Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Clear Channel Completes Stealth Flip in New Haven

Updated: Saturday, February 3, at 12:15 pm pst: Its's official. The Clear Channel station, WAVZ-AM in New Haven will be dropping lib talk on Monday and flipping to ESPN Sports. This makes WAVZ the 19th station to drop lib talk in the past year – the 13th in the past two months.

It also represents a new "stealth strategy" by station owners to flip lib talk stations without notifying anyone -- e.g. listeners, the press, or the FCC. The "owners" seem to be taking the position that it is their station and they can do whatever they want in whatever manner they choose. Some of us were under the impression that station's are licensed by the Federal government to use the public airwaves in the public's interest. In any case, that's a blog for another time.

Another station WQDS-AM in Duluth (see Breaking News) flipped from lib talk to oldies on Thursday. This was also a "stealth flip," by an owner, who does not appear to very popular in the local market.

It appears that Clear Channel does not want to make the same mistake it made in Madison with its flip of WAVZ in New Haven from liberal talk to sports.

Despite their best efforts to not inform anyone of their decision, news leaked out earlier this week when it was reported in a one-sentence item on the Northeast Radio Watch that CC was planning to drop lib talk in there.

The post stated that "the end of progressive talk coming at Clear Channel's WAVZ (1300 New Haven) sometime this week? We're hearing that sports talk will be the new format there, any day now."
They were right!

On Thursday TR published a new website (which was underconstruction) which seemed to confirm the rumors that ESPN was to be the no programming provider for WAVZ.

If you select the stations web address http://www.wavz.com/ today you will see the following message:

Thanks to each and every one of you for being such loyal on-air/on-line listeners to the VOICE Progressive Talk Radio 1300 (theVOICE1300.com).
Effective Monday, February 5th, 2007, WAVZ-AM's program format will switch to sports as ESPN Radio 1300 (
You're also invited to tune in to News/Talk960WELI (
960WELI.com) [CC's Conservative Talk Station in New Haven] for Local New Haven News, Traffic, Weather, & Sports... plus local information & coverage of events in your community on the News/Talk960WELI Morning Show with Jerry Kristafer, weekdays from 5:30-9 a.m.
Again thank you for your support of the VOICE Progressive Talk Radio 1300."

Now I am not comparing WAVZ in New Haven to WXXM in Madison. WAVZ has operated pretty much on auto-pilot since switching to lib talk in November, 2004. (Ironically, the station’s previous format was sports) while WXXM has maintained a staff and does local programming. WAVZ never received an Arbitron share higher than 1, while WXXM has been getting shares in the low 3’s for months. Most importantly, I doubt there is activist group in New Haven that can match the one that was assembled Madison. Potential activists at nearby Yale University seem to more interested in showers than liberal talk radio.

However, CC does not want to take any chances. That is possibly why they have used "stealth strategy" as they pull the plug on lib talk in Hartford.

In Madison they announced their intention to flip WXXM several weeks before they planned to launch a local sports format. That gave activists there sufficient time to conduct a successful "save lib talk" campaign including a petition, public meetings, demonstrations, and support from community and business leaders. In Boston and Columbus, OH they shortened the format flip window to days, now in New Haven that the programming change will be made without anyone being notified.

While the station loss represents over 20% of all full time lib talk stations, it represent less than 5% of the radio listeners to the format.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How the AAR Sale will Impact Lib Talk

Yesterday, the big news story was the sale of Air America Radio to Stephen L. Green. Today and beyond we will be focusing on that sale and what it means for liberal talk radio, especially with regard to how programs are produced and distributed.

In an article in Monday’s issue of the New York Times, Mark Green, the politically active brother of AAR’s new owner, Stephen Green hinted that the sale would usher in a new phase for Air America, focused on digital content distribution rather than radio.

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

According to the Times article at least one of individuals that was rumored to be a potential buyer of AAR, will be part on the new management team. The Progressive Radio Group, led by Terence F. Kelly, AAR's former chairman, will own a minority stake in the network. Kelly formed the group of about 20 investors in the fall after the network filed for bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the original owner of AAR, Sheldon Drobny does not share Mark Greens optimistic assessment of the potential at the struggling liberal talk network. In a piece which appears on the Huffington Post, Drobny blasts AAR saying that it "has little or no value."

"The metaphor I used, ‘from search and rescue to search and recover’ is a term used in rescue initiatives of plane crash victims and missing people in other disaster situations, Drobny posts. "After too much time passes, search and rescue becomes search and recover since the presumption is over time that a rescue is unlikely. Too much time has passed for a real rescue of AAR."

Drobny said that "AAR at best will be another content company with a name tarnished by bad management bankruptcy." He says that the only things of value that the venture has are the studio equipment, the hosts, and their affiliation agreements.

"The AAR affiliate agreements are 1 to 2 years and I suspect that most of the former AAR affiliates will not commit to AAR programming," Drobny posted.

Of course, we have to take Drobny’s comments in context. He is bitter, that the AAR management team led by Rob Glaser rejected his offer to buy the assets of the company before they filed for bankruptcy last November and now as the owner of Nova M Radio Network he will be competing with AAR for shelf space on liberal talk radio stations.

Check back to TR later in the day. We will be posting more comments on the AAR sale as they become available.

Big Changes are in the Works at Air America Radio.

Last updated, January 29, 3:30 pm pst, (changes set in bold type)

Two developments today will, no doubt, radically change the structure of liberal talk radio in general and Air America Radio in particular.

The first change involves the ownership of the bankrupt lib talk network. It is reported by numerous sources that Stephen L. Green (see photo right), a New York City real estate developer, has agreed to terms with the owners of AAR, Piquant LLC, to purchase the assets (and the debts) of the struggling network. Terms of the deal have not been released.

Upon entering into the Letter of Intent, Green provided funds to Democracy Allies LLC, which has been funding Air America during the bankruptcy proceeding and which will continue to fund the company as it prepares a definitive purchase agreement for submission to the Bankruptcy Court.

Green’s investment company, SL Green Realty Corporation, is the biggest owner of commercial real estate in New York. The company owns and operates a premier portfolio of commercial office buildings --29 in Midtown Manhattan offering over 17 million square feet of office space. It has established a consistent track record of producing industry-leading returns while creating long-term value for its shareholders.

