Monday, February 26, 2007

Leslie Marshall makes a comeback - in syndication

Only a mere few weeks following her departure from WWKB in Buffalo, Leslie Marshall is back, and will be offered for syndication, according to AllAccess.

Envision Radio Networks and Tom Athans' TalkUSA Radio are set to launch their first weekday offering, as they sign Marshall to a syndication deal. Her revived radio show air live in the 3-6PM ET slot, putting it up against Air America Radio's Randi Rhodes.

Marshall has a long history in broadcasting and media, as she had a brief stint replacing the former Tom Snyder radio show for ABC Radio Networks in 1992. She has also worked at WGR in Buffalo, WLS in Chicago, and KLAC in Los Angeles, among many others. She is also a frequent presence on cable news channels, and occasionally sits in as guest host for Alan Colmes' radio show. In addition, she has many television acting credits to her name, according to her website biography.

"Leslie is nothing short of an amazing talent. She’s got the perfect balance of charisma and experience that makes her incredibly compelling to listen to," said Athans. "What’s particularly special about Leslie is that she’s equally effective on television as she is on radio. She’ll have great crossover appeal as a frequent pundit on the news shows."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Nova M Radio shuffles the deck: Farias and Loftus in, Newcomb out

Up-and-coming liberal talk network Nova M Radio has made a few moves to help bolster their lineup and flagship station, announcing plans to add shows from talk show hosts Jeff Farias and John Loftus to the late afternoon/early evening drive time slot. In other moves, Mike Newcomb's show has been dropped from Nova M.

Anita Drobny, the current CEO of Nova M Radio, commented, "We are very pleased to welcome Jeff Farias to the Nova M afternoon broadcast schedule. Jeff will be one of the few progressive liberal talk show hosts in this time slot nationally to be focused on the listener call-in format airing from 6-8PM ET. Jeff Farias' show will provide a great lead-in for the Mike Malloy program from 9PM to Midnight ET."

"These programming changes will provide Nova M Radio with a more cohesive programming schedule, and allow the founding management team more time to work closely with the investment community to help launch our new progressive talk show network to a national level," claimed Drobny.

Farias is well-known to listeners of the Mike Malloy show, as he is a frequent guest host of the show. He has also filled in for Newcomb. His show will debut on March 5, displacing Peter B. Collins to a delayed nighttime slot on Nova M's flagship station, KPHX in Phoenix. Collins was initially linked with Nova M when the network started, but is no longer connected with the company, aside from a clearance for his show on KPHX.

Author and former Justice Department prosecutor John Loftus' new weekday show will air from 8-9PM, according to Nova M's new schedule. Loftus was signed by the network last fall. Malloy's show will follow, giving the fledgeling network a straight six hour evening feed of original programming.

With the additions of Farias and Loftus, KPHX morning host Newcomb is now off the air, and likely gone from Nova M, as his morning drive time slot will be given to Stephanie Miller's syndicated show. There are a few rumors out there regarding Newcomb's departure, with the conventional wisdom being conflicts between him and the Drobnys. Newcomb has also been serving as CEO of Nova M Radio. The company has been very tight-lipped about his status with the company, but he is no longer listed as a Nova M executive.

In other Nova M news, earlier this week, the company announced an agreement with XM Radio that will see the Mike Malloy program being carried by the satellite radio provider sometime in March, on channel 167, a.k.a. the "Air America Radio" channel.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The "Talkers 250"

Yesterday, noted radio industry trade publication Talkers Magazine released its annual list of the top 250 talk show hosts in the country. And once again, the list will likely leave many scratching their heads.

Now, keep in mind that the Talkers annual list is not scientific, and to their credit, the editorial staff doesn't claim it to be. They claim the selection process is indeed "subjective with the goal being to create a list reflective of the industry's diversity and total flavor as well as giving credit where credit is due."

Involved in the compilation of this list are both "hard and soft factors" including (in alphabetical order) courage, effort, impact, longevity, potential, ratings, recognition, revenue, service, talent and uniqueness. And they acknowledge that this is not a perfect process and that the results are arguable.

So, about this list. The usual suspects are found at the top of the list. Limbaugh, Hannity and Savage hold down the top three positions (no surprise there). Dr. Laura Schlessinger seems to have pleased the editors as her show has slowly risen from near-dead status over the past few years.

At number five is Ed Schultz, obviously given credit for his dominance of the liberal talk format. Other talkers often found on liberal talk stations that make an appearance in the "Heavy Hundred" portion of the list include Randi Rhodes (#13), Alan Colmes (#16), Lionel (#23), Stephanie Miller (#36), Bev Smith (#37), and Thom Hartmann (#51).

Below the top 100 are 150 other hosts, listed in no order whatsoever. Some names of note include Air America Radio's Jon Elliott, Mike Malloy, KKZN/Denver's Jay Marvin, former WWKB/Buffalo host Leslie Marshall, The Young Turks, KGO/San Francisco's Bernie Ward, and Sam Greenfield and Armstrong Williams of Air America Radio's flagship station, WWRL in New York.

NPR has a couple names on the list, including morning host Diane Rehm (#91) and Terry Gross (unranked).

Al Franken, who was ranked in the top 20 last year, is not on the list, likely due to his intended departure from radio. Talkers Magazine excluded anyone who's show was not on the air at press time. This would also include finance guru Jim Cramer, who ended his radio show in December and even Phil Hendrie, who left radio last year. As for Marshall, who left WWKB a few weeks ago, her departure was probably after the compilation of this list.

But what does all of this really mean anyway? This list will likely spark many, many arguements. I'll go along with the top three picks, even though I don't particularly like them. Truth be told, they do dominate the medium of talk radio (for better or worse). They've got many affiliates and a great deal of pull in the business. Hey, it's reality. After that, it gets a bit ridiculous.

I'll go along with Schultz at #5 (though I'm sure many conservative talk fans will beg to differ). In the past year, he's moved to the forefront of a young and rapidly growing niche, namely liberal/progressive talk. I'm a bit skeptical of the placement of other talk hosts. For one, why is Colmes even in the top 20? Granted, he's a competent host with many years of radio experience. And while many on the left regard him as a bit of a wuss, he realizes that talk radio is really about entertainment, and in that regard does a decent job. Still, is he really that much of a presence on the radio? While neither Colmes nor FOX really publish a list of his affiliates, his show is a bit hard to find on the dial in many markets. And he's nowhere to be found in this country's largest markets. Miller, who's way down at (#36), behind a few obscure local talkers and guys like Lars Larson and the obnoxious Mancow (#11), who lost his Chicago flagship last year, in addition to several other key affiliates. Hell, Mancow is one position ahead of the guy he's shamelessly imitated over the years - Howard Stern. Granted, Stern is exclusively on Sirius now, but the guy still has serious pull in the industry. At least more pull than Mancow. Likely, the creators of this list took into account punditry work on the cable news channels. But we are talking radio here, right?

What's really a crime is that Hartmann, who's show has done extremely well in several large markets and has been growing at a pretty rapid pace over the past year, is ranked below the likes of the Satellite Sisters and G. Gordon Liddy. Perhaps they forgot to add 'pulling names out of a hat' to the criteria used in compiling this list.

In all fairness, LTR did its own list at the end of last year, ranking the top ten talkers of 2006. And much of the same criteria that Talkers Magazine utilized was used. Yes, it was subjective, but tried not to reflect any personal bias. I also gave detailed reasons for why the particular host ranked where he/she did, which Talkers doesn't. Did the LTR list create controversy? You bet. Some people thought I had lost my mind with some of the choices (Schultz at #1 created the most outcry, as did the omission of Sam Seder). In all fairness, a reader-compiled list was also included.

Basically, the Talkers Magazine list is a bit suspect, and not to be taken overly seriously. If your favorite host isn't on the list (where the hell is Rachel Maddow?), or if they're excluded to make room for someone like KTLK-FM's Jason Lewis (who, in the most recent Minneapolis/St. Paul ratings book, got crushed in his afternoon timeslot by the local 1,000 watt Air America affiliate), then fret not. This list appears to be for amusement purposes only. Don't lose sleep over it.

Malloy coming to XM Radio

The comeback juggernaut of Mike Malloy is still chugging along, as the Nova M Radio-syndicated nighttime talker has added XM Radio to his growing list of affiliates.

Malloy's show will debut on XM effective March 1. What is not known is what channel he will be on, but the assumption is that it will be on XM167, aka the "Air America Radio Channel". The online on-air roster for XM167 currently omits all Air America shows airing after 9PM.

