The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

12 February 2009

Media Turmoil Hits Liberal Talk Radio Hard


How The 'Fairness Doctrine' Provides An Instant Bailout

*** NEW: Another Boston Talk Host Arrested ***

If you're wondering why so many Democrats have suddenly jumped aboard the Censorship Doctrine bandwagon, with Bill Clinton as the latest example, it might be tempting to believe it's merely a result of one-party rule in Washington.

There's a second, more pressing reason, however: the distressed state of liberal talk radio in 2009. These guys need a bailout, quickly, with the Fairness Doctrine providing an easy way to accomplish that through forced carriage on successful conservative stations.

For anyone in the media business these days, times are tough. With advertising revenues off by as much as 40% or more at some outlets, survival is the name of the game. Newspapers are dying, networks are forced into mass cost-cutting, and FM music formats face a desertion by younger, iPod-happy listeners.

But the news-talk format is in an entirely different position: while certainly not immune to radio's corporate financial difficulties, its fortunes are split between resurgent conservative talk (thanks to Obama) and its still-fledgling, deeply-troubled liberal offshoot.

Even before the economy melted down, libtalk struggled to attract a significant amount of advertising. Just imagine trying to convince sponsors to come aboard now!

Rumors of its financial shortcomings are certainly not new and Air America Radio previously declared bankruptcy, later emerging under new ownership and management. But the latest rumblings, all developing over the past few weeks, involve several players in the field and seem especially troubling for the format's future.

Some of libtalk's key concerns:

The sudden absence of syndicated talker Randi Rhodes, blamed on "technical difficulties", but more likely the result of a contract dispute. Her program continues for now with fill-in hosts in her place. Her own fans don't believe the network's official excuse.

Rumors that Rhodes may lose her national deal and be relegated to a local show covering only her home turf in West Palm Beach. She's been one of libtalk's highest-profile hosts for several years, so this would be significant.

Her current employer, NovaM Radio, an offshoot of Air America Radio, is caught up in a lawsuit filed by one of its former executives, John Manzo, who has longtime ties to Rhodes. Industry whisperers claim the company is having financial difficulties, which might shed light on these issues if proven to be the case.

Other NovaM hosts have resorted to extreme statements, including calling for the death of political opponents, in a desperate bid for publicity.

Rachel Maddow, the closest thing Air America Radio has to a "star" these days, has given up her radio show. The network now runs an audio-only rerun of her MSNBC cable show at 5am weekdays.

Thom Hartmann, the Oregon-based host who replaced Al Franken upon the latter's departure to run for a Minnesota Senate seat, is leaving Air America for another syndicator at the end of the month. This is a risky move that suggests he anticipates a need to depart his current employer for more stable surroundings elsewhere.

The expected bankruptcy of XM Sirius could have a tremendous impact on Air America if it affects the satellite radio provider's programming offerings. XM Sirius has provided a lifeline for the network as land-based affiliates drop its ratings-challenged shows.

So if you're wondering why a steady parade of elected Democrats, led by libtalker Bill Press and others, are suddenly pushing so hard for talk radio censorship, look no further than their own sorry state of affairs.

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

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  • The fact is, liberals arn't succesful on talk Radio because liberals don't listen to talk
    radio, have no desire to listen to talk radio, and never will LTTR.
    The reason is, liberals receive all their political affirmation from the MSM, from NPR, from PBS, the
    three networks, CNN, nytimes, and the Washpost. Even on local news outlets, there is a rough plurality of liberal views, more affirmation here. That is why Air America has such pathetically low ratings in New York city, the Mecca of liberal land. Liberals don't need talk radio, conservatives do. Talk Radio is a
    balence, a counter to the Pravda like liberal MSM. Any attempt to reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine" is Pravda like censorship. If the
    aforesaid media was 90 per cent conservative, there would be liberal talk radio. But that's in an alternative universe, not this one. Blagnation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 February, 2009 17:52  

  • At NovaM's about Randi page:

    To all of Randi's listeners;

    You are all correct - I have not had the option to disclose what has been happening between Randi and Nova M...
    You see, it's in her contract that she has total control, but, after Wednesday night, I want you all to know that Nova M has done everything we can to get her back on the air.
    All this is her choice; if she wants to tell you all what the issue is, then I hope she does, but I can't according to her contract rules.....
    Thank you all for all of your support.
    Randi now has to make her decisions as to what she must do with her career...

