Friday, December 22, 2006

Clear Channel Caves
to Protestors in Madison

There's lots of speculation in the talk radio blogs and bulletin boards about what motivated Clear Channel to cave in to community pressure and keep the lib talk format on their Madision station WXXM-FM 92.1 "The Mic."

Some say that CC just "gave in" to the overwhelming community support, which included a petition drive (with over 5,000 signatures) community protest actions, advertiser appeals, and statements by prominent politicos. On the other end of the spectrum (the right-wingers that is) the sentiment is that it was just a stunt by CC to promote the station. Actually, while I don't think this is the case, there is no doubt that "the Mic" received a lot of local and national attention after CC announced that they were pulling the plug on lib talk.

Another theory, espoused on the talk radio blog Liberal Talk Radio is that there was a rivalry between two CC management groups. This theory sees the Madison management group, led by Jeff Tyler, Madison vp operatons winning out over the regional management group in Cincinnati, which is headed up by CC vp Darryl Parks.

In any case, alls well that ends well. Also, in month where there has not been a lot of good news for lib talk, the turn-around in Madison bodes well.

Here are some comments from various message boards and blogs about the expected demise of

"The 'petition and protest' is only the 3rd stage in the Progressive's acceptance of the death of AAR. When this fails, they will quickly move on to the 'bitter and buying into the conspiracy theories' stage, and then, finally, 'back to NPR with the tote bag'. wow. 4,500 signatures and only 30 liberals show up? makes you question the validity of those 'signatures'. I sure would be concerned about those... moonbats unhappy with the format change."

"The Mic's" site has a countdown to how many days Bush has left in office but the station's progtalk format will be gone long before that...Darn capitalist system...a station actually has to make money?

"And whether liberals like to admit it or not, most people with a liberal political attitude aren't all that interested in hearing liberal political talk on the radio. In order to be a liberal, one has to believe in sitting back and letting the government take care of your needs, while you enjoy your bread and circuses. It makes perfect sense that liberal listeners would prefer to ignore politics and listen to sports talk."

"Enough with the petitions... really."

And here's what Brian Maloney -- the Radioequalizer-- had to say

"Determined to save their failed liberal talk radio station, Madison's so- called "progressive" community has already resorted to several of its usual noisy "hey hey, ho ho!" tactics. With those efforts having so far failed to convince station management to keep "The Mic" as a libtalker, given weak ad sales and mediocre ratings, activists are now looking to escalate their campaign."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Handel Loses His Handle

What is about talk radio hosts, that they are always getting in trouble? Is that they are pampered by radio station management, sucked up to by adoring fans, or just plan bullies that have exchanged the playground for the airwaves. It is such an interesting topic that I have created a blog profiling the many incidents of talk radio hosts behaving badly Although I try not to cross post too much, I decided to share this one with my readers here at Talking Radio. It involves the number one local talk host in the country. His name is Bill Handel and he is the morning host on KFI-AM in Los Angeles.

Over a million listeners tune into Bill Handel's morning show each week. That's a big audience and has no doubt contributed to Bill's inflated ego and hair trigger temper. So it is not surprising that Bill lost it when he had a confrontation with Jamie White, a dj on KYSR, 98.7, another Clear Channel station that shares the cramped studios at the station groups LA headquarters in Burbank. The following story by appeared in Radio and Records on line news feed last Friday morning.

Handel vs. White/The CC-LA Throwdown

KFI/Los Angeles personality Bill Handel got a little hot under the collar with Jamie White, morning hostess at Clear Channel clusterpal KYSR (Star 98.7), on the air this morning. Handel, who occasionally brings his kids to work, went into Star's studio and began yelling at White live, allegedly because she threw his kids out of her studio.According to a clip that aired on KTLA-TV this morning, White opened the exchange by telling Handel, "I just pointed at your kids with my orange flute and told them don't come back." Handel angrily responded, "If you ever talk to my kids that way again, Jamie, I am going to kick your ass. You are not allowed to talk to them! Are you telling me they can't be on the fifth floor?"White shot back, "I'm telling them they can't be right there," to which Handel yelled, "You have such goddamn losing numbers on this loser show. Shut up! You don't talk to my kids that way." Handel also shouted, "Don't you touch me!" which suggests that someone was trying to force him out of the studio -- right before he dropped a couple of f-bombs on his way out.

