Friday, June 27, 2008

Fairness, schmairness and panic in the streets

Two words strike absolute fear into the hearts of right-wingers across the landscape. Two words that make crybaby conservatives burst into tears. Suffice it to say, it scares them more than having the depressing John McCain as their favorite party's nominee.

Those two words:Yep, you guessed it - the Fairness Doctrine.

So, what is this "Fairness Doctrine?" It was enacted in 1949, and mandated that various viewpoints be represented on the airwaves. Sounded okay in theory, but as time progressed, it became clear that you can't lead a horse to water and expect it to drink. In short, you can't force broadcasters to do quality radio.

Back in the old days, there weren't that many talk radio stations. AM in those days was the main band - most stations played music or entertainment programming. There were the so-called 'full-service' stations that were big on news and information. There were also the occasional partisan and confrontational talk show hosts such as Father Charles Coughlin and Joe Pyne. And even the Top 40 hits stations had hourly news updates. There were even a few scattered talk stations, with some featuring a balance of partisan right-and-left talkers. But talk radio didn't start becoming popular until the higher-fidelity FM band exploded in popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s and started putting AM music stations out of contention. With no other place to go, many of them, even the big Top 40 stations like WABC and WLS, switched to talk. Most talk radio was local at the time. The most common syndicated fare in those days was late night fare such as Larry King and Talknet. Most of it was rather non-controversial. Overly partisan talkers like Rush Limbaugh easily got around the doctrine by claiming they were doing an 'entertainment' show.

But with the Reagan Administration forcing the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, the increased use of satellite transmission, the increased abundence of talk stations and the rising costs of using local talk show talent, there was a demand for more syndicated programming. ABC Limbaugh out of Sacramento to come to New York, with the intent of launching a daytime ultraconservative talk show to air across the country. It got off to a slow start, on some rather small stations, but eventually wound up gathering steam and even snared some big-signalled stations. In the world of radio, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Everyone copies off each other. As a result, Rush clones popped up all over the dial. First came G. Gordon Liddy. Then came the guys like Sean Hannity and Michael Savage. Then, seemingly every local right-wing radio hack in America wanted his/her own syndicated talk show. And the station owners and program syndicators loved it. Their rationale was, if Limbaugh was successful, then perhaps their low-hanging fruit would be as well. It wasn't politically-motivated as it was lazy radio-related. Conservotalk was the radio format flavor of the month.

Conservotalk grew so much that radio stations even ditched, neutered or converted their liberal talkers. They wanted an entire schedule of Limbaugh clones. Soon, the talk radio landscape was chock full of empty suits shouting the same GOP-generated talking points. They also claimed that they were the antidote to the so-called 'liberal media,' which in their minds consisted of the broadcast networks, CNN and the print media. Of course, they offered no real proof of this, but as the saying goes, tell a lie long enough and it will become truth in their eyes. After all, as I was watching all those TV news channels back in 2004 and seeing how much face time the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were getting (even though they were spouting obvious lies), I couldn't help to think how 'liberal' the media was (sarcasm off).

With the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, there has obviously been talk of reviving the Fairness Doctrine. And the mere thought has made right-wingers crap their drawers in fear. Some Republican politicians have even tried to draw up support for an outright ban on a return of the doctrine, while Democratic counterparts have threatened to bring the issue to the table once and for all. The biggest thud occurred earlier this week when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced that she indeed supported the revival of the fairness doctrine, in effect, putting the brakes on the wall-to-wall right-wing propaganda cluttering the AM landscape by balancing out ideas and opinions on the nation's airwaves. Of course, the right-wingers went completely apeshit. They derided it as the "Hush Rush" bill. How dare the Democrats threaten their gravy train! The nerve!

Ehh, not so fast. Luckily for them, the whole Fairness Doctrine thing is a red herring, likely to scare the hell out of nervous wingnuts. It's not on the table now. Though Pelosi supports it, she's got more important things on her plate. She won't call for a vote on the issue any time soon. So breathe easy - the Fairness Doctrine isn't coming back. As I said the other day, you can't put the shit back in the horse.

The overabundance of wingnuts on the radio is overstated, in my opinion. Combining all of the many, many stations airing hundreds of different Rush clones, the listening numbers still suck. Limbaugh probably gets no more than 5% of the national listening audience on average, and I'm probably being generous here. Everyone else below him gets far less. So, needless to say, it's a rather small and rather loud echo chamber. Most people really don't give a shit about screaming political talk, whether it be from the right or the left. They'd rather have "Everything that Rocks" and "Your Twelve in a Row Variety Station"on the FM side. That's the fact. Talk radio only preaches to the flock. And, truth be told, that flock is getting pretty long in the tooth. Listeners to conservotalk are, on average, quite a bit older than many advertisers like. In short, they don't trust anyone over 54. That's the big problem on the horizon for the format, and one many people don't talk about. Wonder why you don't hear Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley on the radio anymore? Their fans are too old in the eyes of the advertising world. Same goes for conservotalk. Eventually, the audience will become too old for advertisers to care about. And once they go, the format's gonna haves some serious problems. Now, I'm not denigrating the older generation. Just simply stating a reality in the business. Radio has to figure out a way of staying relevant with the listener demographics that advertisers covet.

