Sunday, April 01, 2007

As Ohio Goes, So Goes the Nation

Updated, Sunday, April 1 at 12:30 am. Update in boldface type.

With the announcement today, reported in Ohio Media Watch, that WARF-AM, 1360 in Akron is going to flip from liberal talk to sports on Friday there will then be no lib talk station in the entire state of Ohio.

And this happens less than five months after the Democrats dominated the election results in the Buckeye State –sweeping all statewide elections including a U.S. Senate seat, the governorship and most state and federal legislative positions.

Shortly, thereafter Clear Channel Communication started switching out lib talk stations. The first station to go was WSAI-AM, 1360 in Cincinnati, which flipped to non-political talk on December 7. A month later, WTPG (now called WYTS) flipped to conservative talk
even though CC was already operating a right wing talk station in the Democratic leaning Central Ohio town . Now just over two months later CC has completed the trifecta, by flipping from lib talk to sports in Akron.

Is it possible that a broadcasting company that gives more money to the GOP than any other broadcasting company (about 95% of CC’s political donations go to Republican candidates) is trying to influence future elections in the important swing state of Ohio. They use to say "as Ohio goes, so goes the nation." This was definitely the case in 2006. Democrats swept all the key statewide races and went on to big a national victory.

CC’s Cincinnati Operation Manager, Darryl Parks, told the Cincinnati Post in December that lib talk needed to be dropped in the Queen City because it was "agenda driven."

"It was a format that was set up not to entertain, but it seemed set up to get people elected, for a lack of a better way to put it," Parks said. " "There were some good (liberal) shows, but they need to start looking to more broad-based subjects than just harping on politics."

Now that there are no lib talk stations in Ohio, Parks is probably less worried about losing elections.

Tom Thon, CC’s Market Manager in Columbus, was a bit more politically correct when he told Columbus Dispatch why they thought two conservative stations was a better idea than having one liberal and one conservative station.

"Unfortunately, central Ohio listeners did not respond to the progressive format," Thon said. "It’s been very underperforming in ratings and revenue."

Actually the ratings for WTPG were not that bad. Ratings had improved by 80% since the station was flipped from oldies to lib talk on September 7, 2004.

A group called Ohio Majority Radio was formed to protest the WTPG flip and to try to get another central Ohio radio station to pick up lib talk. They were able to get almost 3,000 people to sign a petition in support of their efforts. Some of the people involved in the successful effort to save lib talk on WXXM-FM, 92.1 in Madison are involved with Ohio Majority Radio.

The anticipated flip of WARF in Akron from lib talk to sports is the very strange. The station used to carry sports and never did very well. Ratings have been up about 25% since the switch. It is odd that they would go back to sports, especially since there are already three sports stations serving the market – Fox Sports affiliates WJMP-AM, 1520 and WHBC-AM 1480 and ESPN affiliate WKNR-AM, 750.

They even offered a daily local show with veteran Cleveland talk radio host Joe Finan. Joe left WARF several months ago and sadly passed away in December.

CC made a feeble attempt to explain why they were dropping lib talk in Akron by posting the following notice on the WARF website two days before the format flip.

It's Over. Radio Free Ohio will cease operations on Friday March 30 at 8:58 am
While Progessive(sic) Radio is surviving in parts of the country, it has not in Akron. In two years ratings have not improved, and revenue has declined, despite the remainder of the market seeing an increase in revenue.Before the format switch to Progressive Talk, 1350am was an all sports station. In the Winter of 2005,(the last ratings period for the station as sports) 1350am had 17,000 weekly listeners. In the latest release of ratings, for the Fall of 06, WARF had 11,600 weekly listeners, and was on the decline.

There’s an old expression in the ratings business that if you torture numbers enough they will tell you anything. It is clear that whoever wrote this pathetic message on the WARF website was doing just that. What the message fails to point out is that WARF had pretty decent ratings over the past year. (As noted above they were up 80%) The Fall book was the first poor ratings performance since switching from sports to lib talk a year and a half ago. Anyone in the radio business will tell you that you never make a programming decision on one bad book.

To say that lib talk is in free fall would be an understatement. In a little over a year, 24 stations that reached a potential audience of over 15 million radio listeners, have dropped the format. (See "the right column".) Nine of these stations are owned by CC. However, in fairness to the San Antonio based radio station owner, they also own and operate 14 of the remaining 56 full time lib talk stations.

Syndicators of sports of programming are no doubt hovering over the remaining universe of lib talk stations like vultures over dying carcass. Eight of the 24 stations that have dropped lib talk over the past the year have flipped to sports.


raccoonradio said...

>>And this happens less than five months after the Democrats dominated the election results in the Buckeye State

In MA, about 98 per cent of office holders are Democrats--especially since the last election when the Dems finally got the governorship back. A month and a half later, CC pulled the plug on prog talk in Boston...