In a press release by AAR announcing the sale, Green said that he bought AAR "because I'm a businessman who enjoys creating and growing companies."

"I'm purchasing a majority ownership in Air America with the intention of making it a successful business that returns a profit," he said. "To assure that AAR survives and thrives, we'll do three things. First, we'll stabilize its finances. Second, we'll build on its lineup to assure the best radio talent possible, since in the long run content is king. And third, we'll extend this special brand by partnering with other platforms beyond radio to make sure that the network’s content reaches the wide audience it deserves."
The press release also includes a statement by Mark Green, who will clearly take an active role in AAR's new management.

"Having been involved on both sides of the microphone at Air America," Mark Green said. "I understand its huge potential as a voice for progressive patriotism. And with the Democratic take-over of the 110th Congress and prospects in the next presidential election, it's the perfect time for Air America 2.0. If progressive values were a stock, now is the time to buy."

His better known brother, Mark Green, (see photo left) is active in liberal politics in New York City and has been a frequent guest on several AAR talk shows. He has also sat in occasionally as guest host on David Bender’s Politically Direct show. Mark Green is a smart and articulate pol and could make a good talk host – although nothing has been announced relative to this at this time. The deal will not be consummated until a bankruptcy court in New York approves it.

In a separate announcement today, AAR’s top rated morning host Al Franken has finally confirmed after weeks of dodging questions, that he will be leaving the network on February 14th. However, while most people think that Franken will launch a campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, currently occupied by Norm Coleman (Rep-MN), the soon to be former AAR talker would offer no comment.

There is no doubt that the sale of AAR and departure of Franken will radically change lib talk. AAR talkers account for over half of all time on the just over 100 stations that offer two or more daily lib talkers. About 75 of these stations are considered to be AAR affiliates and rely on the network not only for programming, but for marketing and affiliate support.

It was also announced that Franken’s coveted slot, will be taken over by Thom Hartmann. Hartmann known as the "iron man" of talk radio because he does two daily three hour shows (one, a local show on KPOJ in Portland, OR and the other a nationally syndicated show.) could be just a fill-in until AAR finds another "star" to fill this important slot.

The AAR bankruptcy was an ugly event. When AAR filed for bankruptcy in November, it disclosed assets of $4 million and liabilities of over $20 (half of that is owed to Rob Glaser, former AAR CEO).
It is clear that the AAR business model did not work. High salaries paid to the network’s stars like Al Franken and former host, Jeaneane Garofalo, huge production budgets, a suite of offices in New York City, and bloated staff, posed a recipe for disaster.

Other companies like Premiere Radio which syndicates Rush Limbaugh and Jones Radio which syndicates Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, and Bill Press, have a much leaner and more efficient operational structures. No details have been released, at this time, regarding how the sale of
AAR will effect network operation.

Stay tuned

Friday, January 26, 2007

Another Lib Talker Bites the Dust...Another May be Next

Last update, January 29, 2007, 10 am PST (changes set in bold type)

We were certainly not surprised today when Michael Zwerling, the eccentric owner of KOMY-AM in Santa Cruz announced that he was flipping the station from lib talk to oldies. Over three months ago, Zwerling announced his intention to do just that and just appeared to waiting for someone to come up with a low cost alternative.

What was a surprise were the ridiculous statements that Zwerling made in an equally ridiculous article in Today’s edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

According to Zwerling he decided to flip the station because allegedly it was difficult to sell advertising. "We were not able to sell a single ad for the station in a year and half despite getting decent ratings," he said.

Do you think the Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord would ask Zwerling why that was, since the other lib talk station serving the Monterey/ Salinas/Santa Cruz market, KXRA, seems to have dozens of local advertisers and it has been on the air about the same time.

No, McCord didn’t ask that question. She didn’t even mention that Santa Cruz still had a lib talk station in market. Her entire article (you can read it here) was little more a puff peach which allowed Zwerling, who’s politics I am told are somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, to vent on how lib talk had failed despite his efforts to give it a platform.

Zwerling revealed his personal biases in the Sentinel’s article. He called AAR "an angry, nasty, pissing and moaning format where the only thing they say is 'Bush stinks' or 'Bush is bad'.

The article also didn’t mention that Zwerling carried right-wing yakker, Michael Savage (until he couldn’t afford to pay Savage’s license fee), that he would pre-empt AAR programming to make right wing editorials, and filled a good part of the broadcast day with infomercial programming.

To make matters worse, the AP picked up the story and transmitted to 100's of newspapers around the country. I guess they thought it was funny that AAR got flipped in liberal community like Santa Cruz. No one at the AP thought it was worth the time to check out the facts.

The good news is that KRXA, the other liberal station in Santa Cruz is picking up some of the replays of some AAR weekday schedule and live coverage of weekend programming including Laura Flanders and Ring of Fire. Consult the KRXA program schedule for details.

Santa Cruz is one of the most liberal medium size cities in the country. Over three-quarters of the voters in the 2004 cast their ballots for John Kerry. Monterey and Salinas are more moderate, but overall Democrats have the majority of registered voters in the market.

Now we hear from Northeast Radio Watch that liberal talk station WAVZ will soon be flipping from lib talk to sports. WAVZ has barely registered in the ratings during is two year run as an AAR affiliate.

This is the 17th station to drop lib talk in the past year – the 11th in the past two months. Three of those stations KOMY, KTTH in Eugene, and WHLD in Buffalo were in markets with another lib talk station. The others were all low-rated, underperfoming stations in mostly small to medium sized markets. While the station loss represents over 20% of all full time liberal talk stations, it represent less than 5% of the radio listeners to the format.

One station, WXXM-FM in Madison announced they were going to flip, but changed their mind when local supporters of lib talk put a lot of pressure on local Clear Channel management with a petition drive, and a series of high profile community events attended by local politicians and potential advertisers.

On-going efforts to restore liberal talk are now underway in Boston, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dallas.

Breaking News Archive

Following stories were included in the TR's Breaking News section. When a story stops breaking or continuing to develop it is move to the Archive. If it starts to break again, it will be covered as a new item in the Breaking News section.

