Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Karel comeback

Several months after getting KO'ed from KGO, the outspoken San Francisco talker known as Karel is looking to make a comeback.

Brad Kava at the San Francisco Examiner has gotten word that the prickly talk show host, otherwise known as Charles Karel Bouley, is roughly a week away from getting back on the air.

If and when he does, it will be a self-syndicated effort, airing 9P-12A Monday through Thursday, originating from KNGY (92.7FM), a dance club music station across the bay in Oakland. The show would also likely air on KRXA (540AM) in Monterey.

Last November, Karel was fired by KGO after unleashing an accidental tirade complete with some rather naughty FCC-unfriendly language. He blamed the incident on an engineer who should have turned his mic off during the break.

I'm told you'll soon be able to hear him on KNGY-FM (92.7) M-Th 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. and on Monterey's KRXA-AM (540) M-Wed 9p.m. to 12 a.m. and Thursday 11p.m. to 12a.m.
His Website, however, says he is eight days away from returning to radio.

According to Kava, Karel told him he is self-syndicating his show, and looking for affiliates. One station he'd like to be on is KKGN (Green 960).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Buzzflash interviews... Me!

In the four and a half years since I started this crazy thing (for reasons I sometimes don't understand), I have always held the desire of keeping a somewhat low profile. I don't crave personal attention. I don't see myself as any kind of expert or guru. And I'm certainly no pundit. Definitely not an attention whore. Actually just preferred to casually lurk in the shadows. That's just my personal style, kinda modest in that way. I'm really just an aggregator of information, who also likes to dispense a little opinion once in a while. No big deal, really.

Over the years, I have gotten many requests for interviews, writing assignments, P.R. puff pieces and whatnot. We're even talking a few notable media outlets. Because of the reasons stated above, I have always turned them down or ignored them (sorry, it was nothing personal). As far as I was concerned, whatever I really needed to say was written on my blog. I'm also not Mr. Know-It-All. Serious writer? Moi? Maybe I just didn't give myself enough credit. Perhaps I just didn't feel this blog, while better than most similar ones out there, was all that fantastic. There are certainly some people who do it better than me. Yeah, I guess I am a little humble. And I was certainly a bit bashful about all the attention and fuss. It was, however, inevitable that I would crawl out of my little hidey-hole and come clean with a third party.

And that's when Mark and the gang over at Buzzflash came calling. He'd been meaning to interview me (of all people!) for quite some time, to get some kind of opinion as to the ever-increasing world of liberal talk, which they have written heavily about. And since I'm one of the few bloggers left writing about just that, hey, why not me?

So, why now? Well, liberal talk has been on a wild ride as of late, as even a casual glance of the contents of this blog can attest. Most of the analysis of the various situations have come from right-wing blogs, which have dispensed much disinformation, spun nonsensically in ways that attempt to support their often flimsy, misinformed arguments. Analysis from the other side often sounded a bit like Baghdad Bob and his clueless affirmations, or gleamed a 'sky is falling' response after reading the right-wing blogs. It was time to cut through all the spin and bullshit.

Enter Buzzflash. Buzzflash has always been kind to me. They're all big fans of the blog, and have sent a ton of traffic this way. They were also one of the first left-leaning sites I had ever discovered, all those years ago, when I wanted to get away from obtaining my news from frivolous sources like Drudge Report. I figured, if I was to do a very rare interview, why not with friends? There was really no good reason I could come up with to say no. And I guess I owed it to them.

So, with this rare, exclusive interview, I hope to clear the air a bit about what I feel is going on with progressive talk radio, what I feel is a rather honest and realistic assessment. What the world needed was some plain speak, and someone to break up some of the misinformation and misunderstanding of it all, without the lies, grave-pissing and idiocy. Some of it's positive, some of it is pretty blunt. But above all, I think it's all a fair assessment. The entire interview can be found at Buzzflash, and below as well, though I did correct some grammatical errors and made it a little easier to understand.

So, here we go...

1) You've been an excellent resource for BuzzFlash on news relating to progressive radio. Anyone reading your site knows that it's been a rough ride. Do you think progressive radio is in better or worse shape than 5 years ago?

Yeah, things have been a bit crazy lately. But you know what? I think progressive talk is in better shape nowadays, even with all the chaos. It is certainly a bit more established than it was five years ago. The problems affecting the format now are similar to those affecting the radio industry in general. The economy has really battered the radio business, particularly in decreased advertising revenue. Whatever Air America, Nova M, mom-and-pop outlets, etc. are going through, the big guns like Clear Channel, CBS and especially Sirius XM, are experiencing even more of, though they have a softer cushion to fall back on.

And the big radio owners are going with cheaper, homogenized programming, in order to cut costs and go for the lowest common denominator. They're trying to play it safe, as opposed to doing something original, creative and more personal that may actually attract listeners. How many music stations are currently building afternoon drive shows out of canned talk breaks from Ryan Seacrest's L.A. morning show, in place of a live-and-local personality? Listeners aren't gonna go for it in the long run. Add to that new technology. As a result, more people find that they can simply load their iPod with whatever they want, listen to streaming radio and even discover new music via MySpace and other sites. Radio is becoming a dinosaur, because listeners are becoming more and more savvy. The industry has no clue how to deal with this.

I've been expecting a bit of a liberal talk shakeup for years now, with lesser shows and content providers falling by the wayside, and the strongest ones getting stronger. As it turns out, the biggest player in the format now is Dial Global, which is actually a very successful radio network that recently swallowed up Jones Radio, another successful player in the marketplace. They've been doing well with Ed Schultz, Bill Press and Stephanie Miller, and now they're bringing in Thom Hartmann. That move is a game changer. Dial Global succeeds because they're a radio company. Sure, they carry conservatives like Neal Boortz, and a bunch of music programming. But selling radio content is what they know. What's on the shows is secondary, and as a result, it's not as distracting to their inevitable goal. They don't care what it is - they just move it. As a result, they've indirectly carved out a nice niche for themselves.

When Jones started with Schultz, they set out to prove that a liberal show could play the same game as any other ones. Schultz prides himself on attracting blue chip advertisers like Office Depot and GM. And that's a good thing. Small businesses with progressive owners don't wield that kind of advertising muscle, though it's great that they're buying time on radio shows. But sadly, too many outlets have been concentrating and relying too much on these kinds of businesses, at the expense of the big advertisers. After all, you're not selling the content, you're selling the people listening to it. And left-leaning listeners buy the same stuff as right-wingers do. They drive the same cars, eat the same food and drink the same beer. For liberal talk to succeed, they have to know how to play the radio game, rather than just build an ideological wall around themselves.

So, you've got Dial Global, which is doing good. Then you've got stations in places like Madison and Portland, which recently had huge ratings books. And you've got a few strong, stable hosts anchoring the format, along with a few erratic ones. So all in all, things aren't all that dire. It just takes time. After all, Rush Limbaugh's show started out on a few crappy AM stations before things really got rolling. It takes time to build.

2) Is the challenge that progressive radio faces insufficient capitalization, the wrong models, or obstruction from a largely Republican corporate radio infrastructure?

There are a lot of people involved that don't really understand the radio business. It's much more complicated than they think. And it involves a lot of game playing and a different sort of inflated ego.

Another problem is the funding is very lopsided. We all saw the ridiculous stuff the early investors and management teams of Air America were spending money on, as opposed to things they should have been investing in. And just last night, I was reading the whole 16-page lawsuit recently filed by John Manzo against Nova M. In it, he claims that there were too many instances of the whole operation being run on the cheap, with management not paying the right bills on time for whatever strange reason.

A really big problem is that too many people running these operations are concerned too much with the message, or content. Sure, that's ultimately what it's all about, but it's much more than that. They often fall into the trap of trying too hard to be a megaphone for their ideas. But that's not the way broadcasting works. For example, how many commercial FM stations are run successfully by hardcore music fans nowadays? Not very many. Look what happened to Indie 103.1 in L.A. last month. A station run by music fans for music fans. And it was a great station. Unfortunately, they're no longer on the air. But here's how the radio business works. First, you have to have a strong business model. Second, you have to make it entertaining, or worth listening to. And if those steps are taken, the content will take care of itself. Keith Olbermann's successful because he knows how to do a show. He didn't even come from any sort of progressive background - he's a sports guy! Jon Stewart isn't an ideologue. He's an entertainer. Yet, they both know how to build compelling shows, how to inject the right amount of personality and humor, and how to get people to tune in. The ideology is just icing on the cake.

As for the corporate infrastructure, yes and no. Keep in mind that the most successful progressive talk stations in the country are run by companies like Clear Channel and CBS. In the markets where they program the format, they stick with it because it delivers listeners and revenue. I get the feeling that the big owners really don't care what the programming is, so long as it yields results. Look at Entercom. A big radio company that donates as heavily to Democrats as Clear Channel does to Republicans. Yet they've done a mostly crappy job with the progressive talk format. The only station left doing it is in Buffalo, and who knows how long that will stay around. Meanwhile, there's Saga Communications. I have no idea what the general ideology of their upper management structure is, or who they donate to, or if they even give a rip about politics. Yet they run the format in quite a few mid-sized and smaller markets, and do well with it. They keep progressive talk around because it works for them. And that's what most radio station owners do. They stick with what works.

