Friday, November 30, 2007

All you need to know about WVKO

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

Rumormongering is fun

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.

KOPT/Eugene sold, to flip to public radio

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

Sinking logic

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

Announcing... the 2007 LTR Turkey of the Year


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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Air America: The future's online

Air America Radio president Mark Green finally spoke up about the departure of VP of programming David Bernstein, telling Radio & Records that the move is related to a new focus on building on the network’s internet presence. Green says Bernstein is returning to his extensive radio consulting business.

Green has nothing but praise for Bernstein, who left the network last week. “David’s a renowned and first-rate radio professional. He did great work with us to get us back on our feet.”

Bernstein's successor will be a “content director,” someone with the dual skills of distributing Air America programming both on-air and online. “We are at our core, a radio network, but we have to distribute our content and costs on radio as well as the growing numbers of audience and advertisers online,” said Green.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Christine Craft rumored to be buying Santa Cruz station

Now here's an interesting rumor worth keeping an eye on.

KSCO (1080AM) in Santa Cruz, which has been on the selling block for a few months, could possibly wind up in the hands of talk radio personality Christine Craft. Yes, that Christine Craft.

Station owner Michael Zwerling, who has owned the station with his mother since 1991, discussed the idea with listeners last Saturday on his two-hour talk show, with Craft as a studio guest. Many of the show's callers liked the idea.

But will it happen? As documented here many times before, the oft-colorful and never dull Zwerlings live for spectacle, and their antics in the past have been widely reported in the media. One would think this is just another publicity stunt. And Craft herself was quoted by a San Jose columnist as saying she doesn’t have the money to buy a radio station, particularly one like the widely-known KSCO.

Craft is a former resident of the area, and currently has her options open since leaving KSAC in Sacramento a few months ago when her contract wasn't renewed and she was told to seek sponsors for her afternoon show in order to keep it.

She is probably best known for suing Metromedia-owned TV station KMBC in Kansas City, after being fired from her from her news anchor job in 1983 because she was "too old, too unattractive and wouldn’t defer to men." Since then, she wrote a book about the experience and went on to do radio, including KGO in San Francisco and KSAC.

KSCO has long had a reputation as a bizarre right-wing radio outlet, suiting the views of the Zwerlings, through off-the-wall commentaries, grandstanding antics, off-the-wall drama and some rather disturbing occurrences. They were picketed by striking station employees for not paying them. They dropped liberal talker Peter Werbe for saying bad things about George W. Bush. They had an anthrax scare. And one former employee died under strange circumstances, though that is likely not related whatsoever to KSCO. They did commit one unfathomable crime against humanity by foisting the Radio Tranquilizer on the masses. Yeah, this is the station where Baloney got his start. For the most part, the station's on-air lineup consists of Rush Limbaugh, a few brokered local talk shows and lots and lots of infomercials. Still, I have to admit I kinda like the Zwerlings. In a world of homogenized Clear Channels, the industry needs a few eccentric characters.

In addition, the Zwerlings also own sister station KOMY, which was an Air America Radio affiliate until they flipped to oldies earlier this year after a ridiculously long drawn-out drama.

So, what would a Craft-owned radio station sound like? Craft said her opinions are more varied than strictly liberal, and said she’d keep the station’s content focused on locally based talk. Don't look for a dedicated liberal talk format here, particularly with rival KRXA already handling that department. The programming would likely run the gamut politically.

Zwerling seems to be more interested in selling to the right person than in getting top dollar. “This radio station,” he told his listeners, “will go for a lot less than houses go for in Santa Cruz.”

Both she and Zwerling repeatedly said the acquisition was “a possibility, not a done deal,” though a proposed contract reportedly does exist.

There has been no further comment from either party.

All the news that doesn't fit

In the past three-plus years since the birth of this very blog, it has grown. A lot.

While the scope, reach and influence of this here puppy has vastly expanded, so have parts that I would rather not have grown so much. You may remember a lot more stuff here, including a wide array of web links, directories and whatnot. You may also notice that some of that stuff is now gone.

For a while now, I've been expanding this thing to the limits of what a blog could reasonably do. From the schedule and streams listing on the left side of the page to listings of personalities, networks, stations, etc to reciprocal links and even syndicated feeds from other sites of note. Needless to say, this thing was becoming a bloated pig. And with that, the coding became chaotic, search engine spiders were having a tough time crawling the blog and it was becoming a chore for older systems to load. With the syndicated feeds, it was like loading five different sites at once! That's insane! Think of it as a parallel parking a Hummer near a college campus. Pretty crazy stuff. The last straw was a few days ago, when Blogger automatically reformatted this blog so that everything was shoved to the left side. Something had to be done.

