The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

31 December 2006

Boston, Air America Radio Cancellation, Petition Drive


Boston Libtalk Fans Hope To Bring Back Dead Stations

Hoping to do for Boston what "progressive" counterparts were able to achieve in Madison, a group of liberal talk radio fans have launched an effort to bring the format back to Eastern Massachusetts.

Given the same economic realities that have doomed libtalk in so many other cities, however, do they really have a chance?

After all, the previous Air America Radio simulcast generated rock- bottom ratings and failed to attract advertisers. Both stations have now been replaced by Spanish programming.

Initiating a petition drive, "Save Boston's Progressive Talk" has issued this statement:

Hey! What happened to "Progressive Talk"?

Clear Channel has again dropped the Progressive format, this time from Boston's two simulcast stations, WKOX - 1200 AM and WXKS - 1430 AM, also known as "Boston's Progressive Talk". Among those featured on the stations were shows hosted by Al Franken, Randi Rhodes, Rachel Maddow, Bobby Kennedy Jr., Sam Seder, Laura Flanders and Thom Hartmann, all part of Air America programming; as well as Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz from the Jones Radio Network.

"Boston's Progressive Talk" has been the only format of its kind here, since it debuted in late 2004. In a world where over 90% of talk shows are conservative, Boston's Progressive Talk provided viewpoints seldom heard on Boston radio. It has been a vital source for news, current events and issues of importance to this progressively leaning area. Unfortunately, weak signal strength (down to 1kW at sundown), poor management, unprofessional sounding automation, lack of local programming and advertising, and virtually no local hosts, sales staff or publicity have kept the stations from succeeding the way we know they could.

Finally, in a shocking move, without warning or regard for Progressive Talk's audience or any chance to further promote and preserve the format, Clear Channel has dropped progressive talk as of noon Thursday, December 21, 2006 and changed over to a Spanish-language format. Ironically, only a few days before, the station had sent out a survey to listeners, asking about future preferences for the progressive show line-up.

Here in Boston, progressives are the majority. It is absurd to think that we cannot sell progressive radio here. We must let Clear Channel know how much we need and value progressive radio in Boston. The airwaves belong to the people, to serve the public interest -- which includes serving the local community as well as offering an opportunity to hear diverse points of view. While there are already other Spanish-program stations in the Boston market and numerous conservative talk radio stations and shows, there are NO OTHER progressive talk stations here and other media are not giving progressive issues and points of view any coverage. It is for these reasons that WE URGE Clear Channel Radio to reinstate Progressive Talk Radio in Boston!

Funny enough, blasting Clear Channel's management for being incompetent might seem counterproductive, but that's exactly what seemed to work in Madison. The problem is that the company put more time, money and effort into making libtalk succeed than anyone else by far.

And yesterday, the Boston Herald noted their new effort:

Defenders of liberal talk fight to keep it on airwaves

By Jesse Noyes
Boston Herald Business Reporter
Saturday, December 30, 2006 - Updated: 02:10 PM EST

A newly formed local group is planning to fight a decision by radio broadcaster Clear Channel to drop liberal talk from Boston’s airwaves.

“I think it’s absurd and defies reason to think that progressive talk wouldn’t work in the market,” said Robin Bergman, who is heading up a group called Save Boston Progressive Talk. Bergman’s group plans to petition Clear Channel to put the liberal talk format back on WKOX-AM (1200) and WXKS-AM (1430).

Until recently, those frequencies carried programming from the bankrupt Air America Radio network, which has hosts like Al Franken, and the Jones Radio network, which features liberal talker Ed Schultz. But those programs were dumped for a Spanish-language music format.

Now Bergman - who owns an arts and crafts business called Robin’s Originals in West Concord - is leading a group of protesters to pressure Clear Channel into restoring the liberal talk format.

Bergman started an online forum last week, which already has over 150 members. Earlier this week, the group launched the Web site and started an online petition.

Bergman said she hopes to get 5,000 people to sign the petition before submitting it to Clear Channel. “In an area like Boston there’s no reason that we couldn’t get thousands and thousands of signatures,” she said.

The group is also holding meetings. On Wednesday about 20 people met at Panera’s restaurant in Watertown in an effort to organize a grassroots protest group. Another meeting is scheduled for Jan. 8 at the same restaurant.

The oft- repeated mantra of Boston- area progressives has been that progtalk didn't work because both stations had weak signal strength. But between them, there should have been enough daytime coverage to reach many of the heavily- populated areas. While still a hurdle, the signal issue could have been overcome through a grass- roots effort to alert local libs that the stations existed.

