Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Famed columnist Molly Ivins dies

Molly Ivins, whose biting columns mixed liberal populism with an irreverent Texas wit, died at 5:30PM Wednesday at her home in Austin after an up-and-down battle with breast cancer she had waged for seven years. She was 62.

Ms. Ivins, the Star-Telegram’s political columnist for nine years ending in 2001, had written for the New York Times, the Dallas Times-Herald and Time magazine and had long been a sought-after pundit on the television talk-show circuit to provide a Texas slant on issues ranging from President Bush’s pedigree to the culture wars rooted in the 1960s.

"She was magical in her writing," said Mike Blackman, a former Star-Telegram executive editor who hired Ms. Ivins at the newspaper’s Austin bureau in 1992, a few months after the Times-Herald ceased publication. "She could turn a phrase in such a way that a pretty hard-hitting point didn’t hurt so bad."

Source: Franken's running for Senate

Comedian and Air America Radio host Al Franken has decided to run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2008, challenging incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, a senior Democratic official told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The official, who requested anonymity because Franken has not made an announcement, said that Franken told her of his decision recently.

Andy Barr, the political director of Franken's Midwest Values Political Action Committee, declined to comment.

In a swiftly issued statement, Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey said he was confident Minnesotans "will reject Franken's divisive, scorched earth attacks." Which, of course, sounds pretty ironic coming from a Republican, but oh well.

UPDATE 2/2/07: Al Franken said Friday that he will make an announcement on whether he's running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota on his final show, Feb. 14.

"Look, it ain't official until it's official, and it ain't official," Franken said on his Air America Radio show, responding to reports by The Associated Press and other news organizations that he had already decided to run.

"Some media outlets might look kind of silly on Feb. 14, you know what I'm saying? That's our last show, and that day, I'm going to announce my decision on whether I'm running or not. I'm going to do that during the show."

He hinted that he had not made a final decision, saying, "I'm not exactly - who knows what I'm doing?"

Ratings Roundup Fall 2006: Part 2

In part one of this report, LTR analyzed how progressive talk radio stations did in in the recent Arbitron ratings book in the midwest. In this installment, you'll see how stations on the 'Left Coast' did.

KTLK in Los Angeles is still holding steady with a 0.8, up a tenth of a point from the Summer book. They are tied with Salem's conservotalk KRLA, ESPN's KSPN and KTNQ, a Spanish-language news/talk station. Los Angeles, like many other large markets, is a highly competitive market. The news/talk competition is very fierce, with even larger players such as CBS' Free FM affiliate KLSX and their two all-news stations (KCBS and KFWB) not very far ahead of KTLK. San Diego's KLSD is on the rise again after sliding a bit since last fall. In market #17, it moves up almost half a point to a 1.9 share.

Up the coast in Santa Barbara (market #211), KIST, which was recently sold to a local group, is doing very well, tied for 7th place overall with a 3.4 share. Further north, in San Luis Obispo (#172), KYNS, a well-run small market liberal talker that will soon add Mike Malloy to the lineup, holds steady tied for 16th place with a 1.7 share. KFPT in Fresno (#66), recently sold by CBS to local Peak Broadcasting, holds steady with a 1.0, no change since Summer, but more than double what they had last Fall. According to radio industry site AllAccess, KFPT could soon be sold again, with former general manager Chris Pacheco rumored as the buyer. Whether this sale will go through, or if this means a change in format remains to be seen (thanks for the tip, Jim).

In the Monterey Bay area (#80), a market whose sole dominant talk station is high-powered KGO, located roughly a hundred miles away in San Francisco, KRXA is relatively unchanged in the book, as it drops a tenth of a point to a 0.6. They are up a fifth of a point since last Fall. Low-powered KOMY, which carries a mash-up of several Air America Radio shows, infomercials, and whatever else, and recently switched to oldies, is a no-show in the book. Incidently, in response to my article from last week regarding KOMY and their format switch, I got an email from owner Michael Zwerling, which will be posted here shortly. Trust me, you don't want to miss this!

Speaking of the Bay Area, KGO maintains its two decade grip as the top overall station in the market with a rather centrist-leaning talk format. Liberal talker KQKE is tied at #26 overall in the San Francisco (#4) book, and holding at 1.1, which is just a tenth of a point lower than its conservative sister, KNEW. The Quake also has a 1.1 share in neighboring San Jose (#35). In the North Bay, the station has a very strong showing in the Santa Rosa (#119) book jumping all the way up to #12 overall, rising from a 1.0 in the Spring to a 2.5 for the Fall.

In the battle of the Sacramento (#27) liberal talk stations, KCTC, the Air America affiliate, drops slightly to a 0.8 share. KSAC, which airs a mostly liberal talk format, slides to the near bottom of the ranked stations with a 0.4.

The northwestern has been one of the strongest areas for the liberal talk format. Portland, OR (#23) is no exception. Since its debut almost three years ago, KPOJ has been one of the strongest stations in the format. Fall was especially good for them, as they rise all the way up to #5 with a gain of almost a full point, at a 3.7 share. In Seattle (#14), KPTK, a strong performer in some daypart breakdowns, holds at a 2.0 from the summer in this highly competitive talk market. They are down slightly in comparison to last fall. BlatherWatch, a Seattle talk radio blog, claims that conservotalk station KTTH got a huge boost in the recent book, thanks mostly to Rush Limbaugh, who doubled his local ratings from over a year ago (and I assume BlatherWatch's Michael Hood is using last fall as a comparison). Thom Hartmann, who had dominated the 9AM-Noon timeslot in comparison to all other area talk stations throughout the past year, dropped to #2 behind Limbaugh. Hartmann is still the most-listened to host on KPTK. Ed Schultz tied with Sean Hannity among all listeners in the recent Seattle book, though he did reportedly beat him in some demographic breakdowns. In general, conservotalk fared rather poorly in Seattle this past fall, with Limbaugh being the sole exception.

On the other side of the state, KPTQ in Spokane (#93) holds somewhat steady, rising from a 1.0 to a 1.3 share. In Eugene, OR (#150), KOPT continues its rollercoaster ride, from a 2.4 last fall to 3.4 this past spring and back down to a 1.9 for this past fall. Whether this has to do with the erratic nature of twice-yearly Arbitron ratings reports in small markets (in Duluth, MN, KQDS jumped from 0.9 to 2.1) is unknown.

In Anchorage, AK (#172), KUDO, which is owned and backed by IBEW Local 1547, comes in with a 1.3 share. KUMU in Honolulu (#63), which carries a hodgepodge of mostly delayed talk programming including Air America, Stephanie Miller, Schultz, and various non-political talk shows, rises slightly to grab a 0.7 share.

Coming soon, we'll give you the lowdown on other parts of the country. As always, stay tuned!

Air America sale: What's next?

Two days have passed since the official announcement of the sale of Air America Radio to Stephen and Mark Green, as well as Al Franken's announcement of his departure from the network. Since then, many people, both inside and outside the political spectrum have weighed in, as well as quite a few in the industry.

The wingnut bloggers have been sounding the same silliness, questioning why anyone would want to invest in a 'failing' network. Which is ironic, since quite a few conservative media ventures have had far less success and lost way more money. The irony seems to be that these so-called 'conservative' critics don't really understand the way business works, or that they really aren't champions of entreprenural achievement. Or they're incapable of looking at the color of their own pot. In their eyes, free enterprise is only acceptable for people named Weyrich, Scaife or Murdoch. Not surprising.

