies of her debut album based mostly on MySpace popularity of her catchy song "Bubbly." No, I will not shed a tear when the Music Mafia crumbles over its own bass-ackwards, heavy-handed silliness.
6. Don Imus is an asshole
True, we knew this all along. But in 2007, Don Imus' mouth finally got him in real trouble. Only thing is, we knew for many years that he was a jerk. And his handlers at CBS encouraged him. That is, of course, until he went too far. Referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy-headed ho's" can't easily be defended, and when Imus' advertisers scurried away from him, so did CBS.
But Imus is only partly to blame in all of this. It was pretty hypocritical of CBS, which went through something similar with the whole Opie and Anthony "Sex for Sam" controversy a few years ago, to pretend to keep taking the high road when it is them who enable the Imuses of the world by encouraging them to be outrageous and controversial.
7. Right-wingers can't come up with real bogeymen
Whenever right-wingers need to pull something out of their asses to attack our side on, a good bogeyman always comes in handy. For some strange reason, the best they could come up with is an investment banker named George Soros. The way right-wing bloggers and media goons talk about this guy, one would think he's as bad as bin Laden. Unfortunately, as much as the always constipated-looking Bill O'Reilly barks up and down about that 'big bad' Soros funding that 'big bad attack machine' Media Matters for America, neither he nor anyone else can actually tell us what exactly makes Soros a bad man. The truth is... nothing. He's just a rich guy. Nor can they actually tell the truth, which is that Soros' contributions to liberal organizations and think tanks do not directly include Media Matters for America (though MMfA did go on record and claim that they would indeed welcome contributions from Soros). Nor can they admit that their side has and is doing the same exact thing, and for much, much longer than our side has.
Funny, I don't ever recall O'Reilly and the like mentioning the names of conservative billionaire sugardaddies like trust fund muckraker Richard Scaife, Amway pyramid scheme founder Richard DeVos, cult leader Sun Myung Moon and families with names like Coors, Bradley and Olin. Follow the money here. The road is rather interesting, and more detailed than anything Bill O'Reilly can come up with.
8. Skirt-chasing is not news
I commend Time magazine for their recent list of the Top 10 Underreported Stories of 2007. Sure, it's ironic that a prominent member of what we call the 'mainstream media' would publish a list such as this. Even more so that Time's sister TV news outlet CNN probably dedicated more time to Paris Hilton's blink-and-miss-it jail stint, Lindsay Lohan's boozing, Anna Nicole Smith's death and Britney Spears losing her damn mind to things such as the chaotic infighting in Somalia, that B-52 bomber that flew from North Dakota to Louisiana with the wing fully loaded with nuclear missles, the rise of Angola and Brazil as major oil exporters, corruption at the White House an other things. Who gives a shit? Britney's 16 year-old kid sister just got knocked up! To the helicopters!
9. Don't ever use child porn for research purposes.
Earlier this month, Bernie Ward, longtime talk show host at KGO in San Francisco, was indicted on federal child porn charges. His lawyer used the Pete Townshend approach, in that it was research done several years ago for a book project, and that the government was already aware of it. In all reality, some may question the sometimes heavy-handed Orwellian tactics used to fight child porn, but the reality is that searching for child porn on the internet, even for alleged 'research' purposes, is a bad idea. Don't do it.
10. Stop enabling Rosie O'Donnell
MSNBC dodged a bullet last month when word leaked out that they were in talks with Rosie O'Donnell to host a new show on the network. The word likely leaked out from O'Donnell herself, via strange blog posts and bad poetry on her personal blog. They immediately scurried away. What a relief! O'Donnell, who left her co-hosting gig on the already ultra-irritating "The View" is a walking trainwreck who feeds on bad publicity and outlandish public displays of insanity. In addition, she's just plain annoying. And she is not a representative of our side. She's just a pain in the ass. Perhaps if everyone would just ignore her, she'll just go away. Then again, if we all just ignored Paris, Britney, et. al...
Monday, December 31, 2007
There's an old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Hopefully, this little year-in-review spotlight will prevent us all from insanity in 2008. Okay, maybe not.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
If you've all been wondering where the rest of the previously promised end-of-the-year Top 10 lists are, they're coming. I came down with a brief yet nasty case of the flu right after Christmas and didn't feel the urge to do anything but attempt to sleep and watch TV (mostly DVDs and Benazhir Bhutto). The rest is forthcoming, most notably the Top 10 Liberal Talkers of 2007. Stay tuned.
Turning back to the present tense, there's still a little bit going on. First is good news for fans of the late KLSD in San Diego. Stacy Taylor, the former morning show host on that station, was offered a position at another Clear Channel-owned station. But when all was said and done, he opted to part ways with them and has instead taken the afternoon (4-7PM PT) shift on XEPE (1700AM) starting January 3, 2008. He'll be sandwiched in between investment shows and local and syndicated conservojocks that garner the station little in the way of ratings. Perhaps Taylor, who actually did get decent ratings on KLSD, will deliver a shot in the arm to this border blaster.
Another programming change also rings in the new year. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that WWRL in New York will be getting a new morning show co-host next Wednesday in the guise of Chicago's Coz Carson, formerly of urban talk-formatted WVON. Whether he is joining the relatively new duo of Richard Bey and Mark Riley or replacing one or both people is unknown. I guess we'll see on Wednesday January 2.
UPDATE: Looks like Riley is heading back to WLIB, where he's worked off and on over the years. Carson will pair up with Bey on WWRL's morning show, according to FishbowlNY (disregard the various errors in that posting).
The guy Bey and Riley replaced, Sam Greenfield, just got a new gig. "Mornings With Sammy" will debut on January 7 and air 7-9A ET weekdays at WVNJ (1160AM) in Oakland, NJ. The Northern New Jersey station has a decent signal that also targets areas to the north and east of New York City. The station's on-air lineup is nothing to really get excited about, unless you like infomercials. Nonetheless, a longtime New York liberal talker gets a new gig, sans the excess baggage that was Armstrong Williams.
And finally, Sirius Left host Alex Bennett is hitting the road. No, he's not leaving his radio gig. He's taking it across the country next week, covering the 2008 Iowa Caucuses and the 2008 New Hampshire primary (yes, they're coming up). Bennett and company will deliver breaking election news, get voter reaction, and analysis straight from the epicenter of the beginning of the madness that is the 2008 Presidential Election.
According to the press release, according to All Access, Bennett will take listeners "inside" two actual Iowa Caucuses, "bringing a firsthand account of the debate, discussion, and procedure by which America’s first political choices are made for the 2008 presidential campaign." Look for him there January 3-4. On January 8 and 9, Bennett will broadcast his show live from the iconic Red Arrow Diner, a focal point for many presidential candidates, in Manchester.
