Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Station Vanishes

Hard to believe it's already been nine months since KLSD (1360AM) in San Diego ditched its successful liberal talk format to jump into the overcrowded sports radio shark tank. So far, the new format is a flop.

The San Diego Union-Tribune is the latest to take note of the woes of the new "XTRA Sports 1360." At least somebody is, since the station, since its format flip in November, has virtually dropped off the ratings map. They are almost a non-entity in the San Diego radio market.

And the biggest irony is that another Clear Channel-owned sports station, KLAC (570AM), located approximately 100 miles north in Los Angeles, does show up in the San Diego book. In other words, an out-of-market signal gets listeners, while the hometown station with the same format does not.

Let's crunch some numbers. In the Winter 2008 Arbitron book, the first full survey since KLSD ditched liberal talk, the station, which averaged a 1.5 share of the overall listening audience over the past year, has dropped off the charts. Essentially, that's a 75-80 percent listener drop. KLAC, which carried the Los Angeles Lakers and their deep playoff run, got enough listeners to account for a half share of the overall listening audience. Still, when local listeners would rather tune in an out-of-town sister station, that's got to be a sign of something bad.

In addition, at a time when Clear Channel is wiping out as much overhead as they possibly can, the new XTRA Sports 1360 is a more expensive operation than KLSD's liberal talk lineup was. The daytime roster currently consists of live and local talent - a much more expensive proposition than merely slotting in bartered syndicated programming like Air America or Ed Schultz (with a couple local talkers like Stacy Taylor and Jon Elliott). Therefore, Clear Channel is paying more money for fewer listeners. Is that something new they teach in business school?
The Union-Tribune column quotes one radio veteran, who calls the results of the bungled format flip unprecedented. He says people in the industry will be doing case studies for a long time:

“I don't care what the format is, I have never seen a station disappear that fast. Never,” said Ron Bain, a radio producer and former radio/TV executive who lives in North County. “And the few times that I've seen a station go down (like this), it will tend to go down slowly. . . . This is precedent-setting, that it just ended. It's like it went off the air – and one could say they have.”

Meanwhile, Clear Channel is looking for the silver lining:

Bob Bolinger, vice president and market manager for Clear Channel Radio-San Diego, was on vacation the past two days. Brian Wilson, XTRA's program director, admitted frustration but said the station had its best month thus far in June. Of course, that came immediately after its worst month. “We made some progress in some day parts,” Wilson said. “ . . . I feel we do pretty good radio, and with football season coming up and some more marketing, I feel we're ready to turn the corner.”

The top sports talker in the market, XEPRS (1190AM), a.k.a. XX Sports, doesn't seem too concerned about its upstart rival, even though Clear Channel carried out a talent raid of the station, more recently snatching program director Bill Pugh. XX Sports did lose half a share, but that could be attributed to the recent split of the FM simulcast signal to launch an oldies format, which experienced a modestly successful debut in its first partial book.

Now, playing the devil's advocate here, I should be fair and offer a few points in defense of Clear Channel and the new KLSD. First, any kind of talk format, whether it be sports, 'hot talk,' liberal or even conservative, is a long-term proposition. Most stations like these are often slow-starters, and take a long time to generate an audience. In some cases, it may take years to see any kind of ratings success. It's the argument that I've often used for liberal talkers, but it is entirely true for most any kind of format, especially talk.

Second, KLSD's current moniker, XTRA Sports 1360, has been used by a number of Clear Channel stations in Southern California over the years. Originally, it was simulcast on Tijuana-based XETRA (690AM) and KXTA (1150AM) in Los Angeles. In January 2005, the original XTRA Sports simulcast was broken up, with the American programming rights of XETRA spun off to another group (which later changed the call letters) and the format moved to the stronger 570AM frequency in Los Angeles, with 1150AM becoming the current progressive talker KTLK. The XTRA name was eventually dropped by KLAC, but picked up by KLSD. Now, in its longtime but flawed methods of collecting data, Arbitron does keep track of station nicknames, in addition to call letters and frequencies. So, in Los Angeles, for example, a diary response that merely cites "KISS-FM" is actually read as KIIS (102.7FM), since that station has registered the nickname with Arbitron. In the case of KLAC, Arbitron considers it part of the San Diego market, since the station's signal does reach there. Even though they no longer use the XTRA moniker, a diary entry that says "XTRA" could still possibly be credited to KLAC. The fact that the moniker has been used on four Southern California signals over the past four years further complicates the issue. Now, I'm not sure how Arbitron compiled all of their information, but with all the confusion here, it is a slight possibility. Still, that would realistically only account for a small portion of the ratings share, so either way, the new KLSD is still a dog.