When I read this story, I first thought that Jamie was a guy. Why would Handel threaten to kick a girl's ass. So I naturally had to check out the You Tube clip which contains a photo and all the juicy details of the early morning confrontation. By Monday, a somewhat chastened Handel apologized for his outburst and has been suspended for a week by KFI. The details of his apology and suspension were spelled out in an article in yesterday.

Handel Gets Week's Suspension For On-Air Tirade

The great CLEAR CHANNEL/LOS ANGELES battle of titans has resulted in a one week suspension for Talk KFI-A morning star BILL HANDEL, to be served upon his return from his previously-scheduled two week vacation. HANDEL, in an incident that landed on local CW affiliate KTLA (TV)'s morning news show and, subsequently, on YOUTUBE, burst into Modern AC KYSR (STAR 98.7)'s studios and yelled at STAR morning host JAMIE WHITE for throwing his twin daughters out of her studio and threatening "if you ever talk to my kids like that again, JAMIE, I'm going to kick your ass." HANDEL also dropped a pair of "f-bombs," but STAR says that they were caught by the delay system and did not air (the KTLA tape appears to have come from a pre-delay skimmer tape). In a statement, HANDEL apologized for his outburst, saying "I want to apologize to JAMIE and her team for my behavior and how I handled the unfortunate incident this morning. It was simply a reaction of a dad who was protecting his children. I lost my temper, I lost my cool."

This isn't the first time that Handel's outrageuos behavior has got him in trouble with KFI management. A few weeks ago, when he joked about a stampede that killed scores of Arabs in Saudi Arabia, he was forced to make an apology when the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) complained.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Newsweek Article Rips Air America Radio

An article in the current edition of Newsweek paints a blistering portrait of Air America Radio. Citing sources ranging from the bankruptcy report to the disparaging statements of former AAR executives and staffers, the article’s only positive statement is contained in opening paragraph when the writer, Matthew Phillips, acknowleges that are “reports of potential buyers ranging from a group of investors led by two Showtime executives, to a small obscure media company.”

"AAR had confirmed “that a letter of intent has been signed by an undisclosed potential buyer, and that negotiations have now turned to drafting a purchase agreement to divvy up the $20 million of debt the broadcaster owes to a roster of more than 100 creditors.”

From that point on the article recites a littany of complaints about AAR. Many of them well reported on this blog and in other sources over the past month. The article includes the some of messy highlights from the bankruptcy statement

A look at Air America’s bankruptcy filings offers insight into an impatient network that seemed bent on catching up to such industry mainstays as Rush Limbaugh practically overnight. Air America certainly spent like the big boys. Included among its $4 million of assets is a combined $1.2 million in broadcast and recording equipment, computers and office furniture. It still owes $327,000 in back rent on the sprawling 2,200-square-foot studio in New York's Chelsea area it built in 2005, as well as $1.4 million in wage and severance claims to on-air talent and high-priced executives. Franken alone is owed more than $360,000.

The article also criticizes some of AAR’s other well known problems such as the large salaries paid to "stars" like Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo, that there never was a realistic business plan, that pay checks were bouncing, and that morale at the network was eroded when executives decided to cancel popular shows like "Morning Sedition" and the "Mike Malloy Show."

However quoting a named source, former AAR producer Martin Lynch and a unnamed former AAR executive, the Newsweek expose also reveals some lesser known observations about the beleaguered liberal talk radio network. Lynch claims that programming shakeup at AAR was a key factor in the networks demise.

"That was the straw that broke the camel’s back," says Lynch. "They cut the legs out from under us and upset a lot of listeners. The next quarter’s ratings were nonexistent, and we were getting a lot of angry letters from listeners saying we’d canceled their favorite shows. From then on we knew we were done for."