The recent doctrine debate even reached as far as the presidential race. Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama does not favor it's resurgance. "He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible," press secretary Michael Ortiz said. "That is why Sen. Obama supports media-ownership caps, network neutrality, public broadcasting, as well as increasing minority ownership of broadcasting and print outlets."

And once again, Obama comes out as the one person making sense here. Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, the radio landscape has changed drastically. And ideologically balancing out the airwaves in this day and age is easier said than done. The root of the problem these days is the corporate monopolization of the radio dial. The big radio conglomerates own stations they don't even care about owning, and often use them to dump cheap syndicated programming on, mostly from the low-hanging fruit of conservative talk radio. It's inexpensive, proven, easy to automate and has something resembling an audience. What would happen if some smaller group owned that very frequency and decided to put on something they really cared about, rather than the conglomerate's dumping of content filler on an otherwise unimportant spot on the dial?

The recent unraveling of some of the biggest conglomerates, such as Clear Channel and CBS, was a step in the right direction. Little by little, we're starting to see smaller, regional groups step up to buy cast-off broadcast properties. In television, FOX is even selling off some of their stations.

Granted, many of the big buyers are hedge funds and venture capitalists, who care only about achieving the bottom line. But this may also bring about even further change. Technology and the way we access media is changing rapidly. Portable audio players such as the iPod allow us to listen to whatever we want, instead of what Clear Channel and the others think we want to listen to. A segment of soon-to-be abandoned television spectrum was snapped up earlier this year by wireless communications companies like AT&T and Verizon. The much-ballyhooed WiMax wireless internet technology could make the web available everywhere for a reasonable price. And just the other day, Chrysler announced that they would make internet access available in their 2009 models. While the thought of someone surfing the web while driving is a bit frightening, this does open the door to the advent of streaming audio content on the road, where many people listen to the radio. So, instead of listening to conservative blowhards read their daily heaping of think tank-generated show prep, one could dial in whatever they want. Want Air America? It's only a click away. Real cutting-edge radio like Radio Paradise? No prob.

If the car makers can integrate this stuff easily into car radio receivers, it'll be a game changer. And it could signal a wake-up call a rather lazy and indifferent radio industry, who are too scared to break the mold and do something totally different that could actually interest listeners.

So, no Fairness Doctrine on the horizon? That's okay, we don't really need it. But I don't mind them talking about it, since it so annoys and terrifies right-wingers.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Air America Names Bill Hess programming chief

From Air America press release:

Air America Media has named radio industry veteran Bill Hess its Senior Vice President of Programming beginning in mid-July. His responsibilities at the national progressive talk radio network will include supervising the creation and delivery of quality programming, and overseeing the editorial content of

"With more than 30 years in the radio industry, Hess brings his expertise in programming, content creation, promotions, marketing and sales,” said Charlie Kireker, Chairman of Air America Radio. “We are confident that he will help Air America achieve stronger ratings and revenue success, as we continue to provide listeners with entertaining and thought-provoking programming throughout this critical election year."

"I strongly believe that the future success of our business will spring from the audiences we cultivate, stimulated by the talent we nurture and attract," said Hess. "I am excited by the vision and commitment of Charlie and his team to build on the foundation that's already in place at Air America Media - both on-air and on-line. I can't wait to get started!"

Prior to joining Air America Radio, Hess handled multiple programming, management, and strategic responsibilities for four of Clear Channel Radio’s Washington , D.C. stations. He was program director for powerhouse adult contemporary music station WASH-FM, as well as operations manager for progressive talk 1260 WWRC, SportsTalk 980 WTEM, and conservative talk 570 WTNT. Before that, Hess served as director of programming for Clear Channel’s WHJJ, WSNE-FM and WWBB-FM in Providence. He was formerly regional vice president of programming for Capstar Communications, overseeing programming for stations in New York and Connecticut.

With Clear Channel's sale of their DC AM properties to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, Hess was moved to another position in the building, overseeing classic hits-formatted WBIG-FM. Instead, Hess decided to accept the gig at Air America. He will start July 14.

George Carlin (1937-2008)

Comedian George Carlin, a counter-culture hero famed for his routines about drugs and dirty words, died of heart failure at a Los Angeles-area hospital on Sunday, a spokesman said. He was 71.

Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug-dependency problems, died at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica about 6 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. EDT) after being admitted earlier in the afternoon for chest pains, spokesman Jeff Abraham told Reuters.

Known for his edgy, provocative material, Carlin achieved status as an anti-Establishment icon in the 1970s with stand-up bits full of drug references and a routine called "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television." A regulatory battle over a radio broadcast of the routine ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

Read more:

George Carlin official website

CNN, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, How Carlin changed comedy

Getting arrested in 1972 after doing the "Seven Dirty Words" at Milwaukee Summerfest here here and here.

Carlin, WBAI and the birth of the FCC's indecency policy.

FCC v. Pacifica Foundation and the FCC transcript of the broadcast.

Censorship in the media

The Seven Dirty Words - the original routine and performance video from 1978.

Memorable quotes

Video highlights - from The Huffington Post

Audio tribute from PRX (Public Radio Exchange) (semi-free subscription required)

Huffington Post interview from this past March

Larry King, Harry Shearer remember Carlin

Finally, this from David Hochman:

Since we were on the subject, I thought I'd ask what he'd like his tombstone to say. Carlin didn't miss a beat.

