The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

13 November 2006

'Progressive' Talk Radio, Madison, The Mic 92.1


Libtalk Now Canned In Four Cities

*** New: the effort to undermine Rush's legacy ***
*** Also: Bill Press says libtalk swung the elections! ***

Bolstering the theory that Tuesday's Democrat Party victories aren't going to bode well for "progressive" talk radio, two stations have just announced plans to replace this type of programming with other formats (see below for later updates).

The outlets, in Madison and New Orleans, are poised to eliminate not just Air America Radio's offerings, but liberal talk shows syndicated by other firms as well.

Already, left- wing activists are crying foul and cooking up particularly kooky conspiracy theories to explain away the bad news.

Making the moves particularly hard to swallow for so- called "progressives" is the fact that both markets are considered to be very liberal, with Madison about as far to the left as a city can be.

If the format isn't viable in these places, then where can it work?

Some in the Wisconsin capital city are pointing to recent ratings gains scored by WXXM-FM, but one can imagine the station's owners expected it to fare far better than eleventh place in such a hotbed of liberalism.

More importantly, what about advertising? There must not have been enough of that to keep it viable.

And that's where the goofy conspiracy theories come into play. From Madison Commons, here's a funny one:

Clear Channel Radio's Madison division announced today that talk radio station WXXM/FM 92.1, "The Mic," will drop its progressive talk format at the end of the year, including shows on the liberal radio network Air America. Effective Jan. 1, the station will be part of the Fox Sports Radio network.

In a statement posted on the station's Web site this morning, Clear Channel Madison Vice President Jeff Tyler said the new Fox Sports station will complement Clear Channel's other local sports talk station, WTSO/AM 1070 (ESPN Radio), by focusing more on high school and collegiate sports.

"The need and the appetite for sports in the market have only grown stronger in the past few years," Tyler said. "The addition of Fox Sports Radio ... will allow us to carry more of what sports fans in the Madison area want, more programming that highlights the local sports scene and more top sports programs live."

Tyler pointed to UW women's volleyball, high school baseball and the Madison Mallards as teams that will get increased coverage in the new format.

It is not clear whether Fox Sports will also continue to be heard locally on WTLX/FM 100.5 as it is now. A call to that station's owner, Good Karma Broadcasting, was not returned this morning.

Debuting in September 2004 with an all-progressive talk format that included Al Franken and Randi Rhodes, The Mic's ratings went up and down over its two-year run. But they seemed to be picking up in the run-up to this week's elections, logging a 3.1 percent share of the audience in the spring Arbitron rankings and a 3.7 share in the summer rankings, released late last month. That puts them in 11th place among local radio stations.

Progressives who listen to The Mic may find it ironic that the announcement that Madison is losing Air America comes during the same week that their political fortunes became much brighter, with Democrats seizing control of Congress in Tuesday's midterm elections. A harder irony to swallow may be that the station will soon be affiliated with Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Corp., given that so many see Murdoch's Fox News Channel as bearing a decidedly pro-Republican slant.

Matt Rothschild, editor of the Madison-based magazine The Progressive and a frequent commentator on the station, said he expects to hear an uproar among local listeners about the format change. He said The Mic delivered some of the best radio programming in town, providing a source of information and inspiration to progressives, especially during darker days like the day after the 2004 presidential election.

Yes, arch- conservative Rupert Murdoch is eliminating liberal radio by forcing the station to carry sports programming! Rupert, your devious plot has been exposed!

Given that FOX doesn't even own the station, this one's a real stretch.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, a second libtalk station is also calling it quits, with WSMB 1350 AM dumping Franken & Co, according to the Times- Picayune:

WSMB replaces Franken with Spud

Saturday, November 11, 2006
By Dave Walker

Given the Democratic Party's recent congressional triumph, WSMB 1350 AM picked a trend-defying time to dump Air America in favor of radio reruns from sister station WWL 870 AM.

Gone are Al Franken and the rest of Air Amer- ica's Bush- bashing gang, replaced by WWL's local talk shows, but directly following their original time slots.

WWL's evening sports-talk programming now reruns the next morning on WSMB.

Syndicated Rush Limbaugh isn't rerun. Instead, "The Food Show," live local gustatory gab hosted by Tom Fitzmorris, has shifted from evening drive to 2 to 5 p.m. to air in what would be Limbaugh's time slot in WSMB's almost-parallel universe.

The move makes WSMB the third local radio signal carrying the voices of Bob DelGiorno, Monica Pierre, John "Spud" McConnell and Garland Robinette.

Earlier this year, Entercom Communications Corp., the Pennsylvania-based owner of a cluster of local radio frequencies, ditched a brief return to oldies in favor of a WWL simulcast at 105.3 FM.

That move was seen by some industry observers as a pre-emptive strike against Texas-based corporate rival Clear Channel Communications, which announced this year that its New Orleans classic rock outlet WRNO 99.5 FM would switch to news-talk.

