Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sex and Money Lead to Break-up of Christian Talk Network

We generally cover political talk radio, usually liberal talk radio, but every once and while we run across a story so engrossing that we expand our coverage area to include other forms of "spoken word" radio programming.

We came across such a story, this morning in Los Angeles Times. The Times ran a page one feature story that had sex, money, deceit, and involved a talk radio network. Our kind of story! Naturally, we jumped right on it. No it didn’t relate to political talk radio – liberal or conservative. Instead it focused on the second largest segment of the talk radio industry – Christian talk.

It seems that a controversy has been raging for some time now involving the owners of the Calvary Satellite Network. The network has about 400 low-power stations and 49 full-power stations in 45 states. Its coverage area has 22.5 million potential listeners. It estimates its worth at $250 million, derived mostly from the value of its broadcasting licenses.

The network, which was founded by Chuck Smith, founder of the worldwide Calvary Chapel movement and his one time protégé Mike Kestler, became the focus of costly legal battle, after charges of financial irregularities, poor management, and sexual harrasment were directed at Kestler by Smith and his son Jeff.
The two sides have hurled accusations of lust and greed, betrayal and embezzlement. As part of the battle, Smith also funded a lawsuit against Kestler by a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who said he had been fired from her from her radio job for rebuffing Kestler's sexual advances.

However, in a surprise move, the elder Smith dropped the legal proceedings claiming to make a "Christian gesture" saying according to the former cheeleader, Lori Pollitt, that "it was time to turn Kestler over to Satan."

Following are portions of the L.A.Times article:

When Chuck Smith, founder of the worldwide Calvary Chapel movement, decided to invest big in radio, the Orange County evangelist joined forces with a pastor he trusted.Mike Kestler was one of his proteges, a folksy preacher with a ponytail who had ridden the Calvary phenomenon to a pulpit in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Smith had presided at Kestler's wedding. He'd helped Kestler keep his job after a churchgoer complained that Kestler had begged her to run away with him. Now, the pastors would be business partners.

Kestler knew how to run a radio station. Smith had money and a famous name. They shared a vision of FM radio as a megaphone for God's word.Bolstered by $13 million from Smith's Costa Mesa church, Calvary Satellite Network grew into a spectacular recruiting tool for the evangelical movement.

In listening areas across the nation, Calvary Chapels proliferated.But relations between the two pastors deteriorated. In 2003, Smith cut off funding for the radio network, precipitating a crisis that continues to roil Calvary's leadership. It sparked a war for control of the network on terrain Smith had preached against for years: the earthly courts.

The two sides have hurled accusations of lust and greed, betrayal and embezzlement. As part of the battle, Smith funded a lawsuit against Kestler by a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader who said he had fired her from her radio job for rebuffing his sexual advances.Now, after a year of hugely expensive legal sparring, the 79-year-old Smith is so eager to settle the case that he is willing to do so at a staggering loss.He is about to surrender much of the radio empire to Kestler, a man he calls morally unfit for ministry. Smith says that by walking away, he is making a Christian gesture.

Smith opened the first Calvary Chapel on a Costa Mesa lot in 1965 with a handful of congregants. Combining literalist Bible teaching with casual dress, contemporary music and an aversion to ritual, the church quickly became famous as a sanctuary for disillusioned hippies and a hub of the Jesus People. The doctrinal cornerstones included the depravity of the world, hell for unbelievers and the promise of a Second Coming.

Kestler was drawn to Smith's church in the early 1970s, when it still occupied a tent. He joined the movement and with Smith's blessing opened his own church in Twin Falls in 1979. Before long, he had built a small Christian radio station there.In 1994, Kestler's fortunes appeared to teeter on the brink.

A parishioner had accused the married pastor of showing up at her home and office uninvited and pleading with her to run away with him. Kestler stood to lose both his pulpit and his radio station.Smith took a plane to Twin Falls, defended Kestler before his church board and fended off his ouster. In a recent interview, Smith said he believed Kestler's claim that the woman's accusation stemmed from a misunderstanding.Broadcasting a mixture of sermons and worship music, the network started with two stations: Kestler's in Twin Falls and another in Yucca Valley, Calif.

From 1996 to 2003, Chuck Smith poured an estimated $13 million — much of it from the collection bowls of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa — into expanding the network.The radio system did not carry advertising, relying instead on listener donations, money from preachers whose sermons it broadcast, and monthly subsidies from Chuck Smith's church.As the network grew, so did tensions between Smith and his son who was working with Kestler.
Stations were opened at a ferocious clip, but it typically took years for them to break even."I thought of myself as not having a voice," the elder Smith said. "When I see a ship sinking and I'm voting to put plugs in the hole and they're saying 'No, no, no, make more holes,' I don't want to go down with a sinking ship."

In January 2003, he resigned from the network's board and cut off the monthly subsidies. Apart from misgivings about the network's direction, Smith said, he had developed moral qualms about Kestler.A Calvary parishioner, a California woman, had come forward saying Kestler had made passes at her. Smith said he called Kestler about the accusation."Mike confessed and [said] sorry and so forth and so on," Smith said. "At that point, I felt, 'There's something wrong with this guy.' I really don't want to maintain much of a relationship with him, so I resigned."

As matters worsened, so did the church board's distrust of Jeff Smith. After rejecting the sale offer, the Calvary board pushed for an audit of the Word for Today, a church-affiliated book and tape ministry that Jeff Smith used to raise money for the radio network.The review found shoddy accounting and oversight, 10 bank accounts, $184,000 in computer purchases for obscure reasons, undocumented loans to employees or friends, plus $568,000 in loans to the radio network in 2002 and $350,000 in 2003.