"I'm thinking something along the lines of, "Jeez, he was just here a minute ago."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Weekend update

Thought I'd do another one of those catch-all entries, rounding up a bunch of articles, emails, press releases, opinion pieces and whatnot.

Is the Tyranny of Right-Wing Radio Coming to an End? That question was posed by filmmaker and journalist Rory O'Connor in a well-circulated piece a few days ago. You can read what he has to say here. Here's an interview O'Connor did with BuzzFlash. My take? I don't think a return of the Fairness Doctrine would work. As the saying goes, you can't put the shit back in the horse. I predict conservotalk radio will just imitate itself to death, it's rather old listener base will either die off or move on to something else, or it will go the way of the pet rock and 8-track tapes. Give 'em enough rope to hang themselves is my motto.

Also on OpEdNews, Nova M's Mike Malloy has been quite busy as of late writing. You can see what he's been up to here.

A few days ago, Shelly at Air America dropped an email about Thom Hartmann, who will be doing this week's shows from Denmark, of all places. Here's what they say:

The Thom Hartmann Program will be"live" from Denmark in partnership with The Danish Broadcasting Network. Politicians to students will join in as we find out...Why is Denmark the happiest place in the world? What is the secret of this small country with dreary weather, heavy smoking and drinking, and taxes between 50-70% that keeps the Danes so happy?

For those that missed it (and I almost forgot to add these links), here are a few articles in the mainstream press about new Air America afternoon host Ron Kuby.

Here are a few articles about rising Air America/MSNBC star Rachel Maddow, including an interview and Greenlee Gazette demanding more TV face time for her. And no, she won't get the Meet The Press gig this year - Tom Brokaw will be filling the late Tim Russert's chair through the election. But many do predict good things to come for one of Air America's highest-profile personalities.

Elsewhere in television land, in case you missed it, here's Bill O'Reilly's sad sack producer trying to ambush a real journalist, PBS' Bill Moyers, at the National Conference for Media Reform, of all places. A double mistake, in that he went after a serious veteran journalist who cut his teeth working for Lyndon Johnson, one of the most hard-assed presidents in our history, and did so in an environment where O'Reilly and his ilk are roundly despised. Watch with glee as Porter Barry leaves the shindig with his tail between his legs as he himself gets harassed by much more aggressive journalists. It's great viewing, and I feel ashamed I didn't mention this earlier. Naturally, Mr. No Spin spins the hell out of it to make his guy look like a hero. Evidently, he must think his viewers are really that stupid. Scary thing is, they probably are.

And that's Weekend Update, and I'm outta here!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

How to merge Sirius and XM and make progressive talk radio fans happy

As the merger between the two satellite radio providers Sirius and XM drag on, it's starting to look like this thing could actually happen. After seventeen long months, this merger could finally be consummated.

The combined company will create more opportunities for programming choices by eliminating redundant channels (i.e. channels that air virtually the same type of content). They promise that this will allow for a wider variety of programming.

There are a few hurdles yet to be jumped, such as the issue over interoperable receivers that can pick up the signals of both providers. There's also the issue of all that bandwidth that they would have at their disposal. Sirius currently broadcasts using 12.5 MHz of the S band spectrum between 2320 and 2332.5 MHz. The XM signal uses the same amount of that band: 2332.5 to 2345.0 MHz.

They are also offering up the idea of a la carte offerings, featuring the best of both services, as well as special packages tailored to fans of music, talk or family-friendly programming, as a way of avoiding the gouging of subscribers and to mollify concerns of monopolizing a huge chunk of the broadcast spectrum.

In addition, there are rumblings from various parties, including the Congressional Black Caucus, to set aside and lease out several channels for minority-oriented, public service and educational and informative programming. As mentioned here the other day, what that would include is still very vague. So far, it could look like a total of twelve channels will be allotted for this.

Since I wrote about XM's planned retooling of its liberal talk channel the other day, there has been a lot of spirited conversation about the issue. Long-term, the question is what will become of the format on a combined satellite provider? Will there be more? Less? Will they make a play for fans of progressive talk, who subscribe mainly to get programming that they otherwise have a hard time getting? How can a combined XM/Sirius make them happy? After all, a merged company may just be desperate enough to do something to attract subscribers. One of these areas is liberal/progressive talk. Hey, it's why you're reading this blog, right? So let's talk about it.

First, let's take a look the political talk offerings of both providers. On XM, the primary news and information channel lineup looks something like this:

121 Fox News Channel
122 CNN
123 CNN Headline News
127 CNBC
128 Fox Business Network
129 Bloomberg Radio
130 P.O.T.U.S `08 (2008 Presidential Election News and Updates)
131 BBC World Service
132 C-SPAN Radio
133 XM Public Radio
The TV news channels listed are straight audio feeds of those services. XM Public Radio airs programming from smaller noncommercial networks such as American Public Media, as well as a morning XM-exclusive show from Bob Edwards. P.O.T.U.S '08 airs news and content concerning this year's presidential election, and is available on an XM receiver without a subscription.

XM politically-oriented talk radio programming consists of:
134 The Agenda (online only, loop of liberal talk show from Joe Solmonese)
165 Talk Radio (mostly conservative and self-help - majority of programming from Premiere Radio Networks)
166 America Right (conservative Talk)
167 Air America Radio (progressive Talk)
168 Fox News Talk (conservative plus Alan Colmes)
169 The Power (African-American Talk)
170 FamilyTalk (right-wing religious talk)
XM also carries most of the audio of WLW from Cincinnati on one channel, which features quite a bit of conservative talk and duplicates some of the offerings of XM Talk Radio. This is part of a deal they have with Clear Channel Communications, which owns WLW. The Power airs an African-American talk format, and is not all political.

