Saturday, June 30, 2007

Well, that was a big success

A mere six months after the beginning of Clear Channel's purge of liberal talk from their Ohio stations, it looks like the move has more or less backfired.

And in Cincinnati, the much-ballyhooed replacement for progressive talk is already out the door.

WSAI, which dumped liberal talk in December for what appeared to be a rather half-assed 'advice talk' format, evidently realized that the move was a spectacular failure. In essence, nobody really gave a shit about the new format, especially advertisers. What's next? Come Monday, say hello to ESPN1360. Yes, you read that right. WSAI, which actually found a little stability, though far from spectacular ratings with progressive talk, will now shift to the 'AM radio band-aid,' namely sports off the satellite. They've already got WCKY ("The Homer"), which has a mostly local presentation, lots of play-by-play and overnight brokered religious shows. And they had to steal the ESPN affiliation from a little AM station outside Cincy. The new ESPN1360 gives WCKY a complimentary signal and gives would-be competitors less of a reason to compete with their own sports formats (after all, cluster-based radio ownership has more or less evolved into some sort of chess game).

The outgoing format, dubbed "The Source" was a disaster in the making. After Clark Howard, Dr. Laura, Dr. Joy Brown and a few local gardening/car repair shows, there just wasn't enough stuff to put on the air. The solution? Rerun Clark Howard's show the next day. In morning drive. Ugh. And add that famed how-to guy Neal Boortz at night. Needless to say, there were likely more birds hovering around the tower than there were listeners hearing this boring train wreck. Needless to say, The Source was a dud.

Up I-71 in Columbus, the replacement for the old WTPG was third-tier conservotalk as WYTS. After progressive talk actually put the 1230 frequency on the map for the first time since their Top 40 heyday as WCOL and got somewhat decent ratings (relatively speaking), WYTS is languishing at the bottom of the ratings heap. That is, when it actually does show up on the list.

WARF in Akron was the third Ohio Clear Channel to ditch the format. Overall ratings are down by half, but it's too soon to really tell what's going on there. Besides, sports talk is one of those formats that are ratings-proof, since they superserve a narrow demographic. Which makes it attractive to near-invisible AM stations. They don't have to show up in the ratings.

Perhaps they should all just turn off their transmitters and save the electricity.

Webb's body identified, talk host was murdered

Updating yesterday's tragic story, local authorities have identified a badly decomposed body found at Mike Webb's house to be that of the former Seattle liberal talk radio host himself.

Webb's sister, Marian Bagni said Seattle police informed her of the identification earlier in the day, and the The King County medical examiner's office says the death was a homicide.

The cause of death has been listed as "multiple sharp force injuries." The medical examiner stated that Webb died of blunt trauma and multiple stab wounds.

The body was found Thursday by a day laborer, hired by Webb's landlord, cleaning out Webb's Queen Anne rental home. After he moved boxes from a crawlspace, the worker saw the outline of a body under a tarp in the 3-foot crawlspace, and immediately called police.

Webb was last seen on April 13th and had been reported missing.

The webmaster of Webb's site has stated that he will keep it up until further notice, as he feels that is what he'd want. And friend and fellow radio personality John McMullen did an online tribute Friday for Webb, a two hour show that will repeat around the clock until Saturday afternoon and will be available at other times. You can find that at GAYBC Radio.

Further reading:

blatherWatch - A blog run by Webb antagonist Michael Hood, which has been covering the whole Webb ordeal very heavily.

Former talk-show host Webb led a life full of passion, problems (Seattle Times)

Mike Webb's official website

Friday, June 29, 2007

Body found at home of Mike Webb

Seattle police are investigating "badly decomposed" human remains found Thursday at the Queen Anne home of former radio talk show host Mike Webb.

Webb, 52, was last seen April 13, according to a missing-person report filed in May. His 10-year stint as a late-night talk show host came to an end in December 2005 when he was fired by KIRO-AM/710 after being charged with insurance fraud.

Seattle police crime scene investigators and homicide detectives were combing the house Webb had rented for 14 years in the 2500 block of Third Avenue West.

Assistant Chief Nick Metz, head of the department's investigations division, said a property manager discovered the body Thursday afternoon.

Calling the remains "badly decomposed," Metz said investigators had yet to determine the gender, age or the cause of death.

"We are treating this death as suspicious," Metz said.

Investigators were trying to determine whether the body had been moved to the house, Metz said. Several people -- including missing-person investigators and Webb's family -- had been to the house in the months since the liberal radio host vanished.

Officers last examined the home within the past two weeks, police spokesman Jeff Kappel said. It was unclear whether officers entered the home at that time.

Metz declined to divulge details about where the body was found. But he did say that, when those details are publicized, the reasons why the body was not located earlier will be clear.


Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Times


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Paris is burning and news, you lose

The news media gets no love these days.

Conservatives endlessly complain that virtually the entire news media, save for AM talk radio and the FOX News Channel, are infiltrated by liberals seeking to brainwash the masses. On the flipside, liberals are saying the opposite about the news industry, and that AM talk radio and FOX Noise are just agitprop trash.

What do I think? I don't see the legit news media, which consists of television, print and radio, as being overly biased one way or another. Oh sure, FOX Noise is basically nothing but conservoporn, a whitewashing of the news to make it seem more palatable to whiny conservative hotheads. And conservative talk radio is really just a bunch of phony disc jockeys reading GOP talking points and acting outrageous in order to pad their affiliate base and get ratings.

In general, I see them as dumbing down the news. Let's face it, the news media in America these days really does truly suck. Putting out a legitimate news product is not a priority. The goal is ad revenue. It's about cutting costs (particularly in newspapers). It's about ratings.

This is why CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC and even FOX are more obsessed with tragic blondes, helicopter chases, real-life soap operas, bizarre stories and celebrity gossip than real stuff that affects our everyday lives. Thanks to 24/7 cable news, for instance, we can actually stalk Paris Hilton's house as we see the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department extract this dangerous fugitive from justice from her home to take her to jail over traffic tickets. We can look down at crime scene investigators scour over a field in Ohio as they remove a young woman who was brutally murdered, though ignoring the fact that this type of stuff, unfortunately, happens more frequently than they would lead us to believe.