Finally, most programmers of sports formats claim that ratings mean virtually nothing. Sports talk targets a very specific segment of the audience, namely male sports junkies. With such a narrow demographic, it is an easy sell to advertisers who wish to target this audience alone (mostly sports bars, strip clubs, car dealerships, online gambling, ticket dealers, etc.). Therefore, the conventional wisdom goes, sponsors will pay more to hawk their wares directly to the consumers they want. Whether this is entirely correct, or whether most of the sports radio market will collapse once advertisers come to their senses in regard to advertising on stations with no listeners, remains to be seen.

But let's be real here. The new KLSD is closer to the ill-fated New Coke than an outright success. The tinkered with a successful formula and pissed off more listeners and advertisers than they satisfied. With liberal talk, the station got the best ratings (in more desirable demographics) it had received in years. Not many 1,000 watt AM stations in large markets can boast over a two share with a healthy portfolio of happy advertisers and ridiculously low overhead. Now that's all out the window, as KLSD currently scrapes the bottom of the also-ran sports stations in Southern California.

This seems to be a continuing pattern. Clear Channel stations in Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron and other places have fizzled since dropping progressive talk. And stations owned by other groups in other markets have had similar outcomes since ditching the format.

Add to that list San Diego, where the new KLSD has been a miserable failure.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Clash (and consolidation) of the titans

Okay, so now it looks as if hell has officially frozen over, with two big industry transactions taking place within days of each other. And it looks like the book has been closed on each of those chapters, so I can actually make mention of them without being teased yet again by the boy who cried wolf.

First, after a year and a half of dickering around, and less than a week after the FCC finally threw their hands in the air, the Sirius/XM merger is now in the books. Yes, officially. The company will now be called Sirius XM Radio Inc. (traded on NASDAQ via the SIRI symbol, for those of you who keep track of that sort of thing). NOt a whole lot else is known yet, except for the fact that the combined company will be led by Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin, with XM Chairman Gary Parsons serving as chairman of the new company.

Sirius XM will be headquartered in New York, where Sirius is based. XM Satellite will now be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sirius and will keep its Washington broadcasting headquarters.

Existing customers of either service will be able to retain their current service and existing radio receivers will continue to work, Sirius XM claims. Subscribers will also now have the option to pick from different packages of channels, known as a la carte programming.

Of course, what those programming choices will consist of has yet to be determined, though some suggestions have been made here.

In the other big broadcasting deal, Clear Channel stockholders have finally agreed, based on a preliminary vote, to go forward with the sale of the company to a private equity group led by Bain Capital Partners LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners LP. Clear Channel initially entered into the merger agreement with the Bain/Lee group in November 2006. The parties now expect to consummate the deal on July 30. The new group will be known as CC Media Holdings Inc.

Nothing is known about the new company's plans, but if other venture capital investments are any clue, it will be mostly downsizing-related, to minimize expenditures and maximize profits. The concept of actually beefing up product rather than slashing it to pieces is often lost on these people.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Savage stupidity

If I wrote about every time some idiot right-wing shock jock went on some outlandish attention-whoring tirade, my fingers would probably fall right off my hand.

I don't typically pay much heed to the likes of Michael Savage (a.k.a. Michael Weiner), the vicious radio nut job out of San Francisco who stirred up a hornets' nest not by attacking the usual targets, like liberals, gays, etc, but rather by lashing out at autistic children. Personally, I am all for the idea of corralling all extreme right-wing lunatics into insignificant AM echo chambers that few people listen to and that fade out under bridges. Out of sight, out of mind. Therefore, I could typically care less about these goons' latest pathetic attempts to get people to pay attention. I often prefer not to take the bait.