Some have said that the amount of crap stuff on this blog would be enough to fill an encyclopedia. Well, now it is. Introducing LTRapedia! Yes, your favorite blog now has a companion Wiki! In it will be many of the features you have grown to love here, and some features from the past that sadly had to be discarded.

What will be on the new LTRapedia? Here's a few:

  • A comprehensive listing of all stations that air liberal/progressive talk programming, and other stations of note.

  • A key of what kinds of programming are aired on each station (a feature I sadly had to drop from here).

  • A comprehensive listing of show hosts and programs. This is a feature I had to discard here, since Blogger recoded it all and made a horrific mess of my blog.

  • A list of progressive-oriented podcasts.

  • Features devoted to noncommercial radio.

  • An intermingling of old blog entries from here mixed with the new wiki articles.

  • Individual articles on each station, personality, network, organization, and whatever else.

    So you see, this is one ambitious puppy. Will it replace the blog? No, it won't. Everything else, including the latest news and features and some of the more popular items will remain as before. I've basically made most of the changes here that I plan on doing, and the result is a more streamlined and less bloated appearance. The schedule and stream list to the left will remain unchanged, since it is a very popular feature. Same with the station list. The reciprocal links will stay as well, as they help in being linked by other sites and blogs. And yes, the ads will stay. After all, the holiday season is coming.

    As per the old saying about Rome not being built in a day, neither is this wiki. There's still a lot of unpacking to do, and as a result, I have temporarily protected a few pages that I'm currently working on. But feel free to poke around and even submit your ideas. Because once it's officially launched, you will have the ability to edit articles too. All I ask is just don't go nuts and vandalize the thing. That stuff can easily be reverted.

    Check it out at ltradio.wikia.com.
  • Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Bernstein gets the boot

    Updated 11/16/07

    Jay Marvin, morning personality at KKZN (760AM) in Denver, dropped a bombshell yesterday morning on his blog when he claimed that Air America Radio VP/Programming David Bernstein's position has been eliminated.

    Furthermore, Marvin claims that the privately-owned network is having financial issues as well.

    Of course, given that as a private company Air America doesn't have to tell anyone anything, and usually doesn't, they are officially mum about current goings-on. Not surprisingly, no reason has been given as to Bernstein's departure.

    Recently, Bernstein, who was hired in March, created a stir when he was quoted as saying that the network has "been far too extremist… It's not our job to get a Democrat elected to Congress. We need to be funny, we need to be enjoyable, and I don't think that existed at this company three years ago."

    To be honest, I thought he was right. I also felt Air America was suffering an identity crisis. He was gutsy, and quite frankly, Air America had been bogged down by too many yes-men. But Air America's listeners do not like to hear stuff like that. The comments, coupled with the controversial hiring of Lionel for the network's midday slot, did not go further in endearing himself to fans. Whether this was what ultimately did him in is unknown.

    Following his hiring, Bernstein was not shy in voicing where he saw Air America going. "I want people, after they've heard Air America, to say they learned something - that whether they agreed or not, we gave them honest information they didn't have before." Furthermore, he adds, "We want to talk to everyone and help everyone make the right choice."

    Was Bernstein forced out due to ideological clashes with Mark Green? Was it a financial issue? Thinning of the front office? Rumors of Green's unhappiness with the lack of success of some of the network's newer shows have been rampant, with him even taking charge of the entire relaunch in May. Apparently, the current management of Air America are as tight-lipped as the old one.

    UPDATE: Tom Taylor, a columnist for Radio-Info, spoke with Air America chief operating officer Scott Elberg, who claimed the VP/Programming position “isn’t going away.” However, “It may be a little different,” as the network moves to take advantage of its online growth potential. One avenue toward growth would be to target people via their web presence and internet audio streaming, to reach people who aren't within earshot of an over-the-air affiliate. Bernstein's successor will likely have a different title and will likely have experience in web-based content.

    Elberg also said “I’ve known David for 20 years” and he convinced him to put aside his consulting business to join Air America when it changed ownership. Now, “David can go back to that, and he certainly did a lot of good, good things for us” in his seven month stint at Air America.

    As for the rumors about the network's solvency, Elberg paraphrased the Mark Twain line about “the rumors of our demise” and says they’re still very much alive. Air America’s become the company that some people love to hate, and they’ve been predicting its crash-and-burn since before it launched with Al Franken pledging an antidote to right-wing talk radio. Elberg also brushed off industry rumors that the network will fold soon and send some of the more successful shows to WOR Radio Network for syndication. "No truth to that at all," he said.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    When artificial intelligence starts acting dumb

    Some of you faithful readers may have noticed that this whole thing went haywire this morning. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea why.