Lynch also cited the morale problem among low-paid staffers.

"We were getting paid peanuts, sometimes not even that, while these executives were making six figures and up."

Probably the most damaging statement in the article is attributed to a unnamed former AAR CEO. Your guess is a good as mine about who that might be. I just have hunch his initials are DG. The source states:

"There was never a realistic business plan that appreciated the difficulty of building a 24/7 radio network from the ground up," He said that in the beginning, the network was plagued by infighting between those who saw it as a political cause that would take years of dedicated subsidizing, and those who saw it as a viable business venture capable of turning a profit off the bat. "The latter group of people were deluding themselves," he said, noting that the programming costs never came close to matching up with revenue opportunities, particularly as companies such as Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Visa and Exxon began pulling advertising from Air America affiliates…It was doomed by their lack of realism."

Ironically, it was Michael Harrison, usually a gadfly about liberal talk radio who struck the most optimistic note.

"This has nothing to do with the viability of liberal talk radio," Harrsion said. "It has to do with them not running an effective business model and with people like Al Franken not living up to the hype. If they’d hired broadcasters instead of a bunch of comedians, they would have had a chance of succeeding."

The Radio Equalizer is Wrong About Madison

I have tried to avoid the tactic of taking on other bloggers here, but can’t let remarks posted by well known right blogger Brian Maloney (pictured on the right) go unanswered. In a post yesterday on his blog, Maloney made the following comments (in italics) about the moves now underway in Madison to protest the decision of Clear Channel to dump lib talk on WXXM (The Mic.) They plan to replace it with a line-up consisting of high school sports and Fox’s stable of national sportscasters. Like most right-wingers, Maloney has a hard time dealing with the concept of a protest movement initiated by angry radio listeners. And why not? Over 90% of talk hosts in U.S. are conservatives.

Determined to save their failed liberal talk radio station, Madison's so- called "progressive" community has already resorted to several of its usual noisy "hey hey, ho ho!" tactics.far failed to convince station management to keep "The Mic" as a libtalker, given weak ad sales and mediocre ratings, activists are now looking to escalate their campaign.

Failed! You’ve gotta be kidding. WXXM has tripled its ratings since switching to lib talk two years. The conservative station in Madison, WIBA, has experienced a 20% loss in their ratings over the same time period. "Weak ad sales" is just a cop out.

In addition to enlisting the help of US Senator Russ Feingold (D- Wisconsin) and other Democrat Party honchos, lefties are hoping a planned "funeral procession" stunt on Wednesday will do the trick.

Why not? Do you expect them to just roll over and keep quiet. They’re keeping the pressure on a huge national radio conglomerate that wants to replace lib talk on WXXM with high school sports. They’ve aleady collected petitions with over 5,000 signatures and held a rally attended by over 500 people. They are doing the correct thing by keeping the pressure on the media giant from San Antoine.

And while they point to The Mic's supposed strong ratings, one question hasn't been answered: in a city as far to the left as Madison, why hasn't their libtalker been number one with a bullet?

Since converting to lib talk in September, 2004, WXXM has moved from number 21 to number nine in the ratings tripling its share of Madison’s radio listeners from 1.3 to 3.7. During that same period of time WIBA, who’s blowtorch signal reaches Milwaukee has dropped from number two to number four. One thing is clear – WXXM is on its way up and WIBA, also owned by Clear Channel is on its way down.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lib Talk Supporters Keep Up the Pressure in Madison

For those of you in Boston, Cincinnati, and New Orleans who have lost or will soon lose your Air America station follow the lead of a determined group of activists and lib talk fans who are keeping the heat up on the beleaguered Clear Channel managers in Madison regarding their plan to switch WXXM-FM 92.1 from talk to sports on Jan 1.

That’s right . Madison, arguably the most liberal city in the country east of San Francisco, is going to be without a liberal talk outlook because Clear Channel, in their infinite wisdom, has decided that what the people of that town really want is more coverage of high school sports and rantings from Fox Radio’s Jim Rome.