The addition of Malloy's show to XM167 is another step by XM in fleshing out a distinct lineup to go along with the Air America Radio programming. Yesterday, they moved Ed Schultz' show to a live slot there, bumping Thom Hartmann. As of now, no further changes have been publicly announced, though rumors have been flying about what XM will do, if they do anything at all, about other liberal talk shows, from the likes of Bill Press and Stephanie Miller. Some are saying they'll be added to XM167, which will further wipe out Air America programming on the channel. Still, there are no details available regarding any kind of contract Air America has with XM, as far as exclusivity and the direction of the channel.

Could there be a second liberal talk channel added, to accomodate the JRN programming (Press, Miller, Schultz) and other talkers like Lionel? After all, XM currently has two full-time conservative talk channels, with a couple more that incorporate conservative talk shows throughout their respective lineups. And there certainly appears to be enough shows to flesh out a second channel, with some rather creative scheduling, but as far as we all know, there are no plans for a second liberal talk channel. First and foremost in everyone's minds is the recently announced merger proposal that will unite XM and Sirius. However, considering all of the government agency approvals this bid will go through, and the technical aspects of the merger, a union of the two companies will not happen until later this year at the earliest.

In addition to picking up XM, Malloy gains two more affiliates, as KGOE in Eureka, CA and KTNF in Minneapolis both pick up the show. On KGOE, his show, which runs from 6-9PM on the West Coast, would replace or displace either Clark Howard's personal finance show or Jeff Rense, currently on from 7-10PM. KTNF will air him on delay from Midnight-3AM weeknights. As for future affiliates, one could possibly be KPOJ in Portland, which is currently running a replay of Sam Seder's show in the 6-9PM slot. Considering they are already running Seder in the late morning slot, this would appear to be an obvious place to add Malloy's show. They are hinting at further changes, so who knows?

Monday, February 19, 2007

XM/Sirius agree to merger

Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. agreed to buy larger rival XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc. for $4.57 billion in stock to combine the only pay radio companies and stem billions of dollars in losses.

Mel Karmazin, chief executive officer of New York-based Sirius, will be CEO of the combined company, and Gary Parsons, chairman of Washington-based XM, will continue as chairman, the companies said today in a statement.

Sirius and XM faced pressure to merge after losing a combined $7 billion to attract subscribers over the past eight years and signing talent including Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey. The merger will face antitrust scrutiny and must also be approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Under the terms of the accord, which the companies describe as a merger of equals, XM investors will receive 4.6 shares of Sirius common stock for each share they own. Shareholders of each will own about 50 percent of the combined radio company.

The new company's board will consist of 12 members, including Karmazin, 63, and Parsons, 56, four independent members named by each company, and one representative from each of General Motors Corp. and American Honda. Hugh Panero, 50, CEO of XM, will continue in his role until deal closes, which both companies expect this year.

Sirius and XM will operate independently until the deal is completed, the companies said. The name of the combined company and the location of its headquarters will be decided later.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Air America Sale is now official

A federal bankruptcy judge approved on Friday the sale of the liberal talk radio network Air America Radio for $4.25 million to Stephen L. Green, founder of a New York real estate firm.

The approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain essentially transfers all the assets of Piquant LLC, parent company of the New York-based Air America, to a group including new and current investors.

It gives a majority stake to Green Family Media LLC, an entity controlled by Green, and a minority stake to Democracy Allies LLC. That group includes RealNetworks Inc. Chief Executive Robert Glaser and two former Air America board members.

Green is the founder and chairman of SL Green Realty Corp., a publicly traded real estate investment trust that owns 34 Manhattan office buildings and has a total of 27 million square feet of space under its control. He is also the brother of Mark Green, a longtime New York politician who has appeared frequently as a guest on Air America.

Lawyers for Green asserted that he offered "the only chance for the debtor to avoid liquidation." Air America Chief Executive Scott Elberg said Friday that if the sale was not approved, the network would soon be closed down.

"We'd go out of business," he said.

Olbermann scores big four year deal with MSNBC

Fans of MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" will be elated to know that one of the channel's biggest names has signed a new four year contract, with the promise of more money and wider exposure.

According to terms of the deal, Olbermann will also contribute occasional essays to "NBC Nightly News" and there will be two prime-time "Countdown" specials a year on NBC, a division of NBC Universal. And no, the "Nightly News" contributions will not be as spicy as his MSNBC commentaries. Rather, they will be non-political.

Olbermann has also been named managing editor of Countdown, which has been the fastest-growing show at MSNBC. The show, which runs in the highly competitive 8PM time slot, averaged 655,000 total viewers in the fourth quarter of 2006, an increase of 58 percent year-over-year. Olbermann also upped his share of the core 25-54 demo, averaging 250,000, an increase of 64 percent.

Countdown’s more recent numbers were even stronger. The show closed out January 2007 with an average 706,000 total viewers, a jump of 82 percent versus a year ago, according to Nielsen Media Research data. In the news demo, Countdown grew 83 percent, averaging 272,000 adults 25-54.

Sure, ratings still pale in comparison to Olbermann's main adversary, Bill O'Reilly (who, to this day, forbids the mention of Olbermann's name on his TV or radio show). But "Countdown" often beats Paula Zahn on CNN in the timeslot, outdrawing the show by approximately 100,000 viewers. And while O'Reilly has been losing viewers over the past year, Olbermann has been gaining strongly.

The AP referred to Olbermann as 'a liberal hero', since his ratings have soared since his widely popular series of 'Special Commentaries," which often blast President Bush, debuted late last summer.

Dollar amounts were not disclosed. Olbermann was said to have been agitating for "Anderson Cooper money", demanding an estimated $4 million per year, up from an estimated $1 million salary under his previous contract.

FOX's 'Daily Show' knockoff unleashed on unsuspecting public

Okay, don't say you weren't warned.

Yes, after all the stories and all the rumors, the television-viewing masses can see for themselves the FOX Noise... er, 'News' Channel's attempt at intentional comedy.

No, the "Bill O'Reilly Variety Hour" is a no-go.

Rather, this is that 'Daily Show' imitation that readers of LTR have been warned heard so much about. And the confident honchos at News Corp. are so proud of their new product that they will debut "The 1/2 Hour News Hour" in that prime slot of Sunday night at 10PM ET (a.k.a. the 'dead zone' for all-news channels).

And hoo-boy, what a lineup they've got for us. The whole thing starts out, naturally, with (drum roll please)... a Hillary Clinton joke! Yee haw!

A bad sign of things to come is when a network gives away the jokes in advance, in the hopes that some may actually consider it funny and want to check it out. So anyway, in their Sen. Clinton bit, the pseudo-talking head intones that, seeking to dispel myths that she'd appoint a bunch of political cronies if elected, Clinton promised to appoint "a diverse, multiethnic, multigenerational group -- of angry lesbians." Damn, my sides are hurting! Make it stop! Please!

So, if you guessed that the following gags will include topics like global warming, Barack Obama, the ACLU, Cindy Sheehan, hybrid cars, and Al Gore, yes, you are correct! You win a cute stuffed animal!

The whole thing is spearheaded by Joel Surnow, the guy behind the hit show "24," a rather mundane spy yarn consisting mostly of people standing around in control rooms while the hero beats the snot out of terrorist thugs. I tried to like the show, but it's a bit of a snore. For spy flicks, give me Jason Bourne or James Bond (especially the new Daniel Craig badass Bond) anyday.

And yes, that strange opening bit that imagines Surnow's Viagara-fueled Dominican wingman Rush Limbaugh as the president, with Ann Coulter as vice-president, will be there. No, Stephen King is not one of the writers. Urging viewers to tune into to the rest of the show, Coulter intones, "If you don't, we'll invade your countries, kill your leaders and convert you to Christianity." Funny, that line is straight from one of her books.

But the question deserves to be asked. Is this thing really 'fair and balanced'. Well, in the FOX 'News' definition of the phrase, it appears to be.

Will they just skewer the left, or will they jab at their own, like TDS does? Although no Republicans or conservatives are on the butt end of jokes in the first episode (keping with the whole 'fair and balanced' theme), writer Ned Rice did promise that the show will goof on the GOP "when it's appropriate, sure."

"But that's not the premise of the show," Surnow quickly added. "The premise of the show is: Let's balance out the 50 other shows that go after Bush and Cheney each week, that hit all the same talking points and all the same 'white Republicans are racist idiots'" material. But aren't they all racist id... oh, never mind.

So, will they talk about the war in Iraq? Seems everyone else is, right? Hey, Jon Stewart even has a name for it - 'Mess-o-potamia'. Surnow predicted his show would mock the media's reporting of the war. Or how Democrats handle it.

"We actually do a piece in the second episode about the ultra-sensitive reporting of terrorism," Surnow said. "It's sort of a piece against the way the media is so careful not to racially profile any suspected terrorists or terrorists themselves. I don't think the show will take a position, like 'We're for the war.' 'We're against the war.'"