KCTC to Flip from Lib Talk to Sports
Updated,February 15, 9:30 pm pst
The Sacramento Bee reports that KCTC AAR's in affiliate Sacramento will be switching from lib talk to Sports on February 25. According to Entercom GM, John Geary, the station will become an affiliate of ESPN. This will be the 19th lib talk station to drop the format in the past year. It is the fourth station to switch to ESPN Sports. While AAR will lose another affiliate, lib talk survives in Sacramento where KSAC offers a non AAR lib talk line-up anchored by local talker Christine Craft with syndicated talkers Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Bev Smith, and Mike Malloy filling out the schedule.

Franken Makes it Official: He will Run for the Senate in Minnesota
Updated, February 14, 5:30 pst
As we reported yesterday, Al Franken completed his almost three year run as Air America Radio’s top talk host by announcing on his final show today that he will run for the US Senate in his home state of Minnesota. Franken, who made the announcement in the final minutes of his last show, will likely be running against incumbent Norm Coleman (R-MN) in 2008. "I've decided to move on to another challenge," Franken told listeners. The now ex-AAR host, did not respond to attacks made against him yesterday by Ed Schultz, (reported by TR) who accused Franken of dragging the liberal talk network down by expressing his interest in running for the Senate. Meanwhile, life goes on AAR. On Thursday and Friday, former AAR host Marc Maron will fill Franken’s vacated spot. Starting Monday that slot will be filled by Thom Hartmann. Whether Hartmann will be Franken’s permanent replacement remains to be seen. He will be the only daytime AAR host, who will not originate his show from the company’s headquarters in New York City.

New Lib Talker Debuts in Beantown

February 12, 2007

In what has been a bad start to year of 2007, liberal talk radio can claim one small step forward today as Tom Finnernan started his daily talk show on WRKO in Boston on Monday.

Finnernan, former leader of the Massachusetts House, replaces right wing talker John DePetro, who was fired when he called a gubernatorial candidate a “fat lesbian.” While Finnernan is not expected to be a liberal talker in the AAR mold. (He’s a politician not a comedian) he is guaranteed to level the playing field a bit in the bluest city of the bluest state in Country. According to an AP article on Monday, one of Finnernan’s first guests was Terry McAuliffe, former Democratic National Committee Chairman. Finneran also promised Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the former Democratic presidential nominee, would join him on the air later this week.

Updated February 3, 2007, 12:15 pm Air America Radio has lost another affiliate, as KQDS in Duluth dropped the lib talk format unexpectedly on Thursday. Without any advance notice the station flipped formats from lib talk to oldies. According to the Liberal Talk Radio blog, the station might even make another flip to conservative talk in the near future. This is the 18th station to drop lib talk in the past year and the 12th in the past two months. The station is owned by Red Rock Radio, a division of Red Rock Broadcasting in Fargo. Red Rock also owns three FMs and the Fox Affiliate in Duluth. Not only did they pull off a stealth flip, but they made this move after the station recorded its best ratings in years, scoring a 2.1 share in the Fall, which was more than double what the station earned over the summer. One begins to suspect that the tide of flips effecting lib talk stations might have something to do with the AAR bankruptcy. Hopefully, this tide will be reversed when the new owners of AAR take charge.


Updated, Jan. 29, 10 am PST--Air America Radio has found a buyer -- over two months after filing for bankruptcy, Stephen L. Green, of SLG Radio LLC, has come up with the successful bid and now awaits the decision of a bankruptcy court judge to complete the takeover. Green is successful real estate investor in New York City and the brother of Mark Green, who is active in the city's Democratic Party and barely lost a race for Mayor four year's ago. As we await more news on the AAR, we have to ask ourselves, how did we miss this one. Rumors about many potential suitors for AAR have popped up over the past weeks -- most recently, the French family form Westchester County. The Green bid never showed up on anyone's radar. For more on this story go to the Huffington Post .


Updated, Jan. 29, 10 am PST--With the announcement, just a few hours ago, that Stephen L. Green will be buying AAR we have also learned that, to nobody's surprise, Al Franken will be leaving the lib talk network, after his Feb. 14th show, to likely pursue a run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota. (Sources close to Franken would not confirm that the soon to former AAR host was going to run.) What was a bit of surprise is the simultaneous annoucement that his successor for coveted morning drive segment will be Thom Hartmann. One has to wonder if the Green takeover will include a role on AAR for his brother Mark Green (see above) who has substituted for David Bender, host of Politically Direct, on occassion and been a frequent guest on the network.
KOMY-AM in Santa Cruz Drops AAR
Last update, January 27, 3 pm PST--Although it took them more than three months to do it, Zwerling Broadcasting in Santa Cruz has flipped lib talk, mostly AAR programming, for an oldies format. Owner Michael Zwerling, made the move today to no one's surprise. Zwerling's claim is that he was unable to get even one advertiser since flipping KOMY to lib talk a year and half ago. That's funny because because the markets other lib talk station KXRA has dozens of local advertisers. This is the 17th station to drop lib talk in the past year, 11th in past two months. Click here and here for more on this story.

Ed Schultz Accuses Hillary of Snubbing Him Hillary

Update, January 23...Clinton may be ahead in the polls, but she is not doing very well with lib talk’s top yakker Ed Schultz. In an message on his web site, Schultz accuses Hillary of avoiding his show. He says that Clinton is making herself available to TV news but not to liberal talk radio." Quite frankly, I'm sick of it," Schultz complains. "This morning I watched Hillary Clinton tell CNN she is accessible. What? To the TV cameras yes, to the base of loyal listeners on progressive talk radio, absolutely not! Click here to read Big Eddie’s entire letter.

Monday, January 22, 2007

AAR May Have Found Buyer

Several news sources including the Wall Street Journal and Reuters are reporting today that the French family, owners of WRNN-TV will lead an investor group that will buy bankrupt assets of Air America Network. The future of the struggling liberal talk network has been in doubt since AAR filed for bankruptcy protection in November. Rumors have circulated since then that White Knights would come to their rescue. One of those rumors suggested that an investor groups led by current AAR Board members, Terry Kelly and Doug Kreeger were positioned to take over.

