The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

03 December 2008

Conservative Charlotte Host Canned, Listeners Baffled


Katz Sacking Stuns NC Talk Fans, Sets Questionable Example

At a time when conservative talk radio's future has never looked brighter, some struggling broadcast firms are instead shooting themselves in the foot with short-sighted programming decisions. While these ill-conceived moves may save the company a few bucks up front, over the long run, they can prove disastrous.

This week's example doesn't just jump off the page, it leaps right into the center of the debate over radio's survival prospects.

In Charlotte, baffled listeners are wondering what has become of local heavyweight talker Jeff Katz, who was suddenly booted from WBT's airwaves this week. The well-known conservative, who has also worked in San Francisco, Boston and elsewhere around the country, was replaced by a comparatively little-known columnist from a left-wing "alternative" news weekly.

Placed in a difficult position, local managers were forced to defend their company's move during what was Katz's program Tuesday. Though they wouldn't give the real reason for his termination, an industry source indicates it was related to compensation. Is there any doubt the new gal works cheaply?

Another industry insider who monitored the on-air farce tells your Radio Equalizer that managers admitted replacement host Tara Servatius was so green, she needed "diction lessons" just to be remotely airworthy.

At Katz's Facebook group, the host himself points to this Examiner assessment, which calls into question how WBT's public relations fiasco has so far been handled:

At no point was any real information provided on the abrupt and mysterious departure of popular conservative talk show host Jeff Katz. "Ratings are important," they said. Not, 'Jeff has low ratings', or 'Jeff's slot performs poorly' ... just "ratings are important". This mundane and unilluminating observation is characteristic of most of the answers provided by Rick Jackson and Bill White during what was, until yesterday, the Jeff Katz show.

There were some none too subtle attempts at subtle innuendo, too. Answering Andrea from Charlotte, the managers trotted out the performance line, couched in kudos for Jeff, with the addendum that they "want to have people who represent you" ... you being us, the listeners in Charlotte. Later in the call they belabored the point that the audience for the station is conservative and that there would likely not be a liberal host anytime soon. One of the guys going so far as to say they'd "learned their lesson" on that one.

When answering Janice from Charlotte the managers pointed out that Jeff had a lot of "very strong-minded" fans. They forcefully denied that his firing was the result of pressure from any group. More than once we heard that the hosts must appeal to their listeners and the station's "clients". Over and over the implication was made that Jeff was a product that was not performing. When they finally relented to the notion of posting the ratings live on the site, they immediately began in with the "it's not all about the ratings, though" bit.

In other words, the three hours smacked of spin. For example, when challenged about his remarks in The Charlotte Observer this morning, which I wrote about earlier today, Rick Jackson passed off his comment as merely high praise for Tara. Read the following excerpt from that article and see if you think Rick is telling the whole story:

“She spends hours combing through the files researching her points,” he said. “People want facts rather than someone spouting an opinion. We may see a new kind of a talk show host in Tara.”

Spouting? There is evident contempt in referring to anyone's opinion as something they spout, spit, spew or otherwise expectorate, and I think most of the Jeff Katz audience is well aware of that. Add that to the comment about representation above, and the line from Rick that, as a manager, you have to let somebody know when they've done wrong and give them the chance to make "amends," and a picture behind the picture begins to take shape.

But this isn't about picking on Servatius, as she has just been placed into a nearly impossible position. Angry listeners are likely to take out their anger on her, if they stick around at all. They want right-leaning talk from a seasoned pro, exactly what they've been getting until now.

The real issue is clear: at a time when conservative talk radio is headed for unprecedented growth, the medium is still saddled with corporate execs with backgrounds in rapidly- dying music formats. WBT was recently purchased by a Boston-based firm, Greater Media, which has a history of micromanagement by its CEO and just plain bizarre programming calls.

This decision was likely made in Massachusetts, not North Carolina, providing an extra bit of anxiety for local residents who are already watching New England refugees begin to reshape their political landscape.

And in Boston, Greater Media's WTKK has the same peculiar habit of hiring inexperienced newspaper columnists as talk hosts. The results have generally been weak.

Take a look at the "spouting an opinion" quote in the above story, it provides full confirmation that company management hasn't the slightest idea as to what makes talk radio successful.

It's about opinions, analysis and personality, all based on factual material.