People in the industry are also chiming in about the sale. Paul Woodhull, speaking to the New York Daily News, gave his assessment. "I hope they can make it viable," says Woodhull, president of Washington-based Media Syndication Services, which creates and produces radio shows. "But it won't happen unless Mr. Green listens to people who understand how radio works."

Air America's original network plan, says Woodhull, "was based on the idea they could control programs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on someone else's station. That's just not the way it works."

"The idea that Air America is a 'network' is a myth anyway," says Michael Harrison, editor of the trade magazine Talkers. "As a syndicator, it could work."

What radio insiders don't realize though is that Air America could be considered comparable to full-service syndicators like ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and Talk Radio Network, all of which offer a full schedule of programming around the clock, but allow individual affiliates to pick and choose programming, or just leave it running full-time. In essence, they help fill out station lineups. Think of it as the radio equivalent of 'Hamburger Helper.' Since signing on almost three years ago, Air America, which had initially tried to force affiliates to carry the entire slate of programming, has since given much more leeway to affiliates in structuring their schedules, even allowing some of them to drop Al Franken's show for Thom Hartmann, or to carry programming from other syndicators. Several Air America affiliates even carry programming from conservative talkers such as Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz and Bill O'Reilly.

Both Woodhull and Harrison agree that the programming has to be worth listening to. Woodhull agrees that progressive talk is no different than any other type of talk radio programming, in that it has to actually be good. "It has to be entertaining and compelling. It can't start with a political agenda. It can't start by trying to get somebody elected," says Woodhull.

Harrison thinks there is a niche for liberal talk, and there will always be. He also disagrees with the notion that talk radio is dominated by conservatives. "It's not," claims Harrison. "Conservatives have a niche, and it's a very profitable niche — but it's still a niche. You also have NPR, you have 'shock jocks,' you have sports talk. There's room for all of it.

"None of those shows succeed because the hosts are well-intentioned. They succeed because they work as a business."

Air America will need to strengthen it's affiliate base, which is chock full of many weak and non-supportive stations, as well. "To build a radio network you need to start from a solid base and then expand," says Andrew Ettinger, media supervisor at EarthQuake Media in New York, speaking to Media Life Magazine. "Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura, Sean Hannity, etc. did not appear overnight as dominant radio personalities. Rather, they built their following one station at a time, one market at a time. By doing so they grew from strength, not artificial station clearances."

In the other big Air America story, Franken's retirement from radio has gotten the predictable snide reaction from the wingnut media. Some say he's giving up, or that he's jumping off a sinking ship. Keep in mind that Franken never intended to do radio forever, as he initially signed a one year contract with then-owner Progress Media (as they were working under the provisional name Central Air), and had previously hinted at not making radio his life's work. Considering his other jobs such as writing, comedy and soon, possibly politics, his departure is no surprise. And his official announcement and the network's immediate naming of Hartmann as his successor should remove quite a bit of distraction from their operations.

In regard to his future plans, rumored to include a 2008 run for the Senate from his home state of Minnesota, Franken and his people have been mum about it. Franken has admitted that he is strongly considering challenging Norm Coleman for the seat, and has hinted that he could formally announce his intentions on-air in the runup to the end of his show February 14.

Some of Air America's affiliates have already announced their intentions for life after Franken. KTNF, fresh off a rather remarkable Fall ratings book, was the first, as they announced yesterday the move of Hartmann from the station's evening delay to the afternoon slot being vacated. In his place, KTNF will expand it's local "Minnesota Matters" show by an hour (to be 5-7PM) and add Air America's Rachel Maddow to evenings, 7-9PM. Entercom-owned WROC in Rochester, NY will give Ed Schultz a live clearance, moving him in to the 12-3PM slot, and soliciting listener opinions to fill the 3-6PM shift.

Meanwhile, up the road at WROC's sister station WWKB, the schedule on their recently updated website is a bit vague. At this time, the on-air schedule for this week omits local midday host Leslie Marshall and shows two daily airings of the syndicated shows from Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz. Whether this will be permanent remains to be seen. Previously, the station aired a rerun of Marshall's show in the evenings. WWKB recently lost a competitor when Air America affiliate WHLD switched to gospel, so there are indeed more programming options available from which the station could choose from.

KPTK in Seattle sent out an email to listeners enlisting their help in making adjustments to the daily lineup. WCPT in Chicago will announce their intentions shortly. Other stations have yet to announce their replacements for Franken, though it's expected that many will just continue with Hartmann, such as KYNS in San Luis Obispo, CA. In the past few months, some stations already have already moved Hartmann into the slot. Some stations that currently carry only Franken, including WMLB in Atlanta and WWWI in Brainerd, MN could possibly pass on replacing him with any other Air America offering.

And no word from Air America on how they'll handle overnight and weekend replays of Franken's show.

Speaking of KYNS, in an unrelated move, they will add Mike Malloy to their schedule, airing it on delay from 8-11PM starting next Monday.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Air America sold to New York real estate developer, Franken to leave

Whew! Lots going on at Air America Radio this morning. The network has announced a sale, and Al Franken is officially hanging up his headphones.

Huffington Post reports that Air America has reached a sale agreement. And it isn't to Richard French. The company will be sold to SLG Radio LLC, an entity controlled by Stephen L. Green, founder and chairman of SL Green Realty Corp, a successful Manhattan real estate developer. The sale will be accomplished pursuant to section 363 of the United States Bankruptcy Code and is expected to close by mid-February. Green has signed a letter of intent and could finalize the purchase agreement this week. No further terms of the deal were announced. SLG Radio is a venture separate from SL Green Realty.

Also reported to be part of the deal is Green's brother, Mark, a New York Democrat who served as the city's public advocate in the 90s and ran for mayor against Michael Bloomberg in 2001. Mark Green had previously appeared as a guest host on the Air America program "Politically Direct," and has close ties with the show's producer, People For the America Way, of which his wife is a former director.

Air America CEO Scott Elberg confirmed the sale. "This is a great thing, for our affiliates, the company, the audience and every employee in our organization."

According to a release from Air America, SLGreen Realty Corp. has been the most profitable office real estate investment trust (REIT) in the country based on a total return to share holders, controlling 27 million square feet of commercial property largely in Manhattan and with a market cap of over $12 billion.

As for Air America's future plans, Green has many ideas. "Because I'm a businessman who enjoys creating and growing companies, I'm purchasing a majority ownership in Air America with the intention of making it a successful business that returns a profit," said Green. "To assure that AAR survives and thrives, we'll do three things. First, we'll stabilize its finances. Second, we'll build on its lineup to assure the best radio talent possible, since in the long run content is king. And third, we'll extend this special brand by partnering with other platforms beyond radio to make sure that Air America's content reaches the wide audience it deserves."

“In this digital era, the tech changes by the day and Air America Radio has to become something of a new media company,” Mark Green added. “We look forward to an AAR 2.0 that has sharp smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?”

Mark Green added that no hiring or programming positions had been decided for the network, should the deal go through. Furthermore, a possible executive role at Air America for Mark is unknown. He said he was speaking only as the brother of the purchaser.

The Progressive Radio Group, led by former Air America chairman Terry Kelly, will own a minority stake in the network. Kelly formed the group of about 20 investors in the fall after Air America filed for bankruptcy.

In related news, midday host Al Franken has confirmed on his show (mp3) that he will be leaving the network, as he explores a run for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. Franken staffer Andy Barr told the St. Paul Pioneer Press not to read anything else into it. "This is not, repeat NOT, going to be an announcement about anything else," said Barr, in an email to the newspaper. Franken has been exploring a possible 2008 run for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Minnesota.

"We are very sad to see Al Franken depart from Air America and wish him every success in his next endeavor," said Elberg. "Al's brilliance, humor and passion put Air America on the map and we will always regard him as part of our family."

