Monday, June 25, 2007

CAP/FP Report Drives Right-Wingers into a Frenzy

Since the release of the release of a report entitled "Structural Imbalance of Political Talk" by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress and Free Press, a media reform group, the right wing noise machine has been operating in high gear.

From the halls of the Senate to top radio executives to Fox News to a slew of right wing bloggers to every conservative talk radio host, the noise has been loud, angry, and more often than not, filled with lies and half truths.

For example, Senator Jim Inhofe, told KFI/640 in Los Angeles', right-wing talker, John Ziegler on Thursday night, that he had overheard Senators Hillary Clinton and Barbara Boxer say (in an elevator ride) that a "legislative fix" was needed to control talk radio. This was extensively reported on Fox News and picked up by virtually every right-wing talk host.

However, a few days later when it was revealed that Clinton was hundreds of miles away when her conversation with Boxer was alleged to occur, Inhofe, who has called congressional moves to curtail global warming a ploy to increase the ratings for the Weather Channel, back-tracked. He said the conversation did not happen "the other day" but rather "three years ago!"

Of course Fox never really cleared up this matter. Rich Lowry, substituting for Sean Hannity, failed to make a correction on Friday. As he spoke, the screen showed Boxer above a chyron that read, "Left-wing group tries to silence conservative talk radio."

Inside Radio published comments from several radio industry executives that kept the misinformation flowing.

Former New York Post radio writer and journeyman programming director John Mainelli warned "it's clear that these people want to bring the Fairness Doctrine back as soon as possible in order to force their viewpoints down people's throats."

Mainelli clearly has not read the 40-page CAP/FP report, which does not call for the re-introduction of Fairness Doctrine. In fact, the report calls the Fairness Doctrine "irrelevant" and instead calls for a revision of the station ownership caps and license renewal procedures.

Tom Traddup is VP News/Talk Programming for Salem Communications, one of the five companies that were evaluated in the CAP/FP report, which offers zero hours of liberal talk on their 43 talk radio stations.

Traddup also thought the report was about the Fairness Doctrine.

"Those… in need of the Fairness Doctrine or more restrictions on media ownership do so to make up for their lack of appeal to the American radio audiences," he said.

He then showed why he does such lousy of programming for Salem, which is the lowest rated talk radio network.

"Failed radio personalities—including Mario Cuomo, Alan Dershowitz, Al Franken, former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower and others—have attempted to force-feed liberal ideology and dour, unentertaining doctrine to American radio audiences."

Does Traddup realize that it has been over ten years since Cuomo, Deshowitz, and Hightower attempted to do talk radio. Is this clown even aware of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann and Randi Rhodes?

Clear Channel is by far the number one owner of talk radio stations. According to CAP/FP 86% of the talk radio hosts on CC stations are conservatives.

So it is not surprising that Matt Scafaldi, programming coordinator for CC’s Brevard County, FL stations doesn’t think much of lib talk.

"When you really break it down, the vast majority of liberal positions cannot be defended against the fact, logic and common sense brought forth by listeners. The host then looks like an idiot, and the audience moves on," Scafaldi said.

But the last words go the yahoos who listen to right wing talk radio.

Several of them weighed in on the message board which posted the link to the lie Senator Inhofe blurted out on the John Ziegler Show about the elevator conversation that never happened between Senators Boxer and Clinton.

Here are a few that we found

Rodham: your ass is grass.

I will take to the streets, for the first time, if Clinton, Boxer, or any others try to stifle reasoned voices from their right or left…TYRANTS!!…Wanna play rough?

I have heard it said that attempts to stifle radio talk shows (which means conservatives and free speech generally) may result in assassinations on behalf of freedom. Could there be such a thing provoked by these tyrants?

Evil traitorous wenches. Let the revolution begin…rats like these two need to be exterminated.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Report Challenges Fairness of Political Talk Coverage

There is no dispute that conservatives own talk radio. The report released today by liberal-leaning Center for American Progress and Free Press, a media reform group, states in its opening paragraphs that there are over 10 hours of conservative talk for every one hour liberal talk on the 257 talk radio stations operated by the five largest station owners.

Where this report entitled "The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk" differs from other studies of political talk radio (Democracy Radio revealed the same 10 to 1 conservative advantage in report released three years ago) is that it attempts to identify why the imbalance exists and what can be done to correct it.

And while right wing supporters of the status quo have stacked their defense on a goal line stand against the reenactment of the Fairness Doctrine, the CAP/FD report contends that a new Fairness Doctrine is not necessary. The report contends that political imbalance can be addressed by restoring the ownership caps, license renewal, and localism standards that were discarded in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

It looks a like libs are attempting an end run.

The CAP/FD report concludes with the following statement

The gap between
conservative and progressive talk radio is
the result of multiple structural problems
in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly
the complete breakdown of the public
trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination
of clear public interest requirements
for broadcasting, and the relaxation of
ownership rules including the requirement
of local participation in management.

Needless to say conservatives are going nuts. I received at least a dozen "Google Alerts" this morning – all from right wing bloggers. Here in one diatribe and here’s another.