    Anita Drobny

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 February, 2009 18:35  

  • rumor has it, sheldon drobny has suffered a breakdown, and is presently in the psych ward of a local hospital

    that's what trying to deal with randi rhodes will do to you, LOL!

    and, i realize that both the punditocracy, and many of our brilliant politicians, earn mega publicity for invoking the "fairness doctrine", rather than focus on the true villain, media consolidation, that is bringing the entire industry to collapse

    so, might i remind you all, that the "fairness doctrine" pretty much CANNOT WORK, in today's media climate?

    in the next few weeks, we will see UNPRECEDENTED losses of affiliates broadcasting con talk, this speculative nonsense will change nothing, as the "fairness doctrine" cannot

    By Anonymous hashfanatic, at 13 February, 2009 18:56  

  • Are the owners of Nova M -Anita & Sheldon Drobney unstable?

    Their flagship station KPHX ratings were so low they did not even make the charts. KPHX had to change formats.Now they are on another signal. They keep switching stations, yet the ratings never improve.

    What is their major malfunction?

    Can't they accept reality?

    How do they stay in business?
    I've heard Randi Rhodes just outright LIE and say over the air she has 10 million listeners.. Do they lie to their advertizers?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 13 February, 2009 19:49  

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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 14 February, 2009 01:09  

  • Would you like to post the WHOLE truth about talk radio in general? Or continue painting a false picture about Lib talk radio as you are doing?
    Truth is, the Talk radio circuit as we all know is about to go bust and that goes for Mr. Pigboy Limbaugh's Clear Channel and a few others. Rumor has it that clear channel and it's affiliates can't afford the fat slob's 400 million dollar plus new contract and that over 2000 employees had to be let go to pay for said slobs contract. Times are hard in general for all of talk radio but you won't hear that truth on phony baloney's blog here or Faux News. Just the continuation of one sided lies and half truths.

    By Anonymous Deever Dave, at 16 February, 2009 06:29  

  • Che Hashhole and MoPoop have been predicting the demise of Conservative talk radio for years, but neither of them, nor Bill Press have been able to generate a viable sized audience of their own.

    Just jealousy sour grapes by the left. When it comes to the arena of ideas, the left is not only bankrupt, it is unarmed.

    By Blogger PCD, at 16 February, 2009 12:02  

  • Good read ...

    The problem with your analysis is the ratings will still tell the tale, and advertisers demand ratings before they will buy.

    By Blogger 10ksnooker, at 16 February, 2009 14:38  

  • Rhodes is toast.

    She did it to herself!

    Now, let's talk about the affiliates that Hewitt and Ingraham have lost..

    By Anonymous hashfanatic, at 16 February, 2009 19:55  

  • Ratings..... it's about demos and CUME listenership. Conservative talkradio lacks the CUME numbers and demos advertisers seek. MY company has a professionalad buyer and steered us awayfrom talk radio, especially conservative and talk radio, the demos SUCK and the CUME numbers are too small considering the AQH sharesthey get. Conservative radio, hasa large AQH and a smallto average CUME, the same, retired people listen all day......... Not the demo that any sponser seeks

    just the truth. Youre house of cards is starting to fall

    By Anonymous RadioReality, at 17 February, 2009 09:57  

  • Wow, it sounds like conservative radio is on its last legs. You guys obviously know what you're talking about!

    By Anonymous jim treacher, at 19 February, 2009 04:27  

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