Franken's departure means that Thom Hartmann, who's Air America-syndicated show runs in the same time slot, will slide into the main network schedule. Franken's last day will be February 14.

More updates will follow.

Related links:

Air America press release
Daily Kos
New York Times

Business Week
Sheldon Drobny - a rather pessimistic view of the sale

Rumor: WAVZ about to flip?

UPDATE 2/5/07: It appears the flip has happened. WAVZ is now running ESPN Radio as of this morning.

Scott Fybush at NorthEast Radio Watch is reporting that Clear Channel-owned WAVZ in New Haven, CT may drop liberal talk for sports talk this week:

And is the end of progressive talk coming at Clear Channel's WAVZ (1300 New Haven) sometime this week? We're hearing that sports talk will be the new format there, any day now.

To further compound the rumor, there is a website template for ESPN RADIO 1300. And it's obviously for New Haven.

If Clear Channel does indeed flip the format of WAVZ (1300AM), it would almost be unsurprising, since the small, 1000 watt frequency has never really been heavily promoted and has never carried any local programming. Hence, ratings are not there. The signal is limited in that it is a bit static-heavy in neighboring Bridgeport, roughly 19 miles to the west. Thanks to saltwater, the signal does bounce across the sound to parts of Long Island. It is basically designated as a local signal for New Haven, the #110 ranked Arbitron ratings market.

Incidentally, the current progressive talk format replaced sports talk in November 2004. Prior to that, they played adult standards.

For Stephanie Miller fans who need to get their fix, the duopoly of WLIS (1420AM) and WMRD (1150AM), both to the north and east of New Haven, do run her show live, albeit only the last two hours. The best bet for Air America Radio fans is WWRL (1600AM) out of NYC, though its signal is bogged down a bit by interference.

Thanks to the folks at Save Progressive Talk Boston for the info.

Friday, January 26, 2007

UPDATE: The FOX 'News' attempt at intentional humor looks to be a stinker

Radar Online has the latest on the FOX 'News' attempt to create their own "Daily Show" clone. And from the looks of it, it's not that funny.

Back in November, you may have heard about this show, tentatively titled This Just In. Well, AOL owns that title, as they use it on one of their broadband channels, so FOX went back to the recycle bin and appropriated another Time Warner property, swiping the name of an old MTV show by christening their new 'fake news' venture (as opposed to their other 'fake news' shows such as The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity and Colmes) as The Half-Hour News Hour (my sides are hurting already - make it stop!). So far, FOX produced two pilot episodes of this thing this past weekend in front of an audience packed with gullible wingnuts. Unfortunately, the end result is being described as "more Mallard Fillmore than P.J. O'Rourke." Yikes!

Producer Joel Surnow, whose credits also include 24 and Viagara-fueled romps through the Dominican Republic with buddy Rush Limbaugh, has described THHNH as a cross between Comedy Central's Daily Show and Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update". Radar reports that a source who attended the tapings describes the format as far more similar to SNL's fake news, with a two-anchor setup and skits interspersed with the talking-head segments. "It was hit and miss—some stuff was inspired, and some was droppable, to say the least," says the source. Not surprisingly, in keeping with the FOX 'News' edict of being 'fair and balanced', most of the jokes had a conservative slant.

And in an opening sketch that seems more appropriate in a horror movie, Surnow's Dominican wingman Limbaugh made an appearance, playing (gasp) The President. Even scarier, Ann Coulter was his Vice President, meaning that this show may be a bit too intense for younger audiences. If that isn't enough, they went out and gathered some of the top celebrities in Hollywood for this mess, including comedian Dom Irrera and original Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall (you mean he's still alive?). Also, to hype up their self-anticipated cred, they went out and hired original Daily Show cast member Brian Unger as a correspondent. Of course, Unger was on TDS in the pre-Jon Stewart era, when Craig Kilborn was the host and nobody really cared.

The hosts are still Kurt Long (who's claim to fame is, well, nothing) and Susan Yeagley (who's claim to fame is being former SNL news anchor Kevin Nealon's wife). As for writers, that is not known at this time, though I'm sure they could find plenty of candidates here. I guess Michael Richards did indeed have other committments.

So, when will this thing hit the airwaves? Nobody's saying if and when this thing will occupy the current rerun space on FOX 'News', or if it ever will. So far, it's been just the two pilot shows. Second question, is anyone really going to watch this shit? Who knows? After all, there are indeed people watching FOX 'News' the rest of the day, right?

For more background on FOX Comedy Half-Hour Hour (or whatever the hell it's called), here's a blast from LTR's past.

KOMY finally pulls the plug

After nearly two years of threatening to pull Air America Radio off their Santa Cruz radio station, the Zwerling family has finally done just that.

On Thursday, KOMY in Santa Cruz finally dropped liberal talk. Taking Air America's place is golden oldies, — from the likes of Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, and Chuck Berry, spun by real live and local disc jockeys, or so they claim.

This finally caps a long, drawn-out drama in which the owner, Michael Zwerling, has endlessly complained about never being able to sell advertising to support the format. Which of course makes sense when you have hardly anybody in the station to sell advertising.

KOMY is owned by Zwerling, along with his mother Kay. The two also own conservotalker KSCO, which seems to be their pride and joy, though it gets horrible ratings. KOMY was perhaps one of the weakest of Air America's affiliates (and that's saying a lot), in that the station was hardly promoted, the schedule was cluttered with infomericials, the ultra-conservative owners obviously hated the programming, and they constantly complained about a lack of advertisers, even though the station appears to have a barebones sales department. The two-station cluster is a mom-and-pop operation (actually, a mother-and-son operation - shades of the Bates Motel?) in every sense of the word, and often, it seems the programming of the two stations have always taken a backseat to the strange antics of their eccentric owners.

Air America Radio made its debut on KOMY in July 2005. When Zwerling announced his intention to put Michael Savage's show on in the evening, Air America execs scoffed. Finally, the station gave in to Air America's demands, and cleared three of their shows: Al Franken, Randi Rhodes and "The Majority Report". And since they couldn't mix Savage in with the liberal talk programming, they made sure to slot in 'owner editorials', which were nonsensical at best, fire-breathing reactionary at worst.

And then came the drama. A couple months later, Michael Zwerling went to his friends in the local media, complaining that area liberals weren't beating down the door to buy advertising time on KOMY. In protest, the Zwerlings yanked "Majority Report" and started airing infomercials in its place, in essence holding the format hostage.

After receiving some not-so-nice letters from listeners, Zwerling went on the air (the Zwerlings are fond of their ridiculous on-air 'editorials') and blasted the listeners who sent the "vicious hate mail", as if they felt insulting their listeners would improve the station's performance. Zwerling didn't appreciate the complaints about the Kay Zwerling editorials, and demanded that “hypocritical Air America listeners” better send in money or they would yank the programming off the station. Yes, he did indeed issue that threat.

The Zwerlings have always detested Air America. They also claim local advertisers think likewise. "It's an angry, nasty, pissing and moaning format where the only thing they say is 'Bush stinks' or 'Bush is bad'," he said. "No commercial advertiser wants to be associated with that."

"We didn't sell a single ad in a year and a half," Zwerling said Thursday. "I thought liberal radio would work as a viable advertising business in the most liberal town in America. I was wrong"

Zwerling did admit that some advertisers were turned off by the ultra-conservative reputation of KOMY and the Zwerlings.

