The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

08 February 2009

Bill Press Wants Government To Regulate Talk Radio


In Op-Ed, Libtalker Pushes Talk Radio Regulation


Calling free speech
on the airwaves a mere "failed experiment" from the Reagan era, libtalker Bill Press is using today's Washington Post Op-Ed section to call for government regulation over American talk radio content.

Unhappy over the collapse of Washington's ratings-challenged OBAMA 1260-AM, resulting in a format change that's expected tomorrow, Press is decrying the overwhelmingly-conservative state of talk radio, both locally and nationally.

Using rhetoric similar to Obamists who are pushing for a government-led free speech crackdown, he claims the airwaves lack "diversity" because commercial talk leans to the right. Not mentioned in the piece is the apparently-secret existence of NPR, where Obama is seemingly revered as god-like on a daily basis.

As evidence of unfairness, Press cites the District of Columbia's population, where "Democrats outnumber Republicans 10-to-one". As a host himself, however, it's hard to believe he doesn't realize that talk radio's traditional audience base has always been in suburbs and rural areas, not the inner city. That's the case across the nation.

In the District itself, a variety of FM formats fill that niche, between Urban outlets, rock and pop stations, college radio and of course, public broadcasting, with its left-leaning news and talk programs.

From his piece:

If you're looking for a break from those conservative voices that dominate talk radio, take time out today to listen to local station OBAMA 1260 AM. You'll hear the progressive voices of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Lionel -- or, during morning drive, my own "Bill Press Show" -- providing welcome relief from the constant Obama-bashing by Rush Limbaugh and others. Unfortunately, today's the last day you'll be able to do so.

As reported by The Post [Style, Feb. 2], Dan Snyder's Red Zebra Broadcasting Co., owner of OBAMA 1260, has announced plans to jettison all progressive talk and replace it with pre-recorded financial advice programming.

The commercial use of public airwaves is supposed to reflect the diversity of the local community, but that's not how it works in Washington. On the AM dial, WMAL (630) features wall-to-wall conservative talk. So do stations WTNT (570) and WHFS (1580). For the past two years, OBAMA 1260 -- even with a weak signal that cannot be heard in downtown Washington -- was the exception. No longer. Starting tomorrow, our nation's capital, where Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, and where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to one, will have no progressive voices on the air.

Here, Press cites
"successful" examples of liberal talk radio, using it to build the case that a "conservative media conspiracy" is preventing its success elsewhere:

Why? Station owners complain they can't get good ratings or make any money with progressive talk, but that's nonsense. In Minnesota, independent owner Janet Robert has operated KTNF (950 AM) profitably for five years. In Madison, Wis., WXXM, 92.1 FM, just scored its highest ratings ever. And KPOJ in Portland, Ore., soared with progressive talk from No. 23 in market ratings to No. 1. Nationwide, progressive talkers Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller have proven that, given a level playing field, they can more than hold their own in ratings -- and make money for their stations.

Yes, liberal talk has worked in a few of these places, mostly far-left college towns. Portland is unusually radical politically, so it's no surprise that it has succeeded there. But Clear Channel gave libtalk several years to find an audience in many major cities and it went absolutely nowhere.

One market Press cites is Providence, where WHJJ-AM took a disastrous ratings tumble when it dumped a successful conservative format for Air America's programming. Signal strength was not an issue. So why should any station owner in Rhode Island run programming that has already been rejected by the public?

The former CNN host doesn't stop with mere whining, however: he alleges a "conspiracy" to keep his comrades off the air:

For years, the Fairness Doctrine prevented such abuse by requiring licensed stations to carry a mix of opinion. However, under pressure from conservatives, President Ronald Reagan's Federal Communications Commission canceled the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, insisting that in a free market, stations would automatically offer a balance in programming.

That experiment has failed. There is no free market in talk radio today, only an exclusive, tightly held, conservative media conspiracy. The few holders of broadcast licenses have made it clear they will not, on their own, serve the general public. Maybe it's time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine -- and bring competition back to talk radio in Washington and elsewhere.