Ahh... that whole 'liberal media' thing. But wait! Isn't FOX 'News' 'part' of the so-called 'liberal media'? Well, that logic went out the window long ago.

But what about Bush jokes? Hell, David Letterman gets great mileage out of those "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches" bits. As far as THHNH is concerned, don't hold your breath. After all, there are sacred cows, right?

"Liberals are endlessly entertained by jokes about how George W. Bush is stupid and ignorant," Rice said. "Despite the fact that he has a master's degree from Harvard University. He's been a governor, a president. He's had a massively successful life. But those jokes about him being dumb, they just never fail."

So, who do they make fun of instead? Yep, you guessed it. Keeping with the 'kick 'em while they're down' manifesto, they go after Air America Radio (!!). In other words, if you ever wanted to see the televised equivalent of the endlessly whiny Radio Tranquilizer, here's your chance. Help me, my sides hurt!

Nonetheless, FOX 'News' is so confident in this silly little product that they ordered two episodes and scheduled them in the death slot of Sunday late nights. The show will be surrounded by a few other comedy shows from the likes of Geraldo Rivera, Sean Hannity and Chris Wallace.

And if you'd like to see a sneak preview, the kind folks at FOX 'News' have put up a preview, introduced by the milquetoast Alan Colmes (though it's hard to tell if his mouth movements are being controlled by Hannity's hand in his back). See for yourself. On viewing it, I felt the jokes were so-so, and the hosts were stiff and awful. The pacing and elements are a direct rip from TDS. A bit more barf bag than popcorn bag, but to each their own.

So what are the 'real' critics saying? The Orlando Sentinel, after seeing the whole thing, says of it, "If we're lucky, we'll never hear of this dreadful show again." The Onion's AV Club, blasting the prerelease clip, offered, “If you're the least-talented member of your second-rate college sketch comedy group, don't worry. One day you could host a Daily Show ripoff on the Fox News Channel!" A Lost Remote commenter, meanwhile, has this dry observation: “I hear subtlety kicks in sometime during the second episode.” Reviews drastically differ along ideological lines. Bob Cesco at Huffington Post scalls it a comedy show minus the comedy, claiming that Republicans "can certainly appreciate good comedy. They just can't create it." Of course right-wingers like Human Events's Jed Babbin and Michael Medved liked it.

Needless to say, as stated here before, conservatives have an uphill trek in the way of being funny. P.J. O'Rourke is an exception, a hilariously funny conservative writer that, even though many disagree with his way of thinking, is often outrageously witty, and helped contribute to the glory years of the brilliant National Lampoon. Even conservative comedian Larry Miller has his moments. Unfortunately, most conservative attempts at humor tend to look more like the dreadfully unfunny "Mallard Fillmore."

Or, if you prefer really funny topical humor, don't forget that tonight marks the return of the oft-brilliant "Real Time with Bill Maher." Tonight, he welcomes "Late Late Show" host Craig Ferguson, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R-MD) and via satellite, John Edwards. It's on HBO tonight at 11PM ET. There are no sacred cows as far as Maher is concerned - he attacks everyone (unless they're women he thinks he can lure into bed). If you don't get HBO, you can also download the audio of the show later next week at iTunes. As for the FOX Comedy Half-Hour Hour... ehhh, who gives a shit.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Who is Thom Hartmann?

Over the next few days or so, radio audiences in various markets will be introduced to a new voice on their airwaves, as Thom Hartmann prepares to slide into the midday slot on Air America Radio and its affiliates who choose to pick up the show.

Of course, Hartmann, 55, is far from new to the world of radio. Many liberal talk fans, and readers of this blog, are well familiar with him, and Hartmann is already on the air in many markets. His current show has been on the air for four years, long before Air America hit the airwaves.

So, who is Thom Hartmann?

Hartmann is the host of a weekday show that is becoming one of the biggest success stories in liberal talk. He's also a three-time Project Censored Award winner, bestselling author, international lecturer, teacher, practitioner in alternative medicine and acupuncture, and licensed psychotherapist with a certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). His books have covered a wide range of subjects, including politics, business, economics, constitutional law, history, self-help, spirituality, and one of his biggest pet projects, ADHD. In addition, he's written nine novels. He even established a specialized school for children afflicted with the disorder. He's had a private audience with Pope John Paul II, spent a week with the Dalai Lama, and his writings about the environment have even inspired two short web films and an upcoming documentary directed by actor and fan Leonardo DiCaprio.

On the radio, he hosts two three-hour shows every day - a local morning show at KPOJ in Portland and his nationally syndicated show immediately following. In the past, he's stretched out his broadcast day occasionally filling in for Randi Rhodes, giving him, on occasion, a 9-10 hour day behind the microphone.

Does this guy ever sleep?

Well, one has to wonder. Radio is his main job now, but he's still writing books. In the past year, he released Screwed, about the struggles affecting the working class and Walking Your Blues Away, one of several of his self-help books. He is often on the road, combining book signings with remote broadcasts of his radio shows.

Hartmann is no stranger to radio. He started in the industry as a teenager, in 1968. Over the years, he worked as a DJ and program director, and spent seven years as a radio and television news reporter during and immediately after his college years. He also wrote articles and columns for various publications, including the German version of International Business Week, The Christian Science Monitor, and Popular Computing, for which he wrote a monthly column for two years.

Since that wasn't enough to occupy his time, he successfully established seven businesses, one of which was featured on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. The businesses he started and later sold include an advertising agency, a newsletter/magazine publishing company, an herbal tea manufacturing company, a travel agency, a training seminars company (where he has a client list consisting of all but 30 of the firms listed in the Fortune 500), an electronics design and repair company, and computer peripherals sales business. He is also both a licensed pilot and licensed private detective, though he currently practices neither (lack of time?). He's also a former skydiver.

Why do I feel so inadequate now?

In 2002, Hartmann decided it was time for a return to radio. Seeing the lack of liberal/progressive voices on the airwaves, and way too many conservative flacks, he wrote an article, "Talking Back To Talk Radio" that some credit as one of the inspirations for starting Air America Radio. On March 1, 2003, Hartmann was on the air with his own show, via the now-defunct Detroit-based I.E. America Radio Network, owned by United Auto Workers. As Air America began to gather steam, and I.E. America closed down in anticipation of it, Hartmann was left without a syndicator. Not missing a beat, he began to self-syndicate and held on to his affiliates, including Sirius Left. He even picked up a few more, most notably at WPTT in Pittsburgh. In April 2005, he moved from Vermont to Portland, OR to host a morning show at Clear Channel's highly-rated progressive talker KPOJ.

In September 2005, Air America liked what they saw in Hartmann, who had done occasional fill-ins for their hosts, and established a new separate division to syndicate his show. Hartmann quickly gained in stature with the network, even though his show ran against Al Franken, the network's highest profile host. During the next year, the network's affiliates began picking up the show, and in some cases aired it in place of Franken. On KPTK in Seattle, Hartmann dominated his talk competition, including Rush Limbaugh, in all demographic breakdowns for a year in the Arbitron ratings book. When KQKE in San Francisco dropped Franken and replaced him with Hartmann, ratings increased 25-65% in various demographic breakdowns for the timeslot. On the same station, Hartmann even bested Ed Schultz, who's show immediately follows it, by an even larger margin.

When Franken announced his departure from radio in January, the choice for a replacement was simple. Hartmann was immediately tapped to slide over to the main network feed. And his ascension to Air America's highest profile timeslot could be a blessing to the beleaguered network, as he has been winning ratings, listeners and accolades. He could possibly become the linchpin for the soon-to-be-restructured network, the show they rebuild the network around.

There are many differences between Franken's show and Hartmann's. While Franken had often leaned on his comedy background (though some say not often enough), kept his guest roster to a small stable of like-minded pundits and personalities, and rarely took listener phone calls, Hartmann draws from his own background, mixing history and encyclopedic knowledge, listener phone calls and guests that often include Vermont's independent Senator Bernie Sanders, experts on various issues, and various pundits from right-wing think tanks, such as the Ayn Rand Institute and the American Heritage Foundation. Hartmann loves to bring on right-wing guests, as he feels they make for more interesting radio content than constantly surrounding himself with people he agrees with. "I'm one of the few progressive hosts who regularly debates conservatives. I do it because it highlights for my listeners the real issues-- the deeper issues beneath the sound bytes-- and helps model for them how to win the water cooler wars," said Hartmann.

He also feels that a radio talk show should be more about personality, presentation, content and entertainment value than just merely being a liberal talk show. "Nobody is ever going to listen to talk radio because they like the format: it's the talent that makes the show," wrote Hartmann in a 2004 article at Common Dreams. In addition, the show is highly educational, but not college lecture-boring. Hartmann feels that talk radio listeners like to be informed and educated, in addition to being entertained.