And cable news gives valuable face time to know-nothing pundits like Ann Coulter, who pisses and moans because one of the targets of her venomous tirades calls her on her hateful rhetoric. Ooooh, a catfight! Now this one is utterly ridiculous. The outrageously creepy Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" had this vampire on the show for the whole hour, allowing her to spout her usual ill-informed insults and violent rhetoric (see the video here). For some reason, the "Hardball" staff felt that Coulter, who the day before expressed her wish that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards be "killed in a terrorist assassination plot," was important enough to devote the entire show to. They went so far as to set up an outdoor town hall with an audience and even took viewer phone calls. Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, decided enough was enough, and called in to MSNBC during the show, politely asking Coulter to knock off the personal attacks and cheap shots and just stick to the issues. You can read the entire transcript at the "Hardball" blog.

Of course, there's much divided opinion on this little scuffle, most of it anti-Coulter. Even right-wing stalwarts such as Pat Buchanan and Armstrong Williams have no real respect for Annthrax Annie's evil ways. However, Coulter's few defenders are, as usual, shifting the blame, with the oft-whiny Brent Bozell-owned Newsbusters going so far as to point the accusatory finger at a former blogger on Edwards' site, who was let go months ago. In addition, they're beating the same dead horse of liberal bias in the media, blah blah blah.

Brian Maloney, the Radio Tranquilizer, is crying that Coulter was blindsided and that Edwards' phone call was a set-up to ambush the Queen of Mean. Never mind that in recent months, Maloney has become even more irrelevent than before, having been reduced to merely being Rush Limbaugh's ass-kisser and overall suckup to right-wing pundits. In this instance, he has made an even bigger ass of himself. No, Coulter was not blindsided. She was told of the possibility of Edwards calling in prior to the airing. She knew. Besides, someone who has built a career out of spouting as much vile, hateful and insulting rhetoric as possible should have the foresight of being prepared to defend it, and be ready for blowback. Live by the sword, prepare to die by it, as the saying goes.

But I've gone on way too long about Annthrax Annie. The intent of this article is to question why Coulter and her ilk often get so much attention from our so-called mainstream news media. And I think I have the answer.

News coverage in days gone by was not profit-oriented. It was considered a public service. And the various news divisions in the media were run with the utmost integrity. Earlier, I posted excerpts from an interview Mike Malloy did with Buzzflash. The most interesting parts of the article were about Malloy's time as a newswriter at CNN back in the Ted Turner era. According to Malloy, "News writing was very restrictive... Again, this was back when CNN was run by Turner, and it was run as a news organization. It is not run as a news organization now. But it was very restricted back then. Our senior editors, senior producers, supervising producers, would tell us repeatedly they did not want to find even a nuance of opinion in what we wrote, to the extent that it became a game." The same, sadly, cannot be said today.

What happened? News these days has become a profit center for broadcasters. The television news operations (and I'm using them as an example in this case) are all about shock and titillation. They evidently feel that a real, honest, serious debate won't go over as well as stalking Paris Hilton does. Or bringing on gasbag pundits to scream at each other.

When and why did it all go wrong? It probably started one night in 1994 when every news channel and network outlet in America showed helicopters following O.J. Simpson's white Ford Bronco around the Los Angeles freeway system. Is the flash n' trash approach created by FOX Noise Channel a few years later also to blame for why our news media sucks? Perhaps. I am of the rare opinion that FOX is not necessarily bound to a political philosophy. Sure, Rupert Murdoch has made gaining political clout a goal in various media endeavors, particularly with his purchase of the New York Post in the 1970s. As Time claims in a recent issue, Murdoch has a stubborn populist streak, going so far as to publicly voice his approval of assertive moderate power players like Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton, and his populism finds an outlet on Fox News, a channel that gives voice to angry middle-aged white guys. Piling it on a bit thick, Murdoch dismisses the idea that FOX is basically a right-wing agitprop outlet. "If you look at our general news, do we put on things which favor the right rather than the left? I don't know... We don't think we do. We've always insisted we don't. I don't think we do. Aw, it's subjective. Neither side admits it." So is Fox News an expression of his political views? "Yes! No! Yes and no. The commentators are not. Bill O'Reilly certainly not. Geraldo Rivera certainly not. But Brit Hume and his team on the nightly news? Yes. They play it absolutely straight!" Okay then.

So, am I saying that FOX Noise is not all about carrying GOP water? I am of the opinion that cable news outlets are in the business of making money, first and foremost. And FOX found a gullible demographic to accomplish just that. Basically, they zeroed in on a target audience (whiny conservative hotheads) and milked them for all they could. Sure, FOX is a complete joke of a news channel, but I don't consider them to be news anyway. FOX Noise is an entertainment channel, putting out slanted and gussied-up news and loads of celebrity gossip and other crap that allows simpletons to just turn off the brain for awhile. It's merely just tabloid TV.

Unfortunately, the other news channels have tried to emulate this approach. Rather than hard news, it's non-news stories, dead blondes, screaming pundits, celeb gossip and silly lifestyle stories. And at least some newsreaders have finally had enough of this shit, particularly MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, who went so far as to say on-air that she would not lead with the Paris Hilton story. She even tried to burn the copy with a lighter on-air before feeding it to the shredder. You go girl! And to his credit, CNN's Lou Dobbs has been adamant in allowing no mention of Hilton on his show.

This morning, I decided to take a little online stroll through our news media. Gleaming the web pages often gives a pretty good glimpse of what it is they're covering (aside from helicopter chases and stalking Paris Hilton's house). Of course, the websites tend to emphasize real news more than their on-screen counterparts do. I decided what I felt should be key components of a news website, particularly a mix of real news events, political news, and even some watercooler stuff (like Paris Hilton), kept to a minimum, of course. Sports coverage is always key as well.