That's exactly what Jeff Katz and many others have been doing for years. With so much at stake and time running out before several major radio operators file for bankruptcy, can we continue to tolerate managerial amateur hour? At what point does what's left of this industry rise up in protest of sheer programming malpractice?

FOR New England regional talk radio updates, see our other site.

Amazon orders originating with clicks here benefit The Radio Equalizer's ongoing operations.

Your Honor System contributions keep this site humming along. Thanks!

Technorati tags:


  • They're just trying to preempt the Fairness Doctrine.No surprise here.

    By Anonymous John H. Schneider II, at 03 December, 2008 09:56  

  • As I have always said, no fairness doctrine is needed to purge this nation of conservative talk radio. DEMOS DEMOS DEMOS, conservative talk DOES not SELL advertising....... The pig-man will be the only one eventually left, ABC loves the Pig-Man and he has celebrity status. The era of a drop out D.J with an no political knowledge spouting his or her opinions which are based on RNC talking points and the hosts own "emotion" to an over 65 year old audience is dying.

    By Anonymous the SlowpainfuldeathOfNaziTalkRadio, at 03 December, 2008 09:58  

  • When you say "Pig-Man" are you referring to Ed Schultz, who bemoans the fact that he was unable to urinate on the White House lawn during the Bush Presidency? You DEMS sure have a lot of class.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 December, 2008 13:37  

  • FYI, for all of you who don't live in Charlotte: Tara Servatius is very libertarian/conservative, and is a local star there. Just because she works for Creative Loafing doesn't make her a liberal. She IS very well-informed, and people really love her, plus you get the cross promotion.

    Jeff Katz replaced Jason Lewis in CLT, and he was ok...but Tara is much better, and much more locally informed, which is what Charlotte needs right now, the way they're headed...

    I'm not defending the move, I'm just saying that she's not a liberal, and people love her in Charlotte.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 December, 2008 18:40  

  • I and many other locals are pissed about what WBT did to Jeff.So why are we not organizing and boycotting the station and its advertizers like the trashy Islamic group who started the boycott against Jeff, that is trying to silence our freedom of speech? I say we fight back. We can begin by boycotting, emailing, calling those advertising on the WBT website...
    Perrys Jewelry
    Acosta Heating and Air
    GW Fins
    Mert's Heart and Soul

    It's time to do more than blog and get into action!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 03 December, 2008 22:11  

  • Ed Schultz? who cares about that DNC hack, the pig-man is the all important icon over at the main-stream media ABC, Limbaugh.

    once more conservative talk radio is a money LOSER. Advertisers understand what it is, a radio format with high TSL and low CUME, which means a small rabid, un-employed audience who stays home all day listening to the sick degenerate conservatives. It is a MONEY loser, ABC tries to hype the pig-man and still put him on television, so sad, so so so sad, the main-stream media will forever give conservative insurgents credibility, after 8 years of Bush, they have no credibility, still the main stream media gives these filthy Anti-American pigs coverage.

    Con radio is a radical, Anti-American branch of the MSM

    desperate for press

    that is conservative talk radio


    that is the base

    out of power

    that is the GOP

    By Anonymous conservativeJihadists, at 04 December, 2008 14:23  

  • Projection and Denial of Reality - that is the liberal of today.

    By Anonymous John H. Schneider II, at 05 December, 2008 14:40  

  • Katz was bombastic and had a tendency to attack his callers (if they dared to disagree with him) rather than engaging on the topic. I fall in the conservative side of the spectrum but I would frequently switch to NPR or BBC if I was driving home during Katz's slot.

    Tara has a long way to go before she has the sort of polish and panache of a good radio host. We'll see if WBT gives her the time to develop.

    By Blogger Neil, at 16 December, 2008 14:59  

  • Missed this when it first came out.

    If you never listened to Katz, realize that he followed Jason Lewis at WBT. Lewis was polished, informative, intelligent, and gracious. Katz was none of those. Lewis was let go (by "mutual agreement") mostly because he called out one of the morning show hosts repeatedly for idiotic left-wing views. Katz, in contrast, was a "team player." He also mostly rehashed material from yesterday's major conservative blogs with little original insight.

    Servatius has had issues (lack of polish, frequent absences, technical issues constantly on the show) and, to be fair, her current temporary replacement (Pete Kaliner) is far better than she has been. But she's worlds better than Katz as well.

    By Anonymous Dr. Horrible, at 06 February, 2010 21:16  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page Rank Checker

Powered by Blogger