    In the past, I had problems with readability in Internet Explorer, and as a faithful Firefox user, neglected at times to check with Bill Gates' nightmare browser. Well, this problem affected Firefox users as well.

    Ironically, I haven't heavily altered any code recently, so there is really no explanation why this all happened. I did, however, narrow down the problem, and will try and correct it.

    In the meantime, I'm taking this opportunity to trim some fat on this blog. The syndicated news boxes are being removed for now, and I'm also going to trim a few links as well. This thing has turned into a fat pig.

    So, things should be back to normal now (fingers crossed). Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Can a radio "Daily Show" work?

    For a while now, I had a great idea for a radio show. Or at least I thought it was a great idea.

    Q101's Morning FixHere's my pitch: How about a successful radio take on The Daily Show? And by successful, I mean one that, while not equaling the high quality of Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert, can at least get down some of the humor and the timing, pace, banter, etc. And most importantly, do what many credit Comedy Central's shows for doing - creating a lighthearted way of doing the news, one that would be successful in attracting highly desirable younger listeners who tend to shun typical news outlets.

    Granted, I am not proposing dumbing down the news. But suffice it to say, younger listeners are mostly tuning out. Through the 1970s, many Top 40 stations around the country had rather large news operations, even more so than many current talk radio stations, which either pipe in hourly network feeds or consolidate their news operations in centralized markets, ala Clear Channel. With the disappearance of news from music stations, save for Hollywood gossip and reality show updates, many have just tuned out what's really going on in the world. Ask many young people, and they probably don't have a clue about what's going on in Iraq. They probably think waterboarding is an extreme sport. The only presidential candidate they could probably name is Hillary Clinton. I'll bet some couldn't even name the current Vice President (It's still Dick Cheney, unfortunately).

    Now, I'm not trying to be condescending. I'm just stating that news operations are mostly doing a crappy job of appealing to younger people. Things have gotten better with the advent of the internet, where blogs have risen in prominence. But how can old media, specifically radio, capitalize on this?

    I'm also not suggesting that the media 'dumb-down' the news. They're already trying to do that, with all-day stalking marathons of Paris Hilton's jail stint this past summer and more information than we really care to know about Britney Spears' legal woes. But a light-hearted presentation of serious news is at least one way of informing the public. And this could likely attract consumes to more straightforward outlets. It's been working for Bill Maher, who does biting comedic riffing on the headlines on his HBO show. And the weekly satirical street sheet The Onion has seen their distribution and readership skyrocket in the past decade.

    Comedy Central has done a spectacular job with The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, in many cases doing the task better than the so-called news networks, which have grown to rely more on sensationalism and boring pundits screaming at each other. The two shows get ratings that rival FOX News, and slaughter them in much more desirable younger demographics. In addition, other shows such as Countdown with Keith Olbermann have done well incorporating Daily Show-style elements. And wouldn't you know it? People are being informed by watching comedy. A few surveys claim viewers of The Daily Show are more informed on national and world events than viewers of many traditional news outlets. Now you know what I'm getting at here.

    Granted, pulling off something like this on the radio is not a task for the faint-hearted or impatient. Late night comedy shows on TV have the advantage of being brief and employing the best writers, along with some of the funniest personalities, in the business. What works in short-format television can't possibly be easy to pull off in the longer audio-only format of radio.

    Take The Morning Fix. Now, this was an ambitious undertaking. The show was the brainchild of Emmis Communications' WKQX (Q101.1) in Chicago. A year and a half ago, Q101 parted ways with longtime morning presence Mancow Muller. Over time, Mancow shifted from Howard Stern-style shock jockery to right-wing FOX Noise-style punditry and AM talk radio influences. Eventually, the show became a poor fit with Q101's younger-skewing alternative rock format. In addition, station management felt that Mancow was paying more attention to building his syndicated network than serving his home base of Chicago. Q101 decided to "take control of the morning show" and gave up its position as Mancow's flagship station. A few months later, in September 2006, the station rolled out a replacement. Dubbed The Morning Fix, the concept of the show was sort of a radio knockoff of The Daily Show. To this end, the new program instituted a tight schedule, built on the "clock" of local all-news radio station WBBM. The show was heavy with satirical news, comedy bits, features, interviews, commentaries, gossip segments and occasionally music, all in a very tight television-style format. It was also a very crowded studio, with eight people contributing on-air to the proceedings.

    Okay, it's not earth-shattering. But cut 'em some slack. I got a chuckle out of it. And the process of pulling off a Daily Show knockoff is not easy. Just ask FOX Noise. While the inspiration for The Morning Fix was obvious, and they made clear what they had in mind, making it work was something else entirely. It was likely that the endeavor could run the danger of more closely resembling Craig Kilborn than Jon Stewart.