The Capitol Times in Madison reports today that the group opposing the plan to drop lib talk is planning a funeral procession on Wednesday in their effort to keep the pressure on CC management. Here’s the first few paragraphs of the article

By Kevin LynchDecember 16, 2006
Efforts to resuscitate the progressive talk radio format of "The Mic" WXXM-FM/ 92.1 have failed so far. Concerned listeners now plan a "funeral procession" as the Jan. 1 end of the format nears. The march will begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday at Brittingham Park near the intersection of South Park Street and West Washington Avenue and head down Fish Hatchery Road to the Clear Channel Madison offices. A 420-page petition of more than 5,500 signatures to keep "The Mic" on the air will be delivered to Jeff Tyler, Clear Channel vice president of marketing, by activists Valerie Walasek, Gary Tipler and businesswoman Barbara Wright.Despite the petition and a rally at the High Noon Saloon on Dec. 12 to demonstrate advertising support for the station's political talk forum, Clear Channel still plans to change the format to sports talk with an emphasis on prep sports and the University of Wisconsin. It also will feature syndicated sports personalities Jim Rome and Dan Patrick. In an interview with The Associated Press published in The Capital Times on Wednesday, Tyler said Clear Channel would explore ways to continue progressive talk in Madison."Our company sales team embraced the station, the format and enthusiasm we all had for the station and its role in the community," Tyler said. "However, there are many advertisers, local and national, who have been at conflict with the programming or stay away from controversial programming."The station has cancelled its local progressive talk shows, but it still airs programming from Air America, and other nationally broadcast talk hosts, including Al Franken, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller.

Click here to read the entire article

What does it take to convince the goons from San Antonio that their decision to drop lib talk in Madison is not going very well. The lib talk supporters have submitted a petition containing over 5,000 signatures, they had a rally last week attended by over 500 people including the former Mayor of Madison and several business owners who said they will not be advertising on any Clear Channel station. Also, the story has been covered in all Wisconsin media including a widely distributed AP story.

What part of running a station don’t these people understand. WXXM has doubled its ratings since switching to lib talk two years. Conversely, the conservative talk station in the market has seen their ratings decrease by 20% over the same time. CC’s market manager in Madison, Jeff Tyler, complains that it is hard to sell advertising on the station. One finds that hard to believe considering the ratings growth and the demographics in Madison.

In any case, don’t expect the lib talk supporters to give up. They appear to be very well organized and motivated.

Stay tuned

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Don't Mess with Madison

I knew the situation in Madison was getting fired up when the story was picked up the Associated Press. That means that story appeared in probably over 100 papers including virtually every daily in Wisconsin. It even was a featured on ABC, Channel 7 in Chicago. And why not? This is biggest listener revolt effecting the radio business in many years. Probably the biggest insurrection since the Dixie Chicks fiasco three years ago where Cumulus and Clear Channel had to deal with a ton a negative PR when they dropped Dixie Chick songs from their country music stations.

The Madison situation is different. First of all, it involves a format change. (The "Chicks" were just banned on some stations.) This is something that stations do all the time. Sometimes a few people grip, maybe even write a few nasty letters. But this is Madison – one of the most liberal, and activist minded cities in the country.

Last night over 500 livid supporters of "The Mic" WXXM crammed into a Madison bar/restaurant –including a former Madison Mayor --to express their dissatisfaction with Clear Channels decision to drop lib talk and change the stations format to Sports. Ironically, much of the programming will be provided by Fox Sports. (which of course is owned by Rupert Murdoch) This despite the fact that there is already a sports station – WTSO – in the market.

