The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

31 March 2009

MSNBC Appears To Pass On Libtalker Ed Schultz, Will Keep Olby Rerun


No Schultz Hire At MSNBC, Rerun Will Remain At 10pm

Did his infamously hot temper spook network brass? Or were the demands deemed unreasonable?

After appearing to have a lock on a new live show at MSNBC, libtalker Ed Schultz apparently won't be landing the gig after all. In fact, according to the AP, the leftist cable network has "indefinitely" postponed adding any new program, choosing instead to keep a Keith Olbermann rerun in place at 10pm weeknights.

Last week, we provided a rundown of Schultz's past blow-ups, including a 2007 bar brawl and disturbing on-air meltdowns with callers, even against fellow liberals. Within the broadcast industry, there were rumors that NBC hadn't completely vetted Schultz before entering into contract negotiations. They did, however, proceed all the way to an on-air tryout, which seemed to pave the way for a new show.

What happened at the last minute that sunk this deal?

Rather than get into specifics regarding Schultz, MSNBC is claiming it's better off sticking to a Keith Olbermann rerun, even if that hasn't exactly provided blockbuster ratings. From the AP:

Fox has 2.1 million viewers, on average, in the time slot in March. Cooper on CNN has 1.2 million and Olbermann has 902,000, according to Nielsen Media Research. On a handful of nights, a rerun of Olbermann has even beaten a live Cooper in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic that MSNBC watches most closely.

MSNBC may give up entirely on the idea of putting a new live show in that time slot, Griffin said.

"We're not going to mess with it until we see where it levels off," he said. "It places the burden, if we are going to put a show there, (for it) to be a big show because the repeat of `Countdown' is doing so well."

The statistics have taken MSNBC by surprise. Griffin said it seems many viewers who are putting children to bed or are otherwise busy at 8 p.m. prefer to watch at 10.

NBC News has a big financial incentive to keep things the way they are. It costs the network nothing to show the rerun, while a new program would cost millions of dollars for on-air talent and production costs.

Several other wanna-bes, including some of Air America's failed hosts of the past, were campaigning for the slot but have also been ruled out.

Inside Cable News isn't buying the network's party line one bit:

This is not a winning strategy to maintain the status quo of MSNBC 2nd and CNN 3rd. So the real reason for this move must be something else. Possible reasons:

- MSNBC can’t find a host it likes that it thinks can pull in the numbers.

- MSNBC can find a host it likes but can’t come to terms with said host.

- NBC wants to roll the dice and gamble that it can keep costs down by not paying for a new show and new host at 10pm and still beat CNN. This is a very risky strategy because it’s betting the farm that CNN can’t regroup. That is not something I would want to risk the future on. But given that Campbell Brown is off the air for the next few months, I could see why NBC might hedge at this point. Still, I think it’s a big risk.

What else could have concerned NBC executives? Several background pieces at the NewsBusters site documented more of Schultz's past antics, including this one from Rich Noyes:

On his radio show, Schultz has polluted the airwaves with rhetoric far nastier than what liberals claim about talk radio conservatives. Last Friday, for example, Schultz called GOP Senator Jon Kyl a “spineless scumbag” for daring to criticize President Obama’s joke about bowling “like Special Olympics or something.” Other recent examples chronicled here on NewsBusters:

■ On March 2, Schultz compared Limbaugh to Adolf Hitler: “If you watch Limbaugh with the sound down...he looks like Adolf Hitler!...The parallel is so striking.”

■ On November 25, Schultz rued how, after years of bashing George W. Bush, the outgoing President never extended his hospitality to left-wing talkers: “We lefties with microphones, we were never invited to the White House. Never got a chance to even urinate on the yard.”

■ On November 17, Schultz blasted Republican Senator Richard Shelby as a “terrorist” for opposing a taxpayer bailout of the auto companies: “It is his mission to kill the Big Three.... Senator Shelby from Alabama is a terrorist on the American worker. He is a terrorist on wage workers.” Two weeks later, on December 3, Schultz attacked network news (presumably including NBC?) for not “cheerleading” a socialist bailout: “They should be cheerleading. They should. Forget all this journalist crap! I’m serious.”