And that's where the same questions come up just as they did in Madison: where were you people a year ago? How much effort did you put into getting the word out to potential listeners and advertisers when it was clear your favorite stations were in trouble?

Through blogs, newspapers, political groups and by word of mouth, it could have been possible to boost the standings of these stations long ago.

Instead, inspired by the strange situation in Madison, local libtalk fans want the company to revisit a failed format that didn't attract listeners or sponsors while it was on the air. What would be different this time? Where are the advertisers?

Most of all, after Air America is finished with its restructuring, how would a full programming day be filled, anyway?

Given the success progressives had in Wisconsin, we don't blame their counterparts in Massachusetts for giving this a try. At the same time, since the format has already been switched to La Rumba, it seems hard to believe this effort will get very far.

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  • Maybe they could land on
    WJIB 740 in Cambridge, though owner
    Bob Bittner likes running his "standards" music there. Oddly enough when WXKS 1430 switched from standards
    to Air America in Oct of '04, those
    displaced listeners sooner or later
    found WJIB and they went way up in the ratings. In fact WJIB was doing much better than WXKS---with a mere 250 watt signal! (I doubt it would happen, but a station located not far from trendy Harvard Sq. could satisfy the liberals.)

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 31 December, 2006 13:31  

  • Many listeners in Boston were unaware of the switch to Rumba, but rumors
    about it started to come out a few
    weeks beforehand and were posted on
    Air America Place and other boards.
    Net-savvy fans of AAR Boston could
    have started their attempt to
    'save it' before it actually went away.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 01 January, 2007 01:01  

  • You know what? It might be just as well to let librulz pour their money into ratholes like this that don't reach any listeners anyway. Same with Err America. I hope some idiot moonbat billionaire pours a few more millions into keeping it running, because no one is listening to these stations anyway, so its wasted resources that might better be used spreading far left propaganda elsewhere.

    By Blogger docweasel, at 01 January, 2007 15:08  

  • Oh, I know. I learned here that George Soros funded Air America!

    The only thing is, I can't seem to find out exactly HOW or WHEN from anywhere! Not from here, anyway.

    I guess it's important to just retain the ability to KNOW it, when there is no proof, no documentation, no evidence, no corroboration, and no accountability...

    We must have FAITH!! We must believe it is so, and then it will become so!

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 01 January, 2007 21:01  

  • But between them, there should have been enough daytime coverage to reach many of the heavily- populated areas. While still a hurdle, the signal issue could have been overcome through a grass- roots effort to alert local libs that the stations existed.
    But they weren't. I commute to Boston from the Western burbs each day, and could rarely hear it near the city

    By Blogger Justin, at 02 January, 2007 08:58  

  • The ads and PSAs are still in ingles,
    but live DJs are now on la Nueva
    Rumba 1200/1430. Canal Claro didn't
    seem to have the money to put daily local talk hosts on but they were able to hire DJs...

    >> WE URGE Clear Channel Radio to reinstate Progressive Talk Radio in Boston!

    What, and take off this music
    serving the Hispanic community?
    Whatever happened to diversity
    and multi-culturalism!
    Hate crime! Hate crime! :)

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 02 January, 2007 12:54  

  • Raccoon, you bring up an important point. I am in disapproval of foreign-language AM/FM radio broadcasts in the US. I believe that it is being used as a divisive tool. America's language is English.

    My solution for the foreigners, and lovers of foreign programming? Digital Radio Mondiale! I am old enough to remember that, in previous times, immigrants would purchase shortwave radios to listen to broadcasts in their native tongues.

    Compared to satellite equipment and subscriptions, a decent shortwave radio is an inexpensive alternative. The new DRM technology has potential to deliver excellent-quality broadcasting. With Spanish stations, this would cut out the PR/Dominican/Cuban/Mexican sectarian foolishness between radio personalities, and redundancy that currently dominates our airwaves in urban areas. Multiband advertising would present new challenges for marketers, and the Chinese could be given ALL the work they are so hungry for, constructing these newly popular consumer goods.

    This way, our airwaves would once again be freer to offer more diverse, localized, commercial programming choices on AM/FM for English-speaking Americans. It could also become an educational touchstone for immigrants who really want to come here and assimilate.

    Once again, we could become a less-divided, more American people. If English is our language, let us make it so. Let's take the airwaves back from slick, cynical marketeers who wish only to frustrate us and divide us in order to cater to a specific demographic.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 02 January, 2007 23:01  

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