Of the various media outlets and cable 'news channels' (and we're suspending belief here for a minute and classifying FOX Noise as a 'news channel'), CNN looked the most pathetic at the time I checked. Here's what "The most trusted name in news" deemed noteworthy earlier today:

Now, to be fair, there's some Iraq War coverage in some of the remaining headlines. The highlighted story was about five cheerleaders who were killed in a New York car wreck. No mention on the front page of the breaking story regarding subpoenas being sent to the White House and the Vice President. Oh, and did you know the Spice Girls are reuniting? But Paris Hilton as the top story? Above the Immigration Bill, killer storms and the War? I don't care if Larry King got an exclusive interview with the trust fund sword swallower. She has gotten way too much mileage without accomplishing a single damn thing in her useless life.

To be fair, I kept returning to the CNN page, to see if anything was updated (i.e. the subpoenas) and to give themselves a chance for redemption. I wasn't holding my breath.

MSNBC did a slightly better job on their front page this morning. They featured much more 'real' news than CNN did. Someone could actually have the chance to learn what's going on in the world by gleaming the top headlines, while, of course, getting all the Paris Hilton news they can really handle:
The subpoena thing gets a graphic banner and link prominently at the top of the page.

Meanwhile, over at FOX Noise, the New York cheerleader thing got more play (they assume Americans are overly obsessed with tragic stories involving young, pretty girls). They feature the immigration bill, and there is even an orange breaking news banner about the subpoenas. Ideological slant is somewhat evident as well (note the Elizabeth Edwards headline, emphasizing the fundraising talking point forwarded by Annthrax Annie):
Okay, not terrible. There is actually some substance there. Of course, in typical FOX fashion, they sex it up a tad with these headlines:
And a video about some cheesecake calendar in Tempe, AZ. That's FOX for ya!

Desire hard-hitting news from CBS? Keep dreaming. After all, this is the same network with "Katie's Half-hour o' Fluff," a.k.a. what loosely passes for the "CBS Evening News" every night. No subpoena story as of yet, but CBS tells us that our president believes that we need to get more excercise. That's the top headline. They do, however, deliver a graphic about the Iraqi beheadings. Immigration and the storms in Texas are also prominent. Oh yeah, Paris Hilton gets big play here. Ick. Just plain ick. A terrible website for seeking out news. What would Edward Murrow or Walter Cronkite say? We already know what Dan Rather thinks.

ABC News has a pretty good reputation for playing it straight in their news coverage. They do own a 24/7 news channel, ABC News Now, that does not get the exposure that CNN, MSNBC and FOX get. You can find them on satellite, some digital cable systems and on a few HDTV side channels. To their credit, they don't bombard audiences with shrill talking heads screaming talking points at each other. They don't go out and get some think tank goons or half-assed radio talkers' opinions on every issue. They basically just read the headlines. And their web page is pretty much a mixed bag of the latest stories, in addition to the stuff they think people are talking about (i.e. Paris Hilton). The breaking news banner is about the U.S. Supreme Court blocking the execution of a mentally ill Texas inmate (though that never stopped Dubya in his governor days). The storms in Texas are getting big play here, as are the immigration bill, the New York cheerleaders, the Edwards/Coulter brewhaha, the tragic story about WWE wrestler Chris Benoit and his family, and something about Mitt Romney strapping his dog to the roof of his car (WHAT???). All in all, a typical mix of news water cooler talk. No mention of the subpoenas as of yet, though.

I go back to the CNN site. Still the same. No subpoenas story.

NPR's front page is pretty serious stuff. They have the subpoena story up front. Also highlighted are the storms in Texas, the removal of the bald eagle from the 'threatened species' list, and the immigration bill. Entertainment coverage is pretty highbrow. Links to profiles of Miles Davis and Joni Mitchell. Not a single mention of Paris Hilton or the Spice Girls.

I decide to go international. BBC has a phenomenal news site devoted to very hard-hitting news, much of it international in focus. Prominent is a story about the Libyan man convicted of the 1988 Pan-Am bombing over Scotland. He just got a chance for a second appeal. They're covering the subpoenas story from across the pond. They also break down various headlines by continent as well. So as not to ostracize casual news readers, they do have something about Paris Hilton. And since this is Great Britain, there is a Spice Girls story.

Up north, CBC and its privately-owned rival, CTV, are, not surprisingly, very Canada-centric in their coverage. Not a whole lot of United States stuff here, but for Canadian news junkies, they're pretty serious. Paris Hilton and the Spice Girls do get a small mention, though.

The old gray lady, the New York Times, is pretty hardcore in their approach to the news. Very in-depth, very highbrow. They are often regarded as talking a bit over many readers' heads, which is probably why they are criticized so much as being 'elitist'. Hey, if conservatives are too stupid to understand it... Nonetheless, there is definitely a place in this world for really serious news, minus most of the fluff. Or anywhere. Hell, take a look at their top headlines. The White House subpoenas, tainted Chinese toothpaste, immigration, the Iraq War are the big stories here. And they are the only site so far mentioning a Supreme Court decision regarding race and public schools. Some human interest stuff is included, such as a story about a teenage girl and her 7000 horsepower jet tractor. Well, that's different. And, for some strange reason, there is a link to a Paris Hilton story in the Arts section. To their credit, the Times pushes this way down on the page.

I go back to the CNN page, to give them another chance. The second headline is about the subpoenas. They've also got a news alert about the Supreme Court decision. Paris Hilton now exists on page one as a ridiculous poll question, asking readers if she will 'fix her image'. Oh brother!

Fast forward to this afternoon, and I check back with CNN. It looks like they've cleaned up their act somewhat. Paris Hilton must finally be old news, as she is shoved down the front page. I wish I could say the same about the subpoena story. It's gone. In its place is a lot of fluff, such as a story about a 7-year old girl trapped in a boy's body, a case of face-eating bacteria and an expedition to search for Bigfoot.

So here ya go, America. This is your news media. I am curious to know if we are really as concerned about Paris Hilton and whatnot as the news media seems to think. I for one could give a rat's ass. And I could certainly care less what someone as nasty, ugly and misinformed as Ann Coulter thinks about anything.