Word reached the Smiths that another woman was complaining about Kestler. Sarah Meyer, an Idaho parishioner, said he had offered her a radio job, only to try "using Jesus to seduce me.""He'd prayed, and felt God was saying I was the one he was supposed to be with," Meyer, now 28, said in an interview. She said she turned down his advances and the job. Now, when she hears Kestler's voice on the car radio, "it makes my flesh crawl," she said.

Kestler's lawyer declined to comment on her allegations.

Smith had long been troubled that he defended Kestler in 1994 against accusations from a female churchgoer, only to see other women voice similar complaints. Now, he bankrolled a federal lawsuit by Pollitt, 46, the former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. Pollitt said Kestler lured her from Dallas to Twin Falls with the promise of a job at Calvary Satellite Network, only to fire her after she rejected his come-ons. In court papers, Kestler has denied retaliating against Pollitt and has said she made sexual overtures to him.

Returning the Smiths' fire, Kestler filed suit in Orange County Superior Court, seeking control of Calvary Satellite Network and accusing the younger Smith of seizing donations intended for the network.In a countersuit, the younger Smith charged Kestler with misappropriating millions of dollars in listener contributions. The suit also accused Kestler of "sinful sexual and flirtatious misconduct with numerous women over the years" and of spending network funds on vacations and purchases at Victoria's Secret.

Today, management of the network is split between Jeff Smith in Santa Ana, who controls a host of full-power stations, and Kestler in Twin Falls, who controls the much more valuable translator network.The younger Smith said the network could have weathered his father's withdrawal of financial support were it not for Kestler's alleged financial mismanagement. Jeff Smith said the network had to sell $9 million in assets to stay solvent

Monday, February 26, 2007

Lib Talk Syndication Field Filling Up

Updated, February 27, 10:30 am pst (updated portion in bold)

The fight for shelf space is starting to heat in liberal talk radio with the announcement with the announcement in the past two days that three new lib talkers will entering the syndication market.

Today we have learned that Leslie Marshall, most recently talk host on WWKB in Buffalo will be doing a syndicated talk show from 3pm-6pm. The show, which is produced by Tom Athans' new company, TalkUSA Radio, and syndicated by Envision Radio Networks.

Athans is the former head of Democracy Radio, who was involved in the successful launches of the Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller Shows and Envision is the largest independently owned syndication company in the U.S. and briefly handled affiliate sales for Air America Radio.

As we reported a few days ago, Nova M has added two new talkers to their syndication line-up --Jeff Farias and John Loftus. (See TR article.) Farias’ show runs from 6pm-8pm est and Loftus’s from 8p-9p est. Both show debut next Monday.

So it looks like Marshall will going up against AAR’s top talker --Randi Rhodes and Farias and Loftus will be head to head with Rachel Maddow and David Bender.

Marshall has been a radio host for over 19 years and is a frequent pundit on national television. The youngest person ever to be nationally syndicated on radio, she replaced Tom Snyder on the ABC Satellite Radio Network in 1992. Marshall’s career has taken her to WNWS in Miami, WGR in Buffalo, KPRC in Houston, WLS in Chicago, KGO in San Francisco and KFI, KLSX and KABC in Los Angeles.

Marshall is a frequent contributor to national news networks and can be seen on Wednesday morning on Fox News. She also has filled the liberal hot seat on "The O’Reilly Factor," "Hannity & Colmes," and "The Neil Cavuto Show" on Fox, and on "Scarborough Country" on MSNBC.

Ohio Media Watch, which is very familiar with Cleveland based Envision, notes that the syndication company might take a different approach is distributed Marshall’s show, especially considering the setbacks that the liberal talk radio has encountered lately.
OMV posts on his blog that, like Stephanie Miller, Marshall has a long history of "general market" talk and her radio career predates the recent establishment of left-leaning talk radio.

"With the upheaval in the format and changes at iconic network Air America Radio, it's anyone's guess how long ‘liberal talk radio’ lasts as a full format," OMV posts. "With various stations dropping out of the format, including in Columbus and Cincinnati, the path to success may be in whatever "crossover" appeal Marshall can muster on talk radio stations of all kinds."

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Second Tier

Lib Talk After AAR and Jones

Everyone knows that there is a big gap between the first and second and third tiers conservative talkers. The top conservative station (usually the Limbaugh station) in the top 50 radio markets gets an average share of 5.3. The second tier does a 2.6 and the third tier a 0.8. However, with a few exceptions, lib talkers only have one outlet in the top 50. In fact, only 20 of the top 50 radio markets have a full time liberal talk radio station.

What this means is that the second tier lib talkers have to scramble for a handful local market jobs. Those who get jobs have to toil for relatively low pay, or find refuge in the "politically correct" world of satellite radio or yak away in cyberspace waiting for the call to big leagues.

And then there are the dozens of liberal talkers who have been and continue to be replaced by conservative talkers. Talkers like Hall of Famer Michael Jackson and Gloria Allred in Los Angeles replaced a half dozen years ago by Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly or Arlene Violet and Howie Bart in Providence replaced a few weeks ago by Hannity and Quinn & Rose.

Yes, there are some exceptions. The Young Turks secured an early distribution deal with Sirius (which actually provided them with salaries) and had a few broadcast outlets before they were picked up by Air America Radio in mid-2006. Jon Elliott, also got a call from AAR to fill-in for Mike Malloy’s late night slot after Malloy was canned in August, 2006. However, for the most part, second tier lib talkers are still waiting for the call that never seems to come.