Perhaps it could have been that the Zwerlings didn't have much of a sales department. The Zwerlings don’t even pay their own talk show hosts on KSCO, instead demanding they go out and find their own sponsors! Which of course, explains how Brian "Screech" Maloney got his start. It appears that the Zwerlings seem most concerned about selling ads for Rush Limbaugh's show on KSCO, which they have constantly boasted about being "sold out."

Zwerling finally announced back in October that he was pulling the plug on KOMY's liberal talk format, effective October 25, and everyone hoped that that would be the end of it. Since then, the Zwerlings realized that they really didn't have anything to replace Air America, so the station became an unpredictable hodge-podge of Air America, infomercials, replays of KSCO shows and Alan Colmes (whom they refer to as "a reasonable liberal"). At times, they ran the straight Air America feed, and even aired promos for Mike Malloy's show, though it had been dropped from Air America months earlier. In the meantime, they finally put up a website for KOMY. Perhaps they were giving it a second third chance. Finally, on Thursday, the Zwerlings ended the insanity and flipped to oldies.

As much as the local newspaper seems to suck up to the Zwerlings (the articles in the Santa Cruz Sentinel are always sympathetic and a bit thin on facts), the Zwerlings are not the martyrs that they make themselves out to be. Listeners avoid their stations, people in the industry mock them, and many former employees detest them (except for Screech, I guess). How inept are the Zwerlings? Their main station, KSCO, which carries a mix of local shows and syndicated fare from the likes of Limbaugh and O'Reilly, gets terrible ratings. In the most recent Arbitron book, listenership dropped nearly in half, down from a 2.3 last summer to a 1.2 in the fall. KOMY only occasionally made a showing in the ratings books. Granted, the Monterey Bay area is not a strong market for talk radio (the only truly successful talk station here is KGO, broadcasting from San Francisco, roughly a hundred miles north of Santa Cruz), but similar stations to KSCO in other markets do much, much better. For the market's flagship news/talk station to do that poorly is embarassing.

Meanwhile, across the bay in Monterey, KRXA, which began airing liberal talk at the same time as KOMY, is plugging along with their own non-Air America talk format. Owners Hal Ginsberg and Peter B. Collins are very dedicated to the format, and seem to have few problems attracting advertisers, as quite a few local businesses can be heard on their airwaves. Ratings aren't great, but they've been steady. And the owners and staff do indeed have a passion for what they do. So, the question deserves to be asked, how do Ginsberg and Collins succeed where the Zwerlings have failed? More effort and less whining, I guess.

To their credit, the Zwerlings did make one more programming move recently. Earlier this month, KSCO dropped Michael Savage. However, this was only because the cost to air the show became too expensive.

See also this thread from October, or all threads regarding KOMY.

UPDATE 1/27: It appears Air America has not left the Monterey Bay area. KRXA has picked up more programming from the network, including the overnight refeed of Al Franken and Randi Rhodes at 11PM, as well as the Mark Riley show live from 2-3AM. Rhodes also gets a best-of replay on Sunday afternoon and evening. Laura Flanders' RadioNation has been picked up for Saturday and Sunday nights. Previously, the station had already been carrying Ring of Fire. So, don't believe the wingnut blogs with all of ten readers. AAR is still on in the Santa Cruz area.

UPDATE 2/2/07: Michael Zwerling responds.

Subject: Are You The Author Of.....

If so, my compliments to the chef!


The story is mostly accurate and TOTALLY entertaining reading!

You (or the author) have (has) a true flair for writing.

This is screenplay material.



Michael L. Zwerling
Owner, KSCO NewsTalk AM 1080 and
KOMY Oldialites AM 1340
Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ratings Roundup Fall 2006: Part 1

As Air America Radio is going through growing pains, and conservative bloggers and radio flacks everywhere have been circling the liberal talk radio format like starving vultures, there is some encouraging news for the format in regard to Arbitron ratings for stations carrying the format.

This past fall was important for the format, as the national midterm elections heated up. And it seems that a few liberal talk stations enjoyed some pretty impressive success. Many others at least maintained their current level of listeners. Granted, the only ratings reports released to the general public are often only the overalls, which consist of all listeners ages 12+ in all dayparts from 6AM-midnight. These numbers, while not as important to advertisers as demographic and daypart breakdowns, do at least give a glimpse of how the format is doing.

In the first of several reports, Part 1 will cover the midwest region of the country. In future installments, LTR will take a look at other areas.

Last Friday, Ed Schultz lashed out at Sean Hannity for comments he made about the liberal talk format, which he claimed was dead. Schultz made it a point to openly remind Hannity that in the most recent ratings book, he actually beat him in several large markets, including Portland, Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Miami and Albuquerque (mp3). The most notable win was in ranked market #16 - Minneapolis/St. Paul, where Hannity, as well as Rush Limbaugh, took quite a beating. Schultz beat, tied, or came close to clobbering Hannity throughout all the demographic breakdowns of the latest book. Schultz' affiliate, 1,000 watt independently-owned suburban liberal talker KTNF, finished with a virtual tie against Hannity's 100,000 watt FM affiliate, KTLK-FM, which has been heavily promoted over the past year via a $1 million advertising campaign by its owner, Clear Channel Communications. KTLK-FM also serves as the Twin Cities affiliate for Limbaugh's show, though he wasn't much help, since he finished virtually tied with KTNF's Al Franken in the midday shift. Schultz was eager to remind Hannity of the ass-whuppin', and to rub it in the face of his longtime nemesis, Clear Channel regional VP Mick Anselmo, who he blames for trying to stall his radio career.

KTNF more than doubled its overall share (all dayparts, ages 12+) from a 0.8 to a 1.7, for 15th place, finishing a mere fifth of a ratings point behind KTLK-FM. The station did well with its morning drive combo of Bill Press and Stephanie Miller, obtaining a 1.9 share, tied for 15th place and beating both local talk stalward KSTP, and more than doubling the ratings of KTLK-FM. KTNF was also the only talk station in the market to actually improve its ratings from the Summer ratings period. The Twin Cities market is saturated with news/talk stations, ranging from the mostly conservative KTLK-FM, full-service legend WCCO, locally-oriented KSTP, Salem conservotalker WWTC, female-oriented WFMP-FM and Minnesota Public Radio's KNOW. Considering the dearth of competition, a much smaller local presence and the limitations of its signal, KTNF has much to be proud of this time around. Congratulations.

Elsewhere in the midwest, WCPT in Chicago (market #3) has been somewhat of a success story. They're a suburban AM station that signs off the air during the nighttime hours, but they have been making a dent in the lower reaches of the local ratings. For the Fall book, the station is up a fifth of a point, to 0.7. Putting it in perspective, that's not too far behind CBS' Free FM station, WCKG. Across the state, WKBF, which was recently flipped to a Christian-based format by its new owner in December, was tied for tenth place in its final book with a 1.7 share, up from a 0.8 in the Spring book.

Ohio has been a bit rough for liberal talk as of late. The format was dropped on stations in both Cincinnati (#28) and Columbus (#37), both part of the same Clear Channel regional cluster. In Cincy, WSAI ends its progressive talk run with a 1.0 rating and a 19th place finish, while WTPG ends with a 0.8 share. In Akron, sister station WARF slides a bit, down from a 1.0 to a 0.6 share. The station, however, is still optimistic about the format, and recently tweaked the schedule in hopes of future success. The station also marks its first appearance in the ratings of neighboring Canton (#128), clustered with various Cleveland and Akron stations near the bottom of the book at a 0.4. Nothing earth-shattering here, but it is notable in that this is the station's first appearance in the Canton rankings.