Speaking of the 2008 Election, I have finally thrown my support behind a candidate in the race, after holding out for quite some time. Perhaps in the next few days or so, after I sort out this year-end stuff, I'll even share it with all of you. Until then, have a happy, safe and prosperous 2008.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The holidays are over, we're sobering up and playing with our new toys, and we finally throw down our arms in fighting the mythical and nonsensical War On Christmas. So now, it's time to take a look back on 2007.
In this installment, we'll take a look at the corpses left behind during the year. The stations that gave up and flipped from progressive talk to other, often less-successful formats. This isn't a complete list, as I tried to keep it down to ten. But it does show that perhaps the owners of some of these stations were a bit hasty in their programming decisions.
The year 2007 marked the big liberal purge from quite a few AM stations owned by Clear Channel Communications, Entercom and others. So far, none of the successor formats have done anything in the ratings. Check this out:
1. Cincinnati - WSAI dropped progressive talk in late 2006, going with some kind of advice-talk format. Well, that format blew dog, and it lasted a mere six months or so before becoming a dumping ground for leftover programming from sister sports station WCKY. To their credit, at least the station is getting ratings now, though nowhere near what they got with their half-assed and underpromoted approach to progressive talk.
2. Columbus - After WTPG also dropped progressive talk last December, it's replacement, right-wing babbler WYTS turned out to be a complete joke. Unlike its prececessor, which actually got the best ratings the signal had in years, WYTS has dropped off the chart. Not even Michael Savage can save them. Now, with progressive talk back on WVKO, perhaps we'll get proof that Clear Channel screwed the pooch when they hastily dropped the format.
3. Santa Cruz - KOMY ditched the Air America feed early this year. With their replacement oldies format, the station has not shown up in the ratings at all. At least liberal talk showed up on occasion. KOMY and their sister station are currently on the market.
4. Duluth - KQDS dropped from 2.1 to 0.8 overall after switching to an automated oldies satellite feed in February.
5. Fresno - KFPT was forced to switch to sports when they were sold by Peak Broadcasting to Fat Dawgs 7 in February (there was a no-compete clause in the sale papers to protect Peak's talk station, KMJ). A station that quite often floated around a one share completely dropped off the list.
6. Burlington, VT - WTWK thought the'd have more luck with estrogen, dropping progressive talk and picking up programming from Greenstone Media back in March. They were thrown a curveball when Greenstone closed up shop, and had to scramble to refill their schedule. They also brought back Stephanie Miller. So far, no ratings.
7. Sacramento - After sponsoring a Christmas season contest on their sister station in which they actually killed one of their listeners in public, Entercom killed progressive talk on KCTC in February. It was replaced by a sports format that has all but killed the 1320 AM signal in Sacramento. Locally-owned rival KSAC picked up some of the abandoned programming from KCTC and experienced a 300% jump in the ratings.
8. Akron - The axing of WARF ("Radio Free Ohio") in March completed Clear Channel's "Ohio Trifecta," where they effectively killed progressive talk on all three stations in the state programming the format. The replacement format was (surprise!) sports, and their ratings are currently (surprise!) nonexistent. They are currently getting their asses kicked by an independently-owned sports station out of Cleveland.
9. Memphis - WSMB was a joke when they did progressive talk. The station suffered from horrible promotion, poor sales efforts and serious neglect. No local presence whatsoever. An amateurish-looking website with an ugly station logo. A real shame, since the signal really kicks ass. But Entercom has never been adept at running progressive talk formats (as seen in New Orleans, Sacramento and other places). The result was a signal that was horribly neglected. So the flip to FOX Sports in early September likely came as no surprise to anyone.
10. San Diego - And now we save the most notable for last. Perhaps the most drawn-out format flip in radio history, Clear Channel in San Diego made few friends when word got out that they were about to flip KLSD to sports, going up against two other station in the area already doing the same. Time will tell if it will succeed, but Clear Channel screwed up royally when they ditched a format that was getting decent ratings and reportedly pulling in $2.5 million a year in revenue. Low-powered AM stations are not known for doing that in this day and age.
NOTE: In attempt to save space, stations such as WKOX in Boston, KDXE in Little Rock, WAVZ in New Haven, WLVP in Portland, ME, KOKE in Austin, KHRO in El Paso, and perhaps one or two others were left off the list. Of those, the new formats of WKOX and WAVZ are ratings dogs, some of the others are too early to tell, and only KHRO went up in the ratings, thanks to actually doing a locally-oriented liberal talk lineup after dropping the straight Air America feed.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
The scathingly hilarious 2006 film Idiocracy takes place roughly 500 years in the future, in a society frighteningly dumbed down by moronic entertainment, crass consumerism, ignorance, bad breeding and just plain stupidity.
This infamously buried film, directed by Mike Judge, is about a mediocre Army slacker named Joe Bauers (played by Luke Wilson) who, via an experiment gone horribly wrong, is accidentally put into a 500 year hibernation and wakes up in a mess of a future where he happens to be the smartest man in the world. Imagine a world where technology is dysfunctional, people get law degrees from Costco, the top TV show is about a guy who is repeatedly kicked and socked in the groin, Starbucks has devolved into a chain of massage parlors (don't ask what a 'Full Body Latte with extra foam' is) and people get their news analysis from a magazine called "Hot Naked Chicks and World Report." Ironically, the film seems highly reflective of modern times. It is especially so in some of the conversations that take place, particularly this one, where Joe, who is trying to figure out the solution to an enduring farmland drought, tries to tell people that watering crops with sodium-rich sport drinks is, surprise, a bad idea:
Joe: "For the last time, I'm pretty sure what's killing the crops is this Brawndo (sport drink) stuff."
Secretary of State: "But Brawndo's got what plants crave. It's got electrolytes."
Attorney General: "So wait a minute. What you're saying is that you want us to put water on the crops."
Attorney General: "Water. Like out the toilet?"
Joe: "Well, I mean, it doesn't have to be out of the toilet, but, yeah, that's the idea."
Secretary of State: "But Brawndo's got what plants crave."
Attorney General: "It's got electrolytes."
Joe: "Okay, look. The plants aren't growing, so I'm pretty sure that the Brawndo's not working. Now, I'm no botanist, but I do know that if you put water on plants, they grow."
Secretary of Energy: "Well, I've never seen no plants grow out of no toilet."
Secretary of State: "Hey, that's good. You sure you ain't the smartest guy in the world?"
Joe: "Okay, look. You wanna solve this problem. I wanna get my pardon. So why don't we just try it, okay, and not worry about what plants crave?"
Attorney General: "Brawndo's got what plants crave."
Secretary of Energy: "Yeah, it's got electrolytes."
