Thursday, August 02, 2007

KOPT/Eugene scales down

The Register-Guard in Eugene, OR reports today that local liberal talk station KOPT (1600AM) is trimming itself down, in order to get the station budget in order.

In essence, all local programming is gone from the station. In its place will be all-syndicated programming. The good news is that the syndicated programming will still be liberal talk. For now.

"Despite gaining a loyal listenership, the station, which debuted in November 2004, has been a challenging business venture for Churchill Media," the company said in a statement.

KOPT has been a rather ambitious undertaking. In addition to syndicated progressive talk programming, the station has been very aggressive at maintaining a strong local presence, complete with a full news department. KOPT spent more than $250,000 per year on news and local programming and employed nine staffers to provide content. For a market like Eugene (market #150), that's pretty good. All nine staffers have been laid off in the shuffle.

The problem is that a small independent AM station in this day and age has a tough time going up against big corporate-owned entities owned by the likes of Clear Channel and Cumulus. Two talk stations owned by those companies have more resources, more power, and get higher ratings than KOPT.

"Progressive/liberal talk radio is having a very difficult time surviving around the country," Danitz said. "We felt that, with the liberal attitude of the Eugene-Springfield market, we could swim upstream. We couldn't."

"Our goal for this station was to provide our community with local, in-depth news reporting and a local progressive voice," he told All Access. "Our on-air talent, local news team and producers did an amazing job, but unfortunately the station did not generate enough sales to cover costs. We still believe that KOPT is a great service, but our specialty is Hispanic programming and we have been focusing our attention on continuing to grow this area of our business."

Despite good ratings, the station has had problems obtaining the commercial sponsorship it needs to thrive, he said.

Churchill is a small regional broadcaster with interests mostly in Hispanic formats. In Eugene, they also own KXOR (660AM). KOPT was a bit of a departure for them.

Progressive talk will not go away anytime soon. But it could. KOPT will continue to carry shows from Air America Radio and Jones Radio Networks, as syndicated programming is very inexpensive to run. Churchill Media President Suzanne Arlie said Wednesday that she is open to selling the station outright, asserting, "We truly regret having to cancel KOPT's local programming. I realize that KOPT is more than just a radio station to many and we are proud that we have created a community voice that made a difference to so many people. We hope that someone in our community will take over this station and give Progressive Talk radio the opportunity to thrive in Eugene."

If the station isn't sold within three months, she left open the chance that it may be switched to a jazz format.

You can read more at the Register-Guard.


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