Liberal talk station celebrates 85 years on the air

Okay, they haven't been doing liberal talk for 85 years. Actually, more like three. But KLSD in San Diego is celebrating a big birthday soon.

All Access reports that Clear Channel-owned KLSD has set Saturday July 14 for its 85th anniversary show. Scott Rice will host the look at the station, which signed on in 1922 and is the oldest radio station in the market. The show will focus on the successful "Boss Radio" Top 40 era, when the station was known as KGB, and will include original jingles plus interviews with former KGB personalities.

Over the years, 1360 became a legend in local radio. Hell, they even gave us the San Diego Chicken! The station began life as 10-watt KFBC in 1922, at 1210 AM. The call letters switched to KGB in 1928, named for station manager George Bowles, and moved to 1360 kHz in 1942. Later, they were a cornerstone for the old Don Lee and Mutual radio networks. Famed radio and TV entertainer Art Linkletter got his professional start at this station.

During the 1950s, KGB was slogging along with a middle-of-the-road (MOR) music format. Lots of Lawrence Welk, Steve Lawrence and Nat King Cole. In 1963, the station hired Bill Drake and Gene Chenault out of Fresno to run the station. The two brought in several DJs from Fresno and installed their hip take on the Top 40 hits format, "Boss Radio." Boss Radio took San Diego and the country by storm, particularly when it moved up the road to KHJ in Los Angeles and soon to stations across the country and to the other side of the globe, when an offshore pirate radio station called "Swinging Radio England" started blasting the British Isles with the approach. Stations such as KFRC in San Francisco and CKLW in Windsor/Detroit became well-remembered legends with the Boss Radio approach.

As the era of AM Top 40 radio drew to a close, KGB eventually went through various formats. They simulcast the album-oriented rock of KGB-FM, was all-news as KCNN in 1982 and later KPOP, playing adult standards (basically, a lot of the MOR stuff they played prior to 1963), In 2004, they flipped to progressive talk as KLSD, and became one of the most successful stations airing the format.

So, happy birthday KLSD! And for you young ones out there who desire to relive the heyday of AM radio, in glorious mono, tune in July 14 for a bit of history.

Further reading:

A history of 1360AM
Boss Radio Forever

Air America hires new affiliate relations person

A little upper-office wonkery here, but it looks like Air America Radio is getting somewhat serious about beefing up their terrestrial presence.

All Access is reporting that Air America has hired ABC Radio Networks VP of Affiliate Relations Dave Kaufman for the same role. Kaufman has held that role at ABC for four years and previously served in the same role for Metro Networks/Shadow Broadcasting for seven years.

"We're thrilled to have Dave join Air America Radio," said COO Scott Ellberg. "He’s a seasoned pro in the network radio affiliate business and I believe he will have both an immediate and long lasting impact on Air America's growth."

"It's very exciting to be joining Air America at this pivotal moment in its history," said Kaufman. "Now that there is new ownership, new management, a stronger lineup and with a presidential election only eighteen months away -- there's a great opportunity for increased ratings and revenue."

Malloy's dose of reality

So far, in's continuing series of interviews with progressive radio personalities, we have gotten an inside look at what goes into a radio show, and where they're coming from. Not surprisingly, the most recent interview, this one with Mike Malloy, is probably the most honest and straightforward yet.

Malloy doesn't mince words here. He talks about what he things of conservatives, politics, TV news and his show. It's a pretty good interview, and especially noteworthy as our so-called 'news channels' have been bombarding us with ridiculous stuff like Paris Hilton and Ann Coulter. But more on that later.

On the style of his radio show:

Regarding the political issues, it's very confrontational. Regarding my callers, I have no patience with Republicans or right-wingers, and very little patience with people who are middle of the road. I believe in what Jim Hightower said a long time ago: "The only thing you find in the middle of the road is a yellow line and dead armadillos."

On dealing with right-wing callers:

"Over twenty years of talk radio, but especially in the past three or four years, I've found that most right-wing or conservative callers, or people who call who think they're going to challenge me on a specific point, are functionally illiterate. Their minds are capable of parroting only what they've heard from Rush Limbaugh, or a Free Republic, or Sean Hannity. They are incapable of carrying on a dialogue. They are eaten up with right-wing religious garbage...I know that the majority of my audience doesn't want to hear this. They don't want to hear it because they deal with it constantly out in the real world -- at the workplace, in their churches, in their synagogues, on the bus, in the carpool, at the PTA meeting. They hear these right-wing parrots who are utterly eaten up with fear, utterly eaten up with ignorance. And these right-wingers get their strength only from repeating over and over what they've heard from right-wing radio or right-wing television. So I don't want them to call me."

On show prep:

"My background before I ever came to talk radio was in deadline writing, when I wrote for a newspaper, and deadline newscasts, when I worked at CNN. As a result, I have been known to have an entire show prepared for the radio, and if there's breaking news at six p.m. and I go on at nine, I'll just toss out what I have prepared for that day and go with the breaking news...(At CNN) we were always told, back in the day -- I'm not sure it's true anymore -- but in the early Eighties, we were told to take a look at a story from four or five different reporting sources. ..Take a look at the same story from four or five different angles. Sadly, that has kind of changed in the past twenty years. You have pretty much two points of view now -- the American point of view, and the rest of the world. What I have found is that the rest of the world is pretty much on the same page regarding American foreign policy, and it's usually almost diametrically opposed to what is being consumed by American news consumers."

On writing for CNN:

"News writing was very restrictive, especially at CNN. Again, this was back when CNN was run by (Ted) Turner, and it was run as a news organization. It is not run as a news organization now. But it was very restricted back then. Our senior editors, senior producers, supervising producers, would tell us repeatedly they did not want to find even a nuance of opinion in what we wrote, to the extent that it became a game...There were about six of us working as writers at the same time, including Christiane Amanpour. Some of us would attempt to slant our stories with just one word, changing, for example, "would" to "could" -- and see if we could get it by the senior editor. We never could. We would kind of get our asses slapped for even attempting that. Writing news was very restricted back then."