Hartmann's philosophy for succeeding in talk radio is simple. "If you're good, people will tune in for you, the same as they did for Rush (Limbaugh) back when he was all there was. Just produce a killer show and you'll succeed," he wrote.

Adds Michael Harrison, editor of Talkers Magazine, an industry trade journal, "My opinion is that Thom Hartmann is a far superior host, one of the leading liberal thinkers in American today. He's not a comedian, not ambitious where he wants to become a senator, he's not an egotist — he's a very earnest guy who tries to present intelligent material that makes a case for the progressive point of view."

Unlike Franken, Hartmann's in radio for the long haul. "I love talk radio. I don't want to be on TV. I don't want to run for public office. I don't want to be a movie star. I write books and I do talk radio and that's enough for me," he said in an interview.

As for the future of liberal talk, Hartmann sounds optimistic. ""There is at least as much demand for liberal talk radio as there is for conservative talk, maybe even more," he said. "For years, program directors just bought the story that was told to them, that all the liberals were listening to NPR. We have busted open a mythology. There are a lot of stations carrying this format and doing well with it."

Is he concerned about recent reports about advertisers shunning the format? Hartmann says no. On last year's leaked ABC Radio Network's 'blackout' memo, which listed roughly a hundred companies that did not want their commercials airing on affiliated stations during Air America programming, he countered, "There's a similar list for Rush Limbaugh - companies that don't want to get tied up in politics. The fact of the matter is my advertisers, from Purina to Sacred Grounds Coffee to the Organic Wine Company get great results, which is why I refer to my program as listener supported radio. It's supported by my listeners supporting my sponsors.

Hartmann's show is currently airing on Air America's secondary syndication feed, and will officially be a part of the main lineup starting Monday, February 19th. His show has been picked up by affiliates in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Miami and other places. Many affiliates are airing his show currently.

The post-Franken shuffle, Part 2

Though yesterday was the last day of "The Al Franken Show," his individual affiliates are still adjusting their on-air rosters as they carry on toward the future.

Last week, a few stations announced their intentions as to what they would carry. Today, there's a few more.

Two stations that will not be a part of the future of liberal talk include KCTC in Sacramento, which has officially announced their pending flip to sports effective February 26. As reported earlier, KFPT in Fresno will be sold, and will likely be flipped to sports once the sale is approved in early Spring. In the interim, they will likely fill their schedule with whatever Air America Radio is offering in the time slot, which starting Monday will be Thom Hartmann.

In Rochester, WROC moves Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes into live afternoon slots, followed by a simulcast of WROC-TV's evening news (WROC-TV is seperately owned), followed by Rachel Maddow until 8PM. The station adds Democracy Now from 8-9PM, followed by two hours of Lionel and a simulcast of WROC-TV's late news. Lionel gets a replay for the late-night hours.

Air America gains a new affiliate as WWKB in Buffalo gives Rhodes a live clearance for her afternoon show, following Schultz. Miller's morning show gets an evening replay. The station's schedule is still in a state of flux, as they seem to have four hours of airtime (currently devoted to replays) to fill. Look for more additions (hopefully) soon. Local (or at least somewhat local) talker Leslie Marshall is no longer there, due to budget cuts, and is currently exploring other opportunities.

At KPOJ in Portland, Sam Seder fans will be elated to find out that his show is added from 9AM-noon (which will likely piss off Ed Schultz, who is still on a delay from noon-3PM). Not only that, but Seder also gets a weeknight replay, from 6-9PM. This move sounds very temporary, and they're promising more changes to come. The station has been rumored to be working on a deal to pick up Mike Malloy's show, possibly for the evening timeslot.

WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC moves Schultz live to the 12-3PM shift, followed by Randi Rhodes live.

Hartmann will get a few new affiliates, as he is added to San Diego's KLSD, Denver's KKZN, Los Angeles' KTLK and WNYY in Ithaca, NY live effective today. He'll also be on Washington, DC's WWRC. KABQ in Albuquerque, and Miami's WINZ on delay, following Ed Schultz. WPEK in Asheville, NC will also add Hartmann, starting next week.

WXXM in Madison is going live with much of their new schedule. Schultz gets a live clearance, followed by Rhodes and Maddow live. Hartmann is added for nights.

Quite a few stations have not announced what they are doing, either over the air or on their websites. Actually, it looks like some stations have forgotten they even have websites, as they are horribly outdated. Unless Jerry Springer is still doing a radio show and we just don't know about it.

Finally, Armed Forces Radio will replace Franken's show with that of even more inoffensive Alan Colmes. They also air Schultz' show, or at least an hour of it (as they tend to do with most talk programming). Which begs the question - why does AFN carry talk shows in the first place? Quite frankly, if I were currently serving in the military overseas, I'd rather listen to music. But I guess that's just me.

Sale of KFPT/Fresno signals end of liberal talk

As rumored here recently, Fresno's KFPT is being purchased from Peak Broadcasting by Fat Dawgs 7, owners of the market's local ESPN radio affiliate. The sale price is in the $2.5 million neighborhood.

However, its current lineup of liberal talk shows will be replaced, most likely by sports programming. Look for the change to take place in either March or April.

Peak Broadcasting picked up KFPT in November as part of the $90 mil- lion purchase of the eight stations previously owned by CBS Broadcasting. Once the Peak-CBS deal gets a green light from the Federal Communications Commission, then the deal with Fat Dawgs 7 can move forward.

KFPT went from Spanish-language programming to the liberal-talk format July 5, 2005. The talk show lineup included such hosts as Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Sam Seder.

(more at link)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Air America Radio sale: The plot thickens

Two days ago, Air America Radio got the go-ahead by the court to start auction proceedings for the network. Of course, these things rarely go smoothly.

According to former Air America investor and current Nova M Radio chairman Sheldon Drobny, lawyers representing unsecured creditors filed an objection to the proposed sale of Air America's assets to a group headed by Stephen and Mark Green. Drobny is apparently furious over the whole deal:

They are not the least bit concerned about who they screw in the process despite the fact that they are supposed to be liberals and fair minded. If the judge in this case grants permission for this sham sale, it will confirm again the fact that the Bankruptcy Court is the worst example of crony capitalism.

The objection claims that the sale is a sham, and the only creditors that will benefit from it are the ones currently running the network. Drobny claims that three current Air America executives will, in fact, be part of the minority ownership group, with SLG Radio, owned by the Green brothers, as the controlling faction.

Drobny accuses them of abusing the Bankruptcy Court unfairly, and of basically trying to screw their creditors:

...The AAR directors that are doing this are collectively worth at least a billion dollars. And the shame of them doing this in the name of progressive talk radio is hypocritical. The Greens and the "3 amigos" will be joined together to try to give AAR a new life. Should anyone trust these people again given their recent behavior?

In addition, Drobny is calling for Congressional hearings to change the current abuses that plague the current Bankruptcy laws. "It would be poetic justice for these investigations to be prompted by the insolvency of what was supposed to be a liberal media company."

It should be noted that Drobny has long had serious differences with the current management of Air America. Regular readers of LTR know that many of AAR's executive office are often at odds with each other. Drobny made an offer for the network last fall, prior to their bankruptcy filing. They turned it down and opted for Chapter 11. The figure was far less than what the Green brothers offered as the winning bid. As for who would have assumed the network's debt, provided that there was indeed no bankruptcy filing, is uncertain.

As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Yes, the current execs are sleazeballs (just like most other outrageously rich businessmen). I still don't understand why Rob Glaser and company don't just cut a few checks and put this whole thing behind them. They accomplished what they wanted to do, in establishing a liberal talk radio network, so why don't they just take the loss and claim it on their taxes? And why doesn't Drobny finally just say 'piss off' to these guys, build up Nova M, and give them some real competition? All this rich guy warfare is what helped cripple Air America in the first place. Methinks he's spending way too much time bitching about them at HuffPo, when he could be channeling his energies in a much more constructive fashion. Stop the corporate dick-swinging and get back to work on your original mission. I already read the riot act to Eddie and Sammy earlier today. Don't make me come over there!

The weekly "Franken's Running" post

Okay, okay. Just kidding. Nonetheless, I promise this will be the last "Franken's running" article I post.

Al Franken said on his show today that he will indeed run for the Senate in 2008, challenging Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

Franken's announcement came on the final day of his radio show on Air America. The decision by the former Saturday Night Live performer instantly makes him a serious contender and brings national attention to the race.

"Minnesotans have a right to be skeptical about whether I'm ready for this challenge, and to wonder how seriously I would take the responsibility that I'm asking you to give me," Franken said in a video on his website.