All in all, that's four conservative channels to one true liberal channel. I didn't count FOX News, since I could spend an entire other entry talking about that one. We'll leave it out of the equation for now, but make a mental note of it, since it obviously has a blatant bias.

Now, let's take a look at Sirius. For news and information, they have much of the same stuff:
129 CNBC
130 Bloomberg Radio
131 Fox News Channel
132 CNN
133 CNN Headline News
141 BBC World Service News
They also carry:
134 NPR Now
135 NPR Talk
137 CBC Radio One
140 World Radio Network (WRN)
For political talk they offer:
109 Sirius OutQ
110 Indie Talk (all over the map)
144 Sirius Patriot (conservative talk)
145 Fox News Talk (conservative talk)
146 Sirius Left (liberal talk)
161 FamilyNet Radio
OutQ and FamilyNet Radio aren't really political talk, but we'll include it anyway, since they both feature opinionated political talk, in addition to non-political content. They also both kinda balance each other out. So, that gives Sirius listeners two conservative talk channels (plus FamilyNet) to one liberal channel (plus a few shows on OutQ). Conservatives also have FOX News Channel. Liberal listeners may also be attracted to the in-depth and international news programming on BBC World Service, NPR, CBC and WRN. Still, that's not really liberal talk.

Let's take a look at each provider's dedicated liberal talk channels. Here's what's on Sirius Left:

12-3A Thom Hartmann (replay)
3-6A Lynn Samuels (replay)
6-9A Bill Press
9AM-12P Alex Bennett
12-1P Thom Hartmann
1-3P Lynn Samuels
3-5P Ed Schultz
5-8P Make It Plain with Mark Thompson
8-9P Stephanie Miller
9P-12A Mike Malloy

Meanwhile, XM Air America (America Left) carries this lineup:

6-9A Bill Press
9AM-12P Lionel
12-3P Ed Schultz
3-6P Randi Rhodes
6-8P Rachel Maddow
8-10P Thom Hartmann
10P-12A Mike Malloy
12-2A Clout with Richard Green
2-4A Jon Elliott
4-6A Thom Hartmann

So, with the combined XM/Sirius (and let's assume these shows are still in the same place once the merger consumates), here's where we have a little fun. Yes, this is the moment you've all been waiting for. This is one man's speculation as to what could work as far as a decent progressive talk lineup for satellite radio, broken up into three dedicated channels (with half-assed suggested logos to boot!):

Channel 1: "Air America"

This channel would be a straight feed of Air America Radio. That is, if there's still enough people that want to listen to a straight feed of Air America. A dedicated channel would be advantageous to the powers that be there, as they haven't been doing so hot in affiliate clears lately outside of Hartmann and Maddow. They really need to negotiate some kind of deal here to stay relevant.

Channel 2: "Liberty" (or "Truth")

Sirius Liberty was originally the planned name for Sirius Left, intended to go along with conservative counterpart Sirius Patriot. The name was scrapped because the Sirius Left folks preferred the original name. Personally, if the tight-righty crowd likes the name "Patriot" so much (and the opportunity to wag it around in liberals' faces), I think naming this channel "The Truth" would be a pretty good in-your-face to them. This proposed channel would feature non-Air America syndicated talk offerings, mostly from Jones Radio Networks and Nova M Radio. As you can see. they would compliment each other nicely. Here's what a lineup would look like:

6-9A Bill Press
9AM-12P Stephanie Miller
12-3P Ed Schultz
3-6P Randi Rhodes
6-9P Peter B. Collins (the only other live syndicated show available in the slot)
9P-12A Mike Malloy
12-6A Replays or other programming

Channel 3: "America Left"

This would consist of satellite-exclusive offerings and content, along with other fill-in programming. And it would be an effective way of mollifying progressive talk fans turned off by the likes of Lynn Samuels and Alex Bennett. The concept would be similar to channels such as Sirius Stars, Oprah and Friends and Howard 100, which feature exclusive personalities. In addition, a show such as the one-hour Democracy Now could be used to fill in a gap. And the XM-bound Young Turks come full-circle, to the channel resembling their former home at Sirius. Here's the lineup:

9A-12P Alex Bennett
12-1P "Democracy Now" (or other hour-long program)
1-3P Lynn Samuels
3-6P The Young Turks (soon to be on XM)
6-9P Mark Thompson
9P-9A Repeat schedule, or fill with whatever

For weekends, the Air America channel is all covered. For the other two, replays and some original content might work (bloggers, podcasters?). Or go after Pacifica-style independent programming like "Counterspin." They could also seek out web-based ventures such as Head-On Radio or Taylor (gasp!) Marsh. I'm sure they could do it all pretty cheap, and that's the key to all of this - the syndicated outside liberal talk content is available on a barter basis, meaning that they don't have to pony up money for it. They do, however, pay their exclusive hosts such as Bennett, Samuels and Thompson. "Democracy Now" would probably cost some money, though, but that show does deserve a place on satellite radio.