On conservative versus liberal talk radio:

"The playing field has never, ever, ever, ever been level between right wing and liberal. The genius of Limbaugh was not Limbaugh, it was Roger Ailes...the person who comes up with the best marketing idea is the person who usually comes up with the winner, not the person who comes up with the best product. Right-wing talk radio is not a good product. It's toxic. It's destructive. It's negative. But it had behind it a marketing genius, Roger Ailes. So all of a sudden, you had the availability of a conservative talk show. So what happens next? Mid-level managers in this country -- I don't care if they're in media or in manufacturing -- mid-level managers, for the most part, are conservative. They're conservative because they're cowardly. If you remember, there was a book from the Sixties called The Peter Principle, which stated clearly that people in organizations rise to their level of incompetence and then stay there. Now in radio, in the Eighties especially, there was a level of mid-level management in radio stations that was totally uncreative. They couldn't find their ass with both hands. All of a sudden, you have a guy who's on five hundred radio stations. Well, what are you going to do? You're going to say: Ooh, there's a success. And you're going to grab for it."

Again, this is a very good interview, and in it, Malloy goes into more detail about his days at CNN, as well as more opinions about the state of talk radio. You can read it here.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Webcasters to go silent Tuesday

If you tune in to any of your favorite webstreams on Tuesday June 26 and discover nothing but silence, don't panic. That's the way it's supposed to be.

Thousands of webstreams will go silent for the day as commercial and non-commercial webcasters, radio broadcasters, streaming services and even hobbyists turn off the streams to draw attention to an impending royalty rate increase foisted on them by SoundExchange, a front organization doing the bidding for the recording industry, which is attempting to strong-arm webcasters into new and ridiculously impractical royalty rates, the results of which could severely cripple webcasting as we know it.

Participants in this day of silence include some pretty big names. Yahoo, Rhapsody, MTV, Live365, Digitally Imported, Pandora and AccuRadio are just some of the multi-stream providers included. Independent streamers such as Radio Paradise, and Head-On Radio Network are going quiet as well. Many non-commercial radio entities are also turning off the streams for the day. And radio groups Saga Communications and Greater Media are also going quiet in support of the effort. As of yet, big guns like Clear Channel and CBS Radio have not announced their participation.

Many webcasters are planning to shut off access to their streams entirely, while other webcasters plan to replace their music streams with long periods of silence or whatever interspersed with occasional brief public service announcements on the subject. KCRW in Santa Monica, CA, for example, is replacing music programming with coverage of the Day of Silence. Internet-only webcasters and broadcasters that simulcast online will alert their listeners that “silence” is what Internet radio may be reduced to after July 15th, the day on which 17 months’ worth of retroactive royalty payments — at new, exceedingly high rates — are due to the SoundExchange collection organization, following a recent Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) decision.

In March, the Copyright Royalty Board announced that it would raise royalties for Internet broadcasters, moving them from a per-song rate to a per-listener rate. The increase would be made retroactive to the beginning of 2006 and would double over the next five years. Internet radio sites would be charged per performance of a song. A "performance" is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 "performances" for each song it plays." Since the announcement by the CRB, a large outcry has been heard by webcasters, broadcasters and listeners alike. And there is a growing movement of support in Congress to put the brakes on the CRB's decision.

As for Tuesday June 26, there will be silence. And if the recording industry and the CRB have their way, it could be permanent.

That's two, so far

Okay, so you all though it was bunk. I'll admit I was somewhat skeptical. But it looks like Air America Radio has picked up a couple affiliates.

The Atlantic City rumor seems to be reality, as WTAA (1490AM) has indeed flipped to liberal talk over the weekend. They're carrying Air America programming, but I have absolutely no clue as to what else, if anything, they're airing. Nonetheless, on your way to throw down the mortgage money on the craps table at one of the many casinos the town is noted for, you can listen to Air America on 1490AM.

Another new affiliate is an old affiliate. KSAC (1240AM) in Sacramento has picked up Randi Rhodes starting today, in addition to a few of the network's weekend shows. Rhodes will air live, replacing Dave Ramsey's financial advice show, and will shave an hour off local host Christine Craft's afternoon show, which will now air from 3-6PM. Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Mike Malloy, Joey Reynolds and Doug Stephan round out the rest of the weekday schedule.

You may recall that KSAC and Air America had a rather ugly divorce in late 2005, which saw Air America move their programming to rival KCTC. KSAC owner Paula Nelson was very bitter about the whole experience, but kept the progressive talk format, albeit with non-Air America shows. KCTC dropped progressive talk for sports a few months ago, and it now appears everything has come full-circle.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Malloy gets an 'amen' in Augusta, and other little tidbits

Following a quick surgery (not life threatening, but rather uncomfortable) and other little things, I've finally got some time to get down to business, as I currently have the freedom of a few days of rest, and have realized that I am most comfortable sitting up. Particularly at my computer desk. And since watching TV can get very, very boring (that took roughly a half hour or so), it's time to play catch-up.

First up, Nova M Radio's Mike Malloy has a new affiliate. This one is a bit different, though. It's not the typical Air America Radio outlet that's merely clearing a few hours in the evening. This one is even a bit closer to Malloy's Atlanta stomping grounds. WAAW (94.7FM) in Augusta, GA will carry Malloy's show weeknights at 10PM. What makes the whole deal unique is that WAAW is not a talk station. Rather, they air a gospel music format. And they were once owned by James Brown, and for a time aired classic R&B music. Is the addition of Malloy a signal of things to come at WAAW? Who knows? Radio can be a strange business. Hallelujah!

Malloy's syndicator, Nova M Radio, has been calling itself a network since its inception last year, though the only show airing outside of homebase station KPHX has been Malloy's. That changes, as "Pulse Of The Nation" with John Zogby and John Farias finds its own affiliate, WIBX (950AM) in Utica, NY. Utica-area listeners can hear the show Saturday mornings at 9AM. And no, WIBX is not a candidate for a liberal talk flip. They are the local Limbaugh affiliate.