"I want you to know: Nothing means more to me than making government work better for the working families of this state, and over the next 20 months, I look forward to proving to you that I take these issues seriously," Franken said.

Franken's name is well-known and he is likely to be well-funded, but he's expected to be challenged by several other Democrats, including wealthy trial attorney Mike Ciresi.

Immediately following this will be the 378th comment by Fredmaceefraisebsterstock saying Air America should go off the air.

And Franken has set up a website devoted to his Senate run and all other activities post-Air America. You can access it here.

As for his show, he's done with it, but Marc Maron will fill in as guest host for the remaining two shows this week. Thom Hartmann will slide over to the main schedule to occupy the shift beginning Monday.

Can't we all just get along?

The decision by XM Radio to move Ed Schultz' show over to their dedicated Air America Radio channel (ch. 167) has irritated some listeners and pleased others. And yesterday, it heated up into a nasty on-air radio war, hung out for all to hear.

Last Friday, Air America host Sam Seder had Marc Maron on his show, as he does every Friday. Maron noted that Schultz has been added to the Air America channel (XM167), and that concerned listeners should contact XM if they would rather hear Thom Hartmann in the time slot. He also referred to Schultz as 'weak'. Seder even posted a rather mild suggestion on his blog:

...there's a rumor going around that Thom won't be carried by XM on the AAR channel. Instead they'll carry Ed Schultz. If I listened to AAR through XM- I'd be pissed.... let them know how you feel

Well, that certainly didn't go over well with Team Fargo. Schultz and Air America have had their differences in the past. Over three years ago, Schultz and Randi Rhodes were reportedly up for the same job, an attempt to create a nationally-syndicated liberal talk radio show. Schultz got the nod, and there's been a few infrequent jabs traded back and forth between the two ever since. For the most part, though, back and forth bashing has been pretty tame, though several hosts, including Rhodes and Seder, have thrown around a little smack at Big Eddie. On his show last summer, Mike Malloy referred to Schultz as a phony liberal, which resulted in Schultz blasting him on-air as a 'punk'. Schultz has occasionally ripped on Air America for their business practices. Yesterday, the shit really hit the fan.

After being informed by a listener e-mail about what Seder wrote on his blog. Schultz was livid, and spent a good part of the opening hour of his Tuesday show lashing out at Air America (mp3). An enraged Schultz accused Air America of being "unscrupulous... not good people... they undercut everyone..." and "give liberals a bad name." He accused them of "encouraging a war," and if "they want a war, I'll give 'em one." Schultz went on to blast their recent financial woes, claiming they're "hate merchants" who "raped people for $40 million," and "they never sold a commercial." He turned the tables, and asked his listeners to call XM and demand that they replace the "crappy" Air America shows with Jones Radio Networks stablemates Stephanie Miller and Bill Press, and even give his frequent guest host Norman Goldman a show.

"Air America sucks, their shows suck, nobody buys them, they’re not good people, they're unscrupulous, they give liberals a bad name, and if you’ve given money to Air America you're an idiot too because they don’t deserve it," snapped Schultz. "They can eat me. They suck. They don't know how to run radio and I don't like them anymore." In addition, he was rather terse toward his callers on the issue.

Needless to say, Schultz' tirade has made waves throughout the online community, with mixed opinions. Some of Schultz' most dedicated listeners stood behind him, while many are furious at what they see as 'liberals eating their own.' Even some of Schultz' listeners felt he went a bit too far. Schultz' producer James Holm responded back via this Daily Kos thread with this statement:

I'm Ed's producer

I will way in on the once, and only once. I produce the Ed Schultz Show. I won’t fight you about whether he went overboard or not, I’m just hear to clear things up in this thread that I can back with 100% fact. Before I start, I just want to tell you that I’m not offended in any way that some of you hate our show. Radio shows are like beer, some people like Miller, some Bud, some Heineken & some even like Guinness. They’re all beer, the same way that Ed, Al, Randi, Thom, Sam, Mike, Stephanie and Bill are all Progressive talk shows. I know it shocks you that I used a beer analogy, I work for Ed.

1. Randi Rhodes NEVER turned down Democracy Radio and gave the money to Ed. This is only one of the misrepresentations she has repeated about Ed multiple times.

2. AAR never turned Ed down. We are owned by P1, syndicated by Jones and have never wanted to be part of AAR. The truth is, they have tried to acquire our show multiple times. We have always said no.

3. Ed is not paid by the Democratic Party. The owners of the show, Randy Michaels & Stu Krane are both Libertarian Republicans.

4. Ed did go after Howard Dean for not appearing on Progressive talk often enough. Ed gives Dean credit for the 2006 victories and has had him on the show almost once a month for the last 12 months.

5. It drives many of you nuts that we call our show the most listened to Progressive talk show. The reason that we do is, no matter what you think, we are Progressive and we have almost a million more listeners than Al, a million and a half more than Randi & Stephanie and no other Lefty host even cracks a million. WE ALL WANT THAT TO CHANGE.

6. Ed loves Joe Lieberman about as much as Sam Seder likes Ed. We had Ned Lamont on twice as much as Joe last cycle. Ed has repeatedly called Joe on the carpet over his stance on the war on terror.

7. Ed is the only closet Republican that I have ever seen donate money to Tom Daschle, John Kerry, Christine Gregoire and multiple other candidates without giving one dime to a Republicans.

Did Ed go over the top today? Did Sam go over the top when he is leading his audience to believe that there is any chance for Thom Hartman to get on XM even though he knows that decision is already set in stone? Did Mark Maron go over the top when he said Ed wasn’t a true Progressive and that he towed the party line? Was Randi over the top when she has called Ed a closet Republican, an evil, horrible person who she "let" have his job? Was Mike Malloy over the top when he echoed Randi about Ed?

That’s a decision you have to make, just like you do every time you belly up to the bar for a beer. Yes I know, beer again. AAR producers or other AAR employees might have their own version of history to tell, I encourage them to do so.

I can tell you the solution to this whole problem.

Don’t talk us down, Ed won’t swing back.

Seder was rather shocked by the whole thing, and issued his own statement via his blog:
I don't make a habit of publicly attacking other liberal talk show hosts- in fact i never do it (maybe i said some sarcastic things about colmes a couple of times).

Apparently, Ed Schultz, a liberal ? progressive talker on the Jones Syndicator roster is supposedly angry at me for asking you guys to support Thom Hartmann. It was nothing against Ed- I just am a fan of Thom's and it is called AIR AMERICA XM 167 and Thom is an AAR host, Ed (and based on his rant today feels strongly about it) is not.

Well, I had heard this was brewing but didn't believe it was possible, but Ed exploded in rage today, lashing out at me, Al, Randi, AAR, Malloy, his callers and even his show handlers.

Personally, I don't think this is about me or my supporting Thom, but more on that later. For now, this is how people are reacting.

The decision by XM to move Schultz over to XM167 has been somewhat controversial. Over the past few years, since Air America signed an exclusive deal with the satellite provider, Schultz' show has been in a state of limbo at XM. The show has been shuffled around various XM channels, and as of late has been broken up or delayed. This move gives him a live clearance on the service, though at the expense of Hartmann's show. XM has not given the reason for this move. Some may speculate that XM is no longer confident in Air America's on-air content. Or that they simply wanted a live clearance for Schultz' show, and this was the only reasonable way to do it. In essence, XM167 looks rather similar to how it was back in early 2004, when Schultz' show displaced three hours of Rhodes' show. The XM exclusivity deal removed the dedicated Air America channel from Sirius, and gave the network its own dedicated XM channel. In addition, XM provided the network with remote studio space in Washington, DC. Nothing else is really known about the Air America/XM contract, such as if XM is allowed to add non-Air America shows to XM167.

What also isn't known is how Hartmann figures into all of this. Hartmann's show is a bit of an anomaly at the network, in that he actually owns it, has many of his own sponsor deals, and can handle many of his own negotiations. "EcoTalk," "Politically Direct," and various weekend programs at Air America have a similar arrangement. When Air America bankruptcy rumors were gaining steam this past fall, the plain-spoken Hartmann stated on-air that he would not be affected by any problems with the network, as he could easily self-syndicate or latch on with a different syndicator should Air America meet its demise. He experienced a similar situation when his former network, I.E. America shut down and he self-syndicated briefly prior to being picked up by Air America. Hartmann also has his own podcasting deal with White Rose Society and other carriage dealings, including his own radio affiliates. His show is also on Sirius Left, albeit in a chopped-up form to clear room for a show by the channel's Lynn Samuels. And he's an employee of Clear Channel Communications, for whom he hosts a local morning show at KPOJ in Portland. He even gets health insurance from Clear Channel. XM has not disclosed whether or not they had to negotiate with Hartmann seperately, although his weekend 'best-of' show airs on the channel on Saturdays as part of the Air America general feed, and fill-in gigs for Rhodes and Franken have aired on XM167. XM's public take is that they're still trying to find a way to make Hartmann's weekday show available to XM listeners.