    The Morning Fix wasn't a bad show. Much better and more original than Mancow, anyway. After some early fumbling, the show started to to get on the right track. Sure, many of the jokes were groaners. Then again, even polished professionals like Stewart and David Letterman misfire quite often. Over time, it was evident that the personalities on the radio show were getting the timing down, a key component of comedy. Eventually, it actually became somewhat funny, much funnier that anyone really expected. Unfortunately, it was probably a bit too different a concept for typical radio listeners to wrap their heads around. This was a far cry from Morning Zoos, American Idol updates and "Battle of the Sexes" bits, and many radio listeners are used to predictable routines.

    Given a lot of time and patience, and a bit of money, the whole idea could have worked. And with the current Writers Guild strike killing almost all topical humor on television, it could have filled a serious niche. But The Fix was not meant to be, particularly in the impatient 'results now' world of radio. Yesterday, WKQX killed the show, firing five of the show's staffers and adding a lot more music in the morning, while keeping only main host Alan Cox and the primary news/sports/traffic elements.

    "The research we have recently completed clearly tells us that our music focus is in sync with audience demand, and that our listeners really want to listen to our alternative music in all day parts," wrote Tisa LaSorte, brand manager for Emmis' Chicago stations in a staff email yesterday.

    All in all, could a concept like The Morning Fix work in the bland world of radio, where generic prep sheet bits, banal banter, reality show updates, lesbian strippers, contests and silly stunts rule the day? I still think it could, even with radio's impatient nature and lack of initiative to allow things to blossom. Irreverant, younger-skewing news programs are tough to pull off, and they do require commitment, which exists in short supply in radio.

    And there have been other attempts and promises at Comedy Central-style news parody on the radio, and new concepts are pitched from time to time. Air America Radio had this in mind when they were gearing up to go on the air in 2004, going so far as to hire comedians such as Al Franken and even Lizz Winstead, one of the creators of The Daily Show. Over time, the on-air presentation of Air America became much more serious in tone, and the closest they got to it, Morning Sedition, was eventually gone. BBC Radio 4's The Now Show has also attempted this approach, but is on and off the air sporadically. The Stephanie Miller Show gets much closer to the concept than others.

    More often than not, topical radio comedy shows tend to revert back to ordinary radio-style banter, such as Next!, a "Free FM"-style take on the idea. They promised to be similar to The Daily Show and Keith Olbermann but the show I listened to consisted mostly of gossip about syndicated shock jocks Opie and Anthony.

    Most other variations of younger-skewing news programming rely less on humor, and are indeed more straightforward in the approach, which is perhaps a bit easier to pull off. The Bryant Park Project is a new offering from National Public Radio, aiming toward a slightly younger audience that likely finds the network's flagship offering, Morning Edition to be stuffy and boring. BPP is a mix of serious news, water cooler topics, movie and CD reviews, lifestyle interviews and relaxed banter between hosts Luke Burbank, Alison Stewart and Rachel Martin - stuff uncharacteristic of the network's typical talk fare. While not intended as a laugh-fest, it's a noble attempt at creating the next generation of news consumers, via the addition of breezy and tasteful morning radio elements. And it works. Affiliates of NPR have done well with weekly comedic takes on the news, including the witty quiz show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! and Harry Shearer's Le Show.

    But does radio in general have the patience to really make a Daily Show-style radio concept work? Unfortunately, no. Perhaps when they've grown tired of prickly primadonna talk show hosts with big salaries and big egos, or when they quit going through the motions of doing the same old morning show thing over and over again and decide to try something really unique, a show like The Morning Fix would have time to gather steam. As it stands, perhaps it was before its time.

    WCPT doubles the power

    As rumored earlier this week, WCPT in Chicago will be giving its listeners an early Christmas gift as they move from the current 850AM down to the more powerful 820AM frequency. The move will take place November 26.

    General manager Harvey Wells, in an email sent out to listeners today, claimed that "while that might be three small steps on the radio dial, it’s going to be one giant leap for Progressives all over Northern Illinois, Southern Wisconsin and Northwest Indiana."

    The new 820AM dial position literally doubles their broadcasting power, increasing from the 2500 watts of 850AM to 5000 watts at 820AM, which currently carries the WAIT call letters. Instead of the current transmitter location of suburban Crystal Lake, IL, WCPT will broadcast directly from the city of Chicago. Upon the move, WCPT will cover a lot more ground, including the entire Chicago market all the way north to Milwaukee, WI and south to Springfield. Station management hopes that the new signal will enable the relatively successful progressive talk format to be more on par with other Chicago talk stations. Even with signal limitations, WCPT has beaten several talk rivals on much stronger signals.