Who are the second tier liberal talkers? Some are veterans, others are rookies. Generally, there is universal distinction between primary and secondary lib talkers. Primary lib talkers either have a deal with AAR or Jones Radio. Secondary tier lib talkers don’t.

In the next few weeks Talking Radio is going to profile some of the second tier lib talkers. No, we probably won’t find them at the Radio and Records Talk Radio Seminar, March 8-10 in Marina del Rey, CA. (However we will be there) We will, however, talk with them over the phone or communicate by email. Unlike, first tier talkers, they are more likely to work out of their home than at a radio station. More likely to have another means of employment, and less likely to have blog or a message board than Randi Rhodes or Ed Schultz.

There’s Doug Basham, doing weekends Las Vegas, Mark Levine, Guy James, Bob Kincaid and Jeff Alan Wolf streaming on the Head On Radio Network. Veteran talkers like Lynn Samuels and Alex Bennett, banished to satellite radio, local talk radio personalities like San Diego’s Scooter and the KLSD Watchdog, Johnny Wendle and Bree Walker on KTLK in Los Angeles, Peter B. Collins with KRXA in Monterey, Christine Craft with KSAC in Sacramento, Sly with WTDY in Madison, Peter Werbe with WRIF in Detroit, and Jim Phillips with WTKS in Orlando.

Of course, there are liberal talk show hosts who are more like first tier talkers without the AAR/Jones Radio pedigree. Leading this group is veteran late night talker Bernie Ward on KGO. With over 20 years at KGO, Ward is the longest continually employed liberal in the talk radio business.

There’s also, Neil Rogers on WQAM in Miami, Sam Greenfield on WWRL in New York, Jay Marvin on KKZN in Denver, Dave Ross and Ron Reagan on KIRO in Seattle and Stacy Taylor on KLSD in San Diego. They might not have a deal with AAR or Jones, but these guys are on the top of their game.

So look for our continuing coverage of second tier liberal talkers. After all, there is only so much you can say about the AAR bankruptcy, Ed Schultz’ latest outburst, or whether Thom Hartmann will be able to fill Al Franken's shoes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Dr. Mike out at Nova M

Mike Newcomb, a long time fixture in Phoenix talk radio and most recently a principal in Nova M Radio, the company that brought liberal talk radio back to the Valley of the Sun, is off the network and his role with Nova M appears to be over.

In a press release issued today by Nova M CEO Anita Drobny two programming changes were announced at KPHX, Nova M’s flagship station in Phoenix. Stephanie Miller takes over Dr. Mike’s slot, broadcasting from 7 am to 10 am mst and Jeff Farias will host a daily show from 4 pm to 6 pm mst.
Also added to the Nova M schedule is John Loftus, who signed on with liberal talk network several months. Loftus' show will run from 6 pm to 7 pm mst. Loftus, a former Justice Department prosecutor, once held some of the highest security clearances in the world, with special access to NATO Cosmic, CIA codeword, and Top Secret Nuclear files. Loftus' show will start on February 26, and Farias' show will debut on March 5.
Peter B. Collins, who currently occupies the 8 pm to 11 pm mst slot will be moved to a late position -- probably after the Mike Malloy Show, which is carried from 11 pm to 2 am mst.

Dr. Mike has hosted a talk show in the Phoenix market for several years. His show was originally carried on KFNX, however he moved over to Air America Radio affiliate KXXT in April, 2005.

When that station was sold to a Christian broadcater in January, 2006 Newcomb and liberal talk was temporarly out of the Phoenix market. However, by way of a on-line fund raising campaign, lib talk, Dr. Mike and AAR reappeared latter in the year on KPHX. Soon after, Dr. Mike teamed up with Drobny's to form Nova M.
Newcomb, who is a medical doctor specializing in caring for the elderly and impoverished, also ran for Governor of Arizona as a Democrat in 2002.

Farias, who is the director of programming and production at KPHX and was the producer of Dr. Mike’s daily show, has hosted a weekend show called "Truth to Power." It was not clear from the Nova M press release whether he will continue doing that show.

Farias’ show, which will be offered for syndication by Nova M will compete during the early early evening time slot against AAR’s Rachel Maddow Show. Drobny pointed out that Farias will be "one of the few progressive liberal talk show hosts in this time slot nationally to be focused on the listener call-in format." Maddow, who does a news commentary show, usually does not take calls.

The press release did not say mention why Newcomb was dropped by Nova M or whether he will continue to have a roll in the new liberal talk network.

Nova M is attempting to build a national progressive talk radio network It is a partnership between Sheldon and Anita Drobny, the founders of Air America Radio Network, Joe Trippi, ex-campaign manager to Howard Dean, and John Zogby, the president and ceo of Zogby International.

Nova M has had some success syndicating the Mike Malloy Show. The show, which is offered in Malloy’s usual late night time slot -- 10 pm to 1 am et, is currently carried on ten stations. Dr. Mike’s show had limited success in the syndication market.

The Nova M press release also confirmed that Malloy will soon be carried on XM Satellite Radio. His show is already offered on Sirius.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sacramento Group Protests KCTC Flip

Liberal talk radio supporters in Sacramento, who have formed a group called "Save Air America in Sacramento" are taking direct action to protest Entercom’s decision to flip KCTC from lib talk to ESPN sports.