Our "progressive" friends should face the music: if this format couldn't do well when Republicans were in charge of everything, why would it succeed now, when its liberal allies are running Capitol Hill? What is there to oppose? Bush is a lame duck and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be calling the shots.

Instead, the new political environment will likely lead to a huge surge for conservative talk radio.

If these radio executives thought libtalk had a future, they would leave it right where it has been.

UPDATE from a reader:

You may be interested to know that AAR lost at least one other station this past week: WRVC-AM in Huntington, West Virginia, quietly dumped AAR for an all-ESPN format. You can't tell much from their hastily-redesigned web site.

But this thread on the WV Radio message board spells it all out.

It goes without saying that their ratings were almost unmeasurable under AAR, so much so that I don't think any of the local news news media even noticed the format switch.

MONDAY UPDATE: we're told a fourth station has now dumped libtalk since the election, this time in Binghamton, New York. Anybody see a pattern here?

ELSEWHERE: TTLB on the GOP leadership elections, plus, lots of good stuff at TimesWatch and Viking Pundit today.

That's All: Pete at IHillary, The Mic (top image): David A Lunde

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  • Who wants to listen to sports anyway?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 12 November, 2006 02:10  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 12 November, 2006 11:30  

  • >>soon be affiliated with Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Corp

    Well technically Fox Sports is syndicated by Premiere , the folks who bring you Rush, Drudge, Dr. Laura,
    and Glenn Beck and I'm not sure if
    Premiere "owns" them but Fox talent,
    music beds, and so on are definitely on the network.

    Lots of people want to listen to sports. In Boston, Entercom's WEEI
    is among the top rated stations and
    will probably continue to do highly
    despite the Red Sox moving over to
    sister station WRKO (talk). Some may like reading poetry or Utne Reader
    instead of watching/listening to sports but they're in the minority. Are you ready for some football!!

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 12 November, 2006 11:32  

  • In addition Premiere also syndicates Fox News Radio to mainly Clear Channel stations (WELI New Haven for example) and non-CCU stations like:

    WRKO Boston (Entercom)
    KCMO Kansas City (Cumulus)
    WFAS White Plains (Cumulus, though not a news/talker)
    KVI Seattle (Fisher ?)

    And as far as WEEI is concerned, The Sox ARE that station (not just for being the flagship), but then again they were on WRKO for a little while. Also WEEI's signal is relayed in other parts of Mass. and in Providence, RI.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 12 November, 2006 17:41  

  • Oh, I've got no problem with the kids busy watching football while the adults are getting things fixed.

    Better not to have them underfoot!

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 12 November, 2006 18:24  

  • WEEI (Entercom's sister station to 'RKO) runs Fox Sports (overnights
    and a couple weekend slots). WRKO
    will be flagship station of Sox for next 10 years though some games, especially
    Friday nights and the few afternoon
    weekday games, will air on WEEI instead.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 13 November, 2006 13:53  

  • Who needs Liberal radio stations when Rush Limbaugh is "seeking middle ground" with the Dems/libs. Yup, that's what he was brooding about all day today in his show, Monday November 13th.

    By Blogger british-imam-in-usa, at 13 November, 2006 16:02  

  • Someone please conduct a scientific study for Maloney that correlates the existence of lib radio and the success at the ballot box.

    Not that one was done in 1994.

    By Blogger none, at 13 November, 2006 17:16  

  • Dumped in Madison sounds like a great movie title in the same vein as Sleepless in Seattle.

    By Blogger Seriouslyunserious, at 13 November, 2006 19:41  

  • More ammo for the folks looking to bring back the fairness doctrine.

    By Blogger Crazy Politico, at 13 November, 2006 20:23  

  • And the first ratings for AAR's new NYC home are in: WWRL clocked in at a 0.6 (down from 1.0 last period at WLIB). And in Nassau, they went from a 1.1 (WLIB) to an unmeasurable (WWRL).

    It's hard to claim you had a hand in shaping the election when Dead Air is beating you in the ratings.

    By Blogger BF, at 14 November, 2006 08:43  

  • A 40% drop? Whoa. That is what 1.0 down to .6 is right? This is a linear scale correct? WWRL signed up for a 1.0 which is bad enough, but .6 is a rounding error. Maybe they can try the religious programming the Dallas affiliate has switched to!

    By Blogger Seriouslyunserious, at 14 November, 2006 13:15  

  • Awsome stuff could not agree more! Dedicated to inform the public on relative issues. Keep up the great work!

    By Blogger tigerjim14, at 14 November, 2006 17:55  

  • The post above from tigerjim14:


    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 15 November, 2006 07:33  

  • funny, Matt Rothschild, editor of the Madison-based magazine The Progressive said "he expects to hear an uproar among local listeners about the format change."

    I would imagine he won't hear much -- that's why the ratings are so low. not enough people listening to create an "uproar." if air american can't succeed in the people's republic of madison, methinks it can't succeed anywhere (unless of course it's subsidized by the US Government ala public radio).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 21 January, 2010 17:57  

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