    What will not change is the station's daytime-only status. Both 820AM and 850AM are licensed as daytime-only, and 820AM has to sign off a little after sunset to protect WBAP in Dallas, per FCC rules. The station at one time did broadcast at night, but its signal was drowned out terribly by WBAP. The 820AM signal, however, does have the benefit of being allowed to stay on the air slightly longer than 850AM.

    Even given its daytimer status, 820AM has had its share of success in the past, most recently in the 1990s as the original location of the successful sports talker WSCR (since moved to 670AM).

    The move takes place as Newsweb, the owner of the two signals, two other brokered AM stations and adult hits Nine-FM, informed WAIT's current inhabitant, Relevant Radio, that they would not renew the lease on the signal. Relavant Radio recently picked up another local signal in the market.

    The WCPT call letters will also make the move down the dial, with 850AM becoming WAIT.

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    KLSD will definitely maybe flip soon, we think

    NOTE: See end of article for update. KLSD will officially flip to sports on Monday, November 12.

    In the radio business, there are format flips that are pulled off well, and format flips that are completely botched.

    An example of a successful flip occurred in Chicago earlier this week. CBS Radio's WCKG, a longtime FM talker, had in recent years gone into a serious slump. Since Howard Stern bolted to Sirius a few years back, the station was left with very few options. Afternoon personality Steve Dahl, a market legend, was the sole ratings grabber and cash cow for the station. For mornings, CBS tried to fill the Stern gap with Rover, a guy out of Cleveland. His show bombed quickly, and Rover rolled over and went back to Cleveland. The next plug-in was Opie and Anthony, who were lured back to CBS after a couple years in satellite radio exile. That didn't help, and the duo has just recently lost their Philadelphia and West Palm Beach affiliates, in addition to Chicago, and as of late have been irritating their stations in New York and Boston.

    So WCKG, which had crashed hard in the ratings, had to do something. They finally came up with a plan to send Dahl to do mornings on sister station Jack FM, fired everyone else, and start anew with a different format. They teased rock, adult contemporary and even Mexican music formats as possible replacements. All last week, there was even more teasing, after CBS allowed their talk show hosts to say goodbye on the air. They aired reruns of Dahl's show around the clock, and even sent more teasers to the media about a possible flip to Christmas music. That didn't sit well with Clear Channel's WLIT, the traditional Christmas station in town. In response, they cranked up the holiday cheer right away, several weeks ahead of schedule. They took the bait.

    When WCKG relaunched as Fresh 105.9, the new format was adult contemporary, similar to that which WLIT had temporarily abandoned for the holidays. So, in essence, CBS found a place for the high-billing, big-contract Steve Dahl, the only thing worth salvaging from WCKG, effectively toyed with the media, scared a top competitor temporarily out of the format, and launched a format that is already doing well in New York. All in all, a very effective format flip.

    Contrast that with what Clear Channel is doing in San Diego. Rumors have persisted since August that the company was planning to flip progressive talker KLSD to a sports talk format, making it the third one of that sort in the market. Of course, the way that it was handled stirred up quite a firestorm of protest, as the station had until recently done very well in the ratings (given its weak signal) and has always been profitable. The station even encouraged protest rallies in support of the progressive talk format, as there were rumors within the building and regional office of conflicts over the flip. Meanwhile, program director Cliff Albert waffled and played coy about a possible flip, claiming at times that he didn't know or that management was still undecided.

    A month went by and it was still the same ol' song and dance. More support rallies took place. And then management sneakily hired a whole roster of sports talk hosts, even raiding other stations. Yes, they decided to flip anyway. Morning host Stacy Taylor found out while reading the newspaper at home on a Saturday morning. This was four weeks ago. Along the way, many rumored flip dates came and went, though the most recent proposed date, November 1, could possibly have been delayed due to the rash of wildfires that swept through the area and disrupted everything.

    Now, the word is that this is the last week of progressive talk on KLSD. The station may flip sometime next week.

    In essence, this is perhaps the sloppiest format flip in history. First of all, it has taken almost three months to pull off. Second, it involved pissing off displaced listeners, who may realize that they don't really want anything to do with Clear Channel anymore after this. And it's a slap in the face to advertisers who really stood behind the format. All this just to establish yet another sports talk station in a market where they failed at it once before, and will never surpass a competitor running the format on both a high-powered AM signal and an FM one. Gee, smart move guys. Guess they're willing to feed on the scraps.

    To add insult to injury, the station's likely compromise is to move KLSD's format (or more specifically, Air America Radio) to an HD Radio subchannel of KIOZ (105.3FM). Of course, if you don't own a receiver capable of picking up HD Radio signals, which few do, forget it. Besides, people at Air America, who have say as to where their programming gets moved to, have reportedly already said that they will not allow their programming to be shuffled off to the HD ghetto in San Diego.