Nonetheless, I found it quite interesting that after all of Savage's ridiculous rants, it took the trashing of mentally challenged children for the shit to really hit the fan.

Typically, when these nutjobs start flapping their gums, attempting to be outrageous in what seems like their own version of the hoary old "Aristocrats joke," my first reaction is to go, 'yeah, whatever.' After all, it's all just words and rhetoric. Ignore these assclowns, and they eventually will go away if nobody pays any attention (or money).

In addition, I am a firm believer in karma, or, those who choose to live by the sword shall die by it. It happened to Opie and Anthony, and most famously to Don Imus. Shock jockery can make for a very lucrative career, but not a very secure one. In addition, these personalities have to continue to find new ways to shock people, as they get desensitized to the same ol, same ol.

So, back to Savage. You've probably heard the story. Not content to verbally assault the usual suspects, and to prove he is the nastiest, most racist, and most hate-filled tub o' facist shit on the planet, he violated a serious taboo - by attacking disadvantaged children.

Savage claimed that autism is a "fraud, a racket." He then claimed that the parents of minority children falsified cases of asthma to collect more welfare money and get extra help in school.

He continued, "Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is."

"...They don't have a father around to tell them, "Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot...

"...If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, "Don't behave like a fool." The worst thing he said -- "Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry." That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men. That's why we have the politicians we have.

Uhh, Weiner. Stop behaving like a fool.

Of course, many of us are desensitized to the rantings of this pathetic, bad rug-wearing snake oil salesman. So much that he gets talked about even less these days than other irrelevant rabble-rousers like Ann Coulter.

And some indications are that people are starting to tire of this sad act. Autism activists protested outside the studios of his New York affiliate, WOR. WOR's management even issued the typical statement distancing themselves from the scathing remarks. Savage, in response, didn't even offer up an apology, he even defended his remarks.

Today, another shoe has dropped. The seven-station Super Talk Mississippi radio network has canceled The Savage Nation. Essentially, he lost all but one of his affiliates in a single state!

Advertisers are jumping ship as well, starting with Aflac.

Savage's syndicator, Talk Radio Network, has been mum on all of this so far. Kind of ironic, since Don Imus got thrown under the bus by CBS for much less.

Sadly, no one had really held Savage accountable for all the other outrageous, hateful rhetoric spewed by he has said over the years. One wonders if right-wingers are recoiling after all of this, since it is they who revel in claiming that fiery ideologues such as Jesse Jackson and Randi Rhodes speak for all of the left, or that Rev. Jeremiah Wright is Barack Obama's mouthpiece. Obviously, if they believe that, they obviously must have to agree that Michael Savage speaks for conservatives. Hey, if the shoe fits.

But this is all about Michael Weiner, a nasty hate-filled man who makes millions of dollars by being a facist asshole on our nation's airwaves. The ultimate karma is that this sad sack is forced to live with himself, stewing in his own hate and misery. And since he decided long ago that he could gleam a few quick bucks by exploiting the ugliest side of humanity, that is the price he must pay.

Savage, stop acting like a fool.


Gawker writes about "Michael Savage's Homo Hippie Past"

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is Maddow next in line for own MSNBC show?

So, when will Air America host Rachel Maddow ever get her own show on MSNBC?

A profile in the New York Times quotes new network President Phil Griffin as saying of Maddow, "At some point, I don’t know when, she should have a show. She’s on the short list. It’s a very short list. She’s at the top." Maddow appears frequently as a political analyst on MSNBC and substitutes for other hosts on the network, including Keith Olbermann.

From The Times:

"At some point, I don’t know when, she should have a show,” said Phil Griffin, hours before he was promoted on Wednesday to president of MSNBC. “She’s on the short list. It’s a very short list. She’s at the top."

At the moment every slot at night on MSNBC is taken, with David Gregory at 6P handing off to Chris Matthews at 7P, and with Dan Abrams at 9P following Mr. Olbermann at 8P. But some shuffling could be in the offing; Mr. Matthews’s contract, for example, is up next year.