However, it now appears the French family will be in the drivers seat. It is unclear what this means from an operational point of view. The WSJ story reports that Richard French, a former New York State Democratic official and polical ally of Hillary Clinton will be doing a nightly show on AAR. The same report indicates that former AAR yakker, Marc Maron will be returning.

Right wing bloggers are having fun with this story. One blogger, The Deal Breaker, used the following headline to report the pending deal Air America already liberal, effete, gay, about to become French.

WRNN is an interesting broadcast operation. Although licensed to upstate of community of Kingston, NY, they have used the "must carry" rules to gain carriage on cable systems in Westchester County. They offer a mix of regional news and informercials. Their pending takeover of AAR could expand their operational base.
we've learned that the network's primary "media partner" is the French family, which owns the New York- based Regional News Network.

Stay tuned.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Talk Radio is Link in the Lives of Two Women

Earlier this month we were shocked to learn that Maria Leavey had died suddenly in her home in Arlington, VA. Maria had worked tirelessly as Democratic party activist and was involved in the early days of Democracy Radio when they were developing the Ed Schultz Show and helping to organize a liberal talk radio network that eventually came to be known as Air America Radio.

Now we learn of the tragic death of Andrea Parhamovich, who died earlier this week in Iraq when insurgents ambushed a convoy she riding in after leaving the headquarters of Sunni political party, where she had been teaching a class on democracy. Before going to Iraq, Andrea worked in the public relations department at AAR. Andrea’s job there may have had some influence on her decision to go to Iraq.

About fifteen months ago she met Michael Hastings, a Newsweek reporter when she was on a PR assignment with the Jerry Springer show. As her relationship with Hastings developed she decided to take a job with the National Democratic Institute and join up with Hastings who was on assignment in Iraq. The NDI is a not-for-profit organization based in Washington that has worked in Iraq since 2003.

A description of Parhamovich first meeting with Hastings was described in an article in yesterday's LA Times.

"It was the most boring Jerry Springer interview in history," Hastings recalled. But an e-mail exchange about the story led to that first date — diner milkshakes. "I considered it a date; she considered it just business," said Hastings, who at the time was about to leave for Iraq for the first time. When he mentioned his impending trip to the war-torn country, she was "totally unimpressed by it, and mocked me."

According to Jamie Horn, AAR’s public relations director (pictured with Parhamovich. Parhamovich is on the left) ‘working for a liberal radio network wasn't enough," for the idealistic Ohio native. "She had to go to the heart of the war and create change and understanding. She was so obstinate in her efforts to create change. Nothing could stop her."

Details of the tragic events that resulted the Parhamovich’s death along with death of three of her body guards was described in an article in yesterday's edition of New York Times.

An American woman who was killed here on Wednesday had just left the headquarters of a prominent Sunni political party, where she had been teaching a class on democracy, when her convoy of vehicles was ambushed by gunmen.

Members of the Iraqi Islamic Party said the American woman — Andrea Parhamovich, 28, of Perry, Ohio —left the party’s fortified compound in western Baghdad around 4 p.m. in a three-vehicle convoy, headed east toward the Green Zone, when she and her armed guards came under attack from all sides. Les Campbell, Middle East and North Africa director for the National Democratic Institute, which hired Ms. Parhamovich about three months ago, said a fierce firefight ensued.

Guards tried to escape, fought back, and then called for reinforcements from other private security contractors. The attackers — perhaps as many as 30, Mr. Campbell said, according to witness accounts reaching him — used heavy weapons, possibly including grenades. He said they destroyed the vehicle that Ms. Parhamovich was in, killing three of her armed guards, and then melted away into the neighborhood.

Saleem Abdullah, a senior member of the Iraqi Islamic Party, said that Ms. Parhamovich’s group may have been chosen as targets when they first arrived at the party’s compound.

An AP story described the how idealism led Parhamovich on a trail that ended so violently in Iraq.

When Andrea Parhamovich was a high school freshman, she made it clear she wanted to change the world.
Years later, she left to do just that, taking a job with an organization that promotes democracy in Iraq.
This week, the 28-year-old Ohio native died there when a convoy of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute was attacked.

On Thursday, an al-Qaida-linked coalition of Iraqi Sunni insurgents claimed responsibility. "She definitely had a personality that she was going to make a difference in people's lives," said Pat Giannell, a world history teacher at Perry High School, from which Parhamovich graduated in 1996. "Obviously, that's what she was doing in Iraq." Parhamovich, a graduate of Marietta College in southeast Ohio, had been working with NDI in Baghdad since late 2006.

She helped Iraqi political parties reach out to voters. She was helping "build the kind of national level political institutions that can help bridge the sectarian divide and improve Iraqi lives," NDI said. Giannell kept in touch with Parhamovich after she graduated and last spoke to her about a year ago when she dropped by the school for a visit.

She was always globally minded as a student, he said, and he wasn't surprised that her ambition carried her to Iraq. "For her to die like that is not imaginable because she was the opposite of that type of lifestyle. She was a peaceful person," he said. Parhamovich graduated in 2000 with a degree in advertising and public relations with a minor in journalism, said Tom Perry, spokesman for Marietta College in central Ohio.

While at the college, she worked in the liberal arts school's media relations office and was part of the campus television and radio station. "We saw what an excellent person she was, and she obviously had a passion for something and wanted to go there and be a part of it," Perry said. "We're proud she wanted to do this. It shows it's not just the soldiers who are in harm's way." In a statement, Parhamovich's family said she was a "confident, motivated, intelligent and loving young woman ... who also put those around her first."

Parhamovich and Leavey probably didn't know each other. However, they had two things in common -- Passionate commitments to activism and roles in the start up of liberal talk radio. And while their roles in talk radio were small, we will always remember the contributions that they made. We will miss both you.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Liberal Talker Rankings

This has been a turbulent year for liberal talk radio. The year started with 61 stations reaching 80 million potential radio listeners and ended with 80 stations reaching 109 million potential radio listeners. Despite all of problems associated with the Air America Radio Network’s bankruptcy filing in November and Clear Channel’s bizarre decision to drop lib talk in five markets, the format has actually increased its potential coverage by 36% over the past year.