    So, Clear Channel and KLSD can get bent. What's next for the format in San Diego? Obviously, progressive talk has been very successful in the market. And I say that because it actually made a thousand watt nearly-forgotten AM signal a formidable talk station. Not to mention, they made it profitable. I'm sure the other owners of struggling AM outlets in the area have been watching this situation. Though whether they are willing to take the plunge is another issue.

    Luckily, the San Diego radio market is packed with radio signals, thanks in part to Mexican-licensed stations in border cities such as Tijuana, Ensenada and Rosarito. There are also several AM stations licensed on the U.S. side.

    Obviously, the big conservotalkers such as KOGO (owned by Clear Channel) and KFMB are not possibilities. They are already doing well. Forget KECR (910AM), a religious station piping in programming from Family Radio. KCBQ (1170AM) and KPRZ (1210AM) are both owned by Salem Communications. Fuhgettaboutit.

    But there are possibilities. One unknown entity seems to be KSON (1240AM), which reportedly is or was leased by a group programming an urban gospel music format. They may have renewed the lease recently, after being temporarily deposed from the signal. The station is owned by Lincoln Financial Media, and whatever is currently airing on the signal or will in the future is unknown (can anyone there fill me in?). If there is already a current lease on the station, rule this one out. Rumor has it that Lincoln Financial seeking out a buyer for the whole radio and TV group, if not the 1240 AM signal alone. Signal coverage on 1240AM is similar to that of KLSD.

    Astor Broadcasting Group operates KCEO (1000AM) and KFSD (1450AM). Neither station is a ratings force. KCEO carries a business-oriented news/talk format with lots of brokered programming, so they're obviously making money already. KFSD simulcasts with an adult standards station in suburban Los Angeles. Both have crappy signals. I can't imagine either station picking up progressive talk, as it just doesn't seem to be a proper fit with what they are currently doing. And these small mom-and-pop outlets seem to have some sort of reason for airing oddball formats.

    KURS (1040AM) has an incredibly weak 340 watt signal, and currently airs a satellite-fed oldies format. The station's owner, Quetzal Bilingual Communications, has leased this station out in the past. Oldies seems to be a filler format. But on a pipsqueak signal such as this, anything could be considered a filler format.

    The San Diego area is also home to quite a few stations broadcasting from across the border in Baja California, Mexico, the so-called 'X' stations (the letter that all call signs start with). Mexican law prohibits foreign entities from owning licensed stations in that country, but many Mexican owners near the U.S. border lease out programming rights to United States-based broadcasters. Quite a few of these stations do quite well in San Diego and other border markets with American-oriented programming.

    Would U.S.-oriented political talk work on a Mexican radio station? There's really no reason why not. Keep in mind, Rush Limbaugh was once on XETRA (690 AM), so anything goes. Well, almost. XTRA-FM (91X) once carried Stern, but the Mexican government took issue with the racy content of the show, forcing Jacor Broadcasting to move it to a co-owned San Diego-based signal in the market. And they forced 'border blaster' pioneer John R. Brinkley
    off the air for using 300,000 watt Mexican signals to sell his various quackery methods (implanting goat glands in male patients to increase virility), publicize his unsuccessful run for governor of Kansas, and the final straw - airing pro-Nazi propaganda in 1941.

    Basically, the government of Mexico requires the hourly legal ID to be read in Spanish, and also mandates playing the country's national anthem at midnight daily. But there's something that seems cool about progressive talk on a border blaster. Keep in mind, guys like Wolfman Jack became legends in the 1950s and 1960s blasting rock and roll music from Mexican transmitters, on signals so powerful (back then) that birds would drop dead around the towers.

    So, could progressive talk land on a Mexican stick? Let's take a look:

    XESURF (540 AM) has a pretty nice signal, but a loser classic country format. The station's programming rights are owned by veteran Los Angeles broadcaster Saul Levine and his Mount Wilson Broadcasters group, which also owns country-formatted FM KKGO and classical AM outlet KMZT. The AM station recently dropped classical music and went with a hybrid talk/adult standards format as KGIL, going so far as to drag venerable liberal talker Michael Jackson (no, not the "Thriller" guy) out of mothballs for a 9-11AM shift (with 5-7PM replay). He's joined by Dr. Joy Brown, Larry King and Neal Boortz. Levine's philosophy behind the station was to create a spot on the dial where people of all stripes and ideologies could play in the same sandbox. While a flip of XESURF, which has a strong signal but no ratings to speak of, to progressive talk makes a lot of sense, Levine has gone on record as expressing his disdain for any kind of overly-partisan talk radio formats. And Levine's history of broadcasting in Southern California shows that he's the type of person who is more keen on putting on programming that he likes, ratings be damned. He seems to march to his own drumbeat. Heck, at one time, his AM station in L.A. had an all-Beatles format!