For her part, Ms. Maddow, who has been a ubiquitous presence as a political analyst on MSNBC this campaign season, said she is ready whenever the call should come. To hasten that process, she recently hired Mr. Olbermann’s agent, Jean Sage.

"They know I would love to do it," Ms. Maddow, 35, said over a recent lunch below 30 Rockefeller Plaza. "I’m going to let them decide what they want to do about me. I’m saying yes every time they ask me to be on television."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Saul shuffle sends Steph to San Diego

San Diego liberal talk fans still in KLSD remission do have at least a little something to cheer about, as a strong signaled station in the market adds one of the most popular progressive talk shows in the country to its lineup.

The Stephanie Miller Show has been added to Saul Levine's XESURF (540AM), which covers the San Diego market from its Tijuana tower. Her show will air in morning drive from 6-9A weekdays. This will be her first affiliate in the market, as KLSD never carried her show.

XESURF is part of a simulcast operation with KGIL (1260) in Los Angeles. Since KTLK (1150AM) already airs Miller, that station will get America's favorite right-wing coke addict Glenn Beck in that slot. The Ed Schultz Show follows immediately after on both signals, though only airing from 9-10A.

The two morning shows replace a replay of the previous day's Michael Savage airing.

In the words of Levine, "Since launching this station less than a year ago, we’ve worked diligently to assemble a unique, A-list roster of diverse talk radio talent. Now with Glenn Beck and Michael Savage live for our L.A. drive times, as well as the addition of Stephanie Miller to our San Diego signal, 1260 and 540 have further elevated their stature as major contenders on the Southern California talk radio scene.”

However, even with the addition of Miller to XESURF, and the following three hours of left-leaning hosts Schultz and Michael Jackson, this is not an indication of any further tilt to the left for the station. Levine has stated in the past that he's not a fan of overly partisan talk radio, and likes to mix it up a bit with a variety of viewpoints. And the acquisition of Miller (and the presence of former KLSD morning man Stacy Taylor and Air America rival Lionel on 1700AM) could also hinder the efforts of another liberal talk startup in the San Diego area, unless they come up with a different morning option (is Imus available?). Still, it's been over six months since KLSD flipped to sports and ratings obscurity, and nobody's stepped up to take on the popular format full time.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Tuesday talkin'

A few short items, including The Young Turks, an NPR experiment that didn't quite pan out, and more.

Turks go wide

Here it is, transcribed from the Air America press release:

Following a brief six month hiatus, the first progressive radio show to air across the country is set to return July 14th, 2008 to the airwaves and in syndication on TidalTV and Air America Radio. As mentioned previously, “The Young Turks,” hosted by Cenk Uygur, just moved to its new on-air home on XM Satellite Radio during yesterday's morning drive, airing from 8–10A ET on XM’s America Left. TidalTV will broadcast on tape delay, while Air America’s Website will host the video live from 9–11P ET daily.

Outside of the two hour political show carried by XM, TidalTV, Air America and The Young Turks' website will also have a third hour of entertainment and pop culture programming from 11-12Midnight ET. Video clips from this extra hour can be found on AOL and You Tube.

Head Turk Cenk Uygur said “We are coming back to our roots and thrilled to be a part of the line up on XM, TidalTV and Air America. This new programming is going to be a perfect compliment to our tremendous web presence. When we’re able to combine the power of our internet audience with the audience we grew in our previous stint on XM, there’s an excellent chance we are going to be unstoppable.”

Bryant Park(ed)

Well, it was a pretty ambitious undertaking. Basically, an NPR morning show geared toward younger listeners, a laid-back, upbeat and less stuffy version of the rather dry Morning Edition. And with some markets having multiple NPR outlets, and the fact that the two-hour Morning Edition is played over and over again by most affiliates until seemingly everyone hears it, The Bryant Park Project at least had some potential. The show also positioned itself heavily toward online listening and interaction. It was also a morning show for people who were tired of the American Idol updates, "Battle of the Sexes," intern stuntboys and "Whip 'em Out Wednesday" shenanigans littering the rest of the FM dial. Breezy conversation and news about Zimbabwe? Who'da thunk? I admit, I actually liked it.