However, as we enter the New Year, you get the impression that the lib talk universe is going to change dramatically. There are several questions that will probably be answered in the coming weeks and months.

 Will Air America Radio Network emerge from bankruptcy? And if yes, in what form?

 Will Al Franken give up his prime AM slot on AAR and run for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota?

 Will the Democratic Congress push for some changes in broadcast regulation, and reverse the trend towards deregulation?

TR will be covering, these and other issues in the coming weeks and months. However, before the landscape of the liberal talk hosts and liberal talk stations changes, we thought it would be interesting to present the year end rankings of all the syndicated talk show hosts.

Whatever, happens to lib talk in the coming year, it is very likely that syndication will continue to dominate the market. (Syndicated programming accounts over 90% of the hours of lib talk on radio.) However, somehow we suspect that the list of top syndicated lib talkers will be very different on December 31, 2007.

So we have put together listing* containing virtually all of the syndicated lib talkers who broadcast on weekdays. You will notice that the hosts are rated by the percentage of the total audience that they reach. Furthermore the positioning of the hosts is based on all radio listeners, not the so-called money demo, i.e. adults 25-49. You will have to go to other sources e.g. trade magazines or the host's websites to find specific data concerning ratings, shares, aqh's and cumes. Here is how the 17 syndicated hosts finished off 2006:

The number one lib talker is Ed Schultz. With about 100 affiliates, Schultz’ show is carried on 20 more stations than the number two talker, Al Franken (so it appears that, the station clearance advantage, is the basis for Schultz’ slim 1.5% lead.). And now that Franken is sounding like he’s hanging up his microphone, it looks like we will have a new runner-up in the near future.

Miller, who moved from tenth to fourth over the past year, doubled her affiliate count and easily had the fastest growing lib talk show. Despite reducing her show from four to three hours and losing some coverage, Randi Rhodes held on to third place in the survey. From what we hear, Randi's show does very well in money demo and she even beat Sean Hannity in that demo in key markets, including New York, throughout 2006.

AAR’s Sam Seder, led the second tier, closely trailed by Rachel Maddow. Thom Hartmann made an impressive surge from 2% to 5.2% in 2006. The iron made of lib talk, did this by increasing his ratings in Portland and increasing to his coverage to over a dozen stations. The remaining 11 syndicate talkers only accounted for 16% of people that listened to lib talk in 2006. Last place, in the survey is Nova M talker, Mike Malloy. This is because he has only a handful of affiliates and a lousy time period.

The battle of late night hosts was a three-way contest between Alan Colmes, Lionel, and Jon Elliott. Elliot wins this battle.The San Diego based host succeeded Mike Malloy, who was dumped by AAR three months ago. He appears to have secured the late night slot on the liberal talk network.

You may wonder why late night talkers are found at the bottom of list. It is because late night, especially overnight (after midnight) is a lousy time slot and gets lousy ratings. The reason for this is that driving is significantly reduced during the evening hours. (remember about 45% of talk radio listening is in the car.) Also, most people are watching television at this time. That's whythey call 8pm to 11 pm "primetime".

Seven of the 17 syndicated talkers attracting 34.4% of lib talk radio listeners are not affiliated with the struggling AAR network. This number has doubled in the past year. This is good news for lib talk, because it demonstrates that the format can survive even if AAR crashes and burns. TR will closely follow the performance of lib talk hosts over the coming year.

A new survey will be released in early February and every three months thereafter.

*These estimates, pertaining to characteristics of the talk radio audience across America, are excerpted from Talking Radio’s in-house, non-scientific study. It is drawn from interviews with listeners of general news-talk radio across the United States supplemented by input from talk radio programmers, hosts, sales personnel, and radio station in-house research in addition to occasional studies provided by academic institutions.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Maria Leavey Touched Many

I met Maria Leavey at talk radio meeting sponsored by Democracy Radio, three years ago. We remained in touch since that time by phone and email. I would contact her when I wanted to find out what was going on in the talk radio business. Maria was one of those people who knew what was happening, you might call her a "political insider." Needless, to say I was shocked and saddened when I found out that she had passed away suddenly last week at her home in Arlington, VA.

I thought of how lucky I was to know her. Then I read several of tributes to her life that have sprung up over the past few days on blogosphere. I realized at this point, that Maria was not just my source, but was a tireless activist who helped so many people make connections with Washington politicos and media types --usually not looking for compensation or some personal recognition. I realized that she was a lot bigger person than the petit dark heared woman that my fading memory preserved.

I started searching Google, looking for a picture of Maria. I didn’t find a picture, but I came across so many thoughtful and personal remembrances. I became aware that Maria was very involved in the life that she chose to live, even if it didn’t produce financial benefits, or. for that matter, enough money to purchase health insurance.

I came across the obituary in the Washington Post by Matt Schudel. Matt called Maria, a "behind the scenes force for liberal causes who had an uncanny ability to bring opinion makers together with Washington's political elite." I realized then that this modest woman living in a small Arlington, VA apartment, who always had time to talk with me, was a real player in the Washington scene. Here’s some more from WP obit:

Ms. Leavey arrived in Washington in 1993 but, unlike other well-placed media figures, she never held a staff position with a major newspaper, television or radio outlet. Nonetheless, while working out of a small apartment in Crystal City with an outmoded computer, she managed to build contacts at the highest ranks of Washington's political circles. She was a consultant for Howard Dean, now chairman of the Democratic National Committee, during his 2004 campaign for his party's presidential nomination. She worked with senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) long before Democrats regained control of the Congress in the 2006 election. She launched a monthly breakfast for liberal-leaning journalists, bringing them together with high-level newsmakers, including Dean, Senate Majority Leader Reid, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and even Grover Norquist, a leading Republican strategist.
The petite, dark-haired Ms. Leavey was known to bake cookies for everyone from political leaders to her mail carrier, and people of all political persuasions were charmed by her refreshing absence of guile.

I also found the remembrance posted by Cenk Ugur of The Young Turks to be especially poignant. Cenk called Maria "a quiet American hero" Cenk said that "she was a champion of progressive causes…not some rich benefactor; she was a hard worker who did all the little things that were absolutely essential. The "Young Turk" recalled a meeting that he had with Maria several months ago.