This is the fourth lib talk station to switch to ESPN Sports -- the 19th overall in the past year.

The switch is scheduled to occur on Monday, February 26. The group, which has started a petition drive and launched a website, has already held a demonstration at the Entercom station in Sacramento on February 16 and is holding another one today as I write this aricle.

Entercom, gm John Geary, has been mostly unavailable for comment, since telling the Sacramento Bee, last week that KCTC would be switching from lib talk to sports. The station’s programming is mostly provided by AAR, but they also had two local hosts – veteran talker Enid Goldstein and Scott & Sims. Both shows were abruptly cancelled last week after rumors started to circulate that a format change was in the works.

The protests created by the announced lib talk flip is hardly the biggest problem for Entercom in Sacramento. The company generated national news last month when a Sacramento mother, Jennifer Le Strange, died of water intoxication after participating in contest called "hold your wee for a Wii" on KTND-FM. Entercom has fired about a dozen stations employees since this tragic event and is bracing itself for massive legal action.

There is another lib talk station in Sacramento. KSAC-AM which calls itself "Talk City," KSAC features non-AAR hosts Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Mike Malloy, and Bev Smith. They also have a local talker –veteran northern California TV and radio journalist, Christine Craft. However, the problem with KSAC is not content, but signal strength. It broadcasts at a meager 1,000 watts (KCTC is 5,000 watts) and barely covers the city limits of Sacramento.

For more information about "Save AAR in Sacramento" contact the groups president, Margie Metzler or Aldous Tyler at Non Stop Radio. Also, check the "Impact of Flips on Lib Talk Radio Coverage" feature below for updated information on lib talk markets at risk.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

AAR Snubbed in Talkers Magazine List

Talkers Magazine has put together its "Heavy Hundred" listing of the top talk show hosts in the country which appears in the February, 2007 edition of the trade magazine that calls itself the "bible the talk radio industry."

Actually, for the past two years Talkers has produced a listing of the top 250 talk shows in various categories including political, hot, sports, financial, health, home, psychology/relationships, pop culture, and specialty talk radio. Political talk dominates the survey, accounting for 168 or two thirds of the shows listed.

Not surprisingly, conservative talk dominates the list. Talk shows hosted by conservatives account for 123 or 73% of the shows on the list. The other shows include 25 or 15% hosted by liberals, and 20 or 12% hosted by moderates.

The top twenty shows, led by the perennial favorite Rush Limbaugh, include 16 conservatives, two moderates, and three liberals. The three liberals who made the top 20 are Ed Schultz (5th), Randi Rhodes, (13th) and Talkers’ favorite liberal Alan Colmes (16th).

Now here is the interesting thing. Only three AAR talkers made the top 250 – Randi Rhodes, Jon Elliott, and the Young Turks. Not appearing on the list were weekday AAR hosts Sam Seder, Rachel Maddow, Mark Riley, David Bender, and Betsy Rosenberg. All of weekend hosts didn’t make the cut.

Now what is interesting is that every conservative host with a weekday show affiliated with the top seven syndication companies made list. This includes all five Salem Communications talk hosts – Bill Bennett, Dennis Praeger, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt and Mike Gallagher.

Salem is similar to AAR in that both companies operate more like a network than a syndicator.
However, in markets where both networks are offered, AAR beats Salem most of time. In fact, in the 12 top 25 markets where they compete, AAR beats Salem eight times, loses once, and the networks tie three times. Overall, AAR’s ratings are 47% higher than Salem’s in these markets.

So why do all of Salem’s talkers make the Talkers list while only three of AAR’s eight weekday shows are represented. Could it have something to do with advertising? Salem advertises extensively in Talkers Magazine. The February, 2007 issue includes two full-page ads promoting Salem’s talkers. On the other hand, somehow AAR has not spent much of the $40 million they have spent over the past three years on the industry’s leading trade journal. Yes, AAR stiffed Talkers before going bankrupt several months ago. However, according to the bankruptcy filing, AAR owed Talkers a measly $3,600.

Talkers doesn’t claim that their ranking of talk shows is a scientific one. (e.g. based on ratings or surveys) In fact, in a disclaimer that they published in the magazine, they state that "the selection process is subjective with the goal being to create a list reflective of the industries diversity and total flavor as well as giving credit where credit is due."

The disclaimer goes on to state that "the Talkers Magazine editors who painstakingly compile this super-list draw upon a combination of hard and soft factors when evaluating candidates. The include (in alphabetic order) courage, effort, longevity, potential ratings, recognition, revenue, service, talent and uniqueness. We acknowledge that it is as much art as science and that the results are arguable."

Yes, we would argue that the list put together by Talkers Magazine is not very accurate. If they want to thank their advertisers, they would be better off hosting a dinner for them at the upcoming Talkers Magazine Talk Radio Seminar to be held in New York City on June 8-9.

How about that for a shameless plug.

Friday, February 16, 2007

***News Bulletin***
It’s a Done Deal

Apparently, there were no bidders that were able to come up with more than $4.25 million so the Federal judge who has been officiating over the Air America bankruptcy gave approval to the investor group controlled by Stephen L. Green to take over the struggling liberal talk radio network.

According to the AP, the ruling by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain essentially transfers all the assets of Piquant LLC, parent company of the New York-based Air America, to a group including new and current investors. The new investors are Green and his brother Mark Green, a frequent guest on AAR and a high profile New York City political figure. The "current investors" who will have a minority stake in the new venture include RealNetworks Inc. Chief Executive Robert Glaser and two former Air America board members.