But new national program launches are never very easy. Especially when they carry a $2 million price tag. So, come July 25th, The Bryant Park Project will be no more.

Part of the show's struggles concerned its hosts. Alison Stewart and Luke Burbank are both very capable, but they didn't cement themselves as hosts well. Burbank bolted for his hometown of Seattle and a gig at KIRO, while Stewart took time off to make babies. News anchor Rachel Martin got a gig at ABC News. In addition, very few stations had picked it up thus far, preferring to simply rerun NPR's morning mothership over and over all morning.

Stewart, returning from maternity leave for the show's final week, told the New York Times, "From what I understand, we are obviously in extra-tough economic times, and it is a financial and strategic decision. I was told it had absolutely nothing to do with the quality or content of the show."

For morning radio listeners who can't stay awake during Morning Edition, and don't particularly care for the Morning Zoos of the world, there is one other public radio offering still available. Public Radio International launched their morning show, The Takeaway this past April. The show, hosted by Adaora Udoji and John Hockenberry, does have a market, as they've already lined up co-producing affiliates in New York (WNYC), Boston (WGBH) and Baltimore (WEAA), among others, as well as support from the BBC and The New York Times.

KPTK holds a town hall

KPTK in Seattle is hosting another shindig, as they hold their "We The People" town hall
on August 16th at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. Stephanie Miller, Thom Hartmann, Rachel Maddow, Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy and Sam Seder will all be there. Hosting the event will be Ron Reagan Jr.

Wicked, wicked Wiki

I've been pretty busy lately, polishing up LTRapedia - The LTR Wiki. So far, many pages are up. The wiki will do what is a bit difficult on a blog, namely giving deeper background information on many of the topics covered here. It's still a seemingly neverending process putting it all up, but I've been cranking away at it for the past few weeks or so. Looking for that station in Boise or Langdon, North Dakota that carries Ed Schultz? It's there. I've been holding back, waiting until I got the whole thing at least somewhat finished-looking. But I'm impatient. Again, it's still a work in progress, and many, many things still need to be added and cleaned up, but for a wiki devoted to progressive media, it's gonna be a real humdinger. Check it out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Montvel-Cohen goes home, awaits trial

Former Air America Radio executive Evan Montvel-Cohen can go home. For now.

A Hawaii judge allowed Cohen to return to his home in Guam, against the wishes of the prosecution. Cohen was released on $75,000 bail, but he was ordered to return for his trial in September.

The media exec pleaded not guilty on July 7 to charges of theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, forgery, and money laundering for allegedly defrauding a Hawaii landscaping company of more than $60,000. The matter was set for trial for September 8.

Prosecutors wanted Montvel-Cohen, 42, held without bail on theft, forgery, money laundering and other charges, but a circuit judge has allowed the defendant to live on Guam pending trial in the case.

Montvel-Cohen is accused of stealing more than $62,000 from a landscaping company, Ultimate Innovations, where he worked as a business manager in 2005. He was arrested on the Hawaii warrant at Guam International Airport May 27 when he returned there from a trip to the Philippines. He was extradited to Hawaii this month.

Montvel-Cohen stirred up controversy in 2004 during his tenure as chairman of Air America. Prior to the network's launch, Montvel-Cohen and his partner, fellow Guam media mogul Rex Sorenson, formed a company with other minority investors called Progress Media and purchased a large stake in the network from Sheldon and Anita Drobny. Progress Media was soon discovered to be highly underfunded, and the misled investors forced both Montvel-Cohen and Sorenson out of Progress Media and Air America that May. Soon afterward came the revelation that much of Montvel-Cohen's capital came via his director position at the nonprofit Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in the Bronx, where he acquired more than $800,000 in loans and stirred up a scandal and a New York criminal investigation. The remaining investors of Air America cooperated with authorities and paid back the loan. Neither Montvel-Cohen nor anyone else were charged with criminal offenses in the case.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A peek inside XM's retooled 'America Left'

Come Monday, fans of XM's Air America channel (ch. 167) will notice quite a few changes, as they ditch the Air America moniker and return to the original name, America Left.