But the sad truth, as we've covered many times here, is that today's radio execs lean almost exclusively to the left. If they could get away with dumping Rush and Hannity, they'd do so in a flash. If there was really a conspiracy, conservatives would not so often be forced to lock horns with broadcasting's corporate suits.

Clearly, Press is following up on the recent calls by a number of Democrats in Congress, including Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who just a few days ago made a similar plea for government regulation of free speech in American broadcasting.

Especially interesting is how Press admits that fellow libtalker Ed Schultz will be the one survivor of OBAMA 1260-AM's failure, which he calls an effort "to mollify critics".

Why Ed's program as opposed to Bill's? It's no accident: while Schultz has sought to emulate some of the characteristics of successful conservative talk radio, such as incorporating some entertainment value, Press has not. He's just a bitter whiner.

And it's just downright disingenuous to cite Michael Smerconish as an example of DC's conservative talk stranglehold, given his public endorsement of Obama for president.

One element of conservative success not often seen in its liberal counterpart is good old-fashioned hard work. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and other popular syndicated talkers spend an incredible amount of time every day, including weekends, prepping for their programs, while some on the left have treated their shows as mere stepping-stones to more frequent cable talk appearances.

Now that she has a full time TV gig, that's exactly what Air America's Rachel Maddow has done: dumped her radio show. Conservatives, however, know that radio is actually the more powerful medium when it comes to real, long-term national influence.

Press, for one, has a nasty habit of frequently taking time off from his own program, most likely to pursue other activities. That may work for him, but what about potential affiliates? Why should they commit to him, when his own enthusiasm is so minimal?

We know where this is going: the left is slowly building the case for an Obamist-led crackdown on the airwaves. But to those in the Democratic Party who believe mowing over conservative talk radio will be easy, guess again: the Barack-lash will be unprecedented.

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  • Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and other popular syndicated talkers spend an incredible amount of time every day, including weekends, prepping for their programs

    Yeah, it takes a lot of prep to scream "Marxist" and tell lies.

    By Blogger Steve J., at 08 February, 2009 09:30  

  • Poor Steve J. He hates something he's never actually listened to, just because he's been told he should hate it.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 February, 2009 13:47  

  • WOW
    how long did it take you to come up with that?

    how about this,
    Most liberals are too f****g stupid to retain things without repetitive visual reinforcement, ergo leftist/MARXIST radio hosts cannot keep them in thrall

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 08 February, 2009 19:29  

  • What are a couple of examples of lies told by the above Conservative hosts?

    By Blogger on-the-rocks, at 08 February, 2009 20:52  

  • Steve J.: As opposed to the lucid, pragmatic, and well-thought out assualts of the left on the intelligence and honesty of George W. Bush. To paraphrase you: Yeah, it takes a lot of prep to scream "Fascist" and all sorts of other personal invective.

    By Blogger Jim Zeirke, at 09 February, 2009 08:32  

  • The libs are afraid that relying only on the free market will not get their message out, since they have had little success with it (prime example: liberal Boston, where prog talk went off Dec of '06 and only came back when they PAID to be on an AM station. 2 months later, the two shows that were paid for are temporarily, at least, off (word has it negotiations are underway...)

    But why pay to be on when an UnFairness Doctrine can force these shows on? And force successful conservative talk shows OFF! (and some stations would rather switch format than deal with this--True Oldies 680, anyone?)

    They want the "Fairness" Doctrine
    to hush Rush.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 09 February, 2009 09:39  

  • Bill Press is a MSM failure. He can't accept that. When handed a good audience on KFI in Los Angeles when Hugh Hewitt left, the "Manure Spreader" couldn't hold the audience, and he was Chairman of the California Democrat party at the time.

    I have a history with Press, and I was the one who hung that knickname on him during a cross from Hewitt's leadin to Press' disaster.

    By Blogger PCD, at 09 February, 2009 10:25  

  • On-the-rocks when you ask a question like that all you will hear is the lies told by the left.

    Look at Steve J plain to see he has not listened to Rush.