In Detroit (#10), WDTW, hampered by a rather weak signal and heavy competition, holds at a 0.5, just a tenth of a point behind high-powered Canadian talker CKLW (the local George Noory/Art Bell affiliate). They're also a tenth of a point ahead of Salem's conservotalk WDTK. In nearby Ann Arbor (#147), WLBY comes in with a 1.5 share, in a six-way tie for 17th place, with local talker WAAM and several Detroit FM stations, including the local affiliate of CBS' struggling "Free FM" talk format.

UPDATE: In several late-arriving market reports, Duluth/Superior's KQDS, a tiny AM with no web presense and virtually no promotion whatsoever (like many other stations in the market), makes a rather impressive jump from a 0.9 in the Spring to a 2.1 share for the Fall. WXXM in Madison, recently saved by grassroots supporters, holds somewhat steady with a 3.4 share, down slightly from 3.7 in the ratings period that ended in mid-December. And in Grand Rapids, WTKG is still just under a share.

Note that ratings surveys do not take into account listeners to online streams. Also, the way ratings are reported will change considerably in the coming year, as Arbitron is moving toward doing away with the old 'pencil and paper' diaries and moving toward electronic means, such as online reporting and 'peoplemeters'. The hope is that this will give a more concise figure as to radio listenership. Arbitron also plans to include non-commercial stations, such as NPR affiliates, community and college stations, and non-commercial religious outlets in the overall rankings. Currently, the publicly-released figures include only commercial outlets, though they do track non-coms and include them in some breakdowns.

This is only the first in a series of pending ratings reports you'll see here at LTR, as there are so many stations to report, and not all markets have gotten their Fall '06 books yet. In future installments, you'll see how stations in other parts of the country fared.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

WWRL: Seder out, Stephanie in

In retaliation for comments made about morning co-host and Republican propagandist Armstrong Williams, Sam Seder's mid-morning show has been taken off New York's WWRL, effective this morning.

Yesterday, Seder ripped into Williams for incorrect comments he made about a run-in President Bush had with Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) a month or so ago. WWRL management took exception to Seder's bashing of Williams and yanked his show off their airwaves. As of this morning, WWRL is airing Stephanie Miller's show in the timeslot.

Across the internet, many of Seder's hardcore fans are enraged, with some blaming the move on his syndicator, Air America Radio. This move, however, was made by WWRL. Whether it affects the affiliation agreement between Air America and the station is unknown at this time.

Nonetheless, Seder is gone from WWRL, Miller gains a New York affiliate and Williams is still waking up New York with his more liberal cohost Sam Greenfield. However, Williams is no longer being paid by the White House to suck up to them.

UPDATE 1/25: It appears Seder is back on WWRL this morning. Whether the station decided to threaten carriage of his show to keep him in line (re: keep from dissing WWRL's personalities) or whether Air America stepped in and held them to the contract is unknown. I guess Steph was a one day thing.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Air America close to sealing the deal

UPDATED 1/23/07

Air America Radio’s parent company may have found a new owner, and will likely make an announcement soon, according to Reuters and the Wall Street Journal.

The consortium of investors will be led by the Richard French family of Westchester County, NY, which owns New York City-area television concern WRNN. The group is close to signing a deal to purchase the assets of Piquant LLC, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York in October, according to people familiar with the situation. Though the sides are in negotiations, there is no guarantee those talks will result in a deal, a source close to the talks said. Any agreement would need to be approved by the bankruptcy court. If the deal doesn’t go through, it increases the likelihood that Piquant could face imminent liquidation.

If the acquisition does go through, it could lead to several programming changes at the liberal talk-radio network. Richard French III, son of WRNN's owner, will likely get his own show in prime time on Air America. Richard French, formerly a New York State Democratic Party official, already has a nightly show on WRNN, “Richard French Live,” where he has hosted guests including Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). Another on-air addition could include the return of former Air America morning host Marc Maron, who has been in talks with the French family.

More updates will follow. Keep checking back.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

KFGO: Goodbye Rush, hello Ed

As hinted at a few weeks ago, Ed Schultz is returning to KFGO in his home market of Fargo, ND, and Rush Limbaugh is kicked to the curb, the station's new owner says.

Schultz, 52, plans to return to the Fargo station Feb. 1, to his "News and Views" talk show, which will air from 8:30 to 10:30AM, after a 25-month absence.

"In my gut and in my heart, I wanted to come back to KFGO," said Schultz, who also plans to continue his nationally syndicated "Ed Schultz Show."

"I think KFGO's place is to be live and local," said KFGO owner Jim Ingstad, 46, of Fargo. "You're not going to see any nationally syndicated shows."

Ingstad said he purchased KFGO and five other area radio stations for $14 million from Clear Channel Communications, which had purchased the stations from him in 2000. His law firm said the sale closed Friday.

NOTE TO READERS 2/2/07: As the station officially made the switch yesterday, many people have been inquiring into the changes at KFGO. Yesterday, this was the most accessed of all the articles on this site. Basically, displaced Rush Limbaugh listeners wondering what happened to his show (guess you know how it feels, huh?). For anyone in the Fargo/Moorhead area, drop me a line and let me know what's going on up there. What we do know is that Ed Schultz is now doing KFGO's "News and Views" as of yesterday, in addition to his national show. Is KFGO airing the nationally syndicated show as well? Or is KQWB (1660AM) still airing it? Did any other Fargo station pick up Rush? The stations' websites are no help, as they're pretty outdated and rather vague (KFGO's site still has the generic Clear Channel template). Again, let me know, and just to be fair and charitable, I'll even pass on information about Rush's whereabouts to the readers.

Nova M Radio hits Wall Street

Thanks to Tom Bustamante of Ludlow Capital, who dropped an email with this announcement:

NEW YORK--Jan. 19, 2007– Nova M Radio, Inc., a national progressive talk radio network announced they have retained New York based Ludlow Capital, Inc. to assist the company with investor relations and the process of going public.

Dr. Michael Newcomb, the CEO and Chairman of Nova M Radio commented, "We are very pleased to bring New York based Ludlow Capital on board to assist and guide us through the process of bring our company public. We now feel ready to take the next step in building one of the nation’s largest and most successful progressive talk radio networks. We will continue to build upon the foundation laid by our predecessors and will work tirelessly to fulfill our fiduciary responsibilities to our investors. Equally important, we will with our millions of faithful listeners uphold our vision to promote freedom, social justice, economic justice and peace worldwide.”

Tom Bustamante, the CEO of Ludlow Capital commented, “We are very pleased to be working with Nova M Radio, and to help in some small way in building the nation’s most preeminent progressive talk radio network.”

To request more information and an investor packet on Nova M Radio, Inc. visit

Over the course of 2006, Nova M Radio has put together a strong executive team with years of experience in the broadcast industry.


- Michael Newcomb, MD CEO and Chairman – is a former gubernatorial candidate, radio entrepreneur, broadcaster and physician who has specialized in the care of the elderly and poor. In July 2003 he singularly pioneered liberal talk radio in Arizona and was named best radio talk-show host of 2004 during his first year on the air. Dr Newcomb has appeared on Fox News, MSNBC, NBC and C-Span.

- Anita Drobny, President, is an executive with the Paradigm Group investment firm based outside Chicago and founding partner of Air America Radio. As an accountant and venture capitalist, Drobny has a record of nurturing business ventures from early stages to high growth.

- Sheldon Drobny, CFO is a co-founder of Air America Radio Network and is the author of Road to Air America published by Select Books. He is Chairman and Managing Director of Paradigm Group and has been the major force in developing Paradigm to the status it has achieved today.

- Joe Trippi, Media Communications Consultant, was National Campaign Manager for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, pioneering the use of online technology to organize what became the largest grassroots movement in the history of presidential politics.

