The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

09 April 2009

Minneapolis Station Gives Up Trying To Compete Against Key Hosts


Twin Cities Talker Throws In Towel Against Rush, Sean

Up against talk radio stars Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, a onetime Twin Cities powerhouse has thrown in the towel on competing conservative programming, choosing instead to go the liberal route.

But instead of signing up syndicated hosts from Air America and other networks, KSTP-AM has hired local left-wing talkers to fill the schedule. Two of them have relocated from the liberal enclave of Madison, Wisconsin. Rather than covering meaty issues, lite-talk appears to be the order of the day.

Is this a good time to go libtalk? Air America seems stuck in neutral, while left-wing blogs are seeing traffic plunge and MSNBC's ratings are sinking fast.

From the debut Prebil & Murphy Show which aired earlier today:

9AM: Prebil and Murph open their inaugural show by talking a little bit about themselves and how they came to the Twin Cities via Madison. After that they got right into the news of the day, which included this story about how the Mayor of Forest Lake had ordered the hiring of accused arsonist John Berken for a firefighter position even though he had been convicted of a felony before. Also, they talked about how the houses on Frat Row over at the U are debating going dry during football games next year when TCF Bank Stadium opens up. Isn't partying part of the college experience?

10AM: The Justice Department and FTC are looking into Ticketmaster practices involving the use of their broker service to sell tickets to sold out events. Murph talked about how he tried to buy tickets to a concert that was sold out in 5 minutes and was directed to go to a broker to buy tickets for way more than face value. You can read more about the investigation here:

11AM: St. Paul has passed a ban on candy cigarettes as well as lighters with pictures of cartoons on them. Will this keep kids from taking up smoking? Some of the callers thought there was better stuff for politicians to spend their time on. Prebil mentioned how he liked the chalk like ones with the fake red tip. And what about things like Big League Chew bubble gum?

Next up: is your pet psychic? Wow, talk about airheaded content.

Does this represent a bold new agenda, or the last gasp of a desperate station?

It wasn't your Radio Equalizer that first noticed KSTP's leftward shift, however: the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has been tracking this story in recent days.

From today's edition:

KSTP-AM to fill big gap in schedule with left-leaning Madison duo

By PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune

KSTP Radio (AM 1500), having booted two of its politically conservative talk show hosts in the past week, is filling four hours every weekday with a left-leaning duo from Madison, Wis.

Shawn Prebil, 31, and Chris Murphy, 45, debut today at 9 a.m., leaving behind their 3-6 p.m. gig at WTDY (AM 1670).


On its face, KSTP appears to be dissolving its steady stream of conservative ideology behind the mike. In recent days, Bob Davis (9 a.m. to noon) and Dave Thompson (noon to 2 p.m.) were fired. Both were right of the political center in their views. Left-of-center Pat Reusse recently took over the station's morning drive shift.

When Prebil joined WTDY in 2003, he was described as the station's "newest voice of progress" by a 40,000-member labor union in southern Wisconsin. In a recent blog, he wrote: "What I love about the current political climate is Democrats are finally willing to stand up to fools like Sean Hennity [sic]."

Murphy, on his MySpace page, scolds Republicans for being too critical of President Obama: "To my elephant friends. You had your shot, your deregulation got us in this mess, you lost power, deal with it by working together with Democrats to fix it."

My, is that profound! Remember, boys and girls: donkeys good, elephants bad.

Interestingly, until quite
recently, KSTP's local conservative talk was holding up quite well against competition from KTLK-FM, beating it just a year ago. But in the face of declining ratings, KSTP has clearly hit the panic button.

Incidentally, one of KSTP's current managers oversaw a severe ratings decline at a station in Texas after a similar loss of substantive focus.

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  • Brian:

    As we all know in radio, ratings, no matter how corporate driven they are, determine everything. All Access at their Arbitron page lists as the number 1 station classic rocker KQRS. The top AM station is also the top talk station in the twin cities, heritage CBS's WCCO (6.2). KTLK is 6th with a 4.4. KSTP, which has taken the left turn, 11th place (3.8).

    And this from a state that is about to make AL FRANKEN SENATOR?! No More General Mills cereals for me!

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 10 April, 2009 10:24  

  • Brian:My, is that profound! Remember, boys and girls: donkeys good, elephants bad.

    is that any different than right wing radio? libs bad... cons good

    big deal. Grow up. This is what Rushie contributed to radio, simpleton cheer-leading, now the left is doing it, so what?

    By Anonymous noLABELonJARED, at 10 April, 2009 13:58  

  • From the excerpts provided it sound more like a typical FM music station morning show without massive extremes a la Howard Stern. Seems like they may be aiming for more of a liberal version of "the John Boy & Billy" show sans much of the humor.

    By Blogger Carl, at 10 April, 2009 15:45  

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