    By Blogger pf1, at 09 February, 2009 12:39  

  • "...Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, and where Democrats outnumber Republicans 10 to 1..." a quote by Bill Press from his article in the 2/8/2009 Washington Post, Outlook Section, titled "Another Right Wing Conspiracy in Washington?". Based on his own assessment, why is he whining about conservative talk radio having a voice? Is he advocating shutting down any opposition to government leaders and policies, or is he advocating shutting it down only if he doesn't agree. If so, then that would surly shatter the core element of any successful democracy. I sincerely do not believe that Bill Press stands for such a thing. I do believe, based on his article, that he is steaming that liberal radio talk shows and stations have a history of being abysmal failures, riddled with bankruptcies and cancellations. Mr. Press, himself, being one of the latest victims. Liberal talk radio has no audience because there is no necessity for it. The mainstream media is their spokesman. Conservative talk radio is one of the very few outlets available to seriously challenge the "collective wisdom" and thank God and our Constitution for that! This is not about conspiracy, it is about sour grapes and their hopes of a return of the "Fairness Doctrine". Ain't gonna happen!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 February, 2009 12:55  

  • Name a couple of lies? Google it, there are hundreds of thousands or subscribe to media matters, every day they research at least 1lies on RNC radio and media

    biggest lie of them all? Conservative radio is a big success. Con radio does not BILL WELL, older demos, low CUME numbers

    The Fairness doctrine could actually help radio. The highest billed talk station EVER, was KABC, and KABC used to be a MIX of liberal and conservative talk
    higher CUME numbers, more listeners, higher billing

    Con radio has good AQH numbers, the same people listen on the Average Quarter hour all day.

    These are the facts. CON radio is not a good biller, management is lazy and management favors programming that reflects their views, simple as that,con radio is a money loser. WABC in NY was a money loser, it was sold and still is a money loser. Con radio does not sell

    of course if you are in the radio business, you would know I'm correct

    what would Fairness doctrine mean to con radio? Forcing them to take a call from a liberal, or integrating lib and con shows on a station? History shows a broad mix of views, BILLS BETTER. If management was not stubborn conservatives,a Fairness doctrine would not be needed to keep the business alive

    If on talk radio is such a money maker, why is clear channel ,broke and trading t 2 cents a share? Music radio bills much better than talk radio, so it seems obvious CC is going broke from conservative talk radio and the Pig man's over inflated salary

    if you are in the business, you know I'm right, if you are a fanboy like Maloney you are punching your keyboard in anger, because I posted truth

    CON talk radio is only on their for ideological reasons, not because it makes any money

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 February, 2009 13:17  

  • Why should station owners be forced to program both sides if liberals won't listen!

    Again, liberals have that crap on NPR and on TV PBS. Liberals love that stuff and think it speaks for all Americans. Of course that is why no one really watches PBS anymore.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 February, 2009 13:22  

  • "Signal strength was not an issue."

    Really, citing what? In this you are discussing the Providence station (with no citation or numbers comparing true signal-wattage) but in the actual case of 1260AM are you going to say with a straight-face that 1260AM was at all powerful? It was horrible, as if the 1260 transmitter was a coat hanger powered by AA batteries. You'd go 2 minutes in one direction on the Beltway and the signal would be gone. Let us revisit the signal issue and look at the ratings for this conversion to WSJ's new snoozefest if they don't up the wattage.

    "Most liberals are too f****g stupid to retain things without repetitive visual reinforcement":

    Pick your propaganda buddy... you want it through your eyes or through your ears? I think it takes more cognitive skills to READ than LISTEN but hey, you win the radio wars... find the best way to reach your base, man.

    If I didn't love radio as a medium I'd say with no regret "we own your butts on the internet. Keep your dinosaur yacker media. I invoke the daemonpower George Soros on you... boogety-boogety!"

    And I've listened to the high pitched ear-rape that is Levin and the more popular guy he text-messages things to say before him on WMAL and I say even with his ear-buggery, he has a right to find a market.

    I'd love to see how any of them would fare though pulled from the 630WMAL's blowtorch to the Fisher Price walkie talkie that was 1260AM.