I do think we'd see more of a commitment to the format if there were more independent owners, and fewer corporate monopolies. In addition, we could see more of a local approach, which is something that iPods and webcasters can't provide that radio can. But ironically, there is a problem with some of the mom-and-pop owned stations. Many are shoestring operations. They have a tough time competing with the big guys. And all too often, they don't make as much of an effort to sell advertising, or just don't have the infrastructure to do so. Witness what happened in Santa Cruz, where the owner just expected people to walk in off the street to buy ads. He got pissed that they weren't doing so, and pulled the format. There are some stations that have tried to go with a listener-supported model, which almost always fails, because a) their fundraising is not as organized and established as most noncommercial operations, b) commercial radio listeners typically don't like to pay for something they assume they can get for free, and above all, c) it smacks of desperation. That's part of what happened to Nova M.

3) When progressive radio has succeeded, it appears to be based on the brand "personality" of the host. In short, Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow -- and until a couple of weeks ago, Randi Rhodes -- created their own personal followings, just as Limbaugh and Hannity have. And one of the biggest impacts progressive radio had was that some of these people crossed over into television and provided a counterbalance to the right wing blowhards in the last couple of years. Of course, Rachel Maddow is the best example of this. What are your thoughts on the marketing the personality issue?

Maddow was certainly effective in crossing over. Luckily, Keith Olbermann helped pave the way. As for personalities, that is important. That's how Rush Limbaugh became successful. He was a Top 40 jock back in the 70's, and that kind of situation was very personality-oriented. People come back to listen to personalities they like, the ones that they are entertained by, and the ones that keep them from turning off the radio. That's the key in broadcasting - keep 'em coming back and keep 'em tuned in.

4) Back to the capitalization issue. Has Air America just been underfunded and at times poorly managed financially -- or has the model of a progressive network been flawed from the beginning. For example, Air America has had a revolving door of hosts. When a host leaves, his or her particular audience doesn't necessarily transfer to the new host, does it?

With Air America, there were too many rich people who wanted to play radio, but didn't have the experience or the stomach to fight it out in such a crazy environment. In the early years, it was a clash of egos. At least now, Air America has hired some actual radio people, though they've hemorrhaged a lot of talent in the past few years. Now, they're trying to do a more web-based approach, a sort of Huffington Post with audio. It's a good idea, but HuffPo does the web content thing a lot better than Air America, which has a lousy reputation to combat in regard to their web approaches. As for their on-air lineup, they're kinda like a baseball team rebuilding after losing their best players. They have to work on the shows they have now, just like in the early days. Rachel Maddow was once a mere bit player there, and look what happened. And they have to make sure it's about the entertainment value, rather than the message. I've been saying that for years. After all, they can't get the message out if nobody's listening.

5) Although BuzzFlash has been on a lot of progressive radio programs, I've personally felt that progressive radio producers, owners, and hosts have never really grasped the potential for a synergy between the liberal Internet sites and the promotion of their shows. An enormous audience for progressive radio gets their news from the Internet. What are your thoughts on this?

It seems the more progressive hosts are better at synergy with the web than the conservative ones. And a new kind of format has the advantage of tapping into newer forms of technology. I've often joked that conservatives dominate the old, fuzzy, antiquated AM dial, which has been around for 90 years, while we on the left dominate the new and innovative internet. Nice metaphor, huh? Which has more future potential? I'll take the web.

As for the synergy, you're probably right. Radio people in general need to keep doing more and more to meld with technology. Air America, for example, has kind of the right idea, in that they're trying to push their web content. But they need to make it better. Huffington Post, for example, is a very good example of what can be accomplished. It's a very good, informative site with a little of everything to bring in readers, and their web traffic is simply amazing.

I think one area that just hasn't been taken advantage of enough is podcasting. I criticize Clear Channel for many things, but their podcasting is impressive. I can download Thom Hartmann shows from three different stations. One smart thing some stations do is to sell sponsorship for their podcasts. No commercial overkill, just a few messages and perhaps a couple short spots. NPR does this too. Podcasting costs money, and while some operations and shows charge membership fees to pay for bandwidth and the guy who edits and uploads them, a sponsorship approach could cover that. Besides, it gets the advertiser more involved with the station. I think some shows could grow if they went with this approach and offered free downloadable episodes. Someone who just wants to sample Ed Schultz isn't just going to fork over an annual fee to do so. If I can download the entire audio from Bill Maher's HBO show for free from iTunes, why should I have to pay to get whole Stephanie Miller shows? I'm sure it's a question many people have. Better availability will draw listeners.

6) Rush Limbaugh has, at times, claimed he's really just an entertainer. Is progressive radio, with the exception perhaps of Stephanie Miller, just too serious? (No one would accuse Stephanie of being too serious, yet she is distinctively progressive.)

I think Rush used to be more of an 'entertainer' than he is now. Now, he's got too much of a messiah complex, thinking that he has the power to single-handedly influence government policy, and I get the feeling that most of his listeners tune in nowadays just out of habit. The 'entertainer' claim is basically a cop-out.

And yeah, some hosts are a bit too serious. Again, it's easy to fall into the trap of message over entertainment value, and dry, dour rants can get a bit exhausting after awhile. Hardcore liberal talk listeners may chastise someone like Ed Schultz, who goes off-topic with things like football and fishing, but it breaks things up. Hey, you chew your food before you swallow, right? It also makes him more personable. Listeners like people who seem to have lives. Talk radio listening is, often, about companionship. You're driving alone in the car, and sometimes you want a traveling companion. People like Schultz have a human quality. More so than robots barking talking points.

There are many shows that are just way too serious, and not entertaining enough. Often, they fall into the trap of being too angry. As far as more serious shows go, Thom Hartmann is one of those who can pull it off. Sure, the show gets a bit wonky when he debates the Ayn Rand folks about supply-side economics. That's a bit too heavy. Perhaps he needs to loosen up a little. However, Thom does have a strong, positive personality, which comes from many years spent working in radio. He's pleasant to listen to because he's enthusiastic. Rachel Maddow is another example - she has the right kind of personality to pull it all off. Not a vast resume, but a natural talent who has a feel for what her listeners want. Both liberal and conservative radio have way too many dull personalities that are all about pounding ideology down peoples' throats. That may appeal to some people, but not to all. It's like a music station playing nothing but Frank Zappa. Very intense music that may appeal to a small, die-hard crowd, but not the kind of thing one would do if looking to make a viable mass-appeal business venture out of it. That's the way the game is played.

7) Why, in your opinion, haven't the big bucks liberals invested in progressive radio in the way Republican corporate America has?

I really don't know. Perhaps some were turned off by the business models. The backers that filtered in and out of Air America in the early days did have some pretty strong egos. Could this have been a turn-off? I don't know. Perhaps there were too many question marks with some of these ventures. Although I do recall that Ed Schultz did have some help from well-heeled people when he got started in syndication. Bill Press got help from a liberal think tank. Perhaps there was more of a realistic game plan here than the 'if you build it they will come' idea.

In addition, the corporations that invest in conservative radio do so primarily as a business decision. They're radio people, mostly. Not a lot of outside investors, except for stockholders. Some of the smaller groups, like Salem and the religious networks, are an exception. And I've always held the theory that conservative radio grew because of Limbaugh. Radio is a copycat business. They imitate what works. Rush Limbaugh, like him or hate him, got listeners. That's why we see so many Rush clones. Remember, Howard Stern inspired a ton of imitators. If a liberal host all of a sudden exploded on the marketplace and became a massive success, we'd no doubt see lots of imitators. That's how the business works.

8) WCPT here in Chicago has really gotten creative in its marketing and appears to have picked up a lot of actual paid advertising. That is because the owner of the station is a committed liberal and understands marketing and advertising. How important is owning the bricks, mortar and radio license?

WCPT is fortunate in that it is owned by a very experienced broadcaster, Fred Eyechaner. He used to be in television, and built a successful independent UHF station virtually from scratch. He sold it to News Corp. a few years ago, at the perfect time, for a ton of money. With that, he bought a bunch of small suburban Chicago stations, some that he leases out and the AM, and now three FM, stations that carry WCPT. Ironically, we have Rupert Murdoch to thank indirectly for giving Chicago a progressive voice on the radio.

They'll never be a ratings monster. Not in a market like Chicago, with some pretty dominant stations that cover the entire area (which is huge). But they can most certainly carve out a successful niche. And Eyechaner has hired some salespeople who know how to sell the format. Plus, he makes some money leasing out the nighttime hours, when talk listenership goes down, to the Dance Factory folks. Kind of a weird combination, liberal talk and club-mix music. But it works.