In announcing his plans to buy the network in late January, Green said in a statement that he intended to make it "a successful business that returns a profit," stabilizing its finances, building up its programming lineup and forming partnerships with other distribution platforms beyond radio. Green doesn't own any other media outlets.

Stephen Green is the founder and chairman of SL Green Realty Corp., a publicly traded real estate investment trust that owns 34 Manhattan office buildings and has a total of 27 million square feet of space under its control. Mark Green, who is Stephen’s brother is a liberal Democrat, who once served as New York City public advocate and has unsuccessfully run for U.S. Senate, New York City mayor and most recently, state attorney general.

Lawyers for Green asserted that he offered "the only chance for the debtor to avoid liquidation." Air America Chief Executive Scott Elberg said Friday that if the sale was not approved, the network would soon be closed down.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

AFN Selects Colmes to Replace Franken

Bad news continues afflict the lib talk format. First we hear, this week, that two more lib talk stations will likely be flipping formats --KCTC in Sacramento (on Monday) and KPFT in Fresno (in about two months). Now we learn that the Armed Forces Network will be replacing Al Franken’s spot of their line-up with "Fox’s liberal punching bag", Alan Colmes. Yes, the AFN overlooked the top ten syndicated liberal hosts on the radio, and selected someone who is generally dispised by lib talk listeners.

In a press release announcing their programming change, AFN claimed that Colmes had “a good reputation as hard hitting liberal known for eclectic comments on the American agenda.” You have to wonder, who they polled to determine that Colmes a “good reputation” with American liberals. He might be considered the Conservatives favorite liberal, but I don’t think you find many liberals who think highly of him.

Also, you have to wonder what they mean, when they call Colmes “eclectic”. According to the Dictionary, “eclectic” means “selecting or choosing from various sources.” In Colmes’ case, those sources are usually his right wing buddies on Fox News.

(An analysis published in Talking Radio last month found that Colmes was ranked as the 11th most listened two liberal host on radio.)

Now don’t get us wrong, AFN has come a long way in balancing their schedule to include lib talkers. For several years, the only political commentator to have his own show on the network was Rush Limbaugh. After months of lobbying including speeches on the floor of U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, AFN finally agreed to add the Al Franken Show, to level the playing field, in November, 2005. Subsequently they added Ed Schultz and Sean Hannity. Arguably, you can still say that conservatives have an advantage because the schedule also includes a daily show by Dr. Laura. However, a better question is why is her show in the first place.

No one could argue with AFN’s decision to carry Franken and Schultz. At the time they were considered the top two liberal talk hosts in the country. But one has to question the decision to select Colmes to replace Franken. Not only is his show very unpopular with radio listeners but it is also a stinker.

Colmes does virtually no prep for his nightly show. He usually gets on the air makes a few comments and then spends the rest of his three hour show taking to callers, who are mostly right-wingers calling to argue with him. He often has a guest on who he interviews for about a half-hour. To say that he "phones it in" is understatement. When you consider the prep and production values added to Randi Rhodes Show (ranked number 3) or the Stephanie Miller Show (ranked number 4) the 11th ranked Alan Colmes Show pales in comparison.

We found another interesting thing on the AFN website. There was a list of questions posted on their FAQ page. One of the top five questions from listeners was “why do the carry the Rush Limbaugh Show” However, under the heading of “Other Radio Questions” one is “Why do you carry the Tom Joyner Show.” We found it interesting that the listeners were questioning why they carry El Rushbo, but AFN thought it was important to explain why they were carrying the number 1 African American radio host in country.

If you would like to register your protest of AFN’s decision to add Colmes as their second lib talker, you can do that via weblog that they offer on their site.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ed Schultz Blasts Air America Radio

If you caught the second hour of Ed Schultz’ radio show yesterday, you got to hear from Chris Dodd, one of the candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination. However, if you caught the first hour of the show you got to experience an outrageous display of "liberals eating their own" as big Eddie lashed out against Air America Radio, several of the hosts, one ex-host, Schultz’ own syndication company, and even the new expected owners of the liberal talk network.

What prompted Schultz’ outburst was a statement made by AAR host, Sam Seder, who apparently urged his listeners to call XM satellite radio to support the placement of Thom Hartmann in the coveted morning slot formerly held by, now ex-AAR host, Al Franken.

But to say that Schultz over-reacted to this bit of competitive theatrics is an understatement.

The top lib talker opened his hour-long attack against AAR and several of its hosts, including Seder, Randi Rhodes, Al Franken, and former AAR late night talker Mike Malloy, by saying that they all worked "for a company that has just lost $40 million and is stiffing people because they can’t pay their bills. I’m sick and tired. I just want to spit on the floor at this."

But Schultz was just warming up. He went to say Air America "sucked" ten times and "can eat me" three times. In case you think that we are making this up, you can find a recording of Schultz’s outburst on the his website.

"I wish that AAR would just go away and shut up," Schultz complained. "They’ve never sold a commercial. They pimped the radio industry trying to beg for money to stay on the air. If they sold some advertising and got off the no buy lists, maybe they would be able to make it." "I’m beyond the point of pussy footing around all this stuff," he continued. "Nobody buys their crap. They can’t run a business… all they can do is hate people—even me."

Even the Stephen L. Green, who expected to take over AAR next week wasn't spared. "Is this new guy gonna be purchasing markets too," Schultz asked.