Both senators, all 10 Representatives; gov., lt gov.,
treasurer, etc., all Democrats.
The blue-est state in the nation
some feel, but no prog talk...

Anonymous said...

If I were you folks, I would contact the local Free F.M. station and see if they would have a prog station. Since Howard Stern left, they're looking for the newest thing. In Los Angeles for example, the Clear Channel Station KFI 640 A.M. has a guy named Bill Handel. When stern left his ratings went to #1 but it was a one share. Stephanie Miller (who BTW is on Jones Radio Network, housed in the same Clear Channel fa├žade as KFI) is catching up. The prog radio format is bcatching up to the doldrums of the same old conservative talk. Speak to your local Program director or G.M., give them facts (arbitron ratings of prog radio), show them that people are interested and they'll be rich.

It's worth the risk

Anonymous said...

And you haven't figured out why yet.

Conservative talk is an alternative to the liberal mainstream media.

Liberal syndicated talk is just more of the same old bitching and whining that people can get elsewhere.

See more about Air America in

Anonymous said...

It may be time to consider the following possibilities:

In general, people who vote for liberals...
Don't listen to progressive talk radio.
Don't listen to AM radio.
And maybe don't even listen to radio much at all.

Maybe people who support liberal candidates and principles prefer the style and presentation of public radio.

In all likelihood, they even read.

People who don't identify themselves as either liberals or conservatives don't care about politics and don't listen to talk radio - any talk radio - at all.

Talk radio does not - will not - can not - change anybody's mind about anything. Not now. Not ever.

Air America Radio was a knee jerk reaction from some rich liberal activists who wanted to hit back at Rush. And this is the kind of non-thinking that has influenced it's management.

Maybe radio is the natural home for right-wingers and right wing talk. Most people who work in radio tend to authoritarian, right-wing thinking. And they are self-righteous enough to believe that (1) Their opinions are THE TRUTH and (2) Most everybody in the audience agrees with them.

raccoonradio said...

Liberals can be authoritarians too;
instilling politically correct thinking, banning things; their
professors only offer the Left's
viewpoint in class (and if you disagree, you get an F, kids--so
much for freedom of speech)

Anonymous said...

Somewhere around middle school, I realized my teachers were really dumb. They bought and regurgitated whatever was in the book.
I got to college and I discovered most of the dummies I met were ed majors.
Somebody writes a book on a new way to teach math, or reading, or whatever and the teachers jump on board and scrap whatever they were doing. Then somebody else writes a book and the cycle repeats.
Meantime, nobody learns anything.
Of course, teachers are authoritarian. What's pathetic is they can only be authorities around little kids.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me stations' programming is dictated by ratings and ratings only.No one wants to loose money.Perhaps the more liberal voter just doesn't have the opportunity or desire to listen to talk radio.There doesn't appear to be a conspiracy.It really is quite simple. It's all about revenue.

barooosk said...

Seems to me stations' programming is dictated by ratings and ratings only.

Not true. Ratings on the lib talk talk stations that have been flipped in the past few months were up an average of 40% in the past year. You have the PD in Cincinnati complaining about "political agenda," He doesn't talk about ratings. Also, it is clear that decision to flip to sports is not dictated by ratings but by costs. It costs a lot less for a station to carry network sports feed provided by ESPN or Fox.

Anonymous said...

Yes and no.
It is about revenue. It's only indirectly (if that) about ratings.
Turnkey sports talk often gets zilch ratings but stations and their reps can sell spots.
Liberal talk sometimes (not always) gets ratings and stations claim they can't sell it. (They say the same about Oldies, Standards, Classical, etc.)
And it may well be that liberals don't listen much to liberal talk radio - especially when it's presented in a style that emulates right-wing demagogic talk radio.
Meanwhile, public radio does not seem to have a problem selling spots (pardon me, getting corporate underwriters). To the extent politically-involved liberals go to radio for news and talk programming, they probably want programming more in the style of NPR than Rush.

Anonymous said...

I find most of these postings lacking good content and facts.
Actually, liberals and progressives really like progressive talk because they actually cover the important subjects...yeah, like politics.
There has been nothing boring about what has happened in this country since 2000. People who think have been paying attention. Air America has been a life saver for people trying to hold on till this incompetent administration is OUT.
Listening to intelligent talk that is FACT BASED, is what it is about. Not propaganda. The only place you find a discussion that isn't based on "talking" points is on the progressive stations.
The reason these stations are disappearing has nothing to do with ratings. It is all about stopping the truth. Since all of mainstream media is owned by the five, partisan right-wing leaning corporations, the term "liberal media" is a joke.
I wish it did exist. If it did, this country would not be going to hell in a handbasket.