The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

28 June 2005

Politicians Fight For Talk Radio Gigs

Ego Versus Public Service

Plus, Owners Try To Offload Stations, Ratings Updates

As veteran talk radio programmers are increasingly shown the door, replaced by salespeople, music jocks and others, a lot of institutional knowledge is disappearing with them.

The sad result: many mistakes we thought would never be made again in talk radio are returning.

Using rock DJ's as hosts, with light, fluffy cue-card "topics", that's one 1990s disaster that seems to making a comeback, like a rerun of a previous Asian flu viral strain.

Some talk managers are reportedly under pressure to schedule these airheads because one company's talk programming VP has decreed it to be the new format trend.

Forget all of those unpleasant news topics and controversial opinions, let's do "light talk".

It's also a great way of undermining conservative talk radio, without having to switch to low-rated liberal programming.

We went through this before and it bombed.

Even worse, is something I've been noticing in recent weeks: a return to using sitting or ex-politicians as talk hosts.

Only occasionally can a decent one be found, some are good for a show or two, most are terrible.

Somehow, elected officials including mayors, council members and others, got the idea that talk hosting is the next logical step after losing a race, retiring, or being convicted on corruption charges.

Where did that mentality come from? A lot of it is ego, but what's the station's excuse?

In Seattle, an unpopular liberal councilmember loses her seat after an ethics scandal and wishy-washy leadership, so what happens next?

She gets an inkling to host talk shows and sure enough, there's a station dumb enough to give her airtime. The result was the worst possible talk radio.

Now in Oregon, a state representative is so eager to host talk shows, he didn't even wait for his term to end or to resign, he jumped right in.

From the
Salem Statesman-Journal comes a report that Republican Rep. Jeff Kropf missed a key school-funding vote because he was busy filling in this week for KXL host Lars Larsen. The ego boost was more important than the public duties he was elected to execute.

Reportedly, Kropf already hosts a weekend show on the station. What are sitting politicians doing on the air in any capacity other than as guests?

Elsewhere in radio, it's becoming clearer that major radio companies are looking to offload major stations before values decline further. Here's
a report on ABC's probable station sale, from today's Radio Ink:

The company's 71 stations are valued at between $2.6 billion and $3.6 billion, according to the Merrill report, which also cited the attractiveness to suitors based on its prime key markets. "The station group should be relatively attractive to bidders due to its strong position in key markets such as New York (three stations), Los Angeles (four stations) and Washington, D.C. (three stations)," the firm wrote. Likely bidders for Disney's radio assets include a host of midsized radio station groups including Emmis, Citadel, Cox and Entercom.

It isn't just ABC trying to exit the radio business- other major players such as Susquehanna, Citadel and Infinity (CBS) are also looking to sell off all or part of their broadcasting assets. Many of ABC's talk radio stations, including WABC, WMAL, WLS and KABC have shown significant ratings declines this year.

More ratings have been released, for Phoenix, Dallas and other cities:

--- In Dallas, ABC's WBAP slides further, to a 4.1 overall rating, down from a 5.2 peak last fall. WBAP is the Rush station for the Metroplex, but seems to be falling in tandem with the company's other talkers in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington.

Fading KRLD, facing an ongoing identity crisis, holds steady with a 2.2 and 17th place, while KLIF comes in even with a 1.5.
KRLD held its position only because of an evening audience surge for Rangers baseball broadcasts, while its increasingly bizarre talk programming (consumer talk, lite talk, etc.) plunges.

Still no sign of Air America's station in the DFW ratings.

All of the Dallas talkers lost good chunks of their audience in May, according to specific breakouts for that month (the numbers above reflect a rolling three-month trend). WBAP's numerical drop was the biggest.

--- In Phoenix, Clear Channel's conservative KFYI surged higher, with a 5.9 rating, for a strong first place. Competitor KTAR, which recently changed hands, held to 10th place with flat numbers.

Air America's KXXT fell from a 0.9 to a 0.7.

--- In St Louis, baseball brought higher ratings for market leader KMOX, while the competition stayed out of sight and didn't grow. Go to Mike Anderson's St Louis Media Info & News for more here. This is a great site, by the way for general media issues beyond St. Louis.

More to come, including Seattle later in the week. Ratings data from Radio & Records.


  • Regarding the DFW market, I wonder how the Salem Radio Network owned station, KSKY, did in the ratings. I think WBAP and KLIF have both lost a share of the market to Salem. They have strong programming all day long and prabably even give Rush and Hannity some competition.

    One of my major gripes about WBAP is that they run Rush and Hannity on tape delay; an hour later than real time which really bites when big news breaks. It makes calling in virtually impossible. Cutting edge talk shows need to be live.

    Keep us posted when you can be heard online!

    By Blogger rich glasgow, at 28 June, 2005 22:59  

  • KSKY is off about half its fall audience share, so I doubt they're taking audience away from WBAP and KLIF. Salem's "Ned Flanders" brand of conservative radio is dragging the bottom as it usually does. They might have trouble holding off the AAR stations in many markets if they aren't careful.

    I'm disappointed we didn't see anything here about Miami, where the prog-talker WINZ continues to grow tortoise-like, now up to 1.7, compared with WIOD's 2.6. Miami is a great place for conservative talk radio -- if you do it in Cuban-accented Spanish.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 02 July, 2005 04:52  

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