- John Zogby, co-host of “The Pulse of the Nation” and President and CEO of Zogby International, remains by all accounts the hottest pollster in the United States today.

About Nova M Radio, Inc.

Nova M Radio, Inc. is in the business of building a national progressive talk radio network in partnership with the original founders of Air America Radio Network. Based in Phoenix Arizona, Nova M Radio currently broadcasts in 10 cities nationwide including San Francisco, Seattle, Sacramento, and Sirius satellite, with plans for additional affiliates throughout 2007. Learn more at

Friday, January 19, 2007

Want to support liberal talk on the radio? Here's a place to start

Much has been made as of late about the lack of advertiser support on liberal talk radio stations. This has been a reason cited by some owners when they decided to change their formats.

We've also seen the power of sponsorship in other places. When WXXM in Madison was on the chopping block, loyal listeners rallied to persuade Clear Channel management to keep it on the air. They signed petitions, spread the story to media outlets across the country, and even enlisted the efforts of nationally-syndicated talk show hosts. Most importantly, they enlisted advertising support. This is key. Even a low-rated station will stay on the air if enough sponsors support it. This is why all-sports formats are so desirable to broadcasters. Often, sports performs poorly in the ratings, but its narrow demographic of mostly male listeners is an audience that is in high demand for advertisers.

Advertiser support is very important for radio stations to succeed. Bob Agnew, program director of KQKE in San Francisco points this out in a call-to-arms posted on the station's website. No, The Quake is not in danger of getting the axe. Ratings have been fairly decent, and are on the rise. But in order to stay alive, they need sponsors. Here's what Agnew has to say:


I’m Bob Agnew, the Program Director of 960 the Quake. I wanted to take a moment and tell you how much we appreciate your loyalty. We appreciate the input we get from you: we responded TO that feedback by creating a lineup of strong progressive talkers like Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, Mike Malloy, Ed Schultz and John Scott’s Progressive News Hour. We have partnerships with many local businesses that believe in this mission as you and I do. For 2007 this is our challenge: Without local advertiser support, we will be unable to provide you WITH the shows you want. And if you’re a local business, know this: Quake listeners are loyal, passionate, and THEY WILL support YOU. We have big plans for the Quake, on air and online. With your support, we will remain viable today, tomorrow, and beyond.

If you have any questions about how we can be a partner to your business, or if you'd be interested in advertising with 960 the Quake,call us and ask for Megan: 415-538-5120

If you have questions about Quake programming or promotions we might work on together, please email me anytime:

We will soon be announcing some new listener initiatives, designed to increase our
awareness..and how you can HELP SPREAD THE WORD..Come back to this page for details!

But wait a minute! Didn't I blast stations in the past for not getting out and finding advertisers? And didn't I rip on the owners of KOMY in Santa Cruz for holding their format hostage? Yes, I did. The purpose of Agnew's memo is to reach out to businesses their salespeople haven't reached. Unlike the Zwerlings of KOMY and other stations (including Clear Channel clusters in other markets), KQKE has been very aggressive in tailoring the station to its listeners. Though they run mostly syndicated shows from Air America Radio and Jones Radio Networks, they have also maintained a local presense with John Scott's local "Progressive News Hour", Harry O's "The Green Hour" and "Queer Channel Radio". While many other stations seem to run their progressive talk stations out of a computer in a broom closet, The Quake has been one of the most aggressive at doing something with it. On the other hand, the management of stations like KOMY, WTPG, WKOX, and WSAI, among others, made little effort besides merely putting it on the air.

Of course, this doesn't pertain solely to The Quake. If you have a liberal talk station in your town (or any station you're passionate about), make your preference known. If you support a sponsor of your favorite station, let them know you heard their ad on that station, and that's why you walked in the door. This means so much to sponsors. And if you own a business and you love hearing Air America or Mike Malloy or Ed Schultz on your local airwaves, why aren't you advertising on that station?

Ever wonder why your local station airs hockey or college basketball games in the evenings? Sportscasts bring in money. Or those obnoxious bowel movement infomercials on Sunday mornings (ewwww... gross!)? Same thing. And conservotalk stations air even more of that stuff, so don't feel alienated. Simply put, they've gotta make money.

As for you radio Account Executives out there, this doesn't get you off the hook. Get off your butts, stop cherry-picking the ad agencies and bring in some business! Hell, you get paid off it, right?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Former Air America Radio staffer killed in Iraq

An American woman working for a U.S. nonprofit organization in Iraq to help strengthen the fledgling government was among four people killed Wednesday in a roadside ambush in Baghdad.

Andrea "Andi" Parhamovich, 28, of Perry, Ohio, and the other individuals worked for the National Democratic Institute, a Washington organization that advises political parties around the world.

Parhamovich, a graduate of Marietta College in central Ohio, had been working with NDI in Iraq since late 2006 as a communications specialist advising Iraqi political parties on how to reach out to voters and constituents. She was helping "build the kind of national level political institutions that can help bridge the sectarian divide and improve Iraqi lives," NDI said.

"There is no more sacred roll of honor than those who have given their last full measure in support of freedom," said NDI Chairman Madeleine K. Albright. "Yesterday, in Iraq, Andrea Parhamovich and our security personnel were enshrined on that list. They did not see themselves as heroes, only people doing a job on behalf of a cause they believed in. They were not the enemies of anyone in Iraq; they were there to help. Now, the prayers of all of us at NDI are with them and with their families. We pledge to do everything that is within our power to see that they did not die in vain. We will honor their example, keep alive their memory, and carry on their work."

A graduate of Marietta College, Parhamovich developed her career in political communication with the Massachusetts Governor's office and Department of Economic Development. Up until a few months ago, she was a member of the public relations department at Air America Radio, and also worked for the International Republican Institute in Iraq before joining NDI's Baghdad staff in late 2006.

An al-Qaida-linked coalition of Iraqi Sunni insurgents claimed responsibility Thursday for the attack on the three-vehicle convoy. Two other people were wounded.

This was yet another sad loss to the war in Iraq. And the more people that are lost, the more it really hits home for many Americans. LTR extends its warmest regards to the friends, family and co-workers of Andi Parhamovich.

See also:

Trish Talk - a rememberance from a friend.

Mike Malloy bringing "truth to power" to more affiliates

The Mike Malloy Show continues to grow, little by little.

As of last week, Malloy is on five affiliates - flagship KPHX in Phoenix, KQKE in San Francisco, KPTK in Seattle, KSAC in Sacramento and WINZ in Miami. This week, he adds San Diego's KLSD to the list, which will air his show live starting at 6PM. The bad news is that they'll only carry an hour of it, since KLSD is also the homebase of Air America Radio night guy Jon Elliot. Elliot's show originates from KLSD, so he is a priority for the station. Nonetheless, San Diego listeners now have the opportunity to listen to Malloy on their radios.

KPOJ in Portland is rumored to be Malloy's next affiliate. This is not official, though. KPOJ currently runs Sam Seder's show from 6-9PM and Thom Hartmann's nationally-syndicated show on delay from 9-midnight. Hartmann currently hosts the station's locally-oriented morning show.

And KDXE in Little Rock, currently operated by Nova M Radio, may start carrying Malloy soon, as they iron out some technical issues. According to Aldous Tyler at NonStop Radio, Nova M may pull out of their deal with KDXE this spring, due to a myriad of technical issues with the facilities. Whether the station keeps its liberal talk format remains to be seen. As always, we'll keep you posted.

Speaking of Nova M, they have recently redesigned their website, and added more user-friendly features such as message boards, and more streaming and podcasting links. You can see it for yourself here.