And conservative commentator / Media Research Center honcho Brent Bozell warned NBC of trouble ahead should they choose to hire the syndicated radio talker.

Whatever the reason, Schultz may now be kicking himself for ditching his longtime home in Fargo for the rough-and-tumble world of Washington. Beyond trebling his cost of living, it's hard to say what he has to show for the upheaval.

As for MSNBC, once the decks are cleared of these candidates, it may yet restart the search for a 10pm host. With far superior competition clobbering the Olby rerun, it can't afford not to.

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28 March 2009

NY-20 Special Election Features Anti-Limbaugh, Pro-Obama Mailers


Upstate NY Special Election Turns Into National Referendum

Coming to a ballot box near you: Rush Limbaugh vs Barack Obama?

A special election to fill the seat of former Representative Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has turned ugly, with Democrat Scott Murphy attempting to win the race by tying his opponent to Rush Limbaugh. At the same time, Murphy has touted a strangely understated Obama endorsement in campaign advertising.

Gillibrand has since replaced Hillary Clinton in the US Senate.

The result: a potential referendum on the popularity of both Rush and Obama, rather than on the qualifications of the candidates themselves in the upstate New York district. The election will be held Tuesday, making the past several days peak season for last-minute attack pieces.

At the Washington Post, Chris Cillizza is skeptical as to whether this approach can succeed:

A series of public polls suggest Limbaugh is a broadly disliked figure among Democratic base voters (no surprise there) but it remains to be seen whether that disdain will translate into a desire to turn out on a random Tuesday in March to cast a vote against a Republican House candidate.

In 2006 and again in 2008, House and Senate Democratic candidate effectively used George W. Bush as the bogeyman who scared their base into action. But, Bush was the president of the United States not a conservative talk-radio host.

The mailer provides an interesting window into a broader Democratic strategy to demonize Limbaugh for political gain. Will it work next Tuesday?

Though Republican
Jim Tedisco was far ahead in the polls several weeks ago, the race tightened as Murphy's hit pieces landed in mailboxes. Limbaugh himself believes Tedisco may have handled the manufactured controversy incorrectly:

RUSH: The Washington Post and every news outlet... I mean, it's all over the place. There's a special election in New York State to replace Kirstin Gillibrand, who's the conservative Democrat who was named to -- who? Replace who in the Senate? Hillary! Yeah. She was named to replace Hillary in the Senate. So her seat is up. It's a conservative district, and the Republican candidate, Jim Tedisco, was way ahead. He was up by double digits, and then he goofed up, and he said Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant to me. Then he had to backtrack on that and say, "That's not what I meant! I was talking..."

This is a local race and he said, and I'm tired of getting Limbaugh questions. So the Democrat has pulled even, and in the Washington Post: "Limbaugh an Issue in New York Special -- Democrats are seeking to use ... Rush Limbaugh to rally their base in advance of next week's special election in New York's 20th district. A new direct mail piece from businessman Scott Murphy's campaign features an angry shot of Limbaugh over the words 'I hope Obama fails.' At the bottom of the piece in parentheses is written 'Somebody wants you to stay home on March 31st....' On the back of the mailer, an Obama drawing is featured with text superimposed over it that accuses Rush Limbaugh and his lackeys in Washington of trying to be a roadblock to change America desperately needs."

My picture is all over campaign literature in New York's 20th district. Not the picture of the candidate. Not the picture of the Republican candidate. In fact, I've got screen shots here of the photos. I can show you on the Dittocam, those of you watching on the Dittocam. You can't read the text, but you can see there the literature. You see Obama, you see me and the so-called angry shot. What you do not see, what is not available in the e-mail or the campaign literature is anything the Democrat candidate stands for! The Democrat candidate doesn't give you one reason to elect him! The Democrat candidate is running ads saying that this guy on the Republican side is linked to me, that Limbaugh and his -- meaning Limbaugh and my -- lackeys in Washington are trying to see to it that you don't show up.

I have never in my life told voters of any kind not to vote! I may have told a couple people Election Day was not the day they thought it was. (laughing) Just kidding. I've never done that, either. I've never told people not to vote! Do you know what I think? I think this Democrat, Scott Murphy, is so lacking in character or qualifications that he has to use me as a diversion from his own incompetence. I'm going to tell you what, if I ever did run for office, and it's a long shot, folks, but if I ever ran for office, I'd run for office on me and what I think this country needs is me and why it needs me and what I'm going to do for the country and therefore you -- and this guy is running against me! And I'm not on the ballot.