As for owning the whole operation, it's definitely a plus. Eyechaner is definitely dedicated to the format - he's a big Democratic fundraiser - and is not at the mercy of some crazy owner that people have to pay rent to. And some of the small owners that own the leased stations can be a bit peculiar. We've seen many examples of shaky leased time scenarios. There's one going on in Boston as we speak, and I don't really hold out much hope for it, sadly.

9) Progressive listeners can make a difference, however. Tell us a little about how the Madison, Wisconsin, liberal radio station was kept from dropping progressive programming.

WXXM (92.1 The Mic) has some big initial success, but then had a really bad ratings book. As far as I can tell, ultimate programming decisions are often made by regional managers. Around that time, they evidently saw the revenues the station was bringing in and felt it was time for a change. As I said before, all too often we see operations where the account executives are intimidated by the format, or are too set in their ways with their own accounts. In short, they don't know how to sell it. And we saw a perfect example when a listener, who had no sales or radio background to speak of, actually went out and lined up a long list of area businesses that were willing to advertise on the station, getting more results than the highly-paid sales department ever accomplished. That had to be embarrassing.

In short, the listeners rallied around the station, and the local Madison management told the regional manager, who had killed the format in three Ohio markets, that the station should stay as-is. It paid off. In the most recent Arbitron ratings book, The Mic actually tied its sister station, the top country station in the market, at #6. For a midwestern market, that's huge. Ironically, that book came out after they tried to swap in Dave Ramsey for Thom Hartmann, and the listeners once again revolted. Whether that ratings success was a fluke, during the election season, or whether they can build on that, remains to be seen. Look at it this way - the station is dirt cheap to run. The syndicated shows they run are offered virtually for free (via a barter deal). There are currently no local personalities to pay. They pay a guy to cut on-air promos and liners, and that's probably it. It's as simple as a computer in a closet.

10) Finally, is having a Democratic president good or bad for progressive radio?

It's definitely a paradigm shift. Now that Bush and Cheney are gone, who's the bogeyman now? Actually, I'm being simplistic here. Right-wingers use that meme. But remember, conservative radio thrived even after they didn't have the Clintons to kick around anymore. Progressive radio can succeed with Obama in the White House. With the stimulus package, the war and whatever else is going on, there's plenty to talk about. Plus, it removes a common crutch that all too many rely on - bashing Bush. Not that he doesn't deserve it, but it becomes a cliche after awhile. And if further in doubt, there are quite a few liberal talk personalities today who were doing talk radio during the Clinton years - I'm thinking Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, Amy Goodman and others - so they know how to do it.

---------------------------

The whole interview can be found here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The calm after the storm

Since all the mayhem of last week has settled down, how 'bout catching up with a few items seemingly left by the wayside?

Seder, Uygur vie for MSNBC gig

As MSNBC is rumored to be looking to fill the post-Rachel Maddow 10P ET slot, two liberal talk radio hosts are lobbying hard for the gig.

From Politico:

Since MSNBC mentioned looking for a 10 p.m. host to follow Rachel Maddow, the LA Times reports that two grass-roots campaigns have been flooding the network — as well as hitting Facebook and YouTube — in order to push liberal talkers Cenk Uygur, of "The Young Turks." and Air America's Sam Seder.

The lobbying efforts have drawn thousands of supporters and led fans to pepper MSNBC with e-mails in support of their favorite personality. Hundreds of people have posted messages of support online, some even creating their own video spots. (Give the time slot to "The Young Turks," warns one, "or I'll switch back to CNN.") Liberal bloggers on sites like MyDD.com have also weighed in.They all hope that MSNBC will choose a host cast from the same left-leaning mold as Olbermann and Rachel Maddow, who have helped power the cable channel's ratings.

President Phil Griffin said that the network isn't going to pick based solely on ideology but wants the hour "to be edgy, to be smart, to be a little snarky."


It's... Frangela!

John Scott at Green 960 in San Francisco is using the 4-7P PT slot currently left vacant by Randi Rhodes to audition some new talent. This week, it's Frances Callier & Angela V. Shelton, a.k.a. Frances and Angela, or "Frangela".

Who?

Here's a little more about them, from the press release:

'He’s Just Not That Into You', in theatres now, marks Frangela’s feature film debut! The girls appear alongside Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck and Scarlett Johansson. Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton are real life best friends who talk to each other all day long. Frances is from Chicago and proud of it. She can be seen weekly on VH1’s Best Week Ever, and has appeared on NBC’s 'My Name is Earl', HBO’s 'Curb Your Enthusiasm', ABC’s 'According To Jim', ABC’s 'Emily’s Reason’s Why Not', Oxygen’s 'Girls Behaving Badly', Frances is also a fan favorite as Hannah Montana’s bodyguard Roxie, on Disney’s 'Hannah Montana'.

Angela is a badass Detroit native. In Chicago she hosted the regional Emmy Award winning PBS series, 'The Cheap Show' – a local version of Bill Maher’s 'Politically Incorrect'. Angela can been seen weekly on: VH1’s Best Week Ever, and has appeared on CBS’s 'Grounded For Life', NBC/Bravo’s 'Significant Other’s', HBO’s 'Mr. Show', Disney Channel’s 'The Suite Life of Zack and Cody', Oxygen’s Girl’s Behaving Badly, WE Television’s 'I Can’t Believe I Wore That', 'Junk Yard Teddies' (pilot). She has also voiced 'Spider Man 2' and 'Ultimate Spider Man', 'Superman', and 'Reservoir Dogs' video games.

Frances and Angela are regular “Pop Cultural Pundits” on NBC’s 'The Today Show' and 'Dateline', Fox’s 'Mike and Juliet Show', CNN’s 'Showbiz Tonight' and 'Headline News', Fox News’s 'Red Eye' and 'The Big Story', MSN’s 'The Big Debate', and are regular contributors on NPR’s 'Day to Day' and 'Off Ramp'. They also host their own radio show, 'The Week According To Frangela - Real News, Real Funny' in Los Angeles on Progressive KTLK AM 1150 and fill-in for nationally syndicated radio talk show host Stephanie Miller.


Got all that?

More Nova M(ess)

In case you're desperate for as many sides of the story about the defunct Nova M Radio network, how about one side of the story, this from former weekend host King Daevid MacKenzie. You can find it here.

Updates, schmupdates

Yeah, I know.

The center column links and listings are woefully out of date. That being said, I'm working on it.

I plan to remove shows and stations that are no longer around, or have changed time slots. That includes all the WWRC links. I'm also going to plan ahead, since I really have no idea if Thom Hartmann will still be available on Air America's stream next week when he moves to Dial Global.

That being said, this should all be updated this week. Be patient, and if you know of any exclusions (aside from the Roots Up Radio shows that will be added), let me know.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Talkers Magazine rolls out the Heavy Hundred

Now, I don't necessarily take as gospel this annual ranking of talk show hosts. I often wonder about the exact accuracy of it all. And I have always suspected that quite a bit of it had been pulled out of thin air.

Nonetheless, Talkers Magazine, which writes about the talk radio industry as a whole, has come out with its annual ranking of the Top 100 talk radio hosts in America for 2009, a.k.a the Heavy Hundred (plus 150 other names).

In their own words, the rankings are compiled by the editorial staff, and include several criteria, which they admit is 'a combination of hard and soft factors.' They include (in alphabetical order), courage, effort, impact, longevity, potential, ratings, recognition, revenue, service, talent and uniqueness. In short, almost how I come up with my own personal annual list. So it's not all scientific, and subject to much dispute and scrutiny.

Nonetheless, it is what it is, and a lot of people put a lot of faith in it.

Some notable names which many of you may be interested in...

10. Thom Hartmann
16. Alan Colmes
18. Ed Schultz
23. Lionel
30. Stephanie Miller
46. Rachel Maddow
48. Randi Rhodes
100. Leslie Marshall

And... bubbling under (in alphabetical order)...

Alex Bennett
Ron Kuby
Mike Malloy
Ron Reagan

So, there you go. Not the way I'd rank them, but again, it is what it is.

Perhaps that's why I don't really put much stock in Talkers Magazine's surveys. It's certainly not the gospel.

Nova M(ess), Part IV - Dude, where's my station?

After we all felt a bit Nova'ed out, there is another wrench thrown into the works. Now that Nova M Radio is kaput, and replaced by a new, seemingly Drobny-less entity, On Second Thought, LLC, there could be a major problem brewing. Namely, the loss of its flagship station.

Tom Taylor of Radio-Info.com noted a major factor not mentioned previously. Namely, the now-defunct Nova M Radio's $2.25 million deal to buy Phoenix AM KNUV (1190).