As for the conservative channels on both providers, they can combine to an extent and create at least six channels. Hey, as far as I'm concerned, they could create twenty of these (and they probably could too). The more conservotalk channels there are, the more justification there is to carve out at least a few progressive talk channels. Just for kicks, here's what they would get:
Channel 1: America Right - Hannity, Levin, et. al.
Channel 2: Sirius Patriot successor - exclusive content, more syndicated stuff
Channel 3: FOX News Talk
Channel 4: Whatever's currently on XM165
Channel 5: WLW feed
Channel 6: A mish-mash of syndicated conservotalk also-rans
And then there's Sirius' Indie Talk. Not sure what the longterm concept of this one is, so I'm leaving it out of the equation for now. Let it germinate and see what happens. Sounds like a good idea, but it needs some work.

In addition, I'll leave OutQ, The Power and the religious channels as-is, though each of XM's and Sirius' fire-and-brimstone 'send dem librul heathens to hell' channels could probably be combined into one unlistenable channel.

So there you have it. I just created three liberal talk satellite radio channels and six primarily conservotalk channels. I gave the edge to conservotalk programming because there's just so damn much of it on the market. And it keeps the crybaby conservative crowd from bitching. I don't care, since I don't have to listen to it if I don't want to. Sounds pretty reasonable, right?

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go pat myself on the back. Leave a comment and let the world know what you think of all this.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

XM takes a 'left' turn, KIST takes a fall

In a not-so-surprising move, XM Radio is retooling it's "Air America" channel (XM167). Come July 14, the satellite provider brings back its former name - America Left.

The channel will still carry Bill Press, Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann and Mike Malloy. They are also adding Stephanie Miller and The Young Turks. Miller will likely take the 9A-noon shift currently held be Lionel. No word on what role the Turks, who left Air America earlier this year to do an internet-based afternoon show, play in this grand scheme. The show initially got its start on rival (and soon to be partner) Sirius. And there is no word on possible time shifts for the channel's current offerings.

Speaking of XM and Sirius, FCC chair Kevin Martin and other commissioners have indicated that they're willing to support the long ongoing planned merger between the two companies, with stipulations. Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus are angling for concessions, such as allocating 4% of the combined company's broadcast spectrum, or twelve channels, to use for programming run by minorities and women. This proposal has been bandied about for awhile, and is quite vague at this point.

Meanwhile, on the left coast, R & R Radio, LLC is selling KIST (1340AM) in Santa Barbara to California Lutheran University for $1.44 million. The school, which owns local noncommercial NPR affiliate KCLU, will convert the station to noncommercial status, according to AllAccess.

The station was sold by Clear Channel a year and a half ago to Rincon Broadcasting. KIST was then spun off to its current owner. Throughout all the ownership changes, the popular progressive talk format remained, most likely due to its strong ratings. Since debuting in early 2005, the 650 watt KIST has been a mainstay in the top ten among stations in the market.

As for whether a station will pick up KIST's successful soon-to-be abandoned progressive talk programming, there is KBKO (1490AM), which is owned by Rincon and is currently in format limbo, duplicating the format and signal of conservotalker KTMS (990AM). There is also KZSB (1290AM), which airs mostly locally produced, block-programmed talk shows hosted by local residents.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Rainy days and Mondays

While fighting to keep head above water and stay dry in the soggy, monsoon-ravaged Midwest (please, make it stop!), I hereby dedicate this entry to the soaked and not-so-soaked.

Here are a few news items that popped up over the weekend:

Newsom's new show is (finally) a go

Remember that item about San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and his radio show? Well, after a few false starts and some scheduling conflicts, it's finally coming to fruition.

This Saturday, Newsom hits the airwaves with his half-hour radio program, which can be found on KKGN (Green 960) in San Francisco.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

He isn't getting paid for the job, but the political rewards of having his own radio show could be priceless. The show provides Newsom an unfiltered forum to publicize pet projects and discuss just about anything he wants - a politician's dream come true.

"There are no rules," Newsom said. "I meet with so many fascinating people, and we have these great conversations. We want to ... ask those folks if they can meet on the radio show."

The first show, which airs at noon, was prerecorded and will feature the 40-year-old mayor interviewing political commentator Arianna Huffington.

The Gavin Newsom Show can be heard Saturdays at Noon (3P ET) on Green 960. Podcasts will also be available via the station's site.

Speaking of drought-ridden California, they are more than welcome to our rain. We've got plenty to spare.

Going 'Green' in Atlanta

If a Bay Area station can go 'green,' why not one in Atlanta? Coming July 1, a new station in suburban Decatur, GA will hit the airwaves. Green 1640, as it will be called, will offer community-oriented news with a progressive point of view.

Now, this doesn't appear to be a 'true' FCC-licensed radio station. The signal power will be extremely weak, reaching only a three or four mile radius around the Decatur area. Two transmitters, each running a maximum of one milliwatt of power, will put the station on the airwaves. In other words, this appears to be an unlicensed 'Part 15' station. This is not a pirate signal, as FCC regulations allow this, provided it doesn't exceed power limits or interfere with other stations or emergency services. Part 15 transmitters are used mostly by hobbyists, businesspeople such as realtors and some schools.

In addition to local news and information, the operator of the station has tossed around the idea of lending time to various groups and seeking out syndicated programming, such as Air America, though there may be some legal issues involved in doing something like that (or perhaps not). They're also looking into selling advertising time, so that may be interesting.

