Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Foxification of CNN

Next month CNN will launch a daily show on it Headline News Channel hosted by right wing talk radio host Glenn Beck. Beck will be the sixth right wing talk radio host with a cable show. The others are Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Don Imus, and John Gibson. There is one liberal talker featured on a cable show. Alan Colmes, the conservative's favorite liberal, who co-hosts the Hannity and Colmes Show. One other -- Bill Press -- was canned by MSNBC. Here is a letter that I wrote to CNN protesting their decision to give Beck a daily TV show.

Dear CNN:

I am totally outraged at your decision to give right wing talk show host Glenn Beck a show on CNN Headline News. This coupled with your decision to add Bill Bennett "why don’t we abort black babies,” as a commentator confirms that CNN, the only news network that liberals have been able to tolerate, has decided to copy the playbook's of the Fox Network and their pathetic wanna-be MSNBC. You are making a big mistake. Do you know what a well-known right wing idiot Beck is? Here are just a few quotes that are attributable to this worm.

On families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks: "This is horrible to say, and I wonder if I'm alone in this—you know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims' families? Took me about a year."

And on Hurricane Katrina survivors who remained in New Orleans: "And that's all we're hearing about, are the people in New Orleans. Those are the only ones that we're seeing on television are the scumbags...It's just a small percentage of those who were left in New Orleans, or who decided to stay in New Orleans, and they're getting all the attention."

When you decided to cancel the provocative weekend talk show -- "Capital Gang" and hard hitting daily interview show "Cross Fire" (which was a feature on CNN before Ted Turner got rich) I was very disappointed. But at least you appeared to be following a cohesive programming strategy. The move seemed to suggest that CNN was going be different than the Fox network. Now we are seeing that you are giving up that strategy and turning to the right by hiring Bennett and Beck.

Well CNN has lost one viewer who has watched the network since 1980. I remember all the highpoints. The ground breaking launch of “Cross Fire,” the dramatic coverage of the first Gulf War and the civil war in Sudan, and Ted Turner's brash and innovative style. Now we have right wing talkers Bennett and Beck and CNN trying to be another Fox wannabe network.

CNN President Jonathan Klein thinks that the network can make moves like this without offending liberal Democratic viewers. After all wasn't it Klein who said to Charlie Rose that “liberals don't get too worked up about anything. And they're pretty morally relativistic."

Well, you tell Mr. Klein that this liberal has had it. I won't watch CNN turn into another right wing news network. I work out of my home and I am happy to listen to Air America and NPR. I guess I'll have to start watching PBS news and the BBC for my TV news fix.

I use to work in the cable TV business. I actually attended the launch of CNN on Cox Cable in San Diego when Ted Turner pushed the button starting the network. Turner said, at that time, the network would stay onuntil the world ends. For me that end occurs when Beck starts his show on Headline News.

Good bye and good luck

Bruce Kaufman

Monday, April 03, 2006

John and Ken Talk Red in a Blue State

John and Ken, who do a PM drive talk radio show on KFI, AM 640 in Los Angeles, were recently selected as the best Local Talk radio Hosts by Radio and Records Magazine. They were selected for this distinguished award over the hundreds of local talk shows hosts across the nation because:

a. They provided excellent coverage of a local public policy issue
b. They raised a substantial amount of money for a prominent local charity
c. They insulted just about every political group in Southern California especially those associated with the Democratic Party and homeless, disabled and Hispanic advocacy groups.

If you answered “c” you got it right. While John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou like to consider themselves as equal opportunity critics of local politicians in the Los Angeles area and in the State of California, they have focused most of their wrath on individuals and groups affiliated with the Democratic Party and liberal causes.

This might seem strange in State that is overwhelming Democratic with an Hispanic population of 35%, but this is talk radio -- the medium where the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage dominate the national airwaves, so there is no reason for local talk show hosts to buck the trend. In fact, John and Ken, who are number one in afternoon drive, are not the only right wing talkers in Los Angeles during that time period. The second rated PM talk show is Larry Elder on KABC with the bottom held up by Salem’s Hugh Hewitt on KRLA and the lone liberal talker in the foursome, Randi Rhodes, on Air America Radio’s LA affiliate, KTLK.

How far to the right are John and Ken. To get an idea let’s take a look at what they have to say. Or I should say what John has to say since he is the foil to the straight man played by Ken.

Commenting on the Democratic plan to allocate a small portion of a bond issue proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to social programs, John said that “the Socialists in the legislature insist on taking whatever available money is floating around and giving it to the elderly, the poor, and the disabled. It’s always the elderly the poor and the disabled.”

John was particularly outraged by the partiality of Democrats to mass transit. Here he got a shot in at three of his favorite targets – Democratic politicians, Hispanics, and disabled people.

They [the Democrats] want ugly buses for smelly poor people, illegal aliens, and homeless people, that’s what they’re into because they’re are the Socialist Democratic Party.

Remember the Fairness Doctrine. When equal time had to be provided by broadcasters on political issues. This not a concern for talk radio in general and John and Ken in particular.

Over the past five months, I have monitored about 50% of the broadcast hours of the John and Ken Show, which runs from 3 to 7 pm, Monday through Friday. (They recently started a Saturday edition of the show from 3 to 5 pm.) During that time, they interviewed 38 people, including 16 state legislators on a variety of subjects including illegal immigration, public schools, child pornography, and capital punishment. All of guests represented the conservative side of the arguments and all of the politicians were Republicans. However, despite this obvious bias, John and Ken see themselves as non-political.

Once again John tries to establish how fair and balanced they are. “We tell you the truth because we are not on any team,” John says, “The other guys are going to tell you what they wish was going on during an election year.” I guess the other guys are liberals and Democrats.

Probably, the most blatant case of how John and Ken use their radio show to promote a political agenda was in the weeks prior to the special statewide election in November, when the electorate was considering five propositions put on the ballot by Republican Gov. Schwarzenegger. They allocated virtually all of their airtime to supporting the Propositions, which called for reductions in state mandated spending for education, increased power for the Governor and decreased power for legislature. They interviewed several Republican politicians and had a number of chummy chats with Gov. Schwarzenegger.

In spite of their efforts, all five propositions went down to defeat. Were John and Ken humbled by this setback? No way. They called the electorate “stupid” and “misguided,” and were particularly angry with the unions representing teachers and firefighter.

“The Unions spent so much money lying to people that Schwarzenegger now can’t go around and get the legislature to do his bidding,” John said. “The [California] legislature is like a Middle Eastern Islamic Fundamentalist State. There is no free democracy.”

Yes, no free democracy in a fair election open to all the people, but lots of democracy on the John and Ken Show which spews right wing talking points on KFI AM 640 to hapless motorists stuck on freeways as they try to get home from work.

Peter B. to Increase his Distribution by 900%

Peter B. Collins is the latest liberal talk show host to enter the syndication market. Peter B. has been quietly broadcasting daily, 3pm to 6pm on KXRA,AM 540 in Monterey for the past six months. He announced on his Friday show that starting April 10th his daily show will be picked up by KSAC in Sacremento and KPHX, the new lib talker in Phoenix. This will increase the radio listeners that have access to Peter B's show by 900%. Not a bad a start for a syndication effort. The question is, now that that two of top three lib talkers are not affiliated with AAR --Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller -- and other non AAR lib talkers like Alan Colmes, Lionel, Liz Brown, and now Peter B. -- are gaining distribution is AAR's dominant position at risk?