Joe: "What are electrolytes? Do you even know?"
Secretary of State: "It's what they use to make Brawndo."
Joe: "Yeah, but why do they use them to make Brawndo?"
Secretary of Defense: "'Cause Brawndo's got electrolytes."
See what I mean?
That conversation resembles the attempts to squash hoary old urban legends, conspiracy theories and rumors that keep popping up over and over again, even after they've been disproved. We saw that with that 'ABC advertiser blacklist' thing a while back (which every once in a while makes a return appearance). And now, with the proposed buyout of media giant Clear Channel Communications by private venture capital firms Bain Capital and Thomas Lee Partners, that old 'Mitt Romney is sinking his tentacles into Clear Channel' meme has resurfaced for another go-round. For some reason, the blogosphere is going apeshit over this once again.
I said it a year ago, and I'll say it again. It ain't true.
Here's what I wrote last December:
Mitt Romney is buying Clear Channel in a fiendish plot for world domination
On November 17, after months of speculation, the Mays family, which controls Clear Channel Communications, announced the sale of the largest radio station operator in the country. The buyers consisted of two private equity firms, Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital. Many were skeptical of the sale, particularly since Bain Capital was founded by Republican politician Willard 'Mitt' Romney. Many thought that Clear Channel would become even more of a right-wing company, controlled by a guy yearning to be George W. Bush's replacement in the White House. Well, you can all take a deep breath, since Romney is no longer involved with Bain Capital, having cashed out of the firm in 2001. Therefore, Mitt Romney will have no say in the new Clear Channel Communications.
There is a positive in all of this, since the sale will negate a grandfather clause that enabled them to swallow up so many stations. As a result, Clear Channel is currently divesting of most stations outside of the top 100 markets where they own broadcast properties, and is also divesting of stations in larger markets to get to the maximum allowed. And in some cases, the company is taking a significant loss on a few properties, including Fargo, ND.
So you see, Mitt Romney is no more taking control of Clear Channel than the Thomas Lee mentioned is actually the drummer for Motley Crue. Ain't happenin' folks. Mitt's got his own mitts full at the moment with his mediocre presidential campaign puttering along.
Let me say it again. Mitt Romney is not buying Clear Channel. And plants crave neither electrolytes nor Gatorade.
Got this in my email this morning from FreePress.net. I'll pass it on verbatim:
Dear Media Reformer,
Only 24 hours to stop Big Media from getting even Bigger!
In less than 24 hours, the Federal Communications Commission plans to vote through rules that will let the largest media companies swallow up more local newspapers and TV stations.
If you care about the dismal state of the media, we need you to stop what you're doing and lend a hand.
We need to get at least 100 calls to every U.S. senator before 5:00 p.m. today asking them to pressure the FCC to delay tomorrow's vote. The Media Ownership Act of 2007 (S. 2332) is waiting for a vote on the Senate floor. Your call will make a real difference.
We have 24 hours to Stop Big Media. Call your Senators today.
Calling your senators is really easy and extremely effective in showing support for legislation. Here's what to say:
"I am calling to urge the Senator to support the Media Ownership Act of 2007 (S. 2332). This important legislation will stop the FCC's plan to further consolidate media across America. The FCC's plan will drown out the few remaining independent voices and create less local reporting and quality journalism. Thank you."
Letting media kingpins buy more newspapers and television stations will make our dismal media worse. 99% of Americans -- liberal and conservative -- are saying they don't want it to happen.
Just last week, senators from both parties berated FCC Chairman Kevin Martin about his big giveaway to Big Media. He didn't flinch. He is ignoring you and Congress, but together we can stop them.
We need 10,000 calls today. Urge your friends and neighbors to make the phones on Capitol Hill ring off the hook:
Please make a call now. Stand up for local media, diverse perspectives, and quality journalism. Raise your voice.
P.S. Check out today's New York Times editorial about tomorrow's vote at the FCC.
In a separate postscript, Senators John Kerry and Barack Obama put their feet down with FCC chairman Kevin Martin, threatening to pull the funding needed to implement the new regulations. They said, "Specifically, we believe that moving forward with this change will have a direct and detrimental impact on the state of media diversity. Should you decide to move forward with this vote against the expressed bipartisan, bicameral intent of Congress, we will approach appropriations chairman [Robert] Byrd [D-W. Va.] with a request that funds be denied for the implementation of this rule."
They said, "Specifically, we believe that moving forward with this change will have a direct and detrimental impact on the state of media diversity. Should you decide to move forward with this vote against the expressed bipartisan, bicameral intent of Congress, we will approach appropriations chairman [Robert] Byrd [D-W. Va.] with a request that funds be denied for the implementation of this rule."
NOTE: See update below
Fans of Air America Radio's The Young Turks have been asking the question over the past week, "What happened to The Young Turks?"
Since their most recent show on December 12, many have been asking what the story is. In light of the dismissal of Kent Jones, Rachel Maddow's sidekick, last week, some have been wondering what is going on at Air America. Did Cenk Uygur and company succumb to the corporate axe as well? The rumors and conspiracy theories have been flying at their site and places such as Daily Kos.
Granted, only three on-air days is not enough to cause a panic. But the absence from the airwaves was unannounced. And there was some speculation that the show has been suspended due to content. Did Uyger get heat for allegedly sipping from a beer bottle on-air? Did his scathing criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic-controlled Congress last week ruffle the wrong feathers? This is all mere speculation, and many are likely jumping to conclusions.
After one conspiracy theory after another was bandied about on the Turks' website, Uygur broke the silence this past weekend. Sort of:
Guys, we clearly hear you. It's not like we're not checking our own website (I've read everything you guys have written and been amused and impressed by some of the speculation). And I completely understand and more than empathize with your frustration about the lack of news on the show.
Would we tell you exactly what's going on if we could? Of cooouuursssee!!!!
Let me put down two rumors real quick though. This has nothing to do with content or a suspension.
Finally (for now), we will definitely do a show on Monday. Check back into the website to see when and where. Again, We're totally sorry about the confusion and the lack of information.
We just a need little patience and faith that we're looking out for you and that we can't wait to do more shows as soon as possible. Thanks and we love you.
A fill-in host was on the air in place of The Young Turks this morning. But Uygur claimed that he will do an online show via the Turks' website this afternoon (3PM ET) to explain all.
Given all the staff turnover that has taken place since Air America's debut almost four years ago, it is no surprise that devoted fans fear the Turks are the next to go. Did they cross the line? Are Pelosi, et al 'sacred cows' who should not be blasted as vigorously as Uygur did? Uygur was certainly not the first to bash Democrats on the network.