In other Nova M news, Will in Chicago reports that Herb "Sarge" Phelps' weekend show has a new name, "The Unreported News Radio Show." The new time for the show will be 11AM ET on Sunday mornings (adjust for other time zones, particularly in the Phoenix area, which confuses everyone by not observing Daylight Savings Time).

And Will also reports a new show coming to KPHX. 'King' Daevid Mackenzie is part of the Unreported News gang, and he gets his own weekly gig, which will air on Sunday mornings at 10AM ET. He'll also be in the studio for Sarge's show. Mackenzie has bounced around the radio industry for years. He most recently hosted a history-oriented show, "Echoes of a Century," on a Wisconsin Public Radio affiliate in La Crosse, WI.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

LTR -The post-op edition

Just a note to all of you who have emailed me and wondered why things have been so quiet here. I've been laid up a few days and just got out of the hospital (following an appendectomy). So I've fallen a bit behind, and am in a bit of pain right now.

Luckily, I went to the hospital early enough, opting wisely not to wait until my appendix ruptured on its own, so it was a pretty quick and easy surgery (but it still friggin' hurts!). So bear with me as I spend the next few days playing catch-up, answering emails, etc.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Air America ditches news division

In a not-so surprising move, Air America Radio has decided to eliminate its news division, according to the New York Daily News. The hourly news updates will cease at the end of June.

This was a financial move, not in desperation, but for economic efficiency. "We spent the last three months looking at all the options," a staff memo from COO Scott Elberg stated. "In the end, it didn't work."

The dropping of the hourly news updates seems in keeping with owner Stephen L. Green's pledge of fiscal efficiency. In addition, very few affiliates even carried it, opting for other syndicated news offerings from the likes of CNN or CBS. Air America's news updates were heard most prominently on their webstream.

The news department's staffers include Wayne Gillman, Bill Crowley, Mike Piazza and Mark Scheerer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The idiot box and the birdcage liner, Part 1: Death of a Newspaper?

As the country heats up on the approach to the official start of summer a week from tomorrow, things are heating up in the television and newspaper business.

Initially, I was going to do a multi-party story, with the likes of Dan Rather and Rupert Murdoch dominating the behind-the-scenes broadcast news as of late. But that would make for one helluva long article, so just like Guns n' Roses split "Use Your Illusion" into two albums, just like Quentin Tarantino split "Kill Bill" in two and just like his recent effort "Grindhouse" crapped out at the box office because he didn't and it was just too damned long (ever sit nonstop through a three-and-a-half-hour movie after downing a 64 oz. Pepsi from the snack counter?), this article will likewise be chopped up. Think of it as doubling your pleasure. Hang tight, the Dan Rather one is coming soon.

First things first. The big newspaper industry story as of late has been Murdoch's aggressive bid for Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, among other papers and publications. Murdoch made an unsolicited offer of $5 billion dollars for the company, hoping to tie their business media prowess with the planned "FOX Business Channel" that will take to the airwaves later this year. Since News Corp.'s announcement, others have jumped into the pursuit of Dow Jones, including the owner of the Philadelphia newspapers and reportedly, even NBC.

Granted, the Wall Street Journal seems, on the surface, to be a conservative rag, which would appear to fit right in with Murdoch's other U.S. newspaper properties. But the neocon agit-prop is usually confined to the editorial pages (which seems to often be written at the high school level). The rest of the paper is top-notch, with some very strong in-depth reporting on all kinds of news stories. And the 35-member, three generation Bancroft family has done a remarkable job of keeping up these high standards (save for "Opinion Journal") in an era when most newspapers are scaling down and relying increasingly on wire reports and fewer local features. Overall, it's a decent conservative rag, with groudbreaking stories on the AIDS epidemic, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, 1980s insider trading scandals and the Enron fiasco, among others. Too bad it's a bit bogged down by the aforementioned opinion pages.

Will a News Corp-controlled WSJ resemble screaming tabloids like the New York Post or trashy London rags like The Sun or News Of The World? Granted, it likely won't go that far. But this could signal the end of the Wall Street Journal's noted independence and unique style as it becomes a part of a megacorporation known for heavy consolidation. The bland, gray lady could get even blander, minus the substance and deep reporting. Dow Jones is much, much smaller in comparison, and has given its media properties much more leeway than the other mega media empires it competes with.

Now, some of the Bancrofts are a bit wary. They don't much care for the Post or FOX News Channel, which they feel are too politically slanted and are overly obsessed with celebrity gossip and crime stories. They fear what could become of their crown jewel. Some are starting to warm up to Murdoch, but with very strict stipulations. News Corp promises status quo at the Journal, but we've all heard that before, right?

In another sign that Murdoch is dead serious about his pursuit of Dow Jones is today's announcement by News Corp that they are selling off nine of their TV stations, all of which carry the FOX Network (the "American Idol" one, not the "American Idiot" one). These stations are in some pretty big markets, such as Denver, Cleveland, Milwaukee and St. Louis. What's notable is that these are also stand-alone FOX affiliates, meaning that they don't have sister UHF stations airing MyNetworkTV, a young, upstart sister network that nobody watches. Why they opted not to sell those stations is unknown, since the stuff on MyTV is even worse than any of the shit FOX ever put on the air in their early days. Yes, worse than "The Chevy Chase Show."

FOX doesn't have much to lose in selling these stations. It's a given that whoever buys them (and no, FOX isn't stupid enough to sell these to another network and get their stuff yanked off the air) will keep the FOX affiliation. In the industry, it's a well-known fact that station owners drool over being a FOX affiliate. Let's face it, FOX stations only have to clear 2-3 hours for network programming a day (outside of sports), as compared to 8-9 hours daily that ABC, CBS and NBC stations have to give up. That means much more local ad time the stations can sell (in addition to a shitload of courtroom shows). Throw in NFL games and "American Idol" and why would any station, from a business standpoint, give that up? So they're relatively safe there. And FOX does mandate some pretty hefty standards for their affiliates, so it's almost like they're company-owned. For viewers in affected markets, the main difference is a lack of shows that FOX forces on their owned-and-operated stations (like "Geraldo at Large") or those ugly ass logos those stations have been getting lately (made to resemble the "FOX Noise Channel" logo - shudder). Consider yourselves lucky.