The deal was struck last October when times were good. Money was coming in, Randi Rhodes was happy, Mike Malloy was as reliable as ever, and they had 40 or so stations carrying their programming. At the time, Nova M struck a pretty good local marketing agreement (LMA) for KNUV, pending an outright purchase.

But now Nova M is no more. Owner Sheldon Drobny is in the hospital and the LMA-to-buy for the Phoenix station will end soon. Anita and Sheldon Drobny were about to sign the final asset purchase agreement for the purchase of KNUV from New Radio Venture. But now the station, which broadcasts at 5kw days and 250 watts at night, is back on the market. Also on the selling block is KNUV’s sister station in Denver, KNRV (1150).

The loss of KNUV could be a major blow. After all, some of the network's shows can only be heard via that station or via On Second Thought's webstream.

Hannity fraud insanity

If you ever sought hard evidence that Sean Hannity doesn't proofread the talking points put in front of him, or even ponders them personally, here it is:

"Stanford Coins & Bullion, a member of the Stanford Financial Group, their name is as good as gold."

Here's a suggestion for all of you. Never, ever accept financial advice from Sean Hannity.

Turns out that one of the biggest advertisers on Hannity's radio show, billionaire banker R. Allen Stanford, is a con man. The SEC has accused Stanford of bilking thousands of investors out of $8 billion dollars by lying about the return rate on certificates of deposits offered by his firm, Stanford Financial. He subsequently went on the lam, but turned himself in to the FBI yesterday.

Stanford Coin & Bullion "is just a telemarketer boiler room-type of company that calls during dinner and tries to fleece you," said Jon Nadler, a senior analyst at gold firm Kitco.com.
In addition, this so-called 'mini-Madoff' is under investigation by the federal government in connection with an alleged drug money laundering scheme for Mexico's Gulf Cartel.

"Mention 'Sean Hannity' to Stanford Coins & Bullion and get a free guidebook."

Yes, indeed, Stanford has been a dedicated advertiser on Hannity's show. Which isn't saying much, but it's a pretty big deal when Hannity puts his own voice to ads for the firm. Yes, Sean Hannity personally vouched for this guy. Who's allegedly been running these schemes for thirteen years!

From Huffington Post:

"I couldn't believe it when I heard the advertisement," said Michael Levine, a regular Hannity listener from Westchester County, New York.

He called the radio station on Tuesday to inform them Stanford had been implicated in what the SEC termed "massive, ongoing" fraud. "They told me they had no idea what I was talking about," Levine told the Huffington Post.

Hannity spokesman Hosea Belcher did not return a call for comment.

Obviously, if this were a liberal talk show host, rather than Hannity, the right-wing bloggers would be going apeshit. Currently, nary a peep from the peanut gallery. They don't eat their own.

So, what else is Sean Hannity lying to you about?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nova M(ess), Part III - Thursday update

Thought I'd start a new entry for this one.

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that Nova M Radio has indeed filed for bankruptcy liquidation.

    Anita and Sheldon Drobny founded Nova M in 2006 and have been funding the business partly out of their own pockets. Compounding their troubles: Nova M's highest-profile host, Randi Rhodes, vanished from the airwaves earlier this month. Mrs. Drobny also said that her husband is currently hospitalized for problems stemming from the stress of dealing with the network, which has 34 affiliates.

    (snip)

    Nova M's other host, Mike Malloy, is switching to another would-be Air America competitor: Phoenix-based start-up On Second Thought Radio Network LLC. The backer of On Second Thought, Dr. Mike Newcomb, who was involved with Nova M until last year, describes his new network as "talk radio for independent minds." He plans to use former Nova M station KNUV in Phoenix as his company's flagship.

    Ms. Drobny says she and her husband had poured their own money into Nova M, but the business became unsustainable last fall. As advertising revenue plummeted, so did the Drobnys' personal portfolio, making it impossible for them to keep supporting the company. Toward the end, Nova M lost $100,000 a month. The financial stresses eventually affected her husband's health, she says, leading to the breakdown that landed him in the hospital.

    "There were so many wealthy progressives out there that could have made [progressive radio] happen," she said, but they didn't want to help. "It ended up being on Sheldon's shoulders."


  • So yes, it looks like On Second Thought is basically a separate entity, headed by Mike Newcomb. The new network will carry shows from Mike Malloy, Nancy Skinner and Newcomb himself. And yes, they will still honor the former Nova M membership subscriptions. Here's the press release:

    It is with great excitement and optimism that I announce today the formation of a new progressive talk radio network. The On Second Thought Radio Network will continue to build upon the foundation laid by our predecessors and will work dilligently to fulfill our fiduciary responsibilities to all investors and principals involved. Equally important, we will, with the millions of faithful progressive listeners across the country, uphold our vision to promote freedom, social justice, economic justice and peace worldwide.

    ...We will initially be offering a daily 9 hour block of programming with some of the most entertaining, engaging, experienced and provocative hosts America has to offer. We look forward to adding more talent and innovative products to our network in the near future.

    One thing we can assure you is that we will always value the fundamental principle of “We the People” proclaimed by our Founding Fathers. The On Second Thought Radio Network will work tirelessly to hear the voices and honor the commitments of our listeners, affiliates, supporters and advertisers alike. We welcome any and all suggestions as we go through this transition period. Please feel free to email us at comments@www.onsecondthought.net and continue to check out our web site, http://www.onsecondthought.net/ where we will keep you up to date on the latest and greatest that we hope to offer to you!

    Respectfully,

    Mike Newcomb, CEO
    On Second Thought Radio Network

  • For the time being, KPTK in Seattle is airing Skinner's show in place of Rhodes, who is still M.I.A.
  • Correcting an item in yesterday's entry, Green 960 "Chief Evangelist" John Scott emailed me, saying that the rumor of his station adding Mario Solis Marich in place of Rhodes is not true. That information was obtained via a radio industry trade site. However, he does tease that "We may have a "surprise" show on Monday that may offer some intrigue." Stay tuned.

  • One rumor from yesterday that is true, and has nothing to do with Nova M or Rhodes is the KLSX item. CBS has indeed blown up its last 'hot talk' station (remember "Free FM"?). As mentioned yesterday, that effectively drives the final nail into several syndicated shows, most notably those of Adam Carolla and Tom Leykis (who announced he was being dropped by CBS' Westwood One a couple weeks ago). Replacing talk is a 'new kind' of Top 40 format, Amp 97.1. It appears that, apart from Opie and Anthony, CBS has completely moved away from the Howard Stern area that got them into the hot talk biz in the first place.

  • NEW!!! With all the recent craziness in the world of progressive talk radio and whatnot, the fine folks at Buzzflash, which has interviewed the likes of Rhodes, Malloy, Rachel Maddow, Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann and anybody else you might be interested in promise a real big interview on the way. It's huge! The interview's not up yet, nor am I at the liberty as to telling you all what it is quite yet, but I'll let you know more about it when it goes up (likely early next week). Until then, you can wait in anticipation.
  • Wednesday, February 18, 2009

    Nova M(ess), Part II - The Gaulin letter and lotsa updates

    With all the back-and-forth going on about Randi Rhodes and Nova M (now On Second Thought), this entry will essentially be a clearing house of information regarding all the flying fur. It will be updated from time to time.

    As we attempt to sort out all this craziness, let's start with this controversial press release from Rhodes' attorney, Robert V. Gaulin. Remember, it's basically their side of the story. Take it for what it's worth:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    Randi Rhodes’ on-air home for less than a year will shut its doors. In an email message of February 17th from counsel for Nova M Radio, Inc. to Randi’s entertainment attorney, Robert V. Gaulin, the company is said to have been advised to file for bankruptcy protection next week. All payroll deposits were reversed on Tuesday, leaving Nova’s employees unpaid for the past two weeks. On Sunday, Nova received a letter from Mr. Gaulin asserting that the contract with Ms. Rhodes was terminated due to material breaches and other reasons. Ms. Rhodes had not broadcast for over a week prior to this time, a situation which was diplomatically referred to as a “problem” that was solely within Nova’s control to solve. A few days earlier, Sheldon Drobny, founder of Nova M, and a co-founder of Air America Radio, attempted suicide and is hospitalized in Chicago.

    Mr. Gaulin indicated on Randi’s behalf that “We saw this coming, but are most saddened by the tragic news regarding Sheldon Drobny. Randi is devastated by the impact of these events upon her fiercely loyal audience, affiliates and sponsors. Discussions are already being conducted for Randi’s swift return to the air. Stay tuned…”

    Thank you

    Robert V. Gaulin
    GAULIN GROUP PLLC
    COUNSELORS AT LAW


    MORE UPDATES (as they come in):

  • NEW!!! Randi speaks! This is courtesy of Page 2 Live, a South Florida gossip site. She told the site that three separate lawyers told her she should quit working for syndicator Nova M. So she did. "There were so many breaches of my contract it’s not even funny," Rhodes said when asked if the company’s failure to pay for her libel insurance kept her off the air. "I’ll probably sue them. I should never have gone there."