Was that a real beer he sipped from in honor of Prohibition Repeal Day? I used to do that gimmick when I worked in radio. It's an old trick. Tell everyone you're cracking open a cold one. They didn't have to know I was opening a can of Diet Pepsi. That's the beauty of 'theatre of the mind.' Even if it was a real brewski, it was only a sip, and since Uygur is not personally responsible for operating any radio station, aside from doing a syndicated show, the FCC would not be able to do anything anyways.
Or is ll it just technical difficulties due to the process of feeding a show from the West Coast to the Air America studios in New York? Sounds most plausible to me.
Nonetheless,, Uygur will explain all this afternoon, and you can find an update here.
But not much is really known thus far, aside from what Air America and Uygur and company know. Cue up They Might Be Giants.
UPDATE: Apparently, The Young Turks and Air America will be parting ways come January 15. Uygur said that the show will be going a "new direction" and the parting is amicable. The "new direction" will likely be web-based, and will possibly include "new partners" like Brave New Films. No replacement has been named as of yet. Here's a link to the recorded show.
Okay, not really. But as we're all a bit distracted by the holidays, snow, the War on Christmas, snow, shopping, snow, Festivus, snow and more snow, I thought I'd pop in with a few reminders:
1. If you haven't already, vote for your favorite progressive talk show host on the right column here. The poll comes down this Friday, December 21. Remember, one vote per person. It won't let you vote twice.
2. After Christmas, check back for a week-long series called "The Top 10 of 2007." Should be fun, and I even have a few surprises in store.
And now, back to the War on Christmas...
at 7:36 AM
Friday, December 07, 2007
I thought this one was worth passing along. It's a highly unsubstantiated rumor, so take it for what it's worth.
The rumor comes via R.S. Janes at BartBlog (a.k.a. Bartcop). It claims that MSNBC may have found that host they've been looking for. And it ain't Rosie O'Donnell. This rumor claims that MSNBC regular and Air America Radio host Rachel Maddow may get the nod. Here's more:
Finally, a note under the door says Air America Radio’s Rachel Maddow will be offered the hour following Keith Olbermann on MSNBC, but only with a ‘funny’ co-host, as it appears increasingly unlikely that The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart or Bill Maher and others will step in for the kind of unimpressive money and short-term contract that are on the table. Rumor is the cable channel’s execs are impressed with Maddow, but she’s not perceived as ‘funny’ enough by herself for the uptempo news/comedy format they’re seeking. Paul F. Tompkins and Joel McHale, that guy Keith has on who hosts E!s “The Soup,” have been mentioned as co-hosts, as well as Rachel’s AAR colleague Randi Rhodes, although Randi is seen by some as too partisan and combative. If this goes through, the prime-time weekday line up for MSNBC would then be “Hardball”; “Countdown with Keith Olbermann”; the as-yet-unnamed Rachel Maddow show, and “Live with Dan Abrams.” Expect a press release in January.
Again, this is just a rumor, and one that hasn't hit the big media gossip sites yet, so do with it what you wish.
UPDATE: TVNewser says a test pilot for a potential new show has been taped, featuring Maddow and MSNBC prime time VP Bill Wolff.
Back in October, Air America Radio announced the signing of 11 new affiliates, in places such as Tampa Bay, Washington, DC, Tuscon, Astoria, OR and other places. So far, only one station has since backed out.
WBDB (92.7FM) in Ogdensburg, NY was one of the stations slated to pick up at least some Air America programming. Since then, they changed their plans and while they flipped to talk last week, the on-air lineup is as un-Air America as one gets, with names such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage and Don Imus now part of the new WQTK.
Basically, the station took on the talk format of sister station WSLB, as that station flipped to 24/7 sports.
So, scratch this one off the list.
Of the other stations mentioned, all but three have already added Air America programming. New station KXLJ (1330AM) in Juneau, AK has yet to sign on the air, but will carry the network's programming. Not much is known as of yet about WVPO (840AM) and WPLY (960AM) in the Pennsylvania Poconos. And a previously unannounced station, WVKO (1580AM) in Columbus, OH launched a progressive talk format earlier this week. The most recent change at WVKO was the addition of Thom Hartmann's show from 8-11PM, instead of the previously announced Lionel.
In other station news, as previously announced, KRFT (1190AM) in St. Louis, which carries a mix of liberal and conservative talk, including Randi Rhodes, will officially flip to sports on January 1, 2008.
Baton Rouge lost its progressive talk station earlier this week, as little daytimer WPYR (1380AM) flipped to gospel music. Owner Clear Channel evidently remembered that they actually owned this station, as they failed in their attempts to sell it earlier this year. No surprise here. This was one of the most neglected progressive talk stations in the country. How neglected? According to their website, you can still hear Jerry Springer and Al Franken weekdays. Yeah, the website's still up (surprise, surprise).
WTAA (1490AM) in Atlantic City is still an Air America affiliate, but the station has added the newly re-syndicated Don Imus in mornings, becoming the latest in the roster of the usual peashooter stations that typically carry his show.
And the deal to sell KOPT (1600AM) in Eugene, OR to Oregon Public Broadcasting for $500,000 should close within four weeks. Reportedly, talker Ed Schultz has been working with Oregon investors to put together a group to purchase the station, which became a financial drain when owner Churchill Media overextended themselves and spent a large sum of money in establishing a heavily local on-air presence. There is still hope for saving progressive talk in Eugene, as the group may bid for one of Churchill's two other AM stations in the market.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Bernie Ward, a popular liberal talk show host at KGO in San Francisco has been indicted on federal child pornography charges, authorities said today.
Ward, 56, surrendered to federal authorities earlier today but the specifics of the allegations against him are under seal, officials said. He was indicted in Federal Court today on two counts of child pornography using the Internet.
"More than three years ago, Bernie was doing research for a book he was doing on hypocrisy in America," his attorney, Doron Weinberg said. As part of the research, Ward downloaded "a few images" of child pornography, and, Weinberg said, "it came to the attention of the government in late 2004."
"They investigated and they never found any involvement in child pornography other than this period that he accessed these images," Weinberg said. "The government knows that Bernie was doing this for an investigation he was doing for a book. But the government believes he violated the letter of the law and they have gone ahead and prosecuted him."
Weinberg stressed that "the fact that these events happened three years ago and they are just being prosecuted shows the fact that nobody believes that he is a child predator."
"He is just being prosecuted for a mistake he made (more than) three years ago," the lawyer said.
Federal authorities seized Ward's computer in early 2005 and there was no evidence of child pornography or any other impropriety, Weinberg added.
"We have been trying to convince the government that his is not something they should proceed with. They said, 'He violated the law, sorry.' "
Ward, a former Catholic priest, has hosted a nightly talk show on KGO 810 AM as well as GodTalk on Sundays. He had been a priest with the Society of the Precious Blood order.