But the heart of the issue is thus: Is all this catfighting really beneficial for liberal talk in general? And what good really comes out of it, seeing as many of Schultz' biggest affiliates also air programming from Air America and other distributors? Is this yet another example of the dreaded 'circular firing squad?' Keep in mind that Air America and Schultz, and all of Jones Radio's liberal talk offerings, are basically joined at the hip. Schultz claims that Air America can't sell ads, but only mentions in passing that Jones actually has a business arrangement with Air America, in which they handle the network's advertising sales. And Hartmann uses Jones satellites for transmission of his show (Air America supposedly uses either Westwood One or Jones satellites, or both). And it is highly doubtful that Schultz, Miller or Press would have enjoyed the growth of their show had it not been for Air America helping to fill gaps in the schedules of many affiliates. Let's face it, Schultz alone would not have been able to convince stations to go all-liberal talk in 2004 had it not been for the presence of other programming, specifically Air America. Without Air America, it's likely that Schultz today would be sharing stations with lower-tier syndicated hosts like Don Imus and G. Gordon Liddy. I'm sure that would sit well with him even less than sharing space with Air America. In other words, they all have to learn to co-exist, often on many of the same stations. They do have a synergy, whether they like it or not.

LTR has often written rather favorably about Schultz. He's been given much credit for the effective way he and his syndicator have been able to make liberal talk programming a business success. And he's known for having on some of the best guests of any liberal talk show, including prominent political figures and big-name newsmakers that often don't get invited on conservative talk shows.

Unfortunately, he's not too nice behind the backs of some of his guests. That's when Big Ed's Big Ego gets in the way. He's trashed Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and others who bypassed his show or didn't ask "how high" when he demanded they jump. Schultz gets a bit hot tempered when he feels he's getting 'disrespected or downright ignored.

And yes, he's spot-on about many of Air America's problems. The network's executives, past and present, have run things pretty half-assed. Their business practices have been embarassing, company executives have constantly let their egos get in the way of operations, programming has often been erratic and sloppy, and they've made some strange decisions in the past that gave them horrible publicity (Danny Goldberg's 'donation club' thing and the firings of Malloy, Maron and Lizz Winstead, just to name a few). And they have not been willing to reign in some of their talk show hosts, who's shows often tend to lack structure. And Franken was wrong to drag out his rumored retirement from radio as long as he had. Nonetheless, trashing Air America on the national airwaves does Ed no favors whatsoever. Considering that many people that listen to him also are fans of Air America, this only ostracizes them. Is that really good for the format? Especially when irate listeners are calling radio stations demanding his removal. Considering that quite a few radio station owners are thinking about removing all liberal talk programming, this is a really bad move. Schultz was wrong to go on for as long as he did about Air America.

In addition, while Seder has been a bit more mild in attacking Schultz (though he did anyway with other comments), encouraging XM to drop Schultz from XM167 was a rather risky move, considering how he's encouraged similar moves in the past (most recently with affiliate WWRL, where he attacked their local morning host Armstrong Williams, and was punished by the station with a one-day replacement by Miller). Seder's recent action is teetering on the brink of unprofessionalism, though, to his credit, he did not slam Schultz, though on-air cohort Maron did. And it should be noted that Hartmann and Miller have at least stayed above the fray in all of this, with Miller even being complimentary toward Air America on her show.

In closing, everyone, including Schultz, Seder, Rhodes, Malloy, etc. need to learn how to get along. Everyone who listens to liberal talk radio has their own tastes when it comes to shows they like and don't like. This is not a hive mentality. Therefore, everyone needs to realize that they have their own place in the format. Schultz appeals the same way to the blue collar crowd that hosts like Malloy, Seder and Rhodes appeal to the far-left. It's a pretty big tent. Save the venom for funny jabs at the people who really deserve it - people like Limbaugh, Hannity and O'Reilly. To contradict the Dixie Chicks' Grammy-winning song (I just had to make mention of that!), they need to be 'ready to make nice.' All of this back-and-forth on-air bashing does little except look petty and give liberal talk a bad name. It is highly unprofessional. It's Valentine's Day, for cryin' out loud! Can't we all just get along?

Don't make me come up there and settle this!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

What's going on with Sacramento's "Left Channel"?

Radio listeners in Sacramento are obviously a bit confused as to what's going on with KCTC ("The Left Channel"). And some rumors are pointing to a flip to sports.

Two of the station's highest profile local hosts, the morning team of Scott and Sims and afternoon talker Enid Goldstein have both been off the station since Monday.

Entercom management, in particular GM John Geary, aren't talking, and they certainly have been keeping a low profile since the "Hold Your Wee For A Wii" fiasco at KCTC's sister station, KDND, last month. The station and the company have gotten extremely bad publicity (and deservedly so) resulting from a morning show water-drinking contest that went horribly wrong, resulting in the death of Jennifer Strange, a 28-year old mother of three. The family is suing Entercom, and the FCC is even looking into the incident.

Rumors have been pretty hot about a possible flip of the station to the hot format du jour, sports talk, picking up the affiliation of ESPN Radio. This change could possibly happen as soon as next week. Another sports station in town, KHTK, has recently stopped carrying ESPN programming.

Likely, this change will be rather abrupt, and kept as mum as possible, ala the WAVZ thing. Entercom has been keeping very quiet as of late, trying to ride out the KDND thing. Nonetheless, the tragic death of Jennifer Strange and station management's subsequent handling of it will likely give left-leaning listeners added ammo should KCTC drop Air America Radio from the Sacramento airwaves.

In the most recent ratings book, KCTC had a 0.8 overall ratings share, besting liberal talk rival KSAC's 0.4. KSAC originally carried Air America programming, until it was lured away by the newly reformatted KCTC in October, 2005. In the event KCTC flips to sports, don't hold your breath waiting for Air America to return to KSAC. The station's owner is still bitter about her dealings with Air America, and claims the network owes her money.

UPDATE 2/15: It's official. KCTC will flip to ESPN Radio on Monday February 26. All local personalities have been let go. The station has also posted a message on their website.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The continuing adventures of Marc Maron

Though he's no longer working full-time for Air America Radio, Marc Maron is still keeping busy with his successful comedy career. But he hasn't given up on radio.

This week will find him in New York. As Al Franken wraps up his radio show this Wednesday, Maron will host this week's remaining two shows, on Thursday and Friday. Starting next Monday, Thom Hartmann will slide over from the network's secondary feed to occupy the shift.

In addition to the radio fill-in, he'll be appearing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien this Wednesday night.

Here it is in Maron's words:

Wednesday night, Feb. 14, I will be appearing on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Check your local listings.

Thursday and Friday, Feb. 15 and 16, I will be hosting what was the Al Franken Show on Air America Radio. It tapes at 12PM ET. Check your local listings. This is not a permenant gig, folks, but I am looking forward to it. I'll try to wrangle up a few of the old gang if I can. If I can't, you're stuck with me.

Check OR to see what and where I've got coming up.



Could this lead to a return to radio? Who knows? But Maron fans can enjoy him on both radio and TV this week.

WWKK/Petoskey, MI under new ownership

According to All Access, the owner of WWKK ("Progressive Talk Kool 750") in Petoskey, MI will deal the station to Fort Bend Broadcasting Company, in exchange for WLDR, a higher-powered AM country station near Traverse City and $244,000.

WWKK is owned by Rick Stone, whose only other radio property is WJML, also in Petoskey, which runs a conservative talk format as a counterpart to WWKK. Both stations appear to be branded as "WJML", and both stations share the same website. Fort Bend, owned by Roy Henderson, owns four other stations in Michigan. There is no word as to what WWKK's new owner will do with the station once the deal is approved by the FCC, or if this means a pending format flip.

WWKK carries a mostly liberal talk format, consisting of Ed Schultz, Lionel, non-partisan "Free Talk Live" (or a delay of Stephanie Miller's show, according to a conflicting website report), Dr. Joy Brown's advice show and some programming from Air America Radio, including Thom Hartmann, Sam Seder, and the straight feed during the overnight hours and part of the weekends. Both stations run a common morning show, the regionally-syndicated "The Big Show," featuring Michael Patrick Shiels. WWKK flipped to liberal talk in September 2004.

Petoskey, MI is located in the far-northern part of Michigan, below the Upper Peninsula, and roughly 70 miles north of the much-larger Traverse City.