    I mentioned XETRA (609AM) before. At 77,000 watts, this is one of the most powerful AM signals in North America. For many years, this station was leased by U.S. interests and blanketed most of Southern California. This is where Clear Channel first failed with sports (begging the question why they think it will work on piddly 1360). It is currently managed by a global company, Union Radio, which operates radio stations all over the world through subsidiaries. They currently hold a lease deal on 690, which runs a Spanish-language news and talk format called "W Radio," mostly targeting Los Angeles (believe it or not). While ratings in San Diego and Los Angeles are nil, I highly doubt this frequency would be a candidate to replace KLSD. Besides, they recently expanded W Radio to a Bakersfield station.

    XESPN (800 AM) is one of several sports stations in the market. They basically offer a straight feed of ESPN (naturally). Not a likely candidate, especially with those call letters. Basically a nonentity in the ratings, but I'm sure they are doing reasonably well, even with stiff competition. Airing the ESPN feed costs them little money. They also carry USC football.

    XEPRS (1090AM) is the wildly successful sports talker in the market. The two powerful signals carrying "XX Sports Radio" - 1090 AM and 105.7FM - are leased by the Broadcast Company of the Americas, operated by John Lynch. Ratings are excellent, and Lynch and company have busted ass in succeeding where Clear Channel couldn't (he helped run XETRA's former sports format). And Lynch is quite pissed now that Clear Channel, in building KLSD's new format, helped to build it by raiding his stable. Lynch also operates another Mexican signal, XEPE (1700AM), which a few months ago flipped from business news to a mostly conservative talk format featuring Dennis Miller, Michael Reagan, Neal Boortz and others, including a couple local voices. While Lynch is described as being rather conservative in his ideology, as is often the case with businessmen, this could mean that he likes making money. And with a built-in advertiser portfolio and dedicated listener base, this could be a good opportunity for Lynch to stick it to Clear Channel (he seems to be supportive of the plight of KLSD's disenfranchised listeners) and put progressive talk on one of his stations. Obviously, he won't mess with his cash cow sports format (that would be a really dumb idea), but 1700 sounds like a no-brainer. Since it signed on in 2005, XEPE has been far from a force in the ratings. Granted, the current talk format just started, but will it really scare the three other conservative talk stations in town (plus L.A.'s KFI, which shows up in the local ratings books)? In that format, "San Diego's 1700" is basically the low hanging fruit. Left leaning talk on the far right of the dial sounds like a pretty interesting marketing ploy (and I will even forgo royalty rights to it if Lynch takes up this idea).

    The other 'X' stations are either programmed by Mexican interests, or are targeted toward Mexican audiences. Not likely candidates for Air America and the rest, but if someone came up with the money, I'm sure they could score a lease deal with one of these outlets. Station leasing seems to be the name of the game in San Diego.

    So, as it looks like progressive talk in San Diego will be a goner next week, will there be a successor waiting in the wings? We'll just have to wait and find out. Hopefully, someone will see an opportunity to do something to bolster their obscure and struggling radio outlets.

    UPDATE: Clear Channel has made it official (finally!). KLSD will become "XTRA Sports 1360" on Monday at 3P PT, with market mainstay Lee "Hacksaw" Hamilton at the mic for the switch, according to AllAccess.

    Chris Carmichael of sdradio.net is claiming that Clear Channel wants to put Air America on the HD3 side channel of KHTS (93.3FM). Again, not sure if Air America will sign off on that.

    For the morbidly curious, the new XTRA 1360 website can be found here.

    No deal between MSNBC and Rosie (Whew! That was close!)

    The other day, I wrote about MSNBC and their talks with Rosie O'Donnell, about the possibility of adding her show to air after Keith Olbermann. Well, those flirtations didn't last long. It appears MSNBC backed out of the deal.

    Some rumors claim that money was the dealbreaker, or that O'Donnell would not commit for more than one year. MSNBC wanted a long-term commitment. Still, one might speculate that possible media blowback from the negotiation rumors could have played a part.

    On a blog post on her site, she claims that her "career as a pundit is over b4 it began." It was almost a done deal, but she attributes the collapse of the deal to comments she made publicly about it at a Miami book fair over the weekend. Obviously, spilling the beans didn't sit too cool with MSNBC brass. It appears they nixed the deal once and for all.

    Why would they entertain signing her for her own news show? Well, she gets ratings. Believe it or not, The View did very well during her short stint, and fell off after she left. Plus, with the Writers Guild strike crippling the late night talk show landscape, NBC/Universal evidently needed a strike-proof Plan B. That's really the only possible explanation.