    On Nova M becoming On Second Thought: "Oh sure, they’re dismantling that company so they don’t have to pay me, and they’ll start another one this week."

    And, on her return: "Big stations, small stations, they’re all calling,” Rhodes said. “I don’t know how long it’ll take, but I’m trying to get back on as soon as possible. It feels too weird not to be on the air in West Palm."

    Read the whole thing at Page 2 Live.
  • NEW!!! Nova M is out and On Second Thought is now officially in. Nova M's page now sports the graphics of the new network, and the new web address is onsecondthought.net. Chief technical officer Ben Burch also posted a brief statement regarding the new operation:

    On Second Thought Radio Network has been formed to bring you Nancy Skinner, Dr. Mike Newcomb, Mike Malloy and more to come!

    Please continue to drop by as we change the site over and grow this NEW LIBERAL NETWORK which is based, appropriately, in Phoenix.

    We will be honoring all existing subscriptions from Nova M, and the old web addresses will continue to work along with our NEW address.


    A press release announcing the new network is forthcoming.

  • Rhodes' timeslot on WJNO is currently being filled by... Sean Hannity. Now, if that doesn't give her incentive to return, I don't know what will.
  • Green 960 in San Francisco will start carrying Mario Solis-Marich's syndicated show in Rhodes' former 3-6P PT timeslot starting next week. This week, they're running Stephanie Miller replays.

    CORRECTION: Green 960 PD John Scott dropped a line saying the Mario rumor is not true. But he does have a surprise up his sleeve for next week.

  • Right-wing bloggers from across the land are salivating over all of this, particularly the Drobny claim from Rhodes' attorney. Guess it shows they're really not champions of small business and free enterprise after all, right? I'm not direct-linking them, but you can do a Google search if you really want to. I personally think this vulture-like seance and gloating over Mr. Drobny's personal issues is quite disgusting, but I guess it really shows that most conservatives aren't all that 'compassionate'. Shame on them.
  • Rhodes' official message board community may be as AWOL as the host herself, but some fans are congregating at their own board. And, as far as message boards go, it's not a bad place to congregate and share rumors and news. If you want to talk Randi, you may do so at this link.

  • As for Rhodes' site, it should be back up soon. It is now on a new server, though the only content on there currently is the official statement she released last week. Stay tuned.

  • There is currently a web prank making the rounds that purports to a 'listen live' link for Rhodes's show. I won't link to it, because it is a malicious virus-spreader, and it's bogus anyway. Rhodes is currently not doing any live shows. Period. If and when she starts doing one again, it will likely be on WJNO first. Until then, don't believe any ridiculous links. When she returns, we'll all know about it. In the meantime, there's always podcasts. Or other shows.

  • You can view the entire document detailing the John Manzo/Nova M lawsuit at this PDF link, courtesy of Phoenix New Times. They have an article about all the mayhem here.

  • Things are crazy, tough and chaotic all over in the radio biz, so it's not just about Nova M and liberal talk in general. Sirius XM (who's ongoing financial woes have taken a backseat here mostly due to the whole Nova M/Rhodes situation, was saved from the chopping block by a white knight, namely Liberty Media, which obtained a large stake in the ailing satcaster.

  • Elsewhere, it appears CBS is going to blow up the last remnants of their old 'hot talk' franchise that was built around Howard Stern (and his subsequent departure). Most of the hot talk FM outlets around the country have since flipped to other formats (lately, it's been sports). And syndicated morning guy Adam Carolla, the so-called "West Coast Stern replacement," is winding down his show this week. His flagship station, and the last FM talker in the CBS stable, KLSX in Los Angeles, will reportedly wiped out its entire talk show slate, leading up to what could be a flip to CBS' current format flavor of the month - Top 40.
  • Got anything else? I'm going to be away from this most of the day, so it's an open thread. Post whatever rumors and news (substantial stuff, not some anonymous clown on a message board somewhere grasping at straws) here below.
  • Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    D Day - Not Today

    This was supposed to be the day.

    The end of analog television as we know it.

    Of course, that's been delayed, since a small portion of really dumb and/or naive people aren't ready yet. So yes, the new date for the end of analog television broadcasting and the adoption of DTV as the official standard will now be June 12. Kind of.

    In most markets around the country, the estimated 5-7% of the population still watching in analog will notice a few stations missing come tomorrow. See, although stations have the authority to continue cranking out analog waveforms until June, 491 of the nation's 1,796 full-power TV stations across the country have chosen to stick with today's original changeover date and will go digital-only by midnight tonight. Most of them are full-power independents or affiliated with lower-tier networks (i.e. The CW on down). Many of the country's Big Four-affiliated stations (i.e. the ones that carry NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX) are likely to keep their analog transmitters going until June, though some are going through with today's original changeover date.

    So, in the instance of Madison, WI, the only full-power stations that will still be doing analog tomorrow morning include the FOX affiliate and the public television station (which will turn off analog in March). The NBC, ABC, CBS and CW outlets there are going all-digital. Therefore, the stone-agers there will still get their Sesame Street and America Idol. In San Diego, only the NBC affiliate will remain in analog. In the Waco and Temple markets in Texas, virtually the entire dial will be all-digital.

    So, what's a stone-ager to do?

    Well, first of all, pull your head out of your ass. Then, get out of the cave. There are many sites on the web that will explain what to do, such as the official DTV2009.gov and DTVanswers.com.

    If you currently get your television from cable or satellite (i.e. pay a bill for TV every month), you need do nothing. This applies only to those who rely on an antenna (the pointy thing on top of the TV or on the roof) to get TV signals. If you just bought a TV in the past several years, it may be all ready to receive DTV signals. Make sure it's in the digital tuning position rather than the analog one. Consult your owner's manual if you're confused.

    If your TV is older, it is likely analog-only. You need either one of the above or you need what's called a converter box. They retail for roughly between $40-60 dollars. And there's a lot of them out there. One webmaster sent me an email over the weekend telling me about a site he has that lists and reviews all the major converter boxes, so if you're confused, you're in luck.

    Converter boxes are available generally at general retailers like Wal-Mart or Target, or electronics dealers like Best Buy and Radio Shack. Some mom-and-pop places sell them too. In fact, Target is currently featuring a $45 box in this week's circular. Now, that's a lot of scratch to come up with, especially with this crappy economic market. Luckily, your Uncle Sam will cover the first $40 for you. You can order up to two plastic cards good for a $40 discount on any approved converter box, meaning that box at Target will cost you $5. If you can't come up with that, recycle some pop cans, sell bodily fluids or brew some backyard meth. It ain't that much money, especially since it's one of the cheapest forms of entertainment available. Better than sitting on your sofa in denial watching snow and crappy VHS tapes on that fancy box, right? Now, do it ASAP, since there is a backlog of people requesting these vouchers.

    As for those of you (us!) that are DTV-ready, via a newer set or converter box, you may still be affected somewhat if your favorite local stations shut down their analog tonight. Some outlets plan on moving their digital frequency back to their original analog channel assignment (with DTV and analog, they get a channel for each). A channel rescan tomorrow should ensure that all your local stations come in. In addition, some stations may increase power or change broadcast facilities for their digital signals. A rescan and maneuvering of the antenna should work.

    So you see, DTV ain't that complicated. Maybe that's why they call it an idiot box.

    Nova M(ess)?

    The drama continues...

    There are many reports circulating today claiming many different things in regard to the status of Randi Rhodes and her (now former) employer, Nova M Radio. For those of you keeping score at home, here's where it all stands:

    1. Randi Rhodes and Nova M Radio are apparently through with each other. As mentioned in an update to a previous entry, she has issued a vague statement claiming that the problems that have kept Rhodes' show off the air are not of her doing.

    2. If and when she comes back, will anyone still want her? One programmer that's sick and tired of all the finger-pointing and back-and-forth legal letters was at one time one of her biggest supporters, John Scott of Green 960 in San Francisco. In a blog post, he says that he will offer the station's highest-rated host, Stephanie Miller, in a replay during the 4-7P PT timeslot, observing that his listeners want to be entertained rather than listen to what he calls "Debbie Downers":

    I do not know if Randi Rhodes is coming back. I have spoken to program directors and talkhosts around the country this past weekend, and this is what I came up with: The network [Nova M] is in chaos, Randi is on the bench, and this might be it.” Scott deduces that Randi “is fighting with [Nova M] over a contractual issue, and is apparently not coming back to Nova M unless they do some stuff for her. I am not assigning blame here, but the bottom line is, the show I made a deal with Nova M for is not available. And I may be prepared to move on, friends...

    While Rush and Hannity and Mark Levin and Hedgecock and Michael Savage chug along, full steam ahead, I am surrounded by drama, inconsistency, miscommunication, ego and a trail of wreckage of some very, very bad decisions made by the networks who supply the shows to affiliates like Green 960.