Air America gets the thumbs-up for auction

Air America Radio has won bankruptcy court approval to sell its assets at an auction Friday, starting with a $4.25 million bid from a consortium of purchasers formed by Stephen L. Green, the chairman of SL Green Realty Corp., and startup broadcasting firm SLG Radio, Inc.

Competing bids, which must start at least at $4.6 million, are due by Thursday with a 10 percent deposit. Bidding will increase in at least $50,000 increments. A sale hearing will be held immediately following Friday's auction.

Air America Radio's parent company, New York-based Piquant LLC, said the sale would allow it to pay off its $3.25 million debtor-in-possession loan and provide $500,000 to pay creditor claims and another $500,000 to cure certain contracts.

By setting a minimum bid for other potential bidders, the lead bidder -- which includes New York-based SL Green Realty Corp. chairman and founder Stephen L. Green and DIP lender Democracy Allies LLC -- has increased the chances that the liberal talk-radio network will receive top dollar for its assets, the filing said.

Piquant bought Air America from Progress Media Inc. in May 2004 for $705,000 plus existing liabilities.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Ratings Roundup Fall 2006: Part 5

For the last of this series of Arbitron ratings reports for liberal talk radio stations across the country, we arrive in the Northeast. This one will take a look at the upper East Coast.

In New York, WWRL finally makes an appearance in its first ratings book since becoming the new flagship for Air America. Whereas the signal-challenged station rarely appeared in the rankings prior to the September flip, they now come on with a 0.8 share, tied for 26th place. WWRL also makes a first-time showing in other regional books, garnering a 0.7 share in Long Island (market #18), where they only have a partial presence, and 0.5 in Middlesex, NJ (market #39). Meanwhile, WLIB, now airing a gospel music format, drops from a 1.0 to a 0.5 share in New York City. They did not show up in other regional market surveys, where they have done well under its previous format. All in all, considering the station switch and signal limitations, WWRL did not do too badly, as they beat a few 50,000 watt stations and are even competitive with stronger, higher-profile FM stations like WFNY, airing CBS Radio's expensive "Free FM" talk format.

Upstate, in Buffalo/Niagara Falls (#52), little WHLD maintained a mid-share figure for its last ratings book before its recent flip to gospel music. Since picking up Air America and other liberal talk programming, the station has gone from a perrenial no-show to actually making a dent in the ratings book. Its final number was a 0.5. Entercom-owned rival WWKB finished just a tenth of a point ahead, with a 0.6, down from a 1.0 in the Summer. WWKB appears to be a rather neglected station, with a neglected website and a midday show rerun in the evening hours. Perhaps with WHLD's dropping of Air America, WWKB will have some new programming options. The station does have a fairly strong signal, and could be a success if they figured out how to utilize it properly. To the east, WWKB's sister station WROC in nearby Rochester (#53) made a pretty big jump, rising from a 0.9 to a 1.3, good for 15th place overall. The Arbitron book for Ithaca (#283) has been embargoed, meaning that overall ratings are not available to the public, so there's no word on how WNYY did in that market as of yet. They flipped from oldies to progressive talk last June.

In Boston (#11), the two weak signals of WKOX and WXKS maintained a half share with their recently-dropped progressive talk format. The current ratings for Central Massachusetts' trimulcast of WHMP are unknown in the Springfield (#84) ratings, since the book is under an embargo by Arbitron. In the last available ratings, from one year ago, the station held a 1.6 share, making it the #2 talk station in the market. WAVZ in New Haven (#109), armed with a weak signal and little support from owner Clear Channel, did not register overall in the current ratings book. The station switched to ESPN Radio last week. And WLVP in Portland, ME (#167) drops slightly for the fall, down from a 0.9 to 0.6 share.

Pittsburgh (#24) is the home of two Air America Radio affiliates. The stronger, more established suburban rimshot WPTT, which carries Thom Hartmann, local liberal talker Lynn Cullen and an assortment of other talkers from various sides of the political spectrum, comes in at a 1.2 share. WPTT has recently gotten the go-ahead from the FCC to swap dial positions soon, moving from 1360AM to 910AM, which will give them a stronger daytime signal, though they will cease nighttime broadcasting as a trade-off. WURP, one of Air America's newest affiliates, is a no-show in the book, mostly due to a very tiny predominantly daytime signal that doesn't really get cover much area (at night, they power down from 1000 watts to a measly 4 watts). They have a construction permit pending that will double the daytime power and move the transmitter into the city, which will give the urban areas of Pittsburgh 12 watts at night. The station has long carried The Young Turks, and recently picked up Air America programming for weekends. During the week, they run 'hot talk' personalities such as Don and Mike and Tom Leykis, as well as G. Gordon Liddy.

And finally, this analysis consists mostly of the overall numbers, ages 12+ for all time periods 6AM-Midnight, since these are the only numbers that Arbitron officially releases to the public. Therefore, these numbers do not give any substantial information in regard to daypart, age and gender breakdowns, which are highly coveted by advertisers looking to target specific audiences. Occasionally, more specific information does seep through, such as a statement on Hartmann's website, claiming that his show enjoyed massive increases in listenership in several markets, including WPTT Pittsburgh, with a 100% increase, KPHX Phoenix up 186%, KTNF Minneapolis-St. Paul up 120%, KQKE San Francisco up 100% and his hometown of Grand Rapids, where WTKG is up 114%.

The next series of Arbitron ratings reports will be coming in late March, which will take into account the ratings for this Winter.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Early spring cleaning at LTR

So, as you're looking through the amazing collection o' links here at LTR, you may be noticing a few things that are different. Well, there are some changes.

First off, in acknowledgement of the growth of non-commercial community radio, stations that fall under that banner are now being given their own section. Therefore, radio stations are divided into two categories: Commercial liberal talk and progressive/alternative/community-oriented non-commercial community stations (got all that?). The commercial stations consist of the typical Air America/JRN affiliates, as well as African-American talk stations (which tend to lean to the left anyway) and even stations that mix it up a bit. For most stations that are listed here, the general requirement is at least two liberal talk shows on the schedule, but that rule is rather flexible, and there are a few exceptions, such as that little station in Canton, IL that carries two hours of Randi Rhodes live every afternoon (just found that one today!).

For non-commercial stations, you'll find mostly community-oriented stations, in addition to the five stations owned and operated by Pacifica Radio. Many of these non-coms air syndicated shows such as Democracy Now or Free Speech Radio News. Quite a few carry their own local progressive programming. And most air music-oriented shows, which I won't hold against them, since some of the music programming is quite good and a welcome break from all this liberal talk stuff. Also included are low-power FM (LPFM) stations airing this type of programming. Those are denoted with a (LP) after their call letters. And there's one pirate station on the list, Free Radio Santa Cruz. Normally, a pirate station would not be listed here, due to the temporary (and downright illegal) nature of many of them. But FRSC has been around forever, they cater heavily to the community, have a strong web presence and even produce a few good shows. And the people of the Santa Cruz area have gotten quite nasty whenever the FCC attempts to shut them down (similar to the situation in Nevada that saw Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid get involved). Now, LTR doesn't condone illegal broadcasting, but FRSC exists, and is noteworthy enough for inclusion. Also keep in mind that quite a few of these stations operate translators and/or simulcasts on other frequencies in neighboring areas. Only the main signal is listed here. If you see a particular station on the list just outside your area of listening, click on it and see if they have a stick near you.

What about NPR/PRI stations? In order to maintain sanity, those have been left off. There are simply way too many of them, and I'm just not enough of a masochist to even try and list them. Besides, the big public radio networks do a pretty good job of keeping track of affiliates, so you can always check out their site.

Aside from the station listings, I've expanded the listing of online broadcasters. In doing this, I moved away from the cute little chicklet graphics, and decided to list them instead (as traffic has increased drastically, I decided to whittle down some of the graphics a bit, in order to speed up load times). And there's quite a few new ones added to the list, including radioActive SanDiego, which carries a variety of music and talk programs, A-Infos and Progressive Podcast Network, which are more a collection of podcasts than anything else (and good ones at that!). Also added are TalkRadioX (sent to me by the webmaster) and something called "The Journey," which positions itself as Christian radio without all the right-wing nonsense and guilt-mongering. They air Pacifica programming too. Seeing as this fills a pretty unique niche (and they're progressive), it has been added here.

If you have any suggestions, or stations/broadcasters I've missed, don't hesitate to drop a line to LTR. It's still a work in progress, so if you don't see your favorite station listed, you likely will in the future.