CC’s lackey in Madison, market manager, Jeff Tyler told the AP reporter that "the station is making money but has consistently ranked dead last out of 14 Madison stations who report earnings." First of all, I thought "making money" was good. Also, Tyler was dead wrong in saying that WXXM was "dead last" in ratings. According to the most recent Arbitron ratings, WXXM recorded a 3.7 share, which makes them ninth out of the 14 rated stations. What is even more significant is that since the WXXM changed to lib talk about two years ago they have doubled the stations ratings showing increases every month. The conservative talker WIBA featuring the usually line-up of right wing talkers like Limbaugh and Hannity, while ranked number four has lost 20% of its audience over the past two years.

What CC is going to find out with their brazen move in Madison is that removing a liberal talk station is not like dropping and oldies or standards station (which is ironically what they did when they rolled out lib talk on two dozen stations over the past two and one half years.) Yes, the likely demise of Air America Radio will create problems for CC and other lib stations and owners, but the alternative – bailing on political talk in bluest of cities in a very blue state represents an even bigger problem.
If you want to keep "The Mic" in Madison join over 5,000 other people and the sign the on-line petition.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

No Nude Photos of Coulter and Malkin

Sorry, I was forced to remove the nude pictures of Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter. I've replaced the deleted nude photos with these head shots (pun not intended) I will keep searching the net trying to find a site that that contains these photos and will publish links if I able to do this.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Deflating of Air America
Good News and Bad New for
Air America

This has been a rough couple of weeks for lib talk in general and Air America Radio in particular. The bad news is that five stations have dropped lib talk since AAR filed for bankruptcy about a month ago. – WYOS in Binghamton, WSAI in Cincinnati, WXXM in Madison, WSMB in New Orleans, and WKBF in Quad Cities. The good news is that these stations only account for 4.6% of the AAR’s coverage and less than 1% of the lib network’s ratings.

Meanwhile, the wait continues on whether AAR will be able to secure new management as they attempt to get out of bankruptcy. The Court has given current AAR management an extension on their deadline to come up with a management plan as they continue to operate with $2.7 million loan. A report yesterday in the highly unreliable Radio Equalizer blog stated that a new management team headed up by two executives with Showtime Networks -- Mark Greenberg and Roy Langbord -- and former AAR CEO Doug Kreeger (see photo) was attempting to buy the struggling liberal network. Nothing has come across on this rumor today, so I guess we will have to wait until next week for an update.

Meanwhile over a dozen AAR affiliates have shaken up their program line-ups over the past two weeks. The shake-ups involve rescheduling lame duck Al Franken to late PM and giving the coveted time period to either Ed Schultz, who is now broadcasting live from noon to 3 pm EST. or in some cases to Thom Hartmann. The trend appears to be dropping AAR or downgrading AAR hosts and replacing them with hosts associated with other syndicators.

In a related development WHJJ in Providence has dropped two local liberal hosts – 13 year veteran Arlene Violet and Howie Bart, replacing them with syndicated right wingers Sean Hannity and Quinn & Rose. This appears to be nothing more than money saving move by Clear Channel which has been cutting staffers all over the country since they announced their plan to go private two weeks ago.

Finally, as if anyone was surprised, Radarline has confirmed that Al Franken will be leaving the lib talk network before the end of the year. Attributing their report to a "knowledgeable radio source" the Radarline piece goes to state that the source "expressed doubt that the new [AAR] owner could afford to employ Air America's two biggest names—Franken and Randi Rhodes. According to the bankruptcy filing Franken is owed $360,749.98 by AAR.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Air America Radio Still Deflating

Things are really heating in lib talk world. reports today that next move in the Air America bankruptcy story will be a hearing in Bankruptcy Court tomorrow (Thursday) at 10a. Included in the matters to be heard a Motion for Relief From the Stay filed by AAR flagship WWRL-A/NEW YORK which is a licensee ACCESS.1 COMMUNICATIONS.

Another day another line-up change is announced. Again reports that Clear Channel lib talk station WWRC (AM 1260) in Washington will be dumping the Young Turks and picking up Jones talker Bill Press, who appears to be on a bit of role since AAR meltdown. The change will take effect on Monday, December 11.