    3. Rumors are swirling right now that Nova M has folded. Proving that he's in a world of his own, the Tranquilizer is claiming that Rhodes' lawyer sent him a letter claiming that Nova M didn't make payroll and is about to fold, that Mike Malloy's show has been cancelled and that the network's co-founder, Sheldon Drobny, is in the hospital after an apparent 'suicide attempt.' Suicide??? Basically, Brian Maloney has topped himself on the crass-o-meter.

    Sheldon's wife, Anita, confirmed that her husband was in the hospital, but it was a 'nervous breakdown'. So, like anything regarding either Nova M, Randi Rhodes or, heck, most liberal talk radio in general, there are a lot of mixed signals here...

    4. So, if Nova M is totally and completely kaput and the Malloy show has been outright cancelled, then that's news to Mike and Kathy Malloy. The show should go on as scheduled tonight.

    5. Radio & Records, a more reliable source for industry news than right-wing blogs run by crazy people, cites Nova M's general manager, Eric Reinert, who said that Nova M is no longer an entity and that a new company called On Second Thought LLC has been formed and is moving forward. Reinart also confirmed that Rhodes is officially out. The new network will continue to offer Mike Malloy, Phoenix host Mike Newcomb and a new show from Nancy Skinner, who had been filling in for Rhodes.

    6. Oh, and that lawsuit brought against Nova M by former CEO John Manzo? Reinart wouldn't comment on that. The 16-page complaint alleges, among other things, that the syndicator breached Manzo's contract, failed to pay state and federal taxes on his behalf, defamed his character and cast him in a false light.

    Confused by all of this? You should be.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    Rhodes, Nova M up in the air (updated)


    UPDATED. See below.

    After a vague, unexplained standoff that has seen Randi Rhodes absent from her syndicated Nova M Radio show for the past week, without explanation, her future at Nova M Radio is unclear.

    From Nova M's site:

    To all of Randi's listeners;

    You are all correct - I have not had the option to disclose what has been happening between Randi and Nova M...

    You see, it's in her contract that she has total control, but, after Wednesday night, I want you all to know that Nova M has done everything we can to get her back on the air.

    All this is her choice; if she wants to tell you all what the issue is, then I hope she does, but I can't according to her contract rules.

    But I can tell you this - I have wanted her back on the air. She's an amazing talent and needs to be heard.

    Thank you all for all of your support.

    Randi now has to make her decisions as to what she must do with her career...

    Anita Drobny


    There are conflicting stories (and a heck of a lot of rumors that have popped up in my email box but I won't disclose at this point) regarding the motives behind Rhodes' absence. However, the consensus is that her flagship station, Clear Channel-owned WJNO in West Palm Beach, FL, has been making preparations for her to return to a local-only show. It will likely not be syndicated.

    Other rumors claim that Rhodes has cancelled her show until further notice, due to personal issues.

    UPDATE 2/15: Rhodes sent out a statement to her affiliates, in response to the Nova M statement. From Green 960's blog:

    Nova M Radio has not yet corrected the problem that has kept me off the air despite my strong desire and readiness to broadcast my show. Respecting the employer-employee relationship that has existed between Nova M and me, and expecting the solution to be quickly achieved, details of the disabling event were withheld in good faith. But I can tell you this much: You should not beleive any statement implicating me as being in any way responsible for the disruption in the Randi Rhodes Show. There is no truth to any such message. In fact, I did everything in my power to help Nova M make it possible for me to return.

    In light of the most recent developments, my show will be seeking a new home. I would ask for your continued patience and indulgence in respecting my rights during this time. Your unwavering support is cherished. Thank you.

    Randi Rhodes


    Whatever happens between the two parties, and if and when and if Rhodes returns, it will likely be only via WJNO for the time being.

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    Tuesday tidbits

    A few short items for your Tuesday...

    Obama press conference has interesting additions

    In contrast to the Bush Administration, which packed their press conferences with various right-wing 'news sources' (who could forget Jeff Gannon?), the press room of President Obama has brought in some interesting news sources from our side.

    According to CBS News, some of the parties with White House press room access include 538.com, Air America, radio host Ed Schultz, Al Jazeera, Essence, the Saudi Press Agency, Scoop44.com and America Blog. In addition, Obama fielded a question from a writer for Huffington Post.

    Of course, the tighty-righties over at NewsBusters are quite pissy about it, especially about Schultz' presence. As if male prostitutes posing as phony reporters to throw out blatant kiss-ass questions are any better.

    Whassup, Boston?

    Quite a few people have queried me via email about what's going on at WWZN in Boston. Jeff Santos and the syndicated Peter B. Collins have been off the station since last week, and the station is running Sporting News Radio instead.

    As typically seems to be the case, nobody officially is saying anything about it. Station staffers are not returning emails or phone calls. But some sources chalk it up to 'negotiation issues'. Once ironed out, both shows should return to the air.

    'Clout' to air final Whitmore interview

    Tonight, what is being called the final interview with the recently deceased actor James Whitmore will air tonight on Air America's Clout.

    Program host Richard Greene spoke to the 87-year-old Whitmore on the eve of last year's election at the Century Plaza Hotel, where the actor had joined more than 200 volunteers to phone-bank for Barack Obama.

    You can listen to an excerpt on the Clout page and LA Weekly hints that a downloadable podcast from KTLK Los Angeles will be made available.

    Rhodes, Nova M reportedly "working it out"

    Speculation and rumors are still circulating in regard to the on-air whereabouts of Nova M Radio host Randi Rhodes.

    Yesterday, after a weekend of responses from concerned listeners, Rhodes and Nova M co-owner Anita Drobny issued an official joint statement via Nova M's website:

    Nova M continues its efforts to rectify the technical problems that have caused an interruption in Randi's ability to broadcast THE RANDI RHODES SHOW. Randi has made every effort to assist Nova M in order that the show can be returned to the air immediately. However, despite her daily concern and intervention, there is nothing more that Randi and her team can do. We truly regret the inconvenience resulting from this situation, and hope to have it solved without further delay.

    Thank you for your continued support.

    However, 'technical problems' could mean just about anything. Industry trade publication Radio & Records is quoting 'sources' today that "there is a contractual issue between the host and the syndicator that is in the process of being resolved. Negotiations are reportedly completely amicable with both sides determined to get Rhodes back on the air as soon as possible."

    In addition, an LTR reader, who's somewhat 'in the know', sent an email that, without going into specifics, makes it sound as if the Radio & Records take is closer to what's really going on.

    So what gives? Who knows? However, since many supposed molehills turn into massive mountains thanks to message board rumormongering and sloppy, irresponsible bloggers with their own twisted agendas, take everything with at least a grain of salt. And quit panicking already. Sheesh!

    Monday, February 09, 2009

    Ladies and gentlemen... the Monday update

    Yet another historic anniversary on this day. Forty-five years ago, on Sunday February 9, 1964, Beatlemania officially began, as the Liverpool band took the stage on The Ed Sullivan Show, in front of 73 million Americans, then a record audience. Not bad for a British rock band nobody had even heard of more than a month prior.

    Otherwise, here's a little roundup of what's going on, including a few things I've forgotten to write about...

    Roots Up Radio hits the web

    Many apologies for the delay in bringing up this one. I just plain forgot. Winter must be freezing my brain too.

    Anyway, following his departure from WXXM Madison, Lee Rayburn has resurfaced via a new online project, Roots Up Radio, which launched on Inauguration Day. The new venture is described as "a new-media collective of community broadcasters from across the country."

    Joining him will be Jeff Farias, formerly of KPHX in Phoenix, who's show will run 7-10ET. In addition, other hosts, including KTLK Los Angeles' Bree Walker will soon join the venture.

    Roots Up Radio was founded by Joe Connolly with the intent of giving local broadcasters a forum they have lost as media corporations have grown and local programming has given way to syndicated hosts.

    "Most of the hosts are veteran broadcasters," Connolly said of his planned Roots Up Radio lineup. "With all the change happening in radio, most stations seem to be run by one or two people now and there's not a lot of support for local points of view. That's what we're trying to provide."

    Bye Bye, Obama 1260

    As of today, liberal talk on WWRC (1260AM) in Washington, DC is no more. Replacing it is business talk, which was tried years ago on the same frequency and failed, along with many, many other formats. As they say, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Oh well.

    For those of you needing at least some kind of liberal talk fix, Ed Schultz has been moved over to sister station WTNT (570AM). And to their credit, they are airing the show live from 12-3P.

    Bill Press has a Washington Post op-ed about the format change here.

    And for those station programmers that can't figure out how to attract ratings with progressive talk, perhaps they should talk to whoever's running similar stations in Madison, where WXXM had a phenomenal book, or even Portland, where KPOJ is currently the #4 station overall in the market, with a 4.3 share. Oh wait - the tighty-righties are saying nobody's listening. Yeah, whatever.

    It was 45 years ago today...