I remember one time when she had us over for tea. She had gotten us into yet another conference and helped to set everything up. And instead of asking for anything back, she went out of her way to make sure she had us over for a little food she prepared. It's not like she was showing off, her apartment was humble and she showed us the old computer she got all her work done on and that always gave her trouble. And that afternoon we sat and talked about how important it was that the right ideas prevailed in America. There was no gain for her, no angle. She just really wanted to make sure the country was headed in the right direction. She actually cared.

We cannot second guess, the choices that Maria made during her life. But you can’t help but wonder if she would be alive today if she was able to afford health insurance. Blogger and friend Matt Stoller speculated on this, in his the personal remembrance he posted on his blog:

That lack of health insurance is probably why she died, suddenly, at age 53. Her family had a prior history of heart problems, but I assume she couldn't get the regular check-ups that are necessary in such a situation. Maria wasn't the type of person who would demand something for herself; she just sacrificed rather than put her allies in an uncomfortable situation. This was the case even with health insurance. She had many invaluable skills, but getting progressives to value her wasn't one of them.

Talk show host and blogger Taylor Marsh was one of several bloggers that described a personal experience with Maria, that led to doors opening and new opportunities. Taylor opened a blog entry entitled "Farewell Maria" by writing "This has been such a momentous day. But as it is with life, amidst great moments of triumph and joy often comes a bolt from the blue to remind us of how precious life is, as well as how fleeting and fickle. It was that way today. A great heroine of the progressive movement is gone."

Taylor who does a weekly internet talk radio show, also related how Maria helped her to get her show off the ground. Here’s what she wrote.

As most of you know, I am on a seemingly never ending journey to get my radio show back on terrestrial radio. Maria Leavey understood that dream of mine and never hesitated to lend an ear or send an email of news about progressive radio, good or bad, and usually about dirt that wasn't being printed, just to give me a heads up.

As I read the many tributes and remembrances regarding Maria’s untimely passing I couldn’t help but notice that there were few links to her postings over the past few years. Then I was really not surprised by this. Maria preferred to work behind the scenes. She avoided the limelight. She didn’t have a blog or a lengthy paper trail. However, her writings do show up – usually as comment on someone else's blog. Here’s one that I found in the Washington Monthly blog where she was defending right wing media critic David Brock.

James Warren's determination to find fault with The Republican Noise Machine by David Brock has forced him to present arguments that are either specious or irrelevant ("What Ailes Us," September). If the invisible hand of the media market were the ultimate arbiter of content, as Warren suggests, then we would all be listening to Howard Stern and watching pornography. One also does not have to assume a sinister conspiracy to accept Brock's documented description of organized cooperation among partisans of the right to bend the means of communication to their ends. Even Warren admits their success. Further, while it is probably true that most people get their information from local news and newspapers, the news agenda is set by a national press increasingly intimidated by the threat of being labeled liberal. Finally as Warren surely knows, the efforts of Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, and their ilk can hardly compare to the decades-long, billion-dollar industry that promotes the other side.

Just like Maria, not tooting her horn. Just defending one her many friends.

Goodbye Maria. I’m going to miss you. I am not alone.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ready to Rumble in Boston and Columbus

The Air America Radio Network launched in handful of markets in April of 2004. After one year, the fledgling liberal talk network served 53 markets with 44 stations reaching a potential audience of 99,667,000 radio listeners. (AAR has an additional 25 stations that are not rated. These stations are not included in this analysis.)

By the end of its second year in existence, AAR reached its high point in coverage serving 70 markets with 59 affiliated stations reaching a potential audience of 110,307,000 radio listeners. Since that time, in early 2006, AAR has lost nine affiliates and 15,766,000 potential radio listeners. This represents a loss of about 15% of its coverage.

And the bleeding continues as we enter 2007. Unless, something dramatic happens this weekend, one of AAR’s oldest affiliates, WTPG in Columbus, OH will be flipping to conservative talk on Monday. That will result in the loss of another 1,382,600 potential radio listeners.

Few observers suspect that the switchouts will stop in Central Ohio. With the future of AAR still in doubt and the likely departure of the network's top talk host Al Franken, the first part of the new year could be very dicey.

The good news is that AAR does not dominate the lib talk market like it did a year ago. Right now Ed Schultz, who is syndicated by Jones Radio, is the number one lib talk host. Another Jones yakker, Stephanie Miller has added dozens of new affiliates this year. Also, added in the mix are syndicated talkers like Bill Press, Mike Malloy, and Peter B. Collins. Finally, there are more local liberal talkers now than there were a year ago. And of course, there is Alan Colmes if anyone is listening.

TR will be closely following the trials and tribulations of lib talk over the coming months. There are active campaigns in about half of the markets that have lost their local affiliate over the past year. We have identified campaigns in now underway in following markets.

Columbus, OH

Two of these markets – Boston and Dallas – have already lost their local lib talk station. The other market – Columbus, OH – is scheduled to drop lib talk on Tuesday.

TR has identified two other markets where there are organized campaigns to get a local station to pick up lib talk programming. In Milwaukee, a website has been set up to generate interest in bringing AAR to Milwaukee and in Cedar Rapids over 300 people have signed an on-line petition to to demonstrate support for the format there. (In nearby Quad Cities, the local AAR affiliate switched to Christian talk two months ago.)

Following is the status of the two most active campaigns – in Boston and Columbus – to restore lib talk on the radio airwaves.


What happened?

On December 21, Clear Channel flipped WXKS/WKOX to Spanish, leaving Boston – arguably the most liberal big city in the country without a lib talk station. Like usual, CC’s embattled station management used the "B" word when contacted by scores of angry radio listeners, who wanted to know why the change was being made. "It’s a business decision, nothing personal" callers were told by Michael Crusham, CC’s Boston market manager.

What has happened since?

A group was formed called, "Save Boston’s Progressive Talk" headed up by Robin Bergman, a local businesswoman. A website and petition drive has been initiated. (As of today over 1,100 people have signed the petition.) The group met last Wednesday at Panera’s Restaurant in Watertown. They will be holding another meeting at Panera’s on Monday.