Meanwhile, the on again off again saga of whether WKOX/WXKS in Boston will be dropping lib talk seems to be leaning in "off" direction. It was reported in Boston Globe today that Clear Channel, VP of programming Jack McCartney said that "Air America is history in Boston." You note that McCartney did not say lib talk was history – only Air America. So I guess we will have to wait and see on this one.

Finally, a rumor is circulating around several talk radio boards concerning the future of KTLK in Los Angeles. According to the rumor, which apparently was started by an unnamed source at Jones Radio, KTLK will soon be switching from lib talk to Spanish. Since KTLK is one of the affiliates that was being compensated by AAR, it is not surprising that they are not very happy about the bankruptcy filling. In fact, the AAR bankruptcy filing lists KTLK as one of their creditors noting that the CC station was owned $558,000.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Deflating of Air America Radio

This is an interesting time for Liberal talk radio. Let’s look at what has happened in the past month. It all started with announcement that Air America Radio was filing for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy filing, which was published on the Smoking Gun website, listed debts of over $20 million and assets of under $5 million. The ink had yet to dry on the bankruptcy story when other cards started to fall.

Two new syndication companies were formed. Nova M, a entity created by AAR founder Sheldon Drobny and Phoenix talk show host Dr. Mike Newcomb started with an LMA in Phoenix, KPHX and an O & O in Little Rock KDXE. They made a bold move by signing Mike Malloy, who was unceremoniously canned by AAR last month. Democracy Radio founder, Tom Athans, heads up another venture –Talk USA Radio --. Not much is known about this venture, but remember it was DR that actually recruited and launched Ed Schultz, who is the number one liberal talk host.

Speaking of Ed Schultz, in anticipation of the demise of AAR, he announced earlier this week that he is moving is show from the 3pm-6pm to the coveted Noon-3pm slot. Rumors are swirling that despite what happens to AAR, Al Franken is going to give up his show in order to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota. Apparently, Schultz figures he should get first dibs on Franken’s spot.

As I write this piece on Monday, December 4, I get the feeling that I am covering an event that is unfolding all around me. I know that more will be revealed tomorrow and still more by end of the week. I have no doubt that the liberal talk radio landscape will be very different in 2007 – and that’s only three weeks away!

Meanwhile, back to the story. Stations that carry AAR programming are starting to get nervous. Yes, they have Schultz, Miller, and Press, but AAR talkers still fill most of time on these stations. Four lib talk stations have either dropped the format or intend to do so in the coming weeks. They are WXXM in Madison, WSMB in New Orleans, WYOS, in Binghamton and WKBF in Quad Cities. None of these stations have indicated that their programming change was motivated by AAR’s problems, but one can read the writing on the wall.

More significantly, several lib talk stations are already revamping their program schedules, WCPT has moved Stephanie Miller into Franken’s slot and moved Franken to late afternoon when this daytimer’s signal starts to fade. KQKE in San Francisco, WXKS/WKOX in Boston, and WARF in Akron have dropped Franken, At least Franken will be carried on many stations when he does his farewell broadcast in few in a weeks. Jerry Springer announced today that his show will end on Friday. Jerry has been losing affiliates on regular basis since Stephanie Miller moved in on his time spot and AAR put him on the Taxi Squad. As of his sayonara announcement, he was carried on two major stations WCPT in Chicago and WSAI in Cincinnati.

So with Springer out and Franken probably out what is left at AAR. There’s Randi Rhodes, who is isn’t the personification of a team player. My hunch is that she will survive the demise the AAR and reemerge with one of new syndication outfits or possibly with Jones where she would teamed up her nemesis Ed Schultz.. The rest of the AAR talkers are probably headed for the unemployment office.

AAR critics like Brian Maloney, the Radio Equalizer and Michelle Malkin are ecstatic that the liberal network is coming undone. That might be true, but liberal talk radio is far from dead. With a handful of syndicators vying to provide talent for current and prospective liberal talk stations the lib talk format is alive and well. Remember before NBC, CBS, and ABC there was the Dumont Network.