After several weeks of speculation, XM has quietly unveiled their new lineup, with a few notable additions and a few subtractions as well. One theme that carries throughout is their attempt to air as many shows as possible by cutting off an hour on several of them. Unfortunately, they didn't go for my idea of setting up several devoted progressive talk channels. Yet.

First, Bill Press remains from the old lineup, but gets an hour shaved off. You can find him 6-8A ET.

The Young Turks, formerly of Sirius and Air America, return to the weekday radio grind after airing exclusively online since January. The new show, airing on America Left weekday mornings 8-10 ET, will actually be a replay of their online show from the night before (which will air 9-11P). At least the gang will be able to sleep in, given that they're based in California, and would otherwise be up very early in the morning to do their morning thing.

Stephanie Miller fans will be happy to hear that her show finally makes it to the XM satellites. She will air in truncated form from 10A-noon.

One personality who's show will not get sliced up is Ed Schultz, who will air live from noon to 3P. Ditto for Randi Rhodes, who's three hour show will follow in its entirety.

Rachel Maddow will air on America Left in truncated form, from 6-8P. Unfortunately, that means listeners will get that obnoxious MSNBC screaming pundits show that makes up the first hour of her show.

Thom Hartmann is still on XM, but only two hours of his show will air on delay, from 8-10P. As with many Air America affiliates these days, he'll get a replay from 4-6A.

In the late night hours, Mike Malloy comes on from 10P-midnight, followed by Air America's Clout from midnight to 2A and Jon Elliot in two hour form from 2-4A.

Speaking of XM, the proposed merger with Sirius, which was rumored many times to have been consummated by now, is still plodding along. In the most recent development, 16 state attorneys general have come out and criticized the merger, and are also on board the bandwagon that favors leasing part of the combined satellite radio spectrum to outside programmers.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Post-holiday scribblings (travel edition)

With the nation's 232nd birthday firmly in the rearview mirror, this is a good opportunity to catch up with a few happenings that we missed. And seeing as the Fourth of July weekend is a heavy travel weekend, and ridiculously high gas prices have likely kept many motorists closer to home, we here have decided to do the traveling for you.

Get your kicks on Route 66

From the 'blink and miss it' file comes word of what is arguably the most obscure liberal talk station in the country. KSZL (1230AM) is a little AM station smack dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert. I'm sure most people claimed the best thing coming out of Barstow was Route 66, in either direction. Well, supposedly, KSZL has been a pass-through outlet for Air America Radio programming since it adopted the format three years ago. For all we know, this station may still be running Air America, but nobody, not even a simple Wikipedia editor, has stepped forward to verify this. The only thing I've really found regarding current programming is that they carry Paul Harvey. Then again, is Paul Harvey still broadcasting?

Nonetheless, KSZL and its three sister stations have been sold by Roland Ulloa’s Dos Costas Communications, according to Tom Taylor at Radio-Info. The buyer is Dex Allen-run California Communications of Barstow, a.k.a. Dallas-based First Broadcasting Investment Partners. The selling price is $4.3 million. First Broadcasting specializes in upgrades and move-ins of existing stations. No word on the fate of their new acquisitions. Hell, I don't even know if KSZL's still running progressive talk (my guess is not). If there's anyone reading this that is in the know, drop a line, okay? After all, Google Analytics tells me that this here blog has gotten traffic from 53 countries around the world, in places like China, Australia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Kenya (lions and tigers!) and even Norway (crabs!). Certainly someone reading this must live in or has been to the California desert. Hell, even I've been there!

Northern Exposure

From the Mojave Desert, we now travel to the Alaskan coast, more specifically the remote state capital of Juneau. KXLJ (1330AM) is a fairly new sign-on, and allegedly, they are indeed carrying a straight feed of Air America Radio. This was one of the stations announced last fall by the network as a new affiliate, and supposedly, they signed on in February. To the best of my knowledge, they did just that, and to prove it, they even offer two streams (!!!) for their on-air signal.