Position Statement

Our voice, the voice of Boston, Eastern Massachusetts and Providence, RI was once at AM1200 (WKOX) and AM1430 (WSKS). Now it is silent, and thousands of Progressives in the Boston, Fall River and Providence area are left without an outlet for our political and social thought. While the region has over ten conservative talk radio stations, truly media saturation, the population is left without balance. At 12 noon [on December 21, 2006], Clear Channel changed AM1200 and AM1430 content to Spanish music. How does the bluest city in the bluest state in the union lose their progressive talk station? Well, lack of passion or dedication to the product/format, lack of local programming, lack of local advertising, a weak radio signal (which Clear Channel boosted AFTER the format change even though Boston Progressive Talk listeners had begged for the advancement for two years), a station basically set to "autopilot" in operations, and deliberate and conscious neglect by Clear Channel are big reasons. Progressive Talk listeners in the Boston, Fall River and Providence area are large, passionate, dedicated and hungry for a radio station that reflects their thoughts and values. If given a "real" chance a Progressive Talk radio station would flourish. Loyal listeners are meeting, brainstorming and planning for the future at groups.yahoo.com/group/Save_progressive_radio_boston
Join US!

Columbus, OH

What happened?

WTPG will switch from lib talk to conservative talk on Tuesday unless, a very active protest group can convince CC otherwise. Again CC’s management uses the "B" word to defend their bizarre decision to add another conservative talk station to the market – they already offer right-wing talk on WTVN.

What has happened since?

A group called "Ohio Majority Radio" has been formed with backing from some of the activists associated with successful campaign in Madison, which convinced CC to restore lib talk to WXXM. A website and petition drive has been initiated. (As of today over 2,000 people have signed the petition.)

A rally will be held Monday at the Statehouse in Columbus. Tentatively scheduled to appear at the rally will be Franklin County Commissioner, Mary Jo Kilroy, Ohio State Representative Dan Stewart and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman. Also, participating in the rally will be Stephanie Miller, who will be devoting the final hour of her show (11 am to 12 noon) to simulcast with Columbus rally. Following the rally there will be a funeral procession from the Statehouse to the offices and studios of Clear Channel in Columbus.

Position Statement

On December 23, 2006, the Columbus Dispatch reported that WTPG-1230am Progressive Radio would be changing formats on Monday, January 9th. Instead of Stephanie Miller, Al Franken, Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes and Rachel Maddow, Columbus will be subjected to the likes of Jim Quinn, Laura Ingraham and Michael Savage. The station will get new call letters, WYTS and will be promoted as "the Talk Station in Central Ohio" Bruce Collins, the local program director at Clear Channel, the owners of WTPG, says: "Whether it's politics or sports, financial information or general advice, central Ohio listeners will have the opportunity to talk about it on Talk 1230." Here in Ohio, we ARE the majority. In Ohio in 2006 almost 55% of the votes cast for statewide and legislative races were cast for Democrats. In Central Ohio that number were over 58%. And while Ohio turns blue, Clear Channel decides that they "cannot sell" progressive radio here. They've pulled out of Cincinnati and are leaving in Columbus. We have to show that we want progressive radio in Columbus and other places in Ohio.

The tactics being used in Boston and Columbus are very similar to the successful tactics used by activists in Madison over the course of their successful campaign to save the WXXM "the Mic." In Madison they employed a web page, a petition, community meetings, and even a funeral procession. The result was that Clear Channel wisely decided to acquiesce.

TR will be following the events in Boston and Columbus, so check back from time to time for updates. Also, if you have access to a lib talk affiliate or to internet streaming tune in to Stephanie Miller's show on Monday from 11 am to 12 noon for live coverage of the rally Columbus.

Hopefully, it won’t be "Goodbye Columbus" for lib talk on the radio.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Was Up with Greenstone?

What's going on at Greenstone Media? In the past week, at least two top executives of fledgling women's talk radio network have resigned or been fired. Last week it was reported that Edie Hilliard, Greenstone's original president was replaced by Nancy Vaeth-Dubroff. Now today's edition of Allaccess.com reports that the network's programming exec, Dan Larkin, is also out.

Greenstone is conducting the highest profiled talk radio network launch since the start-up of Air America Radio network almost three years. The venture appears to well funded and the backers represent a who's who in the women's movement led by Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinhem. While their sharp website doesn't list affiliates, TR has identified about a dozen stations that have picked up Greenstone's all female talk radio line-up

Anyone know was up?

There's Bad News and Good News in Boston

It’s good news and bad news for liberal talk radio listeners in Boston. The bad news is that last week Clear Channel dropped lib talk from their badly engineered duo of AM stations WXKS and WKOX and started broadcasting a Spanish language format called the Rumba. The move replaced Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz, and Stephanie Miller with salsa, meringue, bachata and reggaeton music.

The good news for lib talk fans in Beantown is that WTKK the third ranked talker in market has upgraded a popular one PM hour show hosted by the liberal pairing of Margery Eagen and Jim Braude to a three hour slot from noon to 3 PM. The loser in this equation is centrist talker and sometime guest on MSNBC’s Hardball, Mike Barnicle, who gets cut from three hours to one hour and Bill O’Reilly, who get bumped to evenings. Rumor has it that O’Reilly is really pissed off.

Meanwhile on Boston’s number two news/talk station --WRKO, it appears that the station will be filling the AM slot, formally hosted by right wing wacko John Depetro, with former speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Tom Finneran—who happens to be a Democrat.

In a separate move, moderate conservative talker Todd Feinburg has been bumped from his nighttime slot and replaced by two far right syndicated talkers – Michael Savage and Jerry Doyle. This move appears to be more a matter of money than politics.

Liberals in Boston should be very pleased with the elevation of Eagen and Braude. The pair has been on the air together for more than 7 years. Eagan is a Boston Herald columnist and Braude is a New England Cable News host. They are funny, definitely left of center and very locally focused. According to the Boston Herald, WRKO was trying to woo the popular duo away, before WTKK made them an offer that they couldn't refuse.

One person, who is not happy with the changes in Boston, is conservative talk radio blogger Brian MaloneyThe Radioequalizer. Maloney posted a scathing critique on his blog today accusing WTKK management of making a "self destructive kick."