The Ed Schultz Show premieres on XM Satellite Radio today. The show will be carried live from 12p-3p. However, big Eddie was not celebrating on his show yesterday. He accused Seder and Randi Rhodes of playing "dirty pool," and questioning Schultz’ liberal credentials.

Who the hell are they to tell XM that we’re not liberal enough," Schultz said. "XM can program their network anyway they want. They’re not mandated to take AAR."

However, Schultz certainly didn’t endear himself to lib talk listeners when he went to say "No wonder [Bill] O’Reilly makes fun of them and "you know it makes me think that what conservatives say about liberal talk if the truth."
He also reminded his listeners that he was nominated by Radio and Records as a candidate for top syndicated talk host of the year.

"I’m up against Rush and Hannity, Dr. Laura and Imus," Schultz bragged. "I’m proud to be in their league."

But he saved most of his venom for the financially challenged liberal talk radio network.
How come the [bankruptcy] judge didn’t put the hammer on them," he said. "What are they gonna give him a show? Air America sucks, their shows suck, nobody buys them, they’re not good people, their unscrupulous, they give liberals a bad name, and if you’ve given money to Air America your an idiot too because they don’t deserve it. This is no way to run a railroad."

A caller, who sympathized with Schultz’s dissatisfaction with AAR ran into trouble when she also expressed kind feelings towards Mike Malloy, who was dumped by AAR six months ago.

"Mike Malloy has taken so many shots at me," "He’s not left enough, he’s a Republican. Tell Malloy he can eat me too," Schultz said, as he hung up on the caller. "If Malloy was worth a damn he would still be on the air somewhere."

Actually, Malloy, who is syndicated by Nova M, is now carried on eight radio stations.

Even, Al Franken who will be doing his final show today for AAR, was not spared from Schultz’ wrath.

Al Franken leaving is the best thing that that ever happened [to AAR], Schultz said. "Because maybe they’ll get a guy in there who will stick around for awhile and not travel around the country advertising that he’s thinking about leaving."

Schultz even took a shot at his own syndication company, Jones Radio.

"I’m done with Air America programming, I done with their underhanded cutting of the market place," he said. "I don’t even know why Jones Media sells their crap."

Big Eddie did have some nice things to say about how two other hosts that are syndicated by Jones Radio – Stephanie Miller and Bill Press.

"I want all the dedicated listeners to Ed Schultz Show to call XM and tell them to take Stephanie Miller and Bill Press and drop the crappy Air America programming," he said.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mr. KABC Out in Los Angeles

Yesterday we reported that lib talk had recorded a small victory in Boston when Tom Finnernan, took over the morning drive slot on WRKO. Today we report another setback. Marc Germain, aka Mr. KABC is out at the Los Angeles station, which once was dominated by left of center talkers like Michael Jackson and Gloria Alred.

Now the ABC (All Bloviating Conservatives) owned station will have no liberals on the weekday program line-up. Although no announcement has been made about who will be replacing Mr. KABC, we suspect that the time will give to Mark Levin who currently is carried from 9-10 pm. This seems to be consistent with ABC’s strategy in other markets, where they have dumped local talkers to make way for their newest right wing star.

One suspects that ratings were not the reason for canning of Mr. KABC. His late-night show was always the first or second most popular radio show during the 10 pm to 1 am time period.

Mr. KABC was a real survivor. I first started listening to him in the mid 90’s when he was known as Mr. KFI. He moved his show to KABC in 1996. The show was very unique. He would start out by saying we don’t have guests, no topics, and no call screeners. The name of the show was "Ask Mr. KABC" and the callers were all over the map, usually not political types. Callers were required to ask a question. Often those questions were quite bizarre, like "how fast does hair grow?" Or "what is heavier – milk or cream?"

Some of the features that he popularized were allowing callers to hang up on themselves, identifying the rare female callers, as "another KABC vixen," and his standard rejoinder when asked how he was doing – "better than most not as good as some."

While the Mr. KABC show was not political it was clear that Mr. KABC was moderate to liberal on most issues. As the station moved further to the right about six years ago by first adding Sean Hannity and then Bill O’Reilly. At the same time they dumped liberal radio’s most famous host, Michael Jackson and completing their line-up with a conservative gay guy – Al Rantel and a conservative black guy – Larry Elder. (KFI already had the consevative Jewish Guy --Dennis Praeger.)

The morning slot, hosted by another conservative, Doug McIntyre, gets creamed every day by Bill Handel and is even often beat by lib talker Stephanie Miller.

The question is not why did the ABC station can Mr. KABC, but why did it take so long? When Germain was doing his top-rated show at KFI he would always suggest that the show would not survive past the millennium. It looks like he survived more than six years longer.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Groups in Two More Markets Start Fighting Back

Groups of radio listeners in Duluth and New Haven and are starting to organize grass roots campaigns to restore liberal talk radio in these markets after the owners of the incumbent lib talk station pulled the plug on the format earlier this month.

In Duluth, a group calling itself "Duluth-Superior Progressive Talk" has initiated an on-line petition drive and a Yahoo message board. In New Haven, "Save Progressive Talk CT." is just getting organized . They have initiated a on-line petition drive and will soon be starting a message board.

This makes six markets where there are on-going campaigns to protest the moves of station owners, who are often thousands of miles away, to make impulsive programming changes without consulting anyone in the local community and without any advance notification.

In addition to Duluth and New Haven there are on-going campaigns to restore lib talk in Boston, Columbus, OH., Dallas, and Cincinnati. Three of the stations that have dropped lib talk are owned by Clear Channel Communications. CC, which is based is San Antonio is laying off hundreds of employees all across the country and selling about 500 stations (one third of the stations that they own) as they prepare to take the company private. It is suspected that the move to dump lib talk is probably being done to save money.