Now, keep in mind, Murdoch rarely sells anything. And when he does, it's usually due to federal regulations in whatever country they own properties or in cases when their buying sprees rack up too much debt (i.e. the FOX Network startup). News Corp has succeeded partly due to shrewd business moves (the broadcast network was a massive success), but mostly due to the obscene amount of money thrown around. But this sale of assets means that News Corp is hell-bent on acquiring Dow Jones, whatever it takes. And that's quite scary. We shall see what happens.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mike Webb is missing

A bit of old news to some, but nonetheless still ongoing.

Seattle liberal talk show host Mike Webb, formerly of KIRO and most recently doing a webcast version of his show, has been missing for almost two months. April 13 is the last time he had done a webcast, posted a blog entry and had spoken to anyone in his family. According to blatherWatch, a Seattle media blog that often writes about Webb, nobody seems to know his whereabouts. blatherWatch and Webb's family report that his house had been ransacked, but his car and other personal effects were left behind. The car, parked on the street, has since been impounded by police.

The last anyone had heard from him was allegedly April 30, when the local Department of Corrections had received a check-in call from him. Webb was convicted in February for making a fraudulent insurance claim after an automobile accident the previous June, when his Lexus was struck by an uninsured driver. Webb was fired from KIRO in December 2005 following his indictment on the charges.

Webb, 51, has been suffering a decline in mental and physical health for the past couple of years, according to sources. He even suffered a breakdown in court last September (resulting in a mistrial), had filed for bankruptcy protection and had reportedly even contemplated suicide.

A San Francisco native, Webb got his start in radio in the late 1960s, as a teenager, at KMPX, the groundbreaking progressive rock FM station programmed by legendary disc jockey Tom Donahue. He moved on to other San Francisco stations, doing mostly on-the-street reporting and interviews, with his most memorable story being the murders of San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone by deranged ex-City Supervisor Dan White. Webb, working for KGO radio at the time, also covered the riots that ensued when White received a mere seven year sentence for the double murder, by reason of insanity (junk food made him crazy). Later, Webb worked as an on-air personality at other San Francisco stations before moving to Seattle in the early 1980s. He entered talk radio at KIRO in 1996. Webb is also known for his activism work, particularly against hate crime. Webb runs a voice-over business as well.

Anyone having information about Webb, or those who have seen him are encouraged to contact Seattle Police Detective Tina Drain at (206) 684-5582. Seattle police are treating this as a missing persons case.

You can read more about Webb at blatherWatch.

Rumor: Air America adding 6-7 new affiliates

Geez, it's been so long since I did one of these types of posts that I damn near forgot how.

All kidding aside, the hot rumor in liberal talk appears to be the rumored pending arrival of new stations to the format. Last night on his show, Jon Elliott claimed that his employer, Air America Radio is adding 6-7 new affiliates in the next few weeks.

Now, we don't know where these stations are located, but Elliott did throw us a bone, claiming that one would be in Atlantic City, NJ. As far as affiliate possibilities go, the most logical station would seem to be WTAA (1490AM), which is owned by Access.1 Communications (owner of Air America's New York affiliate WWRL). Currently, this little 400 watt wonder is simulcasting the oldies sounds of its sister FM station, WTKU ("Kool 98.3"). Sure, 400 watts ain't much, but local AM stations in the Atlantic City market are pretty weak. They don't have to cover much ground, and they blast half their signal out into the ocean anyway. Incidentally, the WTAA call sign was just picked up in the last week or so.

As for the other rumored markets, nothing is known. One that could be the subject of speculation (namely my own) could be WVKO (1580AM) in Columbus, OH, which is close to returning to the air, after building a new broadcast transmission facility. Obviously, the station needs a format (their preference is brokered programming, but that stuff doesn't happen overnight), and the owner knows that local interest is there for progressive talk, after the format was dropped by WTPG in December. Again, this isn't even close to rumor status, just mere speculation on my part. So keep that in mind before you all go around spreading this stuff.

There's no word on what any of these stations will run outside of Air America programming, if anything, whether it be local shows or stuff from other syndicators.

Nonetheless, keep checking back here for more info. And if anyone reading this owns or works for one of the aforementioned rumored stations (and I know you're reading this), drop me a line and fill me in.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

KTLK's Walker buys Sheehan's Crawford, TX land

Bree Walker is slated to be George W. Bush's new neighbor.

The Brad Blog is reporting that the progressive talk radio host will be purchasing "Camp Casey," Cindy Sheehan's five acre property near the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Walker, currently a resident of San Diego, was previously a television news anchor in Los Angles and New York. She confirmed to Brad Blog that she intends to keep the property "as a ground for freedom and peace" and is considering erecting a memorial there for troops killed in Iraq. She hopes to create a meditation garden on the grounds and to keep it open to the public.

"I'm cashing out my capitalist corporate stocks and buying into a legacy of peace," she said. Sheehan will be selling the property for the same price she purchased it for so as not to be seen as profiting from the sale, Walker explained.

Walker is currently a weekend host at KTLK in Los Angeles, where she has a show on Saturdays from 2-4PM PT. She was formerly married to NBC and HBO sportscaster Jim Lampley, whom she currently runs a production company with. Lampley has also dabbled in progressive talk radio, occasionally filling in for Ed Schultz on his radio show.

Sheehan will make an appearance in studio with Walker for the entirety of today's broadcast where, Walker says, she'll "give Cindy the check (reportedly around $87,000), and Cindy will give me the deed to the property." Walker will also be soliciting input on what listeners think should be done with the land.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, Sheehan announced that she would be stepping away from her leadership role in the Peace Movement and planned to sell the Crawford property, which had been a gathering ground for peace activists. She had intended to sell the property on Ebay, but shortly afterwards "Moving America Forward," a group of rather obnoxious Bush supporters led by shrill San Francisco radio host Melanie Morgan, announced their intentions to try and purchase the land. Most likely to build their own shrine to President Bush. Or a shrine to Morgan's ego.