San Jose Mercury News
Friday, November 30, 2007
If everything goes as planned, Columbus, OH's new progressive talk station, WVKO (1580AM) should be up and running come Monday morning (12/3) at 6AM with The Bill Press Show. That is, barring any complications, such as satellite uplink issues.
Progress Ohio made the official announcement yesterday, and I posted an advance rumor about it earlier in the day. The grassroots effort to return the format to local airwaves comes after a dedicated year-long effort and a petition drive that yielded over a thousand signatures.
So far, the only issues standing in the way of the launch are logistical ones, mostly dealing with engineering and the satellite uplink, since most of the programming will consist of nationally-syndicated shows. The station already has a web domain reserved, and will also stream its programming. The fully-functional website will also have a message board.
At this time, the on-air lineup has been partially set. Press will air mornings 6-9, followed by two other shows from Jones Radio Networks - Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz. Air America Radio's Randi Rhodes and Rachel Maddow will follow, creating a schedule consisting solely of live programming from 6A-8P. What follows after Maddow has yet to be determined, but it is expected that Lionel will be carried on delay. Overnights and weekends have yet to be determined.
"We're also doing a lot of local sports, although I'm not at liberty as yet to say what we'll have," WVKO General Manager and veteran radio executive Gary Richards told the Columbus Dispatch. "We're going to do a lot of news and local talk, too. Our studios are a block from the Statehouse. I'm always surprised there isn't more political talk on the radio locally."
Richards hopes listeners will tune in the new WVKO. "Especially with AM stations, you're kind of limited in what you can do," he said. "Music is a losing proposition on AM, and we had to find a niche, and we think there is one in political talk -- especially with 'something big' (the 2008 election) going on next year."
The station is currently owned by Dallas-based Bernard Ohio, LLC, which also purchased a few stations in Youngstown, OH earlier this year. Bernard purchased the broadcast license and resurrected the station earlier this year after the previous owner, who programmed various African-American-oriented formats over the years, took it off the air in May 2006 due to financial difficulties. Since it returned to the airwaves this past summer, WVKO has been testing its transmitter and most recently programmed a Spanish-language format. There were rumors that Bernard would air brokered programming on the signal.
The signal, at 3200 watts day/290 watts night, is not a very powerful one, but its centrally-located tower will cover the city of Columbus and most of Franklin County adequately (see graphic on right).
WVKO brings back a format previously carried by WTPG, a Clear Channel-owned station that sruprisingly dropped the format last December in the company's 'Ohio liberal talk purge' that also claimed company-owned stations in Cincinnati and Akron. WTPG became WYTS, carrying mostly conservative talk, and has since been struggling to match its predecessor's ratings. In the latest Arbitron unofficial trend report, they have completely dropped off the list and lost roughly 40% of its listening audience over the past few months (for those who put much faith in Arbitron's ratings methodology).
In short, wouldn't it be funny if the small, independently-owned WVKO punked WYTS in the ratings books? Past history would indicate that this is a strong possibility.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Here's an interesting rumor, courtesy of the ol' tip line. It involves a new progressive talk station that will possibly start up the format by next week.
I can't say too much about it, since this is an unconfirmed rumor, but I most certainly can tease the hell out of all of you about it. While I can't name names or divulge identities, I can drop a few hints:
1. It is in a market that once had a progressive talk station. The replacement format on that station has not lived up to expectations, and currently does not even show up in the ratings book.
2. Air America will be on the new station. So will Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller. Bill Press has said that he will be there. They will even carry Democracy Now. The station will also air some sports programming.
3. The new station has a domain name reserved for their website, which should launch soon. And no, I cannot divulge the URL yet. In due time.
4. The station will likely launch as early as next Monday or Tuesday.
5. It is bigger than a breadbox.
And that's about all I can say about it. I was asked to be discreet about it, so I am. But I will have more about it later, and possibly sooner than that.
In the meantime, this is off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.
UPDATE: Well, since everyone else and their mother are starting to hop on board, I'll spill the beans. The station is WVKO (1580AM) in Columbus, OH, a situation I posted a rumor about a few months back. Progress Ohio put something up about it. The station would replace the old WTPG, which flipped to an anemic general talk format that as of late has taken a dive in the ratings. The new format will hopefully debut as soon as Monday.
A few Oregon blogs are reporting that the owner of KOPT (1600AM) in Eugene, OR have struck a deal to sell the station to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Upon purchase approval, OPB, which currently does not own a station in the market but does collaborate with local noncommercial KLCC-FM, will flip the frequency to noncommercial public radio fare. That means that Air America Radio, Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller and the rest of the station's programming will be gone.
But don't rule out the progressive talk format in Eugene, which has done fairly well in the local ratings, quite yet. Sadie Dressekie of Churchill Media, the station's owner, told Eugene Weekly that the company "has been in discussions with a number of parties that are interested in taking over the format and putting it back on KOPT’s original signal, 1450 AM." The frequency currently broadcasts ESPN Deportes Radio, 24-hour sports in Spanish.
Churchill, which specializes mostly in Spanish-language formats, has been a supporter of progressive talk in Eugene. Since it picked up the format three years ago, Churchill has maintained perhaps the largest news staff of any local station. Unfortunately, this approach was also rather expensive for a market as small as Eugene, and in August most of the station's local staff was dismissed.
As it stands now, 1600AM will eventually flip to NPR-style public radio programming, but progressive talk may move a bit down the dial. We'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Okay, it's much ado about a silly boat.
Blame this nonsense on Michelle Malkin. Yes indeed, the world's dumbest conservative (and that's quite a feat!) is making tidal waves out of toilet water in one of her latest shrill screeds. I guess this sinking neoconservative cause that she's constantly carrying water for has not provoked her to jump ship quite yet. Nah, it's just made her meaner. Seems she's back to mocking Air America Radio for, of all things, sponsoring a themed cruise, which will take travelers to the gulf coast of Mexico in late February. The whole gang will be on board, including Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, Lionel, Rachel Maddow and others. Syndicated columnist Paul Krugman will also be a special guest. And of course Mark Green (surprise, surprise).
Of course, the lack of positive material on her side of the fence hasn't taken the wind out of the sails of this seafaring boat woman quite yet. No, she just gets nastier than Captain Bligh. Unfortunately, she's not much of a comedy writer, because the best she could muster was this little line:
Talk about a ship of fools.Yeah, takes one to know one.
And when Malkin, who's such a media whore that she's likely gone down on more men than the Titanic, sounds her foghorn, all the sheep at the other insipid blogs rally to the deck, including BoreAmerica, the blog equivalent of the annoying dumb kid who farts alot. Even CBS blogger Matthew Felling, who should know better, got in on the act.