Nonetheless, if you're in the Decatur area (this signal likely won't get into the city of Atlanta proper) after July 1, you can tune it in at 1640AM.

And keeping with the theme, Atlanta, which was hit by a rather nasty drought last year, is more than welcome to as much Midwestern typhoon rain as it can handle. Take all you want.

Franken gets Democratic endorsement for Senate seat

And congratulations are in order for Al Franken, who became the de facto nominee after winning the endorsement of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL). The next step is to unseat the real-life version of the Mayor Quimby character from The Simpsons, Republican U.S. Senator Norm Coleman.

Franken won the endorsement at the DFL convention in Rochester over the weekend. His closest rival, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, dropped out and released his delegates to Franken. That frees him to go head-to-head with Coleman in the fall.

I haven't much mentioned Franken since he left radio and announced his intention to run for Senate. I just didn't want to lump myself in with all those delusional right-wing airheads who still think Franken works for Air America. Yet they still want you to think they know what they're talking about. Go figure.

As we all know, Franken was a comedian, actor and writer in the entertainment industry. And since comedy often tends to offend the senses, foes of Franken have been working overtime to dig up dirt, by way of picking through scores of articles, writings, jokes and Saturday Night Live bits that he created. Of course, some of it is in rather poor taste, and Franken even fessed up to it. "I wrote a lot of jokes. Some of them weren't funny. Some of them weren't appropriate. Some of them were downright offensive. I understand that," Franken admitted at the convention.

Ironically, Coleman's wife Laurie is also in the entertainment industry as an actress and model, who has appeared in several made-for-television films and stage productions such as "The Vagina Monologues." Many barrels of ink and millions of electrons could be spilled writing about her rather humorous and titillating exploits. Think of all those "BLO & GO" jokes! Do they really want to go there?

Minnesota Republicans would love nothing better than to taint Franken with his old jokes, but remember, this is a state that elected a former wrestler and actor, the oft-raunchy Jesse Ventura, governor in 1998 in a shocking third party upset. And ironically, Coleman was the Republican candidate that year. Since Coleman, as mayor of St. Paul, switched from Democrat to Republican, Minnesotans have been lukewarm about him. He lost the governor's race against Ventura and the rather lame Skip Humphrey (D) and barely won his Senate seat in 2002, right after incumbent Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash.

This election could prove to be quite interesting, particularly since Ventura has actually been rumored to be considering a run for the seat himself. If not, there is a groundswell movement to draft Ventura acolyte and third party gadfly Dean Barkley as well.

The GOP has been propping up Coleman for years but people still are rather indifferent. They may not like to admit it, but Coleman is very vulnerable, especially if the Barack Obama wave comes through and sweeps the state. Poll numbers have been looking closer and closer. Al Franken could very well be Minnesota's newest senator. And Coleman, much like parts of Minnesota over the weekend, is all wet.

Best of luck, Al.

WWRL owner purchases stake in Schultz' show

The Ed Schultz Show is under new management. is reporting that Randy Michaels and Stu Krane's syndication group, Product 1st, has apparently sold its ownership interest to Access.1 Communications and its SupeRadio syndication division.

Access.1 also owns radio stations, including WWRL (1600AM) in New York, which acts as the default 'flagship' station for Air America Radio. WWRL recently added Schultz' show to it's lineup, and the station also carries another SupeRadio offering, the Al Sharpton Show.

The company recently reached an agreement to sell their Atlantic City group, including progressive talker WTAA.

Schultz' show will still air noon-3P weekdays, and its ad sales and some distribution will continue to be handled by Jones MediaAmerica.

SuperRadio is a general market syndication company which distributes 40 radio programs in various types of formats to more than 725 radio stations nationwide. Michaels, the former Clear Channel executive that co-owned the show, is now the Chief Operations Officer of the Tribune Company media empire.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday this n' that

A couple small items to fill y'all in on...

First up, as Ron Kuby prepares to begin his career as Air America Radio's new afternoon host, it appears he'll have one less station carrying him. WXXM (92.1FM) in Madison has opted to pick up a delay of Thom Hartmann's show to fill the 2-5P CT slot.

So far, Kuby's new program will be on WWRL in New York and WVKO in Columbus. His predecessor, Randi Rhodes, who jumped to rival Nova M Radio in April to continue her show, has held on to most of her affiliates in the time slot.

Speaking of Rhodes, she is one of the first confirmed additions for Dallas' new progressive talker, KMNY, which expands the format to full-time on July 1.

And speaking of WVKO, they need money. About $50 grand. Running an independent radio station in a big market like Columbus is hard work, especially when doing battle with the Citadels and Clear Channels of the world. They have a donation link on their site. More importantly, they need sales professionals. They do have some good clients, and also make some money carrying local sports broadcasts. But they need salespeople, and past experience with progressive talk stations such as KOMY in Santa Cruz and KSAC in Sacramento proves that stations don't make money if they don't even bother to hire account executives to bring in new advertisers. The management staff of WVKO, who actually seem to have their act together, should be commended for making the effort to do something about this obvious dilemma, rather than just expect advertisers to hunt them down, which is what killed weaker small operations in the past.

So, if you live in the Columbus area (or are relocating there), have sales experience (radio preferred, but not a deal breaker) and love progressive talk, then contact them here.

