Monday, December 18, 2006

WHLD/Niagara Falls drops liberal talk

"The Voice of Reason" has been silenced.

The group that runs WHLD in Niagara Falls, NY, has flipped the station to a format consisting mostly of gospel music and brokered shows, effective today.

Brian Brown-Cashdollar, WHLD's president and general manager, said the station's ratings were "respectable" for a start-up station and advertising revenue shot up "tenfold" during the 10-month effort. But ultimately, it was not enough to satisfy investors concerned about cash flow.

"We went from 3,600 to about 20,000 listeners by the end of September. By all indications, we would have continued to grow," Brown-Cashdollar said.

"We've done a lot of things right, but in the end we fell short. We had a business opportunity to protect the shareholders, so we took it," Brown-Cashdollar said.

The station's license is owned by Citadel Broadcasting Corp. and will continue to be operated by Niagara Independent Media. Brown-Cashdollar said there will be layoffs but could not yet say how many.

WHLD's left-of-center format evolved out of an effort in January 2004 by the Buffalo Coalition for Progressive Media that brought Pacifica's "Democracy Now," hosted by Amy Goodman, to Buffalo. It was the first time the nationally syndicated program landed on a commercial station. At the time, much of WHLD's programming came via time brokered programming.

Eventually, the station built around the Pacifica programming, adding shows from Air America Radio, as the small AM station became a full-time progressive talk outlet. They added more locally produced shows, such as "The Newsroom," which aired mornings with Joe Schmidbauer and Grady Hawkins," "Radio Civil Liberties," "The Einach Report" and "Speakeasy radio." Schmidbauer said his abrupt dismissal came "with about five minutes notice," and expressed disappointment for "all the people whose hopes and dreams rode with us."

The station competed with another local station, Entercom-owned WWKB in neighboring Buffalo, which airs a mostly syndicated talk format consisting of hosts such as Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Ed Schultz and Lionel. Brown-Cashdollar, in a statement on the station's homepage, encourages his former listeners to support WWKB.

"Democracy Now" will still air, for the time being, on WHLD, but will eventually move to WBBF (1120AM), which is also owned by Niagara Independent Media and carries a gospel format.

In related news comes word that KTXX-FM, located outside of San Antonio, has flipped it's format from liberal talk to a Spanish-language music format. The station is owned by Border Media Partners, which previously operated the Texas Progressive Network, and aired programming over stations in San Antonio, Dallas and Austin. The group sold Dallas affiliate KXEB in September. The sole remaining Texas Pro affiliate, KOKE in Austin, will still carry liberal talk programming. The flip of KTXX is not surprising, since they really aren't a San Antonio station, as their signal is located too far outside the city to really make an impact in the local ratings. Basically, KTXX hits a lot of Texas ranch land. The flip to a Spanish language format does make sense, in this case.

Meanwhile, reports out of El Paso say that KHRO, a newcomer of sorts to the format, has dropped liberal talk for an undisclosed format. KHRO was never a player in the El Paso market, who's demographic makeup is roughly 80% Mexican origin, and it doesn't appear that they did a whole lot to promote the mostly automated format (though, rumor has it, they did allegedly carry at least one local show). As proof of their lack of promotion, the station's rather pathetic website has, since their sign-on earlier this year, consisted of a blank page, with only a solitary link to Air America Radio's website. And they expected this to be a success? Can't wait to see what their format will be next month, and the month after that, and so on and so on...


Anonymous said...

It's hard to believe that a station with gm named "Cashdollar" could fold...barooosk

Anonymous said...

The Clear channel is comming!
The Clear channel is comming!

Watch out folks the Corporations are strangling free speech in America!

Publica Financing of all elections and kick the politcians to the curb!

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. Ad revenue shot up 10-fold, yet they think they can do better as a gospel station?

What's up?

Am I being tin-hatty, or are right-wingers up to something?

Anonymous said...

They're up to something. WXXM "The Mic" 92.1 FM here in Madison was similarly successful when Clear Channel decided to pull the plug. Thankfully WE fought them back, and saved the station.

Some of it seems to be as stupid as the sales staff NOT wanting to sell ads for the station. These right winger salespeople figured if they chocked the money off, the station would die, no matter what the ratings are doing, and sadly, it looks like they were right. The big bosses look at ad revenues before anything else.

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