Evidently, these so-called radio experts have never heard of a radio station-sponsored cruise. These things are nothing new. Far from it. Station cruises are longtime staples of radio and television outlets. Travel agencies love these kinds of promotions. They're simple to do and are great promotion for them.
This isn't even anything new for liberal talk hosts. Both Mike Malloy and Randi Rhodes sponsored cruises this past Summer.
I will say this, though. At least the folks at Air America aren't so high and mighty that they won't hobnob with the rank and file, namely their listeners. When was the last time Rush Limbaugh hosted a cruise? Then again, when one's Carribean vacation plans consist of tons of illegal Viagara prescriptions in a country known for underage male prostitution, would anyone really want to 'cruise' with him?
But as stated before, this isn't an original idea. But it is a good promotion that helps them reel in travel agencies, which spend a ton of money on media advertising. Here's a sampling of other radio-oriented cruises:
KSGF, a Springfield, MO talk station that claims it's "standing up for what's right," has a Carribean junket lined up for February.
Adult standards station WOBM in Toms River, NJ is going there in January.
Joan Hamburg of WOR in New York took listeners to the Mediterranean last month.
Right-wing talker Mark Belling of WISN in Milwaukee has hosted cruises for over 16 years, and in fact threw his weight around to make sure he was the only person at the station allowed to do so.
The Clear Channel stations in St. Louis pooled their resources when they hit the Carribean last month.
Q105 in Tampa is taking listeners to Key West and Cozumel, Mexico in February.
Even the small stations are doing it, such as KVTA in Ventura, CA are doing it.
There are quite a few general cruises geared toward radio stations with a formatic theme. Wanna get stuck in a boat with Vince Neil, Ratt, Skid Row and other hair metal bands? You can. Wanna shake your ass on the high seas? The Groove Cruise, courtesy of Miami's Y100, featuring a vast lineup of club mixers and DJs, sets sail in January. For something a bit mellower, how about the Smooth Jazz Cruise? If down-home is your thing, there's the Grand Ole Opry Carribean Cruise with Nashville's WSM. Wanna get away from the heathens of the world? How 'bout a boat full of born-again Christians, hosted by WMHK in Columbia, South Carolina?
As usual, Malkin's endlessly insane rants don't hold water. Imagine, a so-called media expert who's never heard of a radio cruise? Are you freakin' kidding me? Sounds to me as if her anchor's permanently weighing down her logic.
Sorry, your ship has sailed. Don't take it out on us.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Mention the word 'Thanksgiving' to anyone and various responses will come up. Whether the first thing to enter one's head may be Pilgrims, family get-togethers, the Macy's Parade, football, early morning sales on "Black Friday," or even that disgustingly funny faux movie trailer in Grindhouse, the first thought that likely comes up is turkey. It's all about the turkey.
In honor of that spirit, this entry will be about a different type of turkey. Namely, the biggest buffoon covered by LTR in the past year or so. And with it the presentation of a not-so prestigious honor, the first annual "Turkey of the Year."
Of course, criteria had to be laid out for the first ever presentation of this prize. The Turkey nominating committee felt that consideration be limited only to those who were written about on this very space over the past year or so. Readers will recognize the usual suspects, and be surprised at others. But in formulating a list of finalists, and the inevitable winner, the nominating committee scoured a year's worth of blog entries, in the ultimate online turkey hunt.
So without further ado, here are the nominees...
Chad Castagana. Okay, who is Chad Castagana? He's a 39-year old nut from California who took it upon himself last November to fight the war of terror by mailing letters laced with white powder to current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, David Letterman, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart and others. Of course, the white substance turned out not to be Anthrax, but rather powdered soap.The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force tracked him down, arrested and later indicted him on fourteen counts of sending false threats via the U.S. Mail.
Of note is that while sending out the nastygrams, he also purchased a $15 money order, made out to "Friends of Katherine Harris." Castagana lived with his 78-year old mother, is a sci-fi geek, worshipped Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, rarely interacted with neighbors, and had an dirty old van parked in the driveway with the phrase "death to all liberals" scrawled in the grime of the back window. Ironically, or not surprisingly, he had no driver's licence to legally drive his dirty old van. Oh, and he was a freeper, too, and he even posted about the mailings on the site, even having the chutzpah to mock MSNBC's reaction to the nastygram sent to Olbermann. And they call us unhinged. Sheesh! Currently, Castagana is out on $350,000 bail and awaiting trial, and is also prohibited from using the U.S. Mail for anything.
Bruce Tinsley. Ever wonder why the right-wing comic strip "Mallard Fillmore" just isn't very funny? Well, you try writing gags when you're plastered off your ass! Tinsley, the creator of the strip, was arrested in Columbus, Indiana last December and charged with drunk driving, his second alcohol-related arrest in less than four months. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, almost twice the legal limit. Ironically, he once published a strip where he claimed that, in order to avoid a DUI ticket, a driver could pretend to be related to Ted Kennedy. So not only does he suck as cartooning, he's not very good at dispensing legal advice.
KSFO. The nasty right-wing hosts of this hardcore right-wing radio station in San Francisco have never had a problem slinging shit toward their 'enemies.' Hosts such as Melanie Morgan, Lee Rogers, Tom Brenner and Brian Sussman often spew Klan-style racist rhetoric, bash muslims, and endlessly tear into liberals. Well, a Bay Area blogger named Spocko decided to take them on, posting audio clips and transcripts of the hosts programs online and sparking a letter-writing campaign directed at some of the station's highest-profile advertisers. The on-air hosts went even more nuts than they were already, with Morgan firing off an email to over a million conservatives as the hosts began harassing Spocko on-air. Ironically, this is the same Melanie Morgan who in 2004 tried to lean on movie theater owners in an effort to ban Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. The station's owner, ABC/Disney, also fought back, sending a cease-and-desist order to Spocko and his ISP over posting the transcripts and files. The ISP, fearful of legal action by the Mouse That Roared, shut him down, but the audio files circulated around the web and Spocko found another ISP. The gang at Disney and KSFO are the most hypocritical of turkeys, and evidently never learned that people who live by the sword are likely to fall victim to it.
Disney. And here's a two-fer. I'll give the owners of ABC a slide over that "Air America Blacklist" thing, since that turned out to be about nothing. But they don't get off so easy for that ridiculous Path to 9/11 flick that nobody watched. And for hiring racist wacky radio guy Glenn Beck for a commentary position on Good Morning America. So, what position was this Muslim-bashing moron hired for? Yep, you guessed it - cultural commentator. They also get chided for programming next to no liberal talk on any of their radio stations (recently taken over by Citadel), save for top-rated KGO in San Francisco and a few weekend slots on some of their other stations.