Maron/Cox to team up for a raunchy "Meet The Press" concept

Pitched as "Meet the Press" but with nudity and graphic language, "The Gaggle" is a new concept being tested out by HBO.

For hosts, the network grabbed former Wonkette blogger Ana Marie Cox, currently the Washington editor of, and former Air America Radio talker Marc Maron. "The Gaggle" will have its debut at the U.S. Comedy Festival next month. So far, it's being conceived as a one-off panel just for the HBO-sponsored fest, but this event serves as a sort of live development slate for the network. Radar Online reports that HBO is testing the waters for a Sunday morning alternative to NBC's "Meet the Press" and ABC's "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" that would feature Cox, Maron, and two rotating panelists grilling whatever political figures they can convince to appear.

The festival's press release pitches it as a "smart, funny, provocative" attempt to bring the "freewheeling approach of ESPN-style sports talk to politics and pop culture."

An HBO source said that "everything at the comedy fest is a potential development idea for HBO," but played down the notion of a new entrant to the Sunday morning field. "Maybe someone had that thought, but I don't think it came from the network."

The show sounds like it would be an ideal fit with other HBO news/comedy fare such as "Real Time with Bill Maher." HBO parent Time Warner also produces "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" for sister cable outlet Comedy Central.

Speaking of "The Colbert Report," host Stephen Colbert will be the recipient of the festival's inaugural Person of the Year Award. Speaking by press release, Colbert said, "I am humbled to be part of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival's tireless efforts to bring joy to the wealthy."

The 13th annual USCAF is set for Feb. 28 through March 4.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Franken seeking advice on possible Senate bid

Comedian and Air America Radio host Al Franken has reached out to Democratic lawmakers from Minnesota in recent days, seeking advice on a possible Senate run against Republican Sen. Norm Coleman next year.

Franken, a veteran of "Saturday Night Live" and radio show host, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he's called all of the Democrats in the delegation.

"I didn't call Coleman," he deadpanned. "I want to mainly touch base and get advice and counsel on certain issues."

Franken said he's also been reaching out to campaign veterans, pollsters and others to get their advice. While people have been encouraging, Franken said, they've also warned about possible pitfalls.

One in particular, Franken relayed: "It's unknown how people will respond to a comedian running for the Senate. I need to figure out a way to let people know I'm extremely serious about Minnesotans and their lives."

Franken said he hopes to make a decision in the next few weeks. Last year, he moved his radio show from New York City to Minneapolis.

LTR invades Myspace!

Okay, now we've gone and done it.

After vowing not to do it, we went ahead and did it anyway.

Yes, LTR now has a Myspace page!

So the question is, why? Have I lost my damn mind? Okay, maybe I have.

Last month, I claimed that a Myspace thingy did cross my mind, but I felt it would be too redundant. A Myspace would just be repeating the stuff I post here. However, one of the biggest goings-on in the world of liberal talk is the power of the people. I've written many times in the past about how grassroots movements and individuals are changing what we listen to. From the effort to 'Save the Mic' to Spocko's crusade against racist radio, we've all become a force. Time magazine was correct in naming "You" as people of the year for 2006. It's the truth. Back in 1970, John Lennon sang "Power to the People," and we've finally taken up that charge.

So, enough bullshit. What's this thing all about anyway?

"LTRspace" will perform a somewhat different function. I plan to link up with other like-minded pages (such as those of radio stations, fan pages, grassroots movements, etc.) and perhaps even pull in more traffic.

I once criticized Myspace as being the "Seinfeld" of web sites - namely, it's a site about nothing. And for the most part, it still is. But I felt it would be cool to make 'something' out of 'nothing'. Again, we're not inventing new ways to split the atom. It's just a fun little extension, and perhaps a bit more interesting than Tila Tequila.

But, you ask, what about Rupert Murdoch? After all, his company, which also gives out paychecks to the likes of O'Reilly, Hannity, Hume and the usual gang of idiots, owns this "GeoCities for minglers." Well, so? It's not like I'm forking money over to him. I surf Myspace via the Firefox browser, with scripts turned off. I see no ads. Besides, I love irony, and nothing's more ironic than me over there spreading subversive messages. Gotta love it!

Will this change anything here? Absolutely not. This is the mothership. Nothing changes. The Myspace thingy is merely an extension, not a replacement. Besides, Myspace sucks for blogging.

So, check it out. LTRspace is now open! Visit at

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New owner to keep KIST's liberal talk format

In an update to last week's post on the sale of Clear Channel's Santa Barbara cluster, progressive talker KIST is one of two AM stations have been spun off as a donation to a non-profit group. And the new owner-to-be plans on keeping the format for the immediate future.

Rincon Broadcasting bought the stations last week, and were to have assumed operation of the stations this week under a local marketing agreement (LMA), pending FCC approval of the sale. In assuming control of the Clear Channel stations, they have chosen to keep the FM signals and to spin off KIST and its more conservative counterpart, KTMS to Santa Barbara Community Broadcasting Company, a non-profit headed by Saul Rosenzweig, Helen Reale, and Roby Scott. Scott is the GM of local classical music outlet KDB-FM.

SBCBC will likewise LMA KIST prior to closing of the sale, and will also continue to air the current liberal talk format on it during the LMA. No word on if it will continue after that.

The highly-rated KIST carries a mix of liberal talk programming, including Air America Radio, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller. The station also carries some local programming on the weekends.

Podcast Picks - 1/16/07

I know, I know. My goal has been to have this thing up over the weekend. Well, things happen and I was bogged down with many other issues over the past few days. In addition, I got pretty burned out on the whole political talk thing. It happens to all of us.

Therefore, I decided to broaden my horizons. To move away from the host-and-a-megaphone thing. I wanted something different. Something that departed from the 'loud voice and a microphone' thing. Something creative. Something with a little music, perhaps.

As the weekend of Martin Luther King Day arrived, by coincidence I discovered a rather intriguing podcast. Years ago, in describing his music, Chuck D of Public Enemy often referred to hip-hop music as "CNN for black people". And since the mid-80's, he's been brilliantly approaching his politically and socially-charged music as just that. Other hip-hop artists told their own stories, from the Afrocentric pride of X-Clan to the socially conscious KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions to Ice T's and N.W.A.'s tales of strife in the ghetto to the New York-centric tales of early rappers such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Nowadays, hip-hop has taken a rather unfortunate turn, as it has become overshadowed by misogyny, violence, vulgarity and materialism. Now, I'm no prude when it comes to anything in music, but one wonders what it is we let our children listen to these days.

Fortunately, the great folks at Voxunion realize this, and have taken to heart the ideas of Chuck D. And they use a key staple of hip-hop's history, the mixtape, to tell their story. FreeMix Radio describe their effort as being a 21st century equivalent to David Walker's Appeal, Ida B. Wells' The Crusader and Robert Williams' Radio Free Dixie. They utilize the mixtape concept as a news and information source, where music and news are packaged for the hip-hop community in a way designed to grab their attention, as they mix stories, news and interviews about the black community in ways no other media outlet can. Stuff you don't hear about in the mainstream media get ample coverage here, such as the violent African conflict diamond trade, how money has corrupted many black politicians, the travesty of the (lack of) response to Hurrican Katrina, the exploitation of inner city youth by military recruiters and human rights abuses in our nation's penal system. And, of course, it's surrounded by music that helps tell the stories. You may not agree with all of it, but it will open your eyes. And the music is powerful, even if you gave up on hip-hop long ago (as I have). All in all, it is damn good, and is highly recommended. In addition to their eight shows that can be downloaded from their site, FreeMix Radio is also distributed freely in stores around Washington, DC and Baltimore. And yes, it does live up to Chuck D's idea of a "black CNN".