    Oh yeah - Here's video of The Beatles' first appearance on Ed Sullivan. Enjoy!



    Another video can be found here.

    Where's Randi?

    Message boards and blogs were buzzing over the weekend about the whereabouts of Randi Rhodes, who was AWOL from her show last Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, Nancy Skinner was called at the last minute to fill in.

    Typically, taking a day or two off is no big deal in radio. Happens all the time. But some are wondering if it has something to do with her syndicator, Nova M Radio. There have been some rumblings that the network was having some financial difficulties, but that's all speculation at this point.

    Some have also started crazy rumors about Rhodes getting reprimanded for criticizing Clear Channel, which owns her flagship station, WJNO. Then again, when hasn't she criticized Clear Channel?

    A producer, Joe Campbell, posted the following on her message board:

    Randi says she's sorry, she can't be on-air today.

    She wanted to let you know this is a Nova M issue and nothing of her own making.

    Nancy is kind enough to fill in today. And *cross fingers* we'll be back tomorrow.

    And that "Nova M issue"? A technical one. There, now you can relax.

    Now, I hesitated to post this one the other day. All too often, panic ensues and weird rumors fly all over the place. As of right now, nobody's saying anything about what's going on, aside from Brian Maloney and his ridiculous rumormongering, in his neverending campaign to rid the radio airwaves of all liberal talk. The guy got his 'scoops' for the story from message board posts, for cryin' out loud! Most of his 'news' comes via his own rectum, when his head isn't buried in it. Or from Rush Limbaugh's rectum, when Maloney's lips aren't fused to it.

    To sum it all up, we'll know officially what's going on with Rhodes when the people in the know say what's going on. In the meantime, chill the heck out and stop spreading crazy rumors.

    Uptight (everything's alright)

    Last week, Stabenow was on Bill Press' show, and told him that she thought there needs to be more balance in broadcasting, also suggesting there would be hearings in the Senate during this Congress on possibly reinstating the right-wing's favorite bogeyman, the Fairness Doctrine. This followed discussion about the demise of WWRC.

    Not surprisingly, they're shitting bricks over in the conservative blogosphere. Some are even crying 'foul', since Stabenow's husband, Tom Athans, has been a player in progressive talk radio, due to his efforts in launching the Ed Schultz Show and his later stint at Air America. But you know the crybaby conservative brigade has to whine and complain about something, right?

    Now, I've really got nothing to add about the Fairness Doctrine that I haven't already said. So I'll let the others do the talking. And boy, are they ever talking!

    First, the Pillsbury Dough Boy weighs in, with typical sneering demeanor and personal attacks galore. Brent Bozell's site is eating it all up too, with extra sauce.

    Then we have this asshole, who thinks Athans should just simply off himself. He even mentions the word 'suicide'. Compassionate conservatism, I guess.

    A bit more mild take from the Toledo Blade.

    All in all, conservatives are a funny lot to watch nowadays, with their movement, mostly responsible for the mess this country's currently in, standing on the sidelines like an unwanted dog. And while I have been quite vocal about my opposition to a new Fairness Doctrine (you can't put the shit back in the horse), I do wholeheartedly support our politicians scaring the crap out of the tighty-righties by bringing it up as often as they see fit.

    A not-so-balanced take from the Delaware County Daily Times, with Reagan worship and Clinton blow job references galore.

    Now, as many readers here know, I have been a bit skeptical of a return to the Fairness Doctrine. I prefer to just watch conservative radio hang itself with its own rope, as their narrow-minded and naive listeners die off or find some other meaningless distraction to replace it. As a firm believer in karma, I do feel that conservative radio will die as people just get sick and tired of the crudeness, nastiness and desire to create drastic partisan divisions. They'll all get theirs in the end.

    Suffice it to say, all the Fairness Doctrine does in micromanage radio programming. However, I do feel that the Obama-era FCC should definitely look into ownership and local content rules. That could be a better solution.

    Nonetheless, while I really don't feel the Fairness Doctrine from the old days should be reinstated, I do heartily encourage our politicians to use it to scare the living crap out of uptight right-wing goofballs. They deserve the torment.

    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    The no-nonsense Thursday update

    Because I couldn't come up with a cute theme.

    About face at The Mic

    Seems like only a few weeks ago that WXXM (92.1FM) in Madison was in panic mode, as they attempted to plop financial talker Dave Ramsey into the afternoon drive shift held by Thom Hartmann. After the outcry from many of the station's pissed-off listeners, they quickly retreated, and put Ramsey's show in morning drive delay. Then the station's program director, Brian Turaney was one of many nationwide who got caught up in ongoing Clear Channel downsizing moves.

    Then the Arbitron Fall ratings book came out.

    After picking their jaws off the floor following the sight of that nifty 4.7 overall share, station management obviously saw that they had a good thing going. Considering that the station actually tied with sister WMAD, the top country station in the market, they grew a brain and thought, 'hey, why fix what isn't broken, right?"

    So, another lineup change will occur next Monday. And it looks like Bill Press is in, and it appears that Ramsey's out. Can't wait to see what happens next.

    Buying Time

    Sure, things are likely looking a bit murky over at Air America Media. There's been a lot of changes over the past year or so. They're also losing a couple big affiliates. And their best-known host Rachel Maddow has taken a lower profile there to suit her main TV gig. Their other top talent, Thom Hartmann is jumping ship to Dial Global next month. But the network that just won't die is still going.

    And what better place to start than the sales team? After all, money makes the radio world go 'round. Air America is beefing up its sales team to work their radio, online and video platforms by hiring two new account executives and appointing Scott Elberg as chief revenue officer to oversee the division.

    New hires include Lory George (director of digital sales) and Terry Howard (account manager). Angela Loftus will stay in her position as vice president of sponsorship sales while Joe Kenavan will also remain as the vice president and director of national and network sales.

    In addition, a Washington, D.C. sales office will open later this year.

    "With President Obama in office, progressive media is now the mainstream," said Elberg, who has served as Air America's chief operating officer since 2007.

    "Air America Media's goal in 2009 is to focus on listeners, readers and viewers, which will include a Web site redesign, the launch of an online video offering, and several on-air initiatives," CEO Bennett Zier said in a statement.

    Sirius XM suitor?

    The recently formed Sirius XM has been a victim of the sluggish economy. And it looks like a bigger fish has the company in its sights.

    Echostar, which owns Dish Networks, has been assuming quite a bit of Sirius XM debt that matures February 17. No word on why Echostar owner Charles Ergen is doing this, but some think Sirius' ground facilities and transmitters would be a nice fit.

    Make it end already... Please!

    As hinted at here the other day, the DTV transition date has been moved. Instead of the February 17 "hard" date for the end of analog television transmission, that magic date is now June 12.

    Yesterday the House did an about-face and decided to postpone the change until June, as requested by many, including President Obama. And, as mentioned the other day, there is now funding for the $40 converter box voucher coupons, available to you procrastinators at this link.

    But, that doesn't mean that your favorite station will still be broadcasting ghosting, static-filled analog pictures up until June. Station operators can still shut down their analog facilities at any time until that date, and there are estimates that as many as 300 may just do that. Some are being forced to, since they have already made arrangements to vacate the channel allocation or the broadcast tower facilities. And it may also come down to money. Shutting down sooner will be much easier on the bottom line, particularly in this cash-strapped economic environment.

    I hope that this will be my final word on this subject until June (when I may just do a farewell salute to analog television). If you haven't already gotten your box (if you need one), then by all means do so. If you're too lazy to send away for the vouchers, then you can still pay full price at the big box retailer (as the clerks snicker at you for shelling out the extra $40). Just do it already, and join the rest of us in the 21st century.

    Another one bites the dust

    Times are tough in radio. In a few years, we could see nothing but sports talk on the AM dial and nothing but Ryan Seacrest on the FM. And they wonder why terrestrial broadcasting is dying.

    The latest talk show casualty is Los Angeles talker Tom Leykis. He does an afternoon syndicated show for Westwood One, and while it was never huge, did have a significant presence during the FM shock talk craze a few years ago.

    But now, with many of those FM talkers flipping to other formats (like sports), Leykis' raunchy guy talk has been heard in fewer and fewer markets. And now, Westwood One has finally thrown in the towel. Come March 6, Leykis' show will only be heard in his home LA market, where it isn't doing too badly.

    Also gone are his other two syndicated weekend shows, a 'best-of' show and one devoted to cigar smoking.

    Former station engineer starts campaign to save WINZ

    As rumors persist that WINZ (940AM) in Miami is secretly getting ready to flip to sports talk, at least one person has gotten the ball rolling in an attempt to make management reconsider.

    World Net Daily (yes, WORLD NET DAILY) says that the individual, who identifies himself as a former engineer for WINZ, is circulating an e-mail stating the station is going to switch from a "progressive honest talk format to right-wing greedy bastards format."

