The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

20 March 2008

For Now, Obama Talk Maintaining Strong Ratings


Talk Radio, TV Ride High On Obama Talk- Could It End?

For many weeks, he has dominated talk radio airtime, as well as cable news and traditional broadcast network coverage. Turn on CNN and sure enough, there he is. Scan the AM radio dial and before you can count to ten, you'll probably hear his name.

Could Barack (No Middle Name) Obama's tremendous overexposure ultimately hurt his campaign, taking with it the huge ratings television and radio outlets have recently enjoyed?

Here's one test: when channel surfing, does Obama's presence now have you sticking with a station, or moving on as quickly as possible?

So far, at least for cable news, there's no sign of O-boredom, at least not yet, according to TVNewser:

For the past few days, Sen. Barack Obama has been ratings gold. On Friday, it was FNC. Last night, it was ABC. Tonight, he'll be on with Anderson Cooper on CNN.

Yesterday afternoon, huge numbers turned out to watch Obama's speech on race relations, with the 11amET hour garnering more than four million Total Viewers between FNC, CNN and MSNBC combined. FNC won with 2,061,000 viewers, compared to 1,291,000 for CNN and 978,000 for MSNBC (which took the average from 10:53-11:31amET).

Tomorrow night, Obama is booked for Larry King Live on CNN at 9pmET for the full hour. And save the date — just a couple hours ago, Obama was confirmed as a guest on ABC's The View on March 28.

And for radio, filling airtime with Barack- talk also seems good for ratings, based on interim reports released this month. Moreover, talk hosts have found themselves generating significant amounts of press attention as they react to his latest flaps.

Catching your Radio Equalizer's eye this week was how talkers in a number of cities found reporters interested in their reactions to Obama's speech.

At the New York Daily News, David Hinckley even claimed that both liberal and conservative hosts were happily showering Obama with praise:

Sean Hannity of WABC (770 AM), who was playing provocative clips by Wright a year ago, said Obama's failure to fully repudiate him said it all.

Obama "came across as cool, calm, likable and agreeable," said Hannity. But he called the speech "a Madison Avenue propaganda campaign to salvage his career. Don't buy the nonsense."

Rush Limbaugh of WABC said Obama "has made himself the candidate of race" and added, "He says we all want the same things. But he doesn't believe the same things I do. He doesn't believe in individual freedom. He believes in government."

Bill O'Reilly of WOR (710 AM) also hit on Obama's decision not to separate himself fully from Wright.

"It's like sitting with [KKK leader] David Duke," said O'Reilly. "You can't give people who preach hate any credibility.

"I like Obama. I think he's good for America. But the speech was a mixed bag. I don't think he hit it out of the park."

Mark Riley of WLIB (1190 AM) did.

"It was a masterful speech as political strategy," said Riley. "But I didn't hear it as a political speech, because he put the subject of race into a much larger context."

Riley called it "risky" that Obama didn't separate himself fully from Wright. "That would have been easy. But he didn't do it, because a lot of his supporters would have seen it as pandering."

He took the harder but better course, said Riley, calling the speech "extraordinary - no two ways about it."

Randi Rhodes of Air America (WWRL, 1600 AM) also praised Obama "for opening up a conversation on race that's long overdue ... and for showing us it's possible to kick someone off the bus without throwing them under the bus."

WABC evening host Bob Grant predicted, or warned, that yesterday's speech could propel Obama to the top.

"His appearance in Philadelphia today was the finest moment in his campaign," said Grant. "I do believe after watching his speech that he will be our 44th President."

In Boston, however, talk radio apparently took a more critical view:

Barack Obama’s pointed speech on race relations may have moved some but it provided even more fodder for his toughest critics up and down the talk radio dial.

Yesterday’s speech came as the firestorm over the presidential candidate’s longtime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and his hate-filled sermons reached a boiling point.

WTKK-FM (96.9) host Michael Graham called it a “fine speech” on race relations in America, but said it didn’t answer why he was at the Rev. Wright’s church.

“He never explained why it was significant to him,” said Graham, who broadcast Obama’s entire speech on yesterday’s show.

“He did not convince me that he has a problem with Rev. Wright’s theology. In fact, he did more to embrace Rev. Wright in his speech than I’ve seen him do before.”

And in the major leagues, Rush Limbaugh has been able to generate headlines with almost every comment he makes regarding Obama and his campaign. New stories have appeared connecting the two almost daily, with no end in sight. Here's one from ABC News.

Bloggers and columnists such as Kathryn Jean Lopez seem less enthusiastic about what many call "Glow-bama". Leading the way is Michelle Malkin, who believes the glow is fading quickly. That sentiment is shared at Right Wing News, as well as Ace Of Spades.

The big question: is there a point where the public will grow so tired of hearing Obama recycle his speech that they will tune away from programs that cover him? How many times can you stand to hear the same song repeated before it becomes unbearable?

Yes, your Radio Equalizer realizes he is very likely to secure the Democrat Party nomination, so continuing coverage is a given. But John McCain has already clinched the GOP's presidential nod, yet has largely been forgotten by the Barack- obsessed media.

Can the mainstream media's Obama- mania, in addition to talk radio's backlash, continue to sustain a large audience?

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site. New: misreading talk radio's audience yet again

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