Finally (unless something else happens today), the kind folks at Air America have forwarded this link. It's from Aaron Barnhart at the Kansas City Star, and it's a recorded interview with Rachel Maddow. In the clip, Rachel addresses Aaron’s question of whether, in her opinion, Barack Obama would help increase the presence of left wing talk radio, if elected President. You can find the clip here.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Snyder to keep WWRC format - for now

Confirming last week's rumors, Dan Snyder has made it official. Yesterday, Red Zebra, his broadcast holding company, announced via press release (pdf) that it would be acquiring Clear Channel's three AM radio stations in the Washington, DC area, including progressive talker WWRC (1260AM).

Also part of the deal are sports talker WTEM (980AM) and conservative talker WTNT (570AM). It would appear that the strong-signalled, established sports format of WTEM is the crown jewel in this bunch, as WWRC and WTNT both have signal limitations and weak identities and ratings.

The move was made to give Snyder more viable broadcast outlets for the NFL team he owns, the Washington Redskins. Snyder has long desired a stronger sports radio presence in the market. Currently, the team's radio broadcasts air on three rimshot FM stations in the greater Washington area (as 'Triple X ESPN Radio'). Since all three stations have problems penetrating the city proper, they also contract with a Clear Channel FM station. This move will eliminate the need for that and keep the games in-house. All of Red Zebra's stations, including WWRC, will carry broadcasts of Redskins games this fall.

As for the fate of WWRC and WTNT, the company says it will keep the formats "in the near term" after they take over operation of the station on July 1.

Red Zebra’s Bruce Gilbert says “during the coming months we’ll evaluate all program lineups to determine the best mix of programming to serve the many diverse fans of sports and news/talk. Some things will change, some will remain the same.”

See DCRTV for more info.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Air America taps Ron Kuby as permanent afternoon host

Fresh from the press release:

Air America Radio today announced that former WABC New York morning drive host Ron Kuby has been chosen to host the 3-6 pm ET show starting Monday, June 9th.

Kuby will be the permanent replacement for Randi Rhodes, who departed the network in April. Since then, the time slot has been filled by various guest hosts.

While co-host on WABC news/talk radio from 2000-07, Kuby’s morning show consistently placed in the top ten for listeners in the highly competitive New York City market.

"We're glad to have such a highly experienced and popular radio personality such as Ron on our network,” said Charlie Kireker , chairman of Air America Radio. “Considering his history of strong ratings, entertainment value and thought-provoking opinions, he will have wide appeal to audiences, affiliates and advertisers nationwide.”

“I am delighted to be joining Air America 's powerful voices in these challenging times,” said Kuby. “We'll have the news, analysis, opinion, calls and hopefully a few things that listeners haven't thought of yet, or don't want to think about.”

In addition to his accomplishments as a radio personality, Kuby is currently a guest anchor for trial coverage on TruTV's "In Session." In his spare time he is a practicing civil rights and criminal defense attorney with a long-standing commitment to social justice. For over two decades he has represented numerous controversial clients in some of the most high-profile criminal and civil rights actions in the United States . Kuby earned his J.D. from Cornell Law School in 1983 and was associated with civil rights lawyer William M. Kunstler, of Chicago 8 fame for 13 years.

The thin whitey line

Today marks the end of the primary season that seemingly had no end. Voters in South Dakota and Montana are going to the polls to help select the Democratic Party nominee for president. Or, in this case, likely push Barack Obama over the top with the delegates needed to give him the nod.

Already, the campaign of close rival Hillary Clinton has been hinting at her concession, in order to help unite everyone behind Obama. As I write this, she is rumored to be conceding tonight. Likely, the majority of her supporters will eagerly switch over, but as is often the case in heated primary contests, there will be a few holdouts.

Last weekend, at the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws meeting, where they formulated a final plan to get the renegade delegations of Michigan and Florida seated at the National Convention, many Clinton supporters showed up to lay out their scorched earth demands - Hillary or nothing. Some were adamant about a woman being at the top of the ticket, though the specter of race loomed large, like crazed supporter Harriet Christian:


And, not surprisingly, she was invited to appear on FOX News not too soon after. Okay, maybe not a surprise. I guess she must speak for all women who will vote for an old white guy who divorced his extremely loyal first wife for being too fat, trading her in for a blonder, thinner and much wealthier and much more 'Stepfordy' model that he has allegedly beat up and called a 'cunt.' A guy who called Chelsea Clinton 'ugly' when she was still a child. Over an easy-going reliable family man like Obama in a rock-solid happy marriage to a very intelligent, ambitious and career-oriented woman. They're threatening to vote for a candidate that promises to stack the Supreme Court with conservative activist judges looking to gut Roe v. Wade. Yeah, that makes sense. Not!

Clinton's most hardcore supporters are desperate. How much so? They're even willing to trot out some rather ridiculous characters, such as Larry Sinclair, a homeless drug addict from, of all places, Duluth, MN, who claims to have had cocaine-fueled gay sex with the Illinois senator. It doesn't matter that he failed a much-hyped polygraph test anyway, or that his allegations have been grist mostly on tinfoil hat web sites like Conspiracy theories are often just fantasy put out there by people who wish it really was that way.