    Ah well, Dan Snyder hasn't made a right decision in years (RE: The Redskins and the Coach shuffle.) What's one more? Maybe Bill Press should take it as a favor not to be on that crap transmitter.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 February, 2009 17:05  

  • Rohm Emanuel holds meeting with George Stephanopoulos and Paul Begala to discuss how to present the President's policies to the public and the libs are concerned they aren't well enough represented in the media? The government sponsors an all-liberal radioi and tv network called NPR/PBS and Mr. Press can't find anything to listen to on the radio? Interesting that no one is talking about bringing fairness to any of the liberal outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS) but they are so concerned AM radio slants right. They just want to completely silence the last voice of disagreement. I think there are plenty of opportunities for libs to present their case. Not to mention all the TV coverage the president wants anytime he makes a speech.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 February, 2009 22:45  

  • Grow the F up Dems.-YOUR THE REASON WHY YOUR SHOW IS BORING AND UNLISTENABLE! I'm a liberal but found most liberal talk radio unbearably boring. Just the sound of Al Frankens voice and Randi Rhodes schreeching made me cringe.I was able to listen to Limbaugh while driving and even if I didn't agree with him, he was entertaining. (If Sam Seder & Mark Maron were on the radio, I would listen) The libs can get their FIX with Olbermann & Maddow for 4 hours every night.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 February, 2009 08:59  

  • Bill Press? I am happy to report thta I have not seen him in years.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 February, 2009 09:00  

  • 1st amend mom said:
    Interesting that no one is talking about bringing fairness to any of the liberal outlets (ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS)

    What? The networks in case you have not noticed have have conservative slant, more Republicans appear as guest on all of those networks every night, than"libs"..... The whole "lib" media thing is a joke at thispoint

    there is not liberalmediabias, it is in your head. IF Republicans outnumber Dems asguests, where is the "lib" bias?

    30 to 4 is the average weekly ration, 30 Republican guests to 4 democratic guests. These are the facts

    The media is conservative, the media is pro-business conservative. The media created the Reagan myth for example...... the media ignored every Bush scandal for 5 years, until they were unable to hide them. For 5 years, the media ignored PlameGate, GonzoGate, the documented false inteligence leading to Iraq,the Downing Street memos,etc. etc. etc.

    Every Bush crime and scandal wasignoredfor 5 years , even Ken Lay's ties to Bush. To even imply thatthe mediahasa lib, bias is INSANE

    without "lib" radio, the mediaprobably would haveignored everythig Bushdid, for 5 years (until Katrina) they ignored it all

    even the Limbaugh is popular myth is another example of conservstive media lies. The arbitron books and sales people at radio stations would disagree with Limbaiugh being popular

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 February, 2009 15:21  

  • There are so many voices coming at me on AM/FM/Internet/TV/Satellite/Newspapers Somebody is always saying what I want to hear( which is all I listen to)..

    News bulletin There is an tuning dial and an off switch on you radio. Learn to use it if you don't like what your hearing at the moment.

    Everybody acts as if there is only one media outlet in all of America! Grow a thicker skin.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10 February, 2009 15:25  

  • Someone needs to explain why it is that conservatives continue to insist that liberals want to reinstitute the FCC’s 1949 Fairness Doctrine. While it is true that the old regulation is brought up from time to time, it has no traction in either the House or Senate. The administration is opposed to it. The Supreme Court would rule against it. Still, conservative talk radio continues to chant about the “Hush Rush Bill’ as if were a real threat with real backing. It isn’t, it doesn’t and it’s not going to happen. Nor will the sky fall.

    The broadcast media of 1949 has its own chapter in history, as will the Internet sixty years from now. Today we have right wing and left wing media. Some are even in the middle. There is one thing that Rush has to fear about being silenced is listeners changing stations. As to a new, improved, rebranded Fairness Doctrine, forget about it.


    By Blogger Tommy "Mack" McEldowney, at 10 February, 2009 21:49  

  • Conservative talk radio isn't a money maker? Riiiight. That's why conservative talkers had to steal money from a children's charity to stay afloat. Oh wait, sorry, that was AIR AMERICA.

    It seems to me that if a liberal talk station with OBAMA as a positioning statement fails in a city where liberals outnumber conservatives 10 to 1, it's pretty obvious why lib-talk fails in most other markets.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 01 March, 2009 01:56  

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