    He urges people to contact station manager Ken Charles to compel him to reconsider the switch. Closing out the message, he states, "It could not hurt to not mention that you are not in Miami."

    A spokeswoman for WINZ's owner, Clear Channel Communications, would not comment on the station's fate, but told World News Daily that "Clear Channel has more progressive talk stations than any other radio broadcaster in America."

    The rumors swelled further earlier this week when FOX Sports Radio affiliate WFTL was notified that the network's programming would move to another area station in March.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    XM's America Left changes lineup

    An astute XM listener dropped a line wondering why he heard Alex Bennett's Sirius Left morning show on XM's America Left channel yesterday, in place of Stephanie Miller.

    From the email:

    XM-167 at the moment is airing Alex Bennett instead of a live Stephanie Miller, in normal XM fashion no update on their website. As of noon though Ed Schultz is on so doesn't appear that XM has taken Sirius Left's complete schedule. Hopefully someone will figure it out then ltr can inform the masses :)

    Well, it looks like a makeover is going on at XM. Effective yesterday, a few shows have been shuffled around.

    The first thing one notices is what's missing, namely Air America. The network has a significantly smaller presence on the new America Left.

    The morning starts with Rachel Maddow's newly reconfigured radio show, running from 5-6A. Dial Global's Bill Press, Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz run live from 6A-3. Then it's Randi Rhodes from 3-6P, Thom Hartmann from 6-9P and Mike Malloy live from 9P-12A. A replay of Sirius Left's Alex Bennett runs from Midnight to 3A.

    All in all, it makes sense as a lineup. The schedule is heavy with stable shows. But perhaps they should have taken my advice on how to make liberal talk fans happy.

    That'll be the day (this thing gets posted)

    With this catch-all entry, let us pause and remember the significance of this day, February 3, 2009. For today marks one of the most notable days in music history.

    Fifty years ago, on February 3, 1959, a trio of young rockers on a midwestern ballroom tour, rocker Buddy Holly opted to get out of the dilapidated and freezing tour bus and charter a plane to take him and his band from Mason City, Iowa to their next gig in Moorhead, MN, hoping to arrive early enough to get some laundry done.

    Tourmate Richie Valens flipped a coin with one of Holly's bandmates, Tommy Alsup, for his plane seat. Valens won. And another tourmate, J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson, suffering from the flu, begged Holly's other bandmate, Waylon Jennings, for his seat, to which Jennings obliged.

    When Holly learned that Jennings wasn't going to fly, he said, "Well, I hope your ol' bus freezes up." Jennings responded, "Well, I hope your ol' plane crashes." No more ominous words were perhaps ever spoken. The plane wound up doing just that not too long after takeoff, killing all aboard.

    Read more about The day the music died.

    And here it is, the catch-all entry. Enjoy.

    The day the music could die at EMI

    This one is a bit off-topic in general, but is, however, music-related. And there are parallels between the entertainment industry and the media industry. Both have consolidated to the point that the biggest players hold an increasingly large chunk of the pie, and in some cases, some companies have fallen under the control of private equity firms with myopic slash-and-burn mentalities.

    Most notable in the music industry is venerable British label EMI, which has a long and storied history. They're the ones that brought us Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Garth Brooks. Their Abbey Road Studios in London is perhaps the most famous and most innovative studio on the planet. And now, it looks like EMI's recording legacy could come to an end.

    EMI has long been suffering, and even more so since the takeover by the Terra Firma private equity firm. Their deep-pocketed rivals have gotten much bigger, and EMI has seen an exodus of some of their biggest stars, including Brooks, Radiohead and Paul McCartney, who have all recently opted to go the indie label route. All of the combined factors have resulted in the recording division posting losses of £757 million ($1.08 billion) for the year ending March, 2008. Even after cleaning up some sloppy business practices and slashing 1500 jobs, the company is still hemmhoraging money.

    Terra Firma may sell off EMI's recording division and keep its lucrative music publishing division. Could EMI land with yet another private equity group or get swallowed up by one of the other big industry fish, such as Sony, Time Warner or Universal Media Group? Or could we see a situation where some of the crown jewels, i.e. the lucrative Beatles catalog, get sold off separately, perhaps to the band members/estates themselves? Music fans will likely be watching this one closely.

    And the prospect of a Big Three holding sway over most of the music industry could be a double-edged sword. With the ability of smaller independent labels and consortiums finding distribution and promotion to be quite simple compared to years past, and big artists such as Brooks, The Eagles and Nine Inch Nails releasing their new material sans-label online or through exclusive deals with retailers like Wal-Mart, do we really need major labels anymore?

    Early in the Morning

    Starting this week, you can hear Rachel Maddow in mornings at Air America, as she has given up her weeknight show on the radio network.

    The New York Daily News says that Maddow will "provide content" for an hour-long morning program, largely built on her MSNBC show of the previous evening.

    The problem, says Maddow, is that something had to give.

    "I just couldn't keep doing both," she says. "It was a quality control issue - the quality of the program and my own quality of life. I need time to, say, eat and sleep, which I understand most people do every day. I wasn't. I needed not to be grabbing food off a cart at 2 in the morning."

    Oh, Boy!

    Two years after they almost killed it, and only a few weeks after management tried to shake it up by making some rather controversial changes, it appears that the listeners were right after all.

    And with that, congratulations are in order for WXXM (92.1 The Mic) in Madison. In the most recent ratings book, they have jumped from a 2.2 share to a whopping FOUR POINT FREAKIN' SEVEN (!!!) in the overall numbers. That's a 4.7, folks, and marks a record for the biggest number for a purely progressive talk station in America.
    Currently, they are tied for #6 overall in the market with country music sister WMAD.
    And they say nobody listens. Feh!

    Not Fade Away

    Unless you've been living under a rock for the past year, you know that television will undergo a major transformation in 2008. Gone will be the seven decade-old analog standard, to be replaced by ones and zeros.

    As it currently stands, all of the nation's full-powered television stations will be required to turn off their analog transmission facilities and continue with their digital-only facilities on February 17. This may be extended to June 12 if Congress acts soon (and President Obama has signalled he will sign the bill once it leaves the House successfully). That means that, if you receive your television signals via rabbit ear antennas, you need to take note.

    First, if you subscribe to cable, satellite or similar service, you're set. You're good to go. You may not even notice anything come February 17.

    If you get your signals over-the-air, you may need to take note. Do you have a newer wide-screen LCD, plasma or other flat-panel set? Or a newer CRT (that big picture tube) unit that already receives digital signals? You're also set, but you may have to refer to your instruction manual to make sure you've already scanned the digital channels.

    Now, if you have an older set (made more than three years ago or so) and it doesn't already receive digital signals, you may need one of those digital converter boxes. So far, they've been selling like crazy. So much that the government program that doles out $40 discount vouchers for the units has run out of money. That has been replenished, thanks to the recent stimulus bill that just got passed.

    If you've been procrastinating and still haven't applied for your voucher yet, you can still do so, unless you just don't care about television anymore. Otherwise, you can still pay full-price for a converter box, if so desired. The boxes typically retail for $50-60, and can be found at most big-box retailers such as Best Buy, Radio Shack, Target and Wal-Mart.

    Keep in mind that even though the analog shutoff may be postponed, individual stations, faced with the expense of keeping their old signals on for another four months, may opt to sign off analog come February 17. The FCC has been allowing stations to do this. Once the analog signal signs off for good, you'll need to be digitally compliant to still watch.

    Now, let's say that you get your signals over-the-air. If you haven't already scanned for digital channels, then do so. Stations are still signing on their digital counterparts and even debuting subchannels. With the analog signals shut down, some stations may increase their digital power, allowing for a greater coverage area. And some may even change channel locations. It certainly would not a bad idea to occasionally rescan to update the tuner. And make sure you've got a decent antenna (often, a simple $20 one will suffice - a rooftop antenna is ideal).

    But if you need a converter box, and don't already have one, what the hell are you waiting for?

    MSNBC looking to add new show

    With the success of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show helping to make MSNBC a contender among cable news outlets, there are reports that the network is looking to expand even further.

    The New York Times' Brian Stelter reports that MSNBC is looking to add a new show in the 10P hour, immediately following Maddow.

    "It's almost like we're one personality away," MSNBC president Phil Griffin told Stelter. Olbermann supports the move as well. "Losing the 10P replay (of Countdown) is a very small price to pay for a last piece to the puzzle." Olbermann says. MSNBC insiders tell us there is nothing currently in development, but the network's goal is to add a 10P show when it finds the right host.

    A reader poll on the TV Newser site, asking who should get the nod, showed Sam Seder in the lead as of yesterday (though the page keeps crashing my browser today). There is a movement to get The Young Turks' Cenk Uygur the nod, however.

    And Ed Schultz has confirmed that he has been involved in negotiations for a TV gig following the move of his show to Washington, DC, though he has not gone into specifics, in particular naming the entity (entities) that he has been talking with. We shall see.


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