The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

28 April 2012

Lite Talk Not A Hit With Listeners


Once-Mighty Seattle Talker Barely Breathing

Welcome to a new RadioEQ feature: tracking the performance of a cynical new push to eliminate opinion-based talk radio in favor of a state-approved "lite" and "happy" version.

Though the milquetoast talk movement has picked up considerable steam as Obama's re-election campaign heats up, it's actually been in the works for years. Far-left industry insiders have been railing against Rush Limbaugh and other conservative hosts at conventions and in trade publication interviews for decades now.

In 2012, however, their dreams have finally been realized as sanitized alternatives are increasingly replacing real talk radio.

Can what's left of the ailing radio industry force the public to listen to boring programming? The answer is most certainly NO.

Today's Case In Point: Seattle's once-mighty KVI 570 AM (where your Radio Equalizer at one time worked as a host). In the mid-1990s, the station rocketed to first place on the strength of an all-conservative lineup.

But when the station was sold to Fisher Communications, a decrepit corporate remnant of the area's elitist, parochial past, the format conflicted with the board's liberal viewpoints (though it didn't mind making boatloads of money from its advertising). Gradually, they watered down the conservative programming.

Eventually, Rush Limbaugh moved to a fledgling crosstown rival and Fisher allowed KVI to atrophy. Finally in 2010, 570 switched to an oldies format, which bombed.

Four months ago, KVI returned to talk, utilizing a "lite" touchy-feely format free of controversy. At times it's vaguely liberal, but with a dippy New Age presentation.

Take a look at KVI's flaky morning show description:

Smart Talk Mornings
with Elisa and Mark
Weekday Mornings 6am-10am

No matter what the weather is like, start your day with some sunshine! Hosts Elisa Jaffe and Mark Christopher will engage your senses, your style and your soul as they empower you with the news you can use, enlighten you with people who hold the secrets to happiness, health, and harmony and celebrate our uniquely Puget Sound way of life! Make Elisa, Mark and Sunrise Seattle the start of your next great day!

And just to make sure KVI's new format goes absolutely nowhere, Fisher has more recently added Philly's deadly-dull Obama suck-up Michael Smerconish to the schedule.

So how is "Smart Talk" performing? After four months, it is firmly entrenched in last place overall with a tiny 0.1 share of the audience. It registers 21,800 listeners versus 913,700 for the region's top outlet, KRWM-FM. During KVI's heyday, it had a loyal following about 15 - 20 times greater than today's level.

The now-defunct Air America network was far more popular!

As for advertisers, which supposedly are shunning controversial talk, KVI's website lists only six. Hope they aren't paying more than a buck or two to reach the station's non-audience. More likely, they're actually sponsoring the company's other outlets and finding 570 thrown in for free.

Watch for future pieces on the pathetic "lite talk" trend here at RadioEQ.


  • Brian, I'm surprised you haven't mentioned Rush Limbaugh's syndicator dumping Philly's WPHT & Michael Smerconish taking his slot from noon to three. Rush's show is being moved to FM & will air in competition with Smerconish's show. WPHT should be circling the drain very soon just like Seattle's talk station which airs Smerconish.

    By Anonymous LIBSTOMPER, at 30 April, 2012 16:47  

  • I tuned in when the New KVI format debuted earlier this year. Oh gawd! What a lightweight! I had to weigh down my radio with marshmallows to keep it from floating to the ceiling! And that afternoon entertainment tabloid format? Don't we have enough entertainment "news" already? I might tune in to listen to Clark Howard, but that's about it. No more KVI for me.

    By Blogger GizaCat, at 30 April, 2012 18:08  

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