    The killing of the deal is likely sad news for a possible rival, Bill O'Reilly of FOX Noise. His reaction to the possible signing? "Oh, it's on!" The constipated one started his show the other night exclaiming, "Huntley, Brinkley, Chancellor, Brokaw...and now, Rosie" under the headline "Far Left Merger." In other O'Reillyisms, he decried how NBC had "embraced the radical left agenda in pursuit of ratings" and adding his own suggested contributors ("It is not true that Sean Penn will be co-anchoring the NBC Nightly News...It is also not true that Hugo Chavez will become their chief foreign correspondent." Ho hum.

    The irony is that O'Reilly was so delusional that he was trying to make as if she would be competing head-to-head with him. Ehh... not so fast, Bill-O. Your competitor is still and will always likely be Keith Olbermann. You know, the one who's name will not pass your lips? Who actually stands a legitimate chance of kicking your ass once and for all by this time next year? Yeah, that guy. But he's much more obsessed with Rosie, so in his weird little world, he's more comfortable bullying women than men.

    But now we can all breathe a sigh of relief that it won't come to be. Or at least I can. And now, I can offer up my own personal opinion on the matter, which I neglected to do the other day.

    Let's face it, O'Donnell would have been a terrible fit for MSNBC. Or any self-described news channel. She's a walking, talking train wreck, who seems to be more about making news herself than covering or talking about it. Her bombastic style is love-it-or-hate-it. She makes too much news herself, since the mainstream media is obsessed with the off-kilter antics of Hollywood celebrities. That's why we hear so much about Paris Hilton's criminal record and Britney Spears' divorce. And I certainly don't think either of them deserve news commentary shows on MSNBC.

    We may have a few things in common politically, but I've never liked Rosie O'Donnell. Going back to her days on VH-1 in the early 90's, I thought she was one of the most obnoxious people I've ever seen on television. For a comedian, I never thought she was funny. Just irritating. I turned the channel whenever she came on. She went on to do movies that I made sure not to watch. Then there was that daytime talk show, but I don't watch daytime TV. And then The View, which I avoided like the plague anyway. If I want to watch people scream at each other, Jerry Springer is a more entertaining choice.

    All in all, despite her outspoken political views, she would make a poor pundit. Sure, MSNBC would get a ton of press out of the deal. She gets that reaction out of the media. And I'm sure that's why the network teased the possibility of an O'Donnell deal, without really committing to it. But news commentators should talk about the news, not be the news. And giving her a show would absolutely kill their credibility.

    There's talk about seeking out another pundit to host a show in that time slot. Some, such as Cenk Uygur of Air America's The Young Turks have their own suggestions. He offers up Air America hosts such as Rachel Maddow, who already does some work for MSNBC and would actually be a good move if MSNBC were to take a left turn, and even NBC's David Shuster, who actually would be a strong choice.

    Currently, Dan Abrams' show seems to be a temporary thing, and while it is good, is not effectively holding on to the audience of red-hot lead-in Olbermann. Joe Scarborough couldn't do it before him either. And the rest of MSNBC's nightly lineup consists of prison documentaries and pedophile snaring.

    But enough of the screaming pundit approach. That's played out, and it's bad enough that a channel called 'Headline News' airs Glenn Beck marathons all weekend. I have a novel solution to their quandry. How about a show featuring real news? You know, like CNN did when Ted Turner ran the joint. Or like we still see on BBC News, Nightline, the News Hour on PBS, occasionally on Anderson Cooper's CNN show, and other places? Likely, Olbermann can attribute his success to covering news stories not shown on other outlets. When has FOX Noise ever done an actual story on waterboarding? We're not talking about two pundits screaming at each other over it, we're talking about covering it as an actual story. MSNBC could tread where most cable outlets don't seem to go anymore, and most certainly not in the 9-10P ET hour with Larry King on CNN and Asshat and Doormat on FAUX. Sure, NBC might not have the global news coverage muscle that CNN and FOX have, but those guys squander it anyway, and MSNBC has more than enough to work with.

    Some might say that doing real news is a ratings killer, that more people tune in to catch the latest exploits of Paris, Britney and Dog the Bounty Hunter. But the news channels need to constantly come up with new ideas. Because people will eventually tire of the TMZ approach to news, and with an important election on the horizon, and the growing woes of rising oil prices, environmental issues, international strife, shoddy health care, and a Congress that spends more time bickering with each other than getting shit done, people are going to want to find out what exactly is going on in the world. The exploits of Britney Spears, and even Rosie O'Donnell, will be the least of our concerns.


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