For more information about the groups that are fighting back to save lib talk, go to Non-Stop Radio for more information.

Listener organized campaigns to save lib talk have been successful in Portland, ME and Madison.

***News Bulletin***
AAR Purchase Deal Takes Another Step Forward

The Air American Radio sale took another step closer to being finalized when the bankruptcy court approved a move to sell the networks meager assets at an auction on Friday.

According to the Associated Press, the liberal news and talk radio network the auction will start with a $4.25 million bid from a consortium of purchasers formed by the chairman of SL Green Realty Corp, Stephen L. Green. Judge Robert Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan said the consortium can receive a $150,000 breakup fee if their offer is topped at the auction. No other bidders have stepped up publicly, to participate in the auction. However, the sources have identified up to ten parties interested in acquiring AAR.

Competing bids, which must start at least at $4.6 million, are due by Thursday with a 10 percent deposit. Bidding will increase in at least $50,000 increments. A sale hearing will be held immediately following Friday's auction.

Air America Radio's parent company, New York-based Piquant LLC, said the sale would allow it to pay off its $3.25 million debtor-in-possession loan and provide $500,000 to pay creditor claims and another $500,000 to cure certain contracts.

The proposed sale, the filing said, will enable the company to keep broadcasting and avoid "significant" rejection damage claims that would accrue if it was forced to liquidate.
Air America has been struggling to find a buyer since it filed for Chapter 11 protection on Oct. 13, 2006, listing assets of $7.8 million and debts of $19.8 million.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

It's Been a Rough Year for Liberal Talk Radio

The past year has not been a good one for liberal talk radio. In the past 12 months, the format has seen a loss of 15 stations reaching a potential 13.6 million radio listeners. During this same time period, only two stations reaching 625,000 potential radio listeners started carrying the format.

So that means from February 1, 2006 to February 1, 2007 lib talk saw a decline of 13 radio stations or 20% and a decline of just under 13 million potential radio listeners or 16%.

In addition, during the past year, the lib talk format was also weakened by the Air America Radio bankruptcy, paltry ratings growth. (Conservative talk ratings were actually down by 3.7% over the past year,) and a "hands off" management style by station owners, especially Clear Channel, which has been cutting operational expenses and firing employees all over the country as they prepare to take the company private.

From April, 2004 when AAR started national program distribution until February, 2006, the lib talk universe grew from 0 to 64 full time stations -- that’s about 3.2 new stations per month and potential listeners grew from 0 to 82 million -- that’s about 4.1 million new potential listeners per month. However, since February 2006 it has been mostly downhill for lib talk.

Our analysis only identifies "full time" lib talk radio stations. These are stations that offer three or more liberal talk show hosts on weekdays and are operating in markets rated by Arbitron. The vast majority of these stations are Air America Radio affiliates. (Only three of these stations – WWKB, in Buffalo, KPHX in Phoenix, and KSAC in Sacramento do not offer any AAR programming.)

We define potential radio listeners as the number of people age 12+ who are able to listen to the stations on their radios. For example, Arbitron claims that there are 7,612,100 radio listeners in the Chicago market. Our analysis determined that only 4,000,000 of these listeners are able to tune in to Chicago’s lib talker WCPT (and only until the sun sets in the Windy City)!

We have also made an evaluation of how the loss of coverage has effected the lib talk ratings. We have determined that the loss of coverage has resulted in a 12% ratings decline. The reason that the loss of actual listeners is smaller than the loss of potential listeners is that most of the stations that dropped lib talk over the past year were under-performing.

This analysis does not include the performance of about a dozen full time lib talk stations that operate outside of all measured markets. It also does not include the performance of talk hosts on what we call "hybrid" stations – those that schedule two lib talk hosts on weekdays and "marginal" stations that offer one lib talk host. Most of the marginal lib talk stations are carrying Fox Radio talkers, which include their liberal punching bag, Alan Colmes. There are 31 hybrid stations and 118 marginals.

It goes without saying that full time lib talk stations are markedly inferior to most of the primary conservative talk stations operating in the same market. While the top conservative talk stations reach 100% of potential radio listeners in their primary market; the average lib talk station only potentially reaches 79%. Also while the average conservative station has measurable ratings in 2.1 adjacent markets, the average lib talk station only reaches 0.1 adjacent markets. In addition about half of lib talk stations have significant signal quality issues. For example, 55% of them are daytimers, which means that they literally go off the air at sundown and at least a dozen others have to significantly lower their power in the evening. Ironically, this is often done to accommodate the more powerful conservative news talker in the market.

In a follow up story, we will attempt to do a more complete analysis of the ratings recorded by lib talk stations since the launch of the format in April, 2004. We want to wait until the new owners take over at AAR and until the effect of Franken’s departure has been determined. We continue to have doubts about whether Thom Hartmann will be the permanent replacement for Franken’s slot.

New Haven Reporter Blasts Clear Channel

My apologies to Joe Amarante, TV and Radio Editor at the New Haven Register. In my last post, where I reported on the demise of lib talk on WAVZ in New Haven, I took a shot at Amarante because he didn’t question the motives of Clear Channel and their self-serving spokeshole Jerry Kristafer.

Well, Amarante looks like he has had some second thoughts on the WAVZ situation, which he posted on his blog yesterday.