The station's owner, Ketchikan Television, also owns the local CBS television affiliate, and once owned WKIZ, a former Air America affiliate in Key West, Florida.

Not quite the Great White North

And now we travel to Minneapolis, home to several of Minnesota's 10,000-plus lakes. A couple weeks ago, Minneapolis played host to the annual Conclave, a major industry convention where radio people gather to talk shop, listen to speeches, get drunk and pass around tapes and resumes. On Friday, Fargo, North Dakota's own Ed Schultz delivered the afternoon keynote address.

According to accounts by AllAccess and Radio & Records, Schultz doled out advice for aspiring radio professionals and managers alike, talking about his love of challenges and dealing with naysayers like the manager he said signed his release from his local Fargo contract in 2004 to allow him to go into syndication. The manager then crumpled it into a ball and threw it at Schultz, asserting, "You'll never make it."

The talker's pep talk also exhorted managers to encourage risk-taking and new ideas. "You want dreamers," he said. "You want believers. You want passion."

Schultz, who told the audience that he taped a television pilot sitting in the late Tim Russert's chair in Washington the previous day, joked, "How come this didn't happen to me when I was 40?" but answered, "I wasn't ready."

"You’ve gotta keep believing in yourself," Schultz said, tailoring his remarks to younger talents for the Conclave. He said, “I’ve got the best black Lab in the world” and says his dog “goes after rabbits (at his rural North Dakota lakeside home) the way I go after a radio show.” That is, with passion and fire in the belly. “Your reputation in this business is so vital, and I made mistakes that have come back to bite me.” He also dispensed more wise advice: “You don’t know who you’re going to be working with” in the future – so think before you talk and act.

In closing, he said "be willing to bet on yourself." After Schultz went into syndication, he had to pass up multiple opportunities to appear on cable talk shows because nobody in Fargo had a video uplink. So he and his wife sucked it up and invested $150,000 to get one. It paid off.

Head for the Rockies

Congratulations to KKZN morning host Jay Marvin, who was named Best Talk Show Host by both readers and editors of the print edition of 5280 Magazine in the publication's annual "Top Of The Town" issue, spotlighting the best of Denver.

The magazine noted that Marvin is among the few talk show hosts truly interested in having conversations with the listeners instead of yelling at them.

Speaking of Denver, the Colorado city will take center stage come late August as the Democratic National Convention will roll into town. And nominee-in-waiting Barack Obama announced yesterday that he will accept the nomination and close out the convention not in the Pepsi Center but down the street at Invesco Field, the 75,000 seat home of the Denver Broncos. Naturally, the news media is bitching about the logistics of covering two places at once, but seeing as they can immediately dispatch helicopters in the air to cover even the most mundane car chases and stake out camera crews outside of L.A. County Jail at the last minute to watch Paris Hilton walk out of lockup, I'm sure they should have no problem with getting a seven week heads-up to put a few cameras and microphones in an NFL football stadium.

Way down yonder down in N'awlins

Some snide jokesters are claiming that, like Obama, even Republicans can pack stadiums. Speaking of New Orleans, remember WSMB? The Entercom-owned station was formerly a progressive talk outlet. Following Katrina, the station flipped to a time-shifted simulcast of talk outlet WWL. With that idea not working out at all, and the flip of a local sports talk station to gospel music, the station spins the format wheel once again, this time picking up the ESPN affiliation and going all-sports. Okay, it's not all sports. The station will still continue to air Tom Fitzmorris' long-running "The Food Show." In afternoon drive. Must be a New Orleans thing.

How Swede it is

Sirius is evidently giving even more people a reason to subscribe to satellite radio. Yesterday, they launched a groundbreaking channel designed to attract even more subscribers. This thing could be even bigger than Howard Stern! So, what is this monumental moment in broadcasting? Well, they're devoting a whole channel to the music of (drumroll)... ABBA. Yes, ABBA. It's a movie tie-in, naturally, for this summer's scariest horror flick movie musical, Mama Mia! which could likely rival both Moulin Rouge! and The Blair Witch Project as the most irritatingly awful film of the past decade.