Nonetheless, congratulations to all involved.

Read more at Brad Blog.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Stephanie Miller talks to Buzzflash, and it's better than "ParisGate"

Hi everyone! Miss me?

Well, it's been pretty quiet around here. Must be something to do with the advent of Summer. And with everything so beautiful, warm and green outside, do you really thing I want to be sitting inside writing on a blog? Course not! But I guess it must be a midwestern thing, where we take full advantage of the seemingly one month of Summer that we do get.

Plus, news around this time of the year seems to be somewhat slow. I guess I could have done what everyone else is doing and talk about how Paris Hilton's jailing is affecting our country. Can you believe this? Last night, I decided to flip around the so-called cable news channels, which is something I often avoid. Needless to say, I was appalled. On CNN, it was all Paris. Same with Headline News, MSNBC, FOX Noise and all the other usual suspects. Now, that's pretty appalling, considering how much coverage is being devoted to this person who's main accomplishment in life is... nothing. She's not a noteworthy actress. Though she did allegedly record an album, nobody bought it. And there's a reality show that's shoved somewhere on an upper-tier cable channel. So, outside of demonstrating her, ahem, sword-swallowing techniques on pirated homemade videos, she is not noteworthy in the least. Do I care if she's spending a few weeks in city lockup? I really don't. Well, at least they stopped talking about that TB guy who flew to Europe. I wish I could tell you the other important news stories of this past week, but outside of Scooter Libby, I really can't, because the TV news cartel deems Paris Hilton as the only thing really going on worth mentioning.

As for talk radio, I've been avoiding it lately, so I have no idea how "ParisGate" is playing out there. I get the feeling that it's more of a big deal on conservative radio, since they seem more obsessed with silly celebrity (and pseudo-celebrity) gossip and tabloid trashiness than progressive radio, which is a bit more into hard news. I confess I've been listening mostly to the local classic rock station, where there ain't a peep about it outside of the wacky morning show.

Speaking of wacky morning shows, as a way of washing this Paris nonsense right out of your hair, I present to you another great interview in Buzzflash's ongoing series of conversations with progressive talk radio hosts. And this one may be the most entertaining yet. This time around, Stephanie Miller talks about her show, the recent simulcast with MSNBC, doing progressive radio, and when she first got interested in politics. As expected, it's a very funny and breezy interview, and definitely worth a read.

On her present on-air crew:

Jim Ward, Chris Lavoie and I worked together on my last show on ABC Radio Network, and we've been friends ever since then. We kind of share a brain. We've all been friends, like ten years, going back to ABC Radio Network. I think a lot of these morning shows just throw people together. And I've certainly had that happen to me, too. But you really can't buy chemistry. Either you have it or you don't. I think part of that does come from just knowing each other, and being friends. Some days, I can't believe I get paid for this. I'm just hanging out with my two best friends, you know, laughing myself silly over something ridiculous.

On doing progressive radio:

I've always felt like we have to do a comedy show first. It just happens to be hosted by a progressive. You know, I did my show successfully on right-wing stations, and so did Randi Rhodes, and so did Ed Schultz. But none of us could get syndicated, because there weren't enough stations to be on. Obviously only a very few right-wing stations would put a liberal on. But the ones that did, we did really well. I had the number-one show on KABC here in Los Angeles before I was on a progressive station. Anyway, my point is, what's happened is it's kind of ghettoized radio in a way. Now it's like, oh, you belong there, and the right-wingers belong here. That's the thing that's a little frustrating right now. Progressive talk had about sixty stations; conservatives were on six hundred. Clearly, we'd all like to expand. You don't have to have all conservative, all liberal. Last time I checked, we're a pretty divided country, you know? Anyway, I just look at it as entertainment. If you're really just there to do your side's talking points, what's entertaining about that?

On the recent MSNBC simulcast:

It's more of a theater of the mind. I'm kind of down on the whole radio-on-TV thing, and I frankly am not sure than MSNBC or anybody else is going to do it again. It's going to be tough, you know? You're going to offend somebody. And it's like everybody's out to play gotcha now. All the right-wing groups, I'm sure, would come after me. But they just said: Hey, come do your radio show. It's not like we had time to plan how to make this work better on TV. And do you in fact ruin it by trying to make it work for TV? Do you ruin it for both, in a way? That's what I don't know. It seemed like people were split. A lot of our fans loved it -- loved being able to look behind the curtain and see what it looked like. And then I think there's that other side that felt like they might not want to see the curtain pulled back, because it's the whole theater of the mind thing. It's so designed for radio that you really would have to rethink it if you were doing that for TV all the time, in terms of the sound effects and all that stuff -- it's so audio-only, you know?

Read more at And get outside and enjoy the Summer! Obsessing over the trials and tribulations of Paris Hilton will not enrich your life. Sunshine and green grass and trees will.

Friday, June 01, 2007

WLVP/Portland flips to sports

Progressive talk is gone from the local airwaves of market #167.

After nearly three years, WLVP ("870 The Voice") in Portland has dumped their Air America-dominated liberal talk lineup as of 6AM this morning in favor of airing the straight feed from ESPN.

“It was simply time to put the best product possible on 870 AM WLVP and without question that is ESPN sports radio” said Patrick Collins, Senior Vice President and General Manager for Nassau Broadcasting Maine. The new "870 ESPN" will carry the ESPN radio network 24 hours a day and will also air local high school sports. They are co-owned with another Maine ESPN outlet, WLAM (1470AM) in Lewiston.

If this all sounds somewhat familiar, the station went through this in 2004. WLVP picked up programming from Air America Radio in April 2004 and almost dropped it six months later, when they announced a pending flip to ESPN. After a groundswell of protest over the announced decision, station management opted to keep the format. Now, they finally made the move.

WLVP was never promoted strongly, and it seemed they did not understand how to sell the format. The station also opted to run virtually a straight feed of Air America, rather than pick up programming from other syndicators, as most progressive talk stations do. They did, however, air local sports programming, such as high school football and minor league baseball.

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