While anyone with a radio in his car knows that conservatives dominate the talk format, we found the methodology used in the CAP/FD report a little weak. For one thing, they only surveyed stations owned by the top five stations groups – Clear Channel, CBS, Citadel, Cumulus, and Salem. Secondly, they did not factor in the ratings or reach of the stations. So weak lib stations like WDTW in Detroit and WWRC in Washington were compared equally with 50,000-watt blowtorch stations WJR and WMAL. If ratings and reach were taken into consideration conservative talker’s advantage over lib talkers increases to 13 to 1.

However, the strength of the CAP/FP report is not their analysis of the gross imbalance in political talk radio, but in their attempt to demystify why this imbalance exists. In doing so, the report takes issue with the two reasons pundits have used to explain why talk radio skews so dominantly to the right -- the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and
the consideration of market demands.

The report states:

Both of these arguments are inadequate
and both lead to specific policy recommendations
that are insufficient for correcting
the structural imbalance in talk
radio programming.

It essentially concludes that the Fairness Doctrine is an irrelevant issue. It notes that the FD was "never formally repealed" and that Court rulings authorizing its legality remain in place. Furthermore, the FCC maintains the authority to enforce equal time rules in political campaigns and Section 315 of Communications Act of 1934 gives them additional authority to regulate content.

Section 315 of the Communications
Act still requires commercial broadcasters
"to operate in the public interest and
to afford reasonable opportunity for the
discussion of conflicting views of issues
of public importance."

The report also challenges the often stated mantra that radio station owners are just responding to market demands. It takes the position that the convenience of syndication, cutting back local talk, national ad sales strategies, and insensitivity to local market needs are the factors that influence the programming strategies of the large station owners.

When 91 percent of the talk radio programming
broadcast each weekday is
solely conservative—despite a diversity of
opinions among radio audiences and the
proven success of progressive shows—the
market solution has clearly failed to meet
audience demand. Even greater deregulation
and consolidation of radio station
ownership is therefore not likely to meet
audience desires or serve the public interest
in any meaningful way.

The report underscores this point by demonstrating that stations owned by local or small group owners, minority-groups, and women are more likely to offer some balance in the presentation of political talk than large group owners like Clear Channel and Citadel.

It goes on propose three steps that need to be taken to correct the gross imbalance in political talk programming:

1. Restore local and national caps on the ownership of commercial radio stations
Noting that since the radical changes put in place by Telecommunications Act of 1996, there has been 34% decline in station owners and 11.7% decline in minority owners, the report proposes that current rules which allow a station group to own up to eight stations in some markets must be changed:

We recommend that radio ownership
caps be revised as follows:
National radio ownership by any one
entity should not exceed 5 percent
of the total number of AM and FM
broadcast stations.
In terms of local ownership, no one
entity should control more than
10 percent of the total commercial
radio stations in a given market, or
specifically, more than:
– Four commercial stations in large
markets (a radio market with 45 or
more commercial radio stations).
– Three stations in mid-markets (between
30 and 44 total commercial
radio stations).

These changes still allow a station group to own more stations that they could before the enactment of the new rules ten years ago.

2. Ensure greater local accountability over radio licensing
The current rules extended license renewal from three to nine years and despite assurances that there would be spot audits and other controls, the vast majority of renewals are completed by simply filing out a postcard. The report proposes the following changes including the restoration of the three-year license renewal schedule:

We recommend the following steps the
FCC should take to ensure local needs
are being met:
Require radio broadcast licensees to
regularly show that they are operating
on behalf of the public interest and
provide public documentation and
viewing of how they are meeting these
Demand that the radio broadcast
licensee announce when its license is
about to expire and demonstrate how
the public can participate in the process
to determine whether the license
should be extended. In addition, the
FCC should be required to maintain
a website to conduct on-line discussions
and facilitate interaction with the
public about licensee conduct.

3. Require commercial owners who fail to abide by enforceable public interest obligations to pay a fee to support public broadcasting
As we know, radio station owners often resist even the modest level of regulation that they have faced during the current deregulatory period. For example, consider the payola scandals in New York. The report proposes consequences for station owners who resist the new regulatory requirements.

It proposes that station owners who do not comply with the new rules be assessed with a "spectrum use fee" of one percent for small markets and five percent for the largest markets.

If commercial radio broadcasters are
unwilling to abide by these regulatory
standards or the FCC is unable to effectively
regulate in the public interest,
a spectrum use fee should be levied on
owners to directly support local, regional,
and national public broadcasting.

The conclusion of the report is that these changes, will not only lead to a more level playing field in political talk radio but also assure that localism is returned to airwaves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mike Malloy Returns to Georgia

There’s a rumor circulating that Air America Radio will soon be announcing six or seven new affiliates. However, while we wait for the AAR news we can confirm that Nova M has added two new affiliates this week.

In a press release today, Nova M has announced that their top host, late night talker Mike Malloy, can now be heard weeknights -- 10 pm to 1 am -- on WAAW-FM/94.7 in Augusta. This represents a return to Georgia airwaves for Malloy, a resident of Atlanta who was dropped from WWAA/1690 in his hometown about a year ago. He was also dumped by AAR at about the same time.