In last week's "Podcast Picks," you read about a show called "Best Of The Left," which is essentially a sonic collage that brings together many of the voices you hear on liberal radio and TV. Upstart Radio has something similar, called "Mindwalk." It too is a collage of music and sound (and sound bytes), similar to "Best Of The Left," and presented almost in a magazine format. At a half hour each episode, it also doesn't overstay its welcome. The show also airs on several stations, including Free Radio Santa Cruz, KRFP in Moscow, ID, and others. A recent episode about "Freedom of Speech" includes commentary from Keith Olbermann (blasting Newt Gingrich's ideas about limiting free expression) and graffiti artist Banksy, who's recent claims to fame include painting the West Bank Wall and defacing Paris Hilton CDs. A worthy listen.

The Empire Strikes Back

It goes without saying that when Disney/ABC moved to shut down the website Spocko's Brain a few weeks back, a firestorm has erupted. And of course, according to the thin-skinned hosts of KSFO in San Francisco, it's the fault of us evil liberals.

The aforementioned hosts, Melanie Morgan, Brian Sussman, Officer Vic and Lee Rodgers were in full damage control mode in a special on-air broadcast last Friday afternoon. And of course, not surprisingly, they played the part of the helpless victim. Prior to the show, Morgan fired off an email to over a million conservatives, claiming that liberal bloggers were trying to get her fired. She even had the email published at conservative blog World Net Daily. According to her, she is "the target ... of an effort by liberal bloggers to get me fired for engaging in what these far-left activists are calling 'hate speech.' " Morgan stated that this "move by liberal activists to silence conservative radio hosts comes after the failure of the left-wing Air America radio network."

This show was a damage control effort aimed at reversing the flight of their advertisers. Morgan's co-hosts defended her email blast by saying that the show streams to thousands of people that listen on the Internet. What the hosts did not say is that advertising is not broadcast on the internet stream. The callers from outside the immediate Bay Area listening area will never hear a KSFO advertisement without travelling to KSFO's broadcast range. As such, Morgan's email served only to jam their phone lines with a self-selected conservative activist constituency. Dissenting viewpoints never had a chance to get through the busy signals.

They did, however, allow a few critics to voice their grievances. Morgan read an email from someone named Jay, who spoke of Morgan's effort to lean on movie theater owners to keep Michael Moore's movie, Fahrenheit 9/11, from being screened in theaters, via her dummy organization Move America Forward. She claimed that she did nothing that could be construed as attempting to silence Moore's freedom of expression. Uh huh.

You can read more at Media Matters for America, which has been heavily documenting recent events involving KSFO and Spocko. In addition, Mike Stark has been chronicling events, and even called in to Friday's KSFO broadcast. Both Media Matters and Stark have audio snippets of the show. And don't forget Spocko, the guy who started it all.

How to reform the media

Over the weekend, roughly 3,500 people descended upon Memphis for the third Conference for Media Reform. The event, sponsored by nonparitsan group Free Press, also drew journalists, politicians, activists, bloggers, celebrities and even a couple FCC commissioners.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down in 1968 not far from the Cook Convention Center, where the event was held, and loomed large over the conference. References to Martin Luther King Jr. abounding, its organizers pointed to the symbolism of the event, its setting in the Bluff City and the importance of protecting a free press.

Among the highlights, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) made an surprise appearance at the convention to announce that he would be heading up a new House subcommittee which will focus on issues surrounding the FCC. Kucinich plans "hearings to push media reform right at the center of Washington.” The Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Government Reform Committee was to be officially announced this week in Washington, DC, but Kucinich opted to make the news public early.

In addition to media ownership, the committee is expected to focus its attention on issues such as net neutrality and major telecommunications mergers. Also in consideration is the "Fairness Doctrine," which required broadcasters to present controversial topics in a fair and honest manner. It was enforced until it was eliminated in 1987.

Kucinich said in his speech that "We know the media has become the servant of a very narrow corporate agenda" and added "we are now in a position to move a progressive agenda to where it is visible."

Also at the conference, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps blasted the media for putting out a rather shoddy product. Valuing the cost of the nation's airwaves to be roughly "half a trillion dollars", he claimed that the return on the nation's investment is pretty poor, insisting that there's "too little news, too much baloney passed off as news. Too little quality entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV. Too little local and regional music, too much brain-numbing national play-lists. Too little of America, too much of Wall Street and Madison Avenue. That’s what we get for half a trillion dollars. It’s one hell of a bad bargain, don’t you think?"

Copps proposed a new "American media contract" with broadcasters offering "local stations that are actually local," "news that isn’t canned and radio playlists that aren’t for sale," and "a right to programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often," although he did not specify who would define what programming qualifies as "quality."

Copps then urged Free Press and the other activists and organizers present at the event to “shift from the defense to the offense” and mobilize millions of Americans to make corporate media sign on to the Contract:

“We, the American people have given broadcasters free use of the nation’s most
valuable spectrum, and we expect something in return. We expect this.

First, a right to media that strengthens our democracy;

Second, a right to local stations that are actually local;

Third, a right to media that looks and sounds like America;

Fourth, a right to news that isn’t canned and radio playlists that aren’t for sale; and

Fifth, a right to programming that isn’t so damned bad so damned often”

There was just too much going on at the conference to do just a 'Reader's Digest treatment' here. For more in-depth information, as well as video from the conference, check out the following:

Robert Greenwald's report
WMC-TV 5's blog

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

KIST/Santa Barbara sold to local broadcasters

Radio and Records reports that progressive talk station KIST in Santa Barbara, CA has been sold by Clear Channel Communications, along with six other local stations, to a Ventura-based broadcasting group. The new owner will likely spin the progressive talk station off to another owner.

Rincon Broadcasting announced Wednesday that it is buying the seven Santa Barbara stations from Clear Channel for $17.3 million. This is part of Clear Channel's planned divestiture of its stations in markets outside of the Arbitron-rated top 100. Santa Barbara is Market #207.

Rincon is owned by Point Broadcasting Co., owned and operated by John Hearne of Malibu, Calif., and his family and by Roy Laughlin. Both Hearne and Laughlin are veteran California broadcasters. Laughlin is a former Clear Channel/Los Angeles executive. Point is the principal owner of Gold Coast Broadcasting, which operates six radio stations in Ventura County, and has additional radio-station interests in California's Fresno (where they currently operate progressive talker KFPT) and Kern Counties and in the Mojave Desert.

Rincon expects to take control of all the stations but KIST-AM on Jan. 16 under a local management agreement. KIST is expected to be transferred to Santa Barbara Community Broadcasting Co., which will operate the station, according to what appears to be a press release. Very little is known about KIST's new owner.

KIST has been a ratings success since it flipped from sports to liberal talk in 2004. In the most recent ratings book released yesterday, it ranked #7 overall in the market with a 3.4 overall share. The station runs an almost entirely syndicated lineup consisting of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and various Air America Radio shows. On weekends, KIST features a few locally-oriented shows. All in all, a pretty solid station in the ratings books.

If there were to be a format flip, it would be due to the new owner's own preferences, but as of yet, nobody knows what SBCBC is all about, though we should have some idea by next week. Either way, a call letter change for either KIST-AM or FM will be likely, as they will now be split apart from each other. The AM station carried the KIST call sign for many years until their flip to progressive talk, when they picked up the KTLK moniker. When CC flipped an L.A. station to the format in January 2005, they moved the call sign there and reverted the Santa Barbara station back to KIST.

Keep checking back here at LTR for updates.

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