Jon Elliott. He may never live this down, but perhaps this will teach him not to jump to conclusions and claim a freak accident that happened to one of his coworkers as a 'hate crime.' On the flipside...
Crybaby conservative bloggers. When Randi Rhodes had her freak accident last month, Elliott inadvertently blamed it on an attack by some crazed right-winger. Meanwhile the whiny right were shocked, feeling that their ilk is capable of walking on water and could do no wrong. They felt they were the victim of a brutal attack. When it was all founded to be untrue, they demanded apologies, as if they ever gave a shit about Rhodes in the first place. Hold on, let me call the whaaaambulance first. Here's three words for the Bozells, Malkins, Maloneys, et. al. of the world: Get a grip.
Me. I'll reserve a spot at the turkey table for myself, Baroosk at Talking Radio, ZappoDave at Daily Kos Bonescrat at Democratic Underground and everyone else that forwarded the Randi Rumor. Yeah, we screwed up on that one. And unlike the crazy conservatives, I can admit when I'm wrong.
Don Imus. 2007 was a pretty crappy year for the craggy morning radio talker. One could almost blame his handlers at CBS for encouraging him to be more controversial. But his inert nastiness is what eventually did him in, resulting in the end of his big TV deal at MSNBC, his lucrative roster of sponsors, his syndicated network and eventually his job. Now he has to rebuild everything from scratch. How rough is it? His new TV deal is with something called RFD-TV, a farm-oriented channel nobody has ever heard of and one that obviously does not have much penetration in the mostly urban east coast markets that are his stronghold.
Entercom. Clear Channel often gets a bad rap when it comes to dropping progressive talk from their stations, but Entercom, a company that heavily donates almost exclusively to Democrats, has dropped the format from all but two of their stations. This year, they flipped their New Orleans station to a time shifted refeed of WWL, a station that already simulcasts on both a 50,000 watt AM and a big signaled FM, and stations in Sacramento and Memphis to sports. Only Buffalo and Rochester remain.
Mark Green. Last spring, Manhattan real estate mogul Stephen Green rode to the rescue and purchased Air America Radio out of bankruptcy. Opting to take a hands-off role, he installed his brother, New York politician Mark Green as president. While Green has injected some life into the network, some of the network's moves have alienated their devoted listeners. The hiring of Lionel was a shot at gaining legitimacy in the radio industry, and for that, it made sense on paper. In the process, though, they treated the much-loved Sam Seder like garbage, banishing him to Sunday afternoons before sheepishly appointing him as the network's chief blogger. Mark Maron vowed never to work for Air America again, but has softened on that stance as of late. Others, such as the devoted Mark Riley were eventually cast aside altogether.
While the network obviously strove toward much-needed industry credibility, the new shows added to the schedule didn't elicit much enthusiasm. The Air Americans was a four-hour weeknight juggernaut with no direction or planning, no chance of being picked up by any affiliate, and lasted only a few short pointless months. Weekends saw strange niche shows about vegetarianism and atheism that garnered guffaws from the media. And of course, Green got his own show. Since taking over, the network has become a little too green, pun intended. Reportedly, upon the much-ballyhooed 'relaunch' of Air America last spring, Green was so pissed off about the sluggish response to Lionel's arrival that he took many of the heavily-hyped VIP interviews for himself, which resulted in some hosts' shows being interrupted for taped interviews conducted by Green, who obviously was trying to leave his mark on the network in rather strange ways. Talk about a trainwreck!
Richard Greene. Sure, he seems like a nice guy, and he's certainly a polished professional. But he seems a bit out of his element hosting Clout, a nighttime show on Air America. Particularly since the only bumper music he ever plays is "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. Over and over again. For this, he definitely deserves to be considered for "Turkey of the Year."
Steve Graham. This Pittsburgh, Kansas native gave us all a look at who really listens to right-wing talk radio. For the past seven years, Graham, 55, has been living in his car parked in the backyard of a house he and his wife, La Donna Graham, own. His irritated neighbors complain that Graham plays loud music, often spouts obsenity-laced tirades and uses his yard as a toilet. Graham's got a home-like setup in his blue 1989 Buick Century, equipped with a 13" TV, an oscillating fan and a portable radio, with an extension cord running to the house. The radio especially works well. "I get better reception there than I do in there," he said, pointing at the house. "I listen to Rush (Limbaugh) every day, just about."
The so-called Cable News Networks. An unpopular war is being fought in Iraq. The dollar is sinking like a cinder block. Oil is almost $100 a barrel. The housing market has collapsed. Chinese-made toys are poisoning our children. The Arctic is melting. The White House is lying. With all that is going on in the world, it would be somewhat of a stretch to call CNN, FOX Noise and MSNBC 'news' channels, since more airtime was seemingly devoted to Anna Nicole Smith's death, Paris Hilton's jail time, Britney Spears' trainwreck of a life and scores of that cable news staple - missing blondes than to much more deserving and important stories. And speaking of fluff news...
Ben Mankiewicz. Until a few months ago, Ben Mankiewicz served as Cenk Uyger's sidekick on Air America's The Young Turks. He currently has a classy gig hosting weekends on television's Turner Classic Movies channel. The Mankiewicz name is legendary in Hollywood and in the media. Grandfather Herman wrote the classic Citizen Kane. His great uncle Joseph was an Oscar-winning writer and director. Cousin Tom wrote quite a few James Bond flicks and was a go-to script doctor for many years. His father Frank was Robert F. Kennedy's press secretary. Brother Josh is an NBC News reporter. So with all of this going for him, why the hell is he currently slumming as a gossip monger on the icky TMZ TV show? Certainly he's better than this?
Brian Maloney. Yeah, you were waiting for this one, right? Yes, the Radio Tranquilizer will likely be a presence on a list o' turkeys for a long time coming. The question is, how does one narrow the antics of this walking trainwreck down to one offense against thinking people? Could it be that over the past year he's been completely neutered, selling out what little soul he had in order to settle in as semi-official ass-kisser to Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity? Or could it be that in almost all of his entries he goes on nasty, insane tirades about how nasty and insane liberals are? Well, just this morning, I noticed his latest entry, where he claims that liberals are waging a war against Thanksgiving. I think that's good enough reason for his inclusion here. That, and his blog is basically the equivalent of ten pounds of elephant shit in a five pound bag. Too bad he's not the Turkey of the Year. There were much fatter fowl this year.