In what could provoke international outrage, Sirius' satellites do travel an orbit that can easily hit Guantanamo Bay, leading human rights observers to worry about cruel and inhumane torture techniques that could be carried out upon al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners being held there.

Nonetheless, pain aficionados can find ABBA Radio on Sirius channel 3. Hey, you know you want to listen...

Across America in a few keystrokes

And finally, you may have noticed a few minor changes to this blog. First, most of the major blog graphics have been moved to Google image servers (a.k.a. Picasa). That should speed up loading time somewhat. In addition, there is a slew of new stations added to the listings at right. Many of these new additions may carry only one or two liberal shows, such as Ed Schultz or Stephanie Miller. They were added in order to inform readers of stations in their home towns or whatnot that may be carrying these shows. For scheduling, please refer to the individual station websites (if they have one). Did you know that you can listen to Schultz in red states such as Oklahoma or Alabama? You can. Or that you can tune into the top 40 hits station in State College, PA to hear Miller in the late evening hours? Yep.

Be sure to check out the list (which should be somewhat accurate). Of course, many of the small town stations listed may also carry stuff like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity, but hey - at least they carry some liberal talk. And that's getting somewhere, right?

And for those of you who like keeping up with comments (and that means you too, Mensa Man!), a widget on the left side of the page lists the five most recent ones. You can also subscribe to the comments feed by clicking here.

Happy traveling!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Goodbye Rochester?

A few blogs are buzzing about the fate of Rochester's progressive talk station WROC (950AM). Word has it that come August 1, the plug will be pulled and a new format installed.

WROC was an early convert to progressive talk, picking up the format four years ago when it initially added Ed Schultz and several shows from Air America Radio. Since then, the 1,000 watt station's success has been typical of other similar stations, meaning ratings averaging around a one share overall, but better than the lower-tier conservative talk format it replaced.

The station is owned by Entercom Communications, currently the fourth-largest radio station owner in the country. WROC was the company's first foray into liberal talk. Following the station's early success with the format, Entercom installed the format on its stations in New Orleans, Memphis, Sacramento and Buffalo. Of those five, only WROC and WWKB in Buffalo remain with the format. Evidently, the decision to flip those stations may or may not have anything to do with political ideology, as Entercom and its employees have donated money to Democrats over Republicans by more than a four to one margin.

Rochester Turning has provided a switchboard number for Entercom's Rochester office, (585) 423-2900.

UPDATE: Rochester Turning reports that WROC management has informed morning syndicated talker Bill Press that they are indeed flipping on August 1.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bennett Zier to become CEO of Air America

Air America Media continues its executive office shuffling by naming another radio management veteran, Washington DC-based Bennett Zier, as its chief executive officer. He had been serving on the network's board of directors since April.

Zier will be working in New York to head up Air America’s on-air, online and video projects while continuing to live in the Washington area. He says he is excited about the new opportunity, especially given the changing media landscape.

“Where Air America saw engaged voters, I see engaged audiences,” he said. To reach those audiences of listeners, readers and viewers, plans are in place to create more interactive Web content and video that will air on both broadcast television and the Internet.

"Bennett brings a wealth of successful experience to this role at Air America Media, ranging from launching and growing stations to running broadcast companies in Washington, New York and Boston,” said Air America Media Chairman Charlie Kireker in a statement. “Since we recruited him to our board in April, Bennett has demonstrated the leadership skills necessary to build Air America into a significant business while working with president Mark Green and the rest of our management team."

Zier was formerly in charge of Clear Channel's Washington and Baltimore radio stations, which included progressive talker WWRC. In December 2005, he left to help start up Red Zebra Broadcasting, owned by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Zier left Red Zebra in March 2007. Coincidentally, Red Zebra, which had recently entered into an agreement to purchase Clear Channel's three AM stations in the market, including WWRC, officially took control of the stations at midnight this morning, via a lease agreement. As of yet, there are no immediate changes planned for the stations' programming, though Zier's strong relationship with Snyder could be a plus in keeping progressive talk, particularly Air America, on 1260.

The Washington Business Journal and DCRTV have more.

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