This represents the 13th affiliate for Malloy, who remains the marquee talent in the Nova M stable.

Gospel music is the primary format of WAAW which is known in the Augusta area as "Rejoice Radio."

Sounds like a perfect fit to us.

In other Nova M news, "The Pulse of the Nation" with Jeff Farias and John Zogby will debut this Saturday on WIBX/950 at 9 am. Don’t look for lib talk weekdays on WIBX, as they offer wall to wall conservative talk Monday to Friday.

Monday, June 18, 2007

O'Reilly Spun Out of Mets Clubhouse

The New York Mets clubhouse is clearly not a spin free zone.

The New York Daily News reports that talk radio and TV commentator Bill O’Reilly found this out when he and his party were escorted out of the Mets clubhouse prior to the start of Mets-Yankees game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. A stadium security guard noticed that Bill and his entourage didn’t have the proper credentials and led them out out the door.

"You don’t need to escort us out," O’Reilly complained. "We’re leaving."

Two days earlier, MSNBC’s liberal commentator, Keith Olbermann, was also hanging out in the Mets clubhouse without credentials, but was not asked to leave. Is it possible that the Mets were making some kind of political statement?

Not likely. Remember, Olbermann was an ESPN sportscaster for five years in the 1990’s. He will also be returning to TV sports this fall when he joins Cris Collinsworth as co-host of the pregame show for NBC's Sunday night NFL telecasts.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Phil Hendrie to Return to Terrestrial Radio

We have a good news and bad news to report.

The good news is that the Phil Hendrie Show, the most innovative and creative talk show since the legendary Bob and Ray Show 30 years ago, will be returning to the airwaves on June 25.

The bad news is that Phil’s show will be distributed by Talk Radio Network, a right wing syndication company. Also, according the Phil Hendrie News site, the veteran host has said that the show might not have a comedy focus.

While all talk radio syndicators (with the exception of Air America Radio and possibly Westwood One) are dominated by right wing talkers, TRN is particularly committed to spreading its right wing ideology.

The company is headed up one time hypnotist and current right wing Christian theologian Roy Masters and his son Mark Masters. Similar to Laura Schlessinger (see story below), Masters was brought up in a Jewish home and converted to Christianity as an adult.

We asked Hendrie if he was going to change the format of his previous syndicated show and whether it was going to be similar to the other shows carried on TRN that feature right wing hosts.

"Well, I don't know what you think a right wing show is," Hendrie replied. "My show will not be the ones you mentioned. But, I may take the same general position as those people on certain issues. Don't let the radio brainwash you into thinking right and left are relevant anymore."

Hendrie started his show on a low power AM station in the Los Angeles suburb of Ventura County over 20 years ago. He refined his craft in Minneapolis and Miami, eventually returning with his show to LA doing on the nation's number one talk station – KFI. Hendrie also landed a syndication deal with Premiere Radio Networks that included over 100 stations.

The only way to appreciate Phil Hendrie’s comical genius is the listen to his show. (You can download podcasts on his website.) Hendrie, and his stable of fictitious characters including Ted Bell, Bud Dickman, R.C. Collins, Margaret Gray, Steve Bozell, and dozens of others, engage unwitting callers in some of the funniest bits you will ever hear on radio.

However, a year ago, Hendrie gave it all up to pursue a career as a TV writer and performer. He has voiced characters on several episodes of Futurama and had a starring role in NBC's short-lived midseason replacement sitcom, Teachers, in the spring of 2006.

When he gave up his show last year, Hendrie said that he would never return to terrestrial radio. He was done.

Cindy Sheehan Sells 'Camp Casey' to Bree Walker

Former Southern California TV news anchor and current weekend host on LA’s liberal talker, KTLK/1150 Bree Walker purchased a 5-acre plot of land near President Bush’s Crawford, TX compound from anti-war protestor gold star mother Cindy Sheehan.

Sheehan, called the property Camp Casey in honor of her son who was killed in Iraq in September, 2004. She has been encamped in Crawford for a good part of the past three years attempting (unsuccessfully) to ask Bush a simple question. "For what noble cause did Casey die for." Bush, who has spoken with dozens of family members of soldiers killed in the four-year old war, has refused to meet with Sheehan.

Walker, told Brad Blog this past weekend that she intends to keep the property "as a ground for freedom and peace" and is considering erecting a memorial there for troops killed in Iraq. She hopes to create a meditation garden on the grounds and to keep it open to the public.

"I'm cashing out my capitalist corporate stocks and buying into a legacy of peace," Walker said. Sheehan will be selling the property for the same price she purchased it for so as not to be seen as profiting from the sale.

An associate of Sheehan's, Tiffany Burns, told the Associated Press, that "Cindy is happy the land is going to be used for something positive,"

Sheehan appeared on Walker’s show on Sunday, and discussed the sale with the talk show host and her listeners.

The Iraq War initially planned to sell the land on eBay but scrapped the idea after getting an offer from Walker.

She spurned an offer from the pro-war group Move America Forward, which wanted to buy the land to erect a monument. The land in Crawford, about 100 miles south of Fort Worth, is near downtown and is about seven miles from Bush’s ranch.