"If former House of Representatives Speaker Tom Finneran is in fact hired to take over morning drive at the station, despite having no experience holding down a daily talk show, expect WRKO's remaining listeners to take a hike." Maloney blogged.

The whole shake-up at WRKO, probably wouldn’t have happened, if popular morning drive host John DePetro didn’t lose his cool one morning by calling Grace Ross, a gubernatorial candidate a "fat lesbian." DePetro’s politically incorrect comment cost him his job and opened the door for Finneran.

It is expected that Massachusetts’ newly elected Governor, Deval Patrick will be a frequent guest on Finneran’s morning show. Ironically, Patrick has frequently clashed with the mostly conservative talk radio hosts in the Boston market.

Meanwhile, the movement to reactivate a lib talk station in Boston is gathering steam. I just checked the petition and noticed that almost 1,000 people have signed it. There is also a website titled "Looking for Boston’s Progressive Talk?" and Yahoo message board called "Saving Progressive Radio in Boston."

Clear Channel management might be enjoying "the Rumba" right now, but as the pro-lib talk movement heats up in Boston, they may be forced to do the Madison Shuffle.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Lanfer Returns to Talk Radio
Katherine Lanpher, who will be remembered by lib talk fans as Al Franken’s co-host during the first year and a half of the shows existence, is back on the radio. The news was announced today in following AP story:

Magazine publisher Meredith Corp. said today it has reached an agreement with XM satellite radio to take its popular More magazine to the airwaves in an hour-long weekly broadcast beginning later this month."More Time" will debut at 4 p.m. on Jan. 16 on XM's "Take Five" channel. The broadcast will focus on health, fashion, beauty, travel, entertainment and other features directed toward women aged 40 and over."Our goal at More is to keep dreaming up ways to connect with our readers," said Peggy Northrop, editor-in-chief. "Mid-life women love to talk to each other — about what's happening to our bodies, what we want to do with the rest of our lives, whether we can really wear miniskirts again. Those conversations make perfect material for broadcast."She said guests will be featured on a variety of topics and listeners can call in to comment.Radio personality Katherine Lanpher, formerly co-host of "The Al Franken Show" on Air America Radio, will serve as host of "More Time."

AP, January 4, 2007

Cat Fight Scheduled between
Marshall and Coulter

TR will try to keep on the scheduled appearances of talk radio hosts on network TV and cable news channels. We will make a special effort to do this when the talk show host is a hottie, like Leslie Marshall, who hosts a daily show on WWKB in Buffalo.

ENTERCOM Talk WWKB-A/BUFFALO host LESLIE MARSHALL is gearing up to debate ANN COULTER on CNBC's KUDLOW AND CO. on JANUARY 12. The battle between liberal talker and conservative firebrand is scheduled for the 5p ET hour.

Allaccess.com, January 4, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lib Talk is a Big Hit in Cyberspace

Liberal talk radio attracts less than 10% of political talk radio listeners. The vast majority of talk radio listeners – almost 80% -- are tuning into stations offering non-stop conservative talk radio. In fact, over half of all radio listeners do not have access to a lib talk radio station. However, while right-wing talkers like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham clearly dominate radio airwaves they hardly show up in cyberspace.

Like most bloggers who cover the talk radio business, I spend a lot of time surfing the net and posting on bulletin boards and blogs that cover talk radio. On most of these outlets the discussion is not about Limbaugh’s falling ratings, Hannity’s move to replace Limbaugh as top dog, or a profile of the fastest growing talk radio show. (I bet that you don’t the show is hosted by Mark Levin.[pictured on right])

No, the vast majority of talk radio blogging focuses on liberal talk in general and Air America Radio in particular. In fact, a highly unscientific analysis conducted by yours truly found that the topic of liberal talk radio accounts for over 80% of all the discussions on talk radio blogs and bulletin boards.

For example, on radio-info.com, the number one radio industry discussion board, there have been 11,062 posts covering 979 topics over the past year on the News/Talk board. This is one of the most popular boards on this huge site which currently includes about a half million posts. There are probably about two dozen regular posters who show up on this board. About a third of them are liberal, a third conservative, and the rest middle of the road or apolitical. However, 90% of topics discussed on News/Talk board are about liberal talk radio. The usual subjects, e.g. the Air American bankruptcy, Al Franken – missing is action, and the half-dozen stations planning to drop lib talk.

For example, I did a Google search for ["liberal talk radio" blogs] and four of the top five listings were, not surprisingly, liberal blogs – Liberal Talk Radio, probably the best blog covering talk radio, Libradio, a blog set up by two liberal talk hosts in Nashville, TV, Blatherwatch, a excellent blog about talk radio in northwest, and the Huffington Post, popular liberal political blog. The one conservative blogger who shows up in the top five is the Radioequalizer, hosted by that ubiquitous gadfly, Brian Maloney. It is not surprising that the Radioequalizer winds up in the top five. A quick check of Maloney’s blog shows that 90% of his entries focus on liberal talk.

However, when I did a Google search for ["conservative talk radio" blogs] three of the top five listings were liberal bloggers – Brian Fleming's Weblog, the Huffington Post, and Liberal Talk Radio. The two conservatives that showed up were Radioequalizer (probably the most prolific blogger on the subject of liberal talk radio,) and Michelle Malkin. Michelle hosts a blog on covering a wide range of conservative issues, but most of her talk radio entries are about (you guessed it) liberal talk radio.

So why is that most of the discussion on the net about talk radio is about lib talk? Why are more people interested in what’s happening to Al Franken than Rush Limbaugh. Why are 90% of the talk radio listeners tuned in to right wing talk and about the same percentage of bloggers and posters focused on lib talk?

There is a source for coverage of conservative talk radio. I just go my November issue of Talkers Magazine, (predictably two months late) They have a picture of Glen Beck on the cover and two stories on page one deal with conservative talkers. – "How the John Kerry Gaffe Story Really Broke" and a feature on "White House Radio Day" which was dominated by right wing talkers. I looked through the whole issue. There is nothing on the AAR bankruptcy and they do not seem to be concerned about whether Al Franken is missing in action.