Alas, there's still people willing to go down with the ship and drag the Democrats with them. My way or the highway. Take Larry C. Johnson, for instance. Now, who's this Larry Johnson character anyway? Well, he spent four years as a CIA intelligence officer, which I guess makes him somewhat of an expert on foreign policy or whatever. He was a registered Republican who supported George W. Bush in 2000. He turned on the Bush administration over the Iraq War and whole Valerie Plame affair. Since then, he has injected himself into the presidential primary season, becoming a vociferous supporter of Clinton. Or, perhaps he is more of a foe of Barack Obama.

Let's face it, anyone reading his blog could easily come away with the conclusion that he really hates Barack Obama. I mean, really really really hates him. Johnson has done more to trash the guy than the Republican Party and FOX News combined! The whole crazy reverend thing. The bitter thing. Any kind of ridiculous anti-Obama talking point that comes around has probably been pounded to death by Larry Johnson.

And it's not just Johnson. Alleged Democratic pundits such as Taylor Marsh and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, and supposed progressive sites such as Make Them Accountable are prepared to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, seemingly prepared to do anything possible to keep the most progressive Democratic front-runner we've had in years from becoming our next president. if this election has accomplished nothing else, at least we can now see who are friends really are or aren't.

And with the primary season, and Clinton's campaign, winding down, her supporters are grasping are lobbing their final assault, almost in concert with certain conservative-leaning media outlets. This time, Johnson promises, he's got his own atomic bomb. A game changer. One he vows is guaranteed to knock the 'bruthah' off his perch. Bigger than bitter. Bigger than the shoulder brush. Bigger than Rev. Wright. Something that would be worth millions to any adversary who desired it. And, to add some icing to the cake, it involves that alleged crazy-ass church he used to attend (that's really not all that crazy, BTW). See, in Larryworld, Obama's wife Michelle did the unspeakable: She said "Whitey." In that so-called crazy church they attended (which again, is not all that crazy).

Or maybe not.

Johnson has been hyping this thing for a while, continuously harping the White Power line. He got freaky Republican consultant Roger Stone involved, in addition to the usual gang of idiots at FOX Noise. Johnson promised to release the tape this week. The whole gang had hard-ons!

Only thing is, the whole 'whitey' meme is bullshit. And if the tape actually does exist, and is legitimate, it's not what it's been hyped up about. The BooMan Tribune has a good idea what it's all about, and on Sunday, the day before Johnson claimed he'd release the tape, spelled it all out for the clear thinking crowd:

My old friend, Larry Johnson, knows about manipulating elections from his training with the Central Intelligence Agency. He doesn't want Obama to win the nomination for whatever reason, and he's in full propaganda mode to do everything he can to frighten the superdelegates. He claims to have a shocking tape of Michelle Obama ranting in some anti-white diatribe. He promises to produce this tape tomorrow at 9am.

From what I understand, it is a tape of Michelle Obama criticizing the Bush administration.

How you'd write it:

Why did Bush cut folks off medicaid?
Why did Bush let New Orleans drown?
Why did Bush do nothing about Jena?
Why did Bush put us in Iraq for no reason?

How you'd say it:

Why'd he cut folks off medicaid?
Why'd he let New Orleans drown?
Why'd he do nothing about Jena?
Why'd he put us in Iraq for no reason?

How Larry Johnson wants you to hear it:

Whitie cut folks off medicaid?
Whitie let New Orleans drown?
Whitie do nothing about Jena?
Whitie put us in Iraq for no reason?
In other words, 'whitey' = 'why'd he.' Get it? Yep, that appears to be the big bombshell, the massive game changer that will give his girl the victory she allegedly deserves.

Now, maybe it doesn't matter whether she said 'why'd he' or 'whitey.' It's all about a concept called 'ratfucking.' The idea is as old as politics itself. The 'dirty tricks' squad of Richard Nixon's campaign, including head prankster Donald Segretti, an early mentor of Karl Rove, helped coin the rather crude phrase. Basically, throw out nasty, baseless accusations toward the rival, and make him/her try to deny them. It doesn't even matter if it's all a lie anyway. The concept was utilized by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to trash Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.

Of course, the concept of ratfucking walks a rather narrow line, particularly in the age of the internet, where grassroots bloggers and rapid response teams could ensure that the lies blow up in the users' faces. And this new Michelle Obama meme looks like bullshit, smells like bullshit and most likely is bullshit. So much that when the promised release time came and went Monday morning at 9 AM, the tape was still not there. The hype still was.

Now, if this tape were actually that toxic to the Obama campaign, wouldn't it have already surfaced? Even though the Clinton campaign has hemorrhaged tens of millions of dollars in the course of securing the nomination, I'm sure they would have the wherewithal to obtain it. FOX News would definitely have it already, as would the Republican National Committee. Nothing is impossible in the age of the internet, particularly since Trinity United Church of Christ records all of their services and streams them over the internet. Likely, the Clinton campaign, the RNC and media outlets saw it in the process of closely scrutinizing all of Trinity's services with a fine tooth comb and cherry-picked all they possibly could. Anything worthwhile can probably be found on YouTube anyway, with the leftovers just sitting around in a pile somewhere. The 'whitey' video is all sizzle, no steak. Meaning that it's all hype with a big climactic letdown. I'll be surprised at this point if we ever see this whole thing. If this is indeed what the whole thing is about, then this could turn into Larry Johnson's Waterloo. His fifteen minutes of fame will have come to an end, with all his bridges scorched to dust.

Don't believe the hype.

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