The rise, fall and comeback of left-leaning radio

Just stumbled across a very good article in the new L.A. City Beat, which talks about how Air America Radio is still alive (despite what the moronic wingnut bloggers are saying), how the liberal talk format is growing, and even some background on Cary Harrison, aka the one-named host known as 'Harrison,' the excellent local evening host on L.A.'s KTLK. The article is pretty blunt and fair, without kissing ass. And it discusses the many troubles and hurdles of Air America's three year history. This is recommended reading for anyone interested in the format (and if you aren't, then why are you reading this blog?). Nonetheless, here are a few highlights:

  • Harrison, host of the nightly Harrison on the Edge, is a self-described 'openly gay son of a neo-nazi' who sprinkles his show with news, activism, gossip, offbeat news stories, activism, education and interviews. A typical show featured a pre-recorded interview with Howard Zinn, the delivering of a rap song mocking a CNN reporter who asks gangbangers how they 'roll,' the regular 'Activism A-Go-Go' segment, and Oakland-based journalist Sarah Olson, who successfully resisted a subpoena to testify in the court martial of Iraq war critic and active soldier Lt. Ehren Watada. “You gotta have fun in life. Many of us liberals are so beaten-down, and so depressed, and so emasculated," says Harrison.

  • The story also runs through Air America Radio's brief history, from the beginning when they discovered that two of the biggest so-called 'investors, Mark Walsh and Evan Cohen, are concealing the fact that they, in fact, have no money. City Beat also interviewed former CEO Danny Goldberg, who felt the whole operation was severely underfunded, making his job nearly impossible. Goldberg also pointed out that too much was made of Air America buying its way into larger markets. He says that, out of 80-plus affiliates, the network only paid its way into New York and L.A. during his tenure. The majority of stations carrying Air America did it on their own terms, particularly after the early success of Franken and Rhodes in the ratings. Many station owners were looking for distinct formats for some of their struggling stations. "The vast majority did it because they were persuaded to it [by ratings], and not because of any money changing hands."

  • Well-known media consultant Sean Ross thinks the format can work, if properly supported and marketed. "It’s good enough that a good sales manager should be able to make it sell,” says Ross. The ratings in many major markets are very competitive, he confirms. Air America hosts Franken and Randi Rhodes do very well in a lot of towns. But it still takes skill to sell the ad space. “Whether it’s urban radio, whether it’s Spanish-language radio, whether it’s liberal talk – having the numbers and having somebody who can sell them effectively is not always the same thing." Adds fellow consultant Larry Rosin, "People sometimes confused the business problems that Air America is having, or has had, and fail to distinguish that from relatively good ratings in many cities."

  • Air America certainly had its critics on the left. Marc Cooper, who was involved in the production of "Radio Nation" prior to it moving to the network, has repeatedly referred to the network as a money hole, and repeatedly assailed it via his blog. He claims that that same money could have been used to support deserving political candidates, magazine start-ups or even a serious daily newspaper.

  • Goldberg points out that there are a lot of ideological media ventures in this country that lose money. He points out The New York Post, FOX 'News' and other News Corp. operations that have lost millions of dollars.

  • “We had (former Dead Kennedys singer and spoken word artist) Jello Biafra on, and he said, ‘Good god, man, you’ve hijacked the AM band!’” says Harrison.
All in all, a pretty good article, especially since many in the print media tend to be rather inaccurate when it comes to the radio industry in general. Check it out.

Ratings Roundup Fall 2006: Part 4

For the fourth part of LTR's Arbitron ratings analysis of the liberal talk format across the USA, we take a trip down to red state country (though they are turning a rather bright shade of purple at this point). Yes, we're going down south!

And what better place to start than the southernmost commercial liberal talk station in the country? WINZ in Miami (market #12) has been relatively successful since they signed on to the format two and a half years ago. For this past fall, they have held on to their listener base and maintained a 1.5 share, similar to what they've gotten in the past year's ratings books. This puts them just a fifth of a share behind all-sports WQAM, a station that features their own liberal talker, Neil Rogers. Due to the racial and ethnic makeup of the market, The top talk station in the market is Spanish-language WAQI. Second place belongs to WIOD, the Limbaugh/Hannity station (every market has one), which finished with a 2.5 share. There is another sports station in the market, WAXY, at a 1.0, and finishing dead last is Fort Lauderdale's WFTL, which carries the likes of O'Reilly, Savage and Ingraham. They eke out a 0.3 share. WINZ has gotten more aggressive in their scheduling in the past few months, as they've dropped Al Franken, moved Ed Schultz to a live slot and began airing South Florida's own Randi Rhodes in a live afternoon slot. Mike Malloy was recently added for nights.

Up the coast in West Palm Beach (#46), Rhodes' original flagship station, WJNO, aka "The Palm Beaches' Home for Rush Limbaugh & Randi Rhodes," holds on to its top five ranking, jumping half a point to a 3.8 share. Granted, this is not an all-liberal talk station, as they do carry Glen Beck and Limbaugh in middays, but they do air Rhodes and a delay of Schultz' show in late afternoons and early evenings respectively. Rhodes has historically outdrawn Limbaugh in regard to number of listeners. The other talk stations are farther down the list, including WZZR, an FM 'hot talk' station. WINZ, WIOD and WFTL are all tied at a 1.9 share. In the fall book, WINZ more than doubled their ratings since last summer for this market.

Up the coast in Daytona Beach (#89), independently-owned WPUL is a station that carries all the Jones Radio syndicated talkers (Bill Press, Stephanie Miller and Schultz), Al Franken, and evening sports show ("2 Live Stews"), Lionel and conservotalker Rollye James in overnights. They are basically a hybrid station that airs a combination of liberal talk and African-American talk. They carry no Air America Radio product. WPUL is fighting an uphill battle, as they are hampered by little promotion and a very weak 1000 watt daytime signal (32 watts at night). They are dead last in the book (as far as rated stations go) with a 0.4 share.

In Asheville, NC (#161), WPEK ("880 The Revolution") is the little station that could. They put out some pretty strong daytime power, as 5,000 watts goes a long way at 880AM. However, they are a daytimer, meaning that they must sign off the air from sunset to sunrise. Nonetheless, they're doing quite well, as they maintain a 2.6 share, good for 9th place. Ratings have improved over the past year. Local Clear Channel management have been pretty aggresive in building this station, as they carry local programming, offer podcasts and seem to do some promotion of the station around town. See what happens when management actually does something with a station besides ignore it?

Across the state, WCHL in Chapel Hill perhaps fits in best with the Raleigh/Durham market (#43). The station, which carries Miller, Schultz and (for now) Franken, in addition to lots of local shows, sports programming and Air America's weekend and overnight slate of programming, superserves the Chapel Hill area, due to its limited signal that realistically only covers the western half of the market. The station's owners, Vilcom Interactive Media, have wisely chosen to target the affluent Chapel Hill area as a local station rather than trying to fight it out with the Raleigh stations. In short, they are a no-show in the marketwide ratings book, and it doesn't really matter. WCHL is one of those stations that doesn't really cater to ratings.

In Memphis (#49), Entercom-owned WWTQ has recently taken on the call letters from its New Orleans sister station, WSMB. Unfortunately, they did not take this opportunity to update (or even clean up) their outrageously ugly and outdated website. I mean, just look at that hideous logo! And I'm sure their on-air presentation isn't too impressive either. It's a shame, since this station really puts out some serious power, with a 10,000 watt daytime signal that reaches parts of six states (not that tough in Memphis, however) and as far as Little Rock and Tupelo. Unfortunately, it's a neglected station. While they did at one time put up a few billboards and even make a few bumper stickers, the station has obviously been neglected as of late. WSMB comes in with a 0.5 share, tied with something called "Family Values Radio" (if you consider Neal Boortz, Bill Bennett and a bunch of advice shows to be 'family values'). Ironically, they are both tied for #2 in the market as far as talk radio is concerned. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. As for other stations in the market, the most successful ones are targeted toward African-Americans, which make up almost half the market population. Hopefully, Entercom gets their act together and gives this station the attention it deserves. Then again, the same company did do a half-assed job with the original WSMB, and is horribly neglecting WWKB in Buffalo. On the other hand, they're not doing too bad with KCTC in Sacramento or WROC in Rochester.

In the West Virginia/Kentucky border market of Huntington/Ashland (#156), WCMI, which assumed the liberal talk format of sister station WRVC a few months ago and expanded on it, enjoyed an actual presence in the fall ratings book, going from virtually no listeners under its previous sports format to a 0.9, edging out WRVC, which holds at a 0.6. This station flip seems to have worked, as it seperates the sports programming of the two low-powered AM stations and gives a 24/7 clearance to liberal talk in the market. So far, it seems to be paying off.

In the next and last installment of this series of reports, we'll take a look at the upper East Coast and the Northeastern United States, from Pennsylvania to Main. Look for that tomorrow.

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