In responding to a comment about the lack of local news on Clear Channel stations in New Haven, including WAVZ, Amarante called CC “a ruthless, money-first corporation that doesn't care about the public interest. Not that this hasn't happened to other media outlets in a changing world increasingly dominated by Internet and Wall Street greed.”

“CC should either operate radio stations in an honorable way or get out of the business,” he posted. “They disgust nearly everyone who cares about radio and free speech.”

Amarante who called CC “a Texas-based disgrace, much like the guys they prop up with right-wing opinion shows,” also speculated on their decision to drop lib talk in the mostly Democratic New Haven area.

“CC airing progressive talk?” he posted. “Talk about a doomed partnership (which may have been the political strategy all along).”

Amarante called WAVZ’s program director and morning talk show host, Jerry Kristafer “a survivor,” not unlike the only surviving local host after a purge of local yakkers on WHJJ in nearby Providence. If you recall, CC dropped two liberal hosts on that station about two months ago – Arlene Violet, who had a 13 year career at the station and Howie Barte. The local libs were replaced by syndicated right-wing talkers Sean Hannity and Quinn & Rose. Ironically, the only surviving local host is moderate Helen Glover, who’s claim to fame is that she was a winner on CBS’ "Surviver" mini-series.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New Haven's Monday Morning Surprise

Now that the “stealth flip” of WAVZ in New Haven from lib talk to sports has been completed, local media in New Haven is starting to pick up on the story.

In today’s issue of the New Haven Register there is an article by Joe Amarante, the TV and Radio Editor, which reports that several people were surprised when they turned on their radios Monday and heard Dan Patrick talking about the Super Bowl rather than Al Franken doing his swan song.

Predictedly, there was the perfunctory comment from the Clear Channel manager using the “B” word. Do these guys all read off the same script? Here’s what Jerry Kristafer said about the flip.

"It’s business, that’s what we’re here for. ESPN is a brand everyone recognizes. It’s a branding thing. You just have to say those four letters and people know what to expect."

Two “B” words. "Business" and "Branding". Can anyone think of a third ending with a "t".

I wonder whether Kristafer has a degree in marketing or business administration from nearby Yale University.

What the Register writer failed to report is that there might be a problem because Kristafer, is also the morning host on CC’s other New Haven talker, WELI. That station maintains a full time line-up of right wing bloviaters led by Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Possibly a good reporter would have noticed that there was a conflict of interest when "air talent" also serves as a company spokesman.

The Register Article also quotes a lib talk fan who was disappointed with the flip.

Marianne Breeding, who has listened to Air America for a few years, wrote a letter to New Haven paper which stated, "I ... had been a fan of Al Franken’s show and wanted to tune in to his last show on Feb. 14, now I won’t be able to. Last night I was going through the stations and heard about three with Michael Savage, there are numerous Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham, but no progressive programming."

Kristafer also got in a little self promotion before announcing the flip with blurb on the WAZV website. He told the lib talk fans in New Haven that they were “invited to tune in to [the right wing talker] 960WELI for local New Haven news, traffic, weather, & sports... plus local information & coverage of events in your community on the Morning Show with Jerry Kristafer, weekdays from 5:30-9 a.m.”

Jerry Kristafer -- today’s worst person in the world!

Details of AAR Purchase Agreement Revealed

Updated, February 8, 2007, 11:15 am pst, (update in bold)

It appears that Stephen L Green, the expected new owner of Air America Radio is getting a pretty good deal as he finalizes the arrangements of his purchase of bankrupt liberal talk radio network.

Details of the pending the purchase were revealed today in purchase documents published by Smoking Gun website. Here's what the Smoking Gun reported:

Bankrupt and about to lose Al Franken, its marquee star, Air America Radio is set to change hands for the bargain price of $4.25 million, according to new court documents. The sales figure was disclosed in a purchase agreement filed yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. According to the agreement, the deal between Air America's owner, Piquant LLC, and a firm controlled by Stephen L. Green, a New York realtor, calls for Green's firm to repay up to $3.25 million in loans provided to Air America after the liberal radio network filed for Chapter 11 protection last October (the company listed debts of $20.2 million). Green's company will also give Piquant LLC $500,000 and pay off up to $500,000 in network debts (the bulk of which, $349,000, is owed to the network's Manhattan landlord). Green's bid topped by more than $1.25 million the nearest offer received by Air America, according to a motion filed along with the purchase agreement. An excerpt from that motion can be found below. Court documents do not specify how many bids were received for the network, though a filing notes that "more than ten interested parties" signed nondisclosure agreements and were allowed to review confidential network financial and corporate records. While Green controls the corporation purchasing Air America, two of the firms that were pre-bankruptcy investors in the radio network will "collectively own a minority interest" in the Green company. The Air America purchase is expected to be finalized at a court hearing in the next week. Franken, who is planning to run next year for a U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota, is scheduled to do his final Air America show on February 14.

It appears that while ten or more bids were received for AAR, the Green bid was substantially higher than any others. The next highest bid was around $3 million which was over 25% lower than Green's successful bid.

Meanwhile, AAR founder Sheldon Drobny has taken another shot at the struggling lib talk network. In a posting on the Huf Po on February 8, Drobny called the pending deal to sell AAR to the Greens a bad deal for the creditors.

"Unfortunately, like most everything that the MSM fails to report about, there is a hesitancy to expose this by them because the bankruptcy system essentially protects the rich entrepreneurs and screws the creditors and shareholders," Drobny posted. "Enron is but one of many such scandals that go on every day."