With all the choices presented, the task of naming a Turkey of the Year was rather tough. The field was narrowed down to three finalists:
3. Clear Channel middle management. This one was too obvious. The San Antonio-based conglomerate has been trying to atone for their many crimes of years past, which rightly proved them to be a hardcore Republican outfit seeking to make radio even blander with cookie-cutter formats, programming on the cheap, overly partisan talk radio and a loss of local appeal in many of their markets. In recent years, they've tried to clean up their act, as they received some of the worst P.R. in the history of broadcasting, becoming a poster child for all that's wrong with big media.
In their defense, they've been trying to clean up their act. They've become more attentive in their local markets. And they also shook up their talk radio formats a bit, surprisingly flipping a few of their weaker AM stations to the progressive talk format. Unfortunately, this little bit of goodwill gave them a black eye when some of their management clusters began dropping the format, often in the sloppiest of ways.
While format decisions usually do not come from San Antonio, they are often delegated to regional managers. One regional manager ordered the format removed from stations in Madison, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Akron. A mass outcry and local staff revolt kept the format on WXXM in Madison, but in the other three markets, the stations flipped formats, and all three currently have only a small fraction of the listeners they had when they carried the format. WSAI in Cincinnati has already changed formats a second time since then.
And the regional manager who oversees San Diego ordered KLSD, which has seen both ratings and revenue success (some rumors claim $1.5 million annually) to become the market's third sports station. Company-owned stations in Boston, New Haven, All format flips were met with a large outcry, rallies, petitions and disdain, pissing away a large amount of goodwill that Clear Channel had accrued in the past few years.
2. John Simson. You may be asking yourself, who is John Simson? He's enough of a total turkey to have been oh-so-close to taking the top spot. This failed singer/songwriter-turned empty suit is currently the head of SoundExchange, an organization charged with collecting performance fees for the Recording Industry Association of America that supposedly are paid out to the artists who create the music. At least in theory. One would guess that more of this money goes into the gas tank of Simson's Mercedes than in the hands of the recording artists. And with gas prices on the rise, no wonder Simson and his music mafia goons tried to shake down internet radio. Earlier this year, SoundExchange threatened to impose a ridiculous royalty fee for webcasters, one that would be feasible only for the likes of Yahoo! and Microsoft. It would put smaller independent webcasters like Radio Paradise and Soma.FM out of business. And shut down unique services such as Pandora and AccuRadio. Hobby webcasters, who saw webcasting as a way to let their voices be heard without the massive expense of a terrestrial radio signal, would find the door slammed shut in their faces. To put it in layman's terms, establishing a webcast outlet that plays music is easier to launch than one that doesn't. In short, he tried to strong-arm one of the remaining hopes of independent broadcast media.
The recording industry has adapted poorly to the internet era. And they're so panicked by that realization that their attempts to fit in have been rather crass. Whether it be shutting down webcasting, screwing their artists, suing 85-year olds for allegedly downloading 2Pac songs off Kazaa and for passing off mindless junk like the Pussycat Dolls as 'music,' the RIAA has taken all the fun out of the medium. They claim that people who pay $12 bucks for a 14-song CD with only 3 or 4 good ones is not buying a CD, but merely purchasing the right to listen to it. No wonder why high-profile artists like Radiohead and Trent Reznor decided to skip the music cartel altogether and take their latest works directly to the fans via their websites.
Well, this little extortion scam backfired, as Simson and company eventually backed off his fiery rhetoric, particularly since Congress threatened to intervene. Now, they're shifting their war to terrestrial broadcasters, as they shake down the Clear Channels of the world for gas money. Ironic in that it's usually the record labels who bribe station programmers with money, prizes, vacations, hookers, blow, etc. to play their latest piece of shit release.
Now, I'm not saying the artists and the labels who distribute them should go pound sand. They have a right to be compensated for their work. But not at the expense of insulting and pissing off their fans. They simply need to stop looking at their customers as 'the enemy.' And they need to stop trying to shoot themselves in the foot.
And finally, the moment you've all been waiting for. The one entity who symbolizes everything that a turkey should be. The 2007 Turkey of the Year is...
FOX 'News' Channel. Who else? Let us count the ways...
1. Following the Congressional election last November, which saw Democrats winning huge, FOX Noise's VP of news (if such a thing as 'news' exists there) sent an internal memo to staffers and reporters, telling them how to do their job the right way. Included were instructions to hype how terrorists must be thrilled with the prospect of a Democrat-controlled Congress. Gee, no wonder why they began seeking out a "freelance fact writer" (sic) a few weeks later. In an unrelated incident around the same time, the network paid a $2 million ransom to free two of their reporters from a Palestinian terrorist group, which likely used the money to buy more weapons and "to hit the Zionists." And yes, paying ransom money to terrorist organizations is illegal U.S. anti-terrorist legislation.
2. As right-wingers were obviously jealous over the success of the satirical news shows from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central, FOX Nuisance decided the time was right to create their own 'fair and balanced' version. They hunted high and low for a right-wing producer and found one in Joel Surnow, creator of the hit FOX comedy 24, and Rush Limbaugh's Dominican Republic cruising buddy. After months of planning, casting and a horrifying pilot that envisioned Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as President and Vice President, the 1/2Hour News Hour debuted on a Sunday night in February. Reviews were brutal for this laughless 'comedy' show. Still, FOX persevered, and produced enough episodes for an extended run, initially pulling in a few more viewers than their typical Sunday night fare, proving that they could actually find a hundred thousand people who will laugh at any joke that has the word "Hillary" in it. But ratings sank like a rock when the already stale jokes got even more so, and the network realized that Geraldo reruns were cheaper to produce and got roughly the same result. This turkey was was sent to the chopping block last August.
3. Fox Nuisance needed that 'fact writer' more than ever after some ridiculous sleight of hand on some of their on-screen graphics that, among other things, labeled disgraced Republicans such as Mark Foley as 'Democrats," and claimed Scooter Libby as 'not guilty.' Ironically, these exploits proved to be funnier than the ill-fated comedy show.
4. It seems that FOX News, while pandering hard to Bible-banging conservatives, works hard at attracting viewers the old fashioned way, with ample amounts of T & A, in essence becoming the news channel for sexually frustrated Republicans. Which would mean all of them. And they attack our morality. Sheesh!
5. Not content with whitewashing the so-called 'news' content on television, they were caught red-handed creating their own little fantasy world via Wikipedia. And if that doesn't work (and it didn't), they could always sic their own pit bulls on their alleged 'enemies.' Just so long as it isn't Geraldo Rivera.
6. There's also that ridiculous "War on Christmas" thing.
7. For all their antics, it was no surprise that the Democratic Party decided to finally give FOX the middle finger and cancel a presidential candidate debate that was scheduled to air last summer.
So, for Roger Ailes, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, John Gibson and the usual gang of idiots, you all get top honors this year. Yes, for all you do, this Turkey's for you! FOX 'News' Channel, the 2007 Turkey of the Year.