During Friday's show, Rush featured Murphy's anti-Limbaugh campaign ad:

RUSH: Obama has endorsed Scott Murphy. The president will offer an endorsement. However, his endorsement and he himself will not appear in the ad, nor is his voice heard. Instead, there's a picture of him that is shown as the narrator says, "Upstate New Yorkers deserve somebody with the right skills to represent them in Washington. That's why President Obama is supporting Scott Murphy for Congress." So the teleprompter is endorsing Scott Murphy, not Obama.

The teleprompter is telling Obama and the people that write the ads, what to say. I don't care. It's a teleprompter. I don't care it's a 52-inch JumboTron or if it's two-winged... The teleprompter is endorsing Scott Murphy. Here's the ad.

ANNOUNCER (whispering): In the worst recession in a generation, upstate New Yorkers deserve someone with the right skills to represent them in Washington. (upbeat) That's why President Obama is supporting Scott Murphy for Congress! Scott Murphy is the only candidate with the proven business experience we need. As a businessman, he helped create a thousand new jobs upstate -- and in Congress he'll work with President Obama to spur investment and create jobs right here at home. For jobs and our future, vote Scott Murphy for Congress this Tuesday! (speaking rapidly) The Democratic National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising.

RUSH: Yes. So there you have it. President Obama is supporting? Well, Obama's teleprompter is supporting Scott Murphy for Congress. So this race -- as the Democrats have shaped it, now, not me of course. But this special election to replace Kirsten Gillibrand, who has now replaced Hillary in the Senate, is Obama versus Limbaugh. This is not Scott Murphy versus Tedisco. It's Obama versus Limbaugh 'cause the Democrat is sending out leaflets suggesting that I am the real opponent here. And the reason they're doing this is 'cause they think that it will inspire the base, Democrat base voters in sheer anger to show up and vote against me. Again, Mr. Murphy, is apparently without the character or the competence to explain to people why he is the better candidate of the two.

From YouTube, here's the ad in question:

In the past, NY-20 was a solidly Republican district, but in recent years, that has not been the case. Tuesday's election is truly a toss-up, with the result likely based on which side can motivate its voters to make it to the polls. At the same time, its outcome could provide an important window into public sentiment, two months into Obama's tenure.

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26 March 2009

Rush Limbaugh, Talk Radio Experience Huge Ratings Surge


Surge As White House Campaign Began, Could Go Higher



Will the White House ever learn its lesson?

A combination of several powerful forces has resulted in explosive talk radio ratings growth, with indications of much more to come in the months ahead.

Primary factor driving the upward move? You guessed it: Rush Limbaugh. That's in contrast to declining support for Rush's arch-rival Obama.

With Limbaugh at the top of his game, including a more deeply loyal audience than ever, the numbers were expected to be strong. The beginning of the Obamist era, combined with a direct White House campaign targeting the talk titan, however, provided rocket fuel for El Rushbo's ratings. Even to seasoned industry veterans, this data should prove stunning.

Finally, implementation of the new, far more accurate electronic Portable People Meter (PPM) ratings system has benefited talk radio, as the manual diary-based "phantom cume" problems of the past disappear. For years, programmers complained that the old system cost them listenership and are now armed with the proof they'd long sought.

That may be why Obama and his supporters have fought implementation of PPM, as we originally reported in October of last year.

While these numbers reflect February's results, they could go even higher in March, as the White House anti-Rush effort was still in high gear going into this month.

Some specifics:

In New York City, WABC has experienced huge gains during Rush's noon- 3pm timeslot: from 4.6 to 6.7 overall (12 and older) share, good for first place overall in the nation's largest market. Rush's Big Apple listenership is now estimated at 693,000.

In the second-largest market, Los Angeles, KFI-AM has surged into the number one position (all listeners 12 and older) from 9am to noon, with 618,000 listeners, a 4.6 to 6.0 audience share increase over three months and an even bigger males 35-64 (4.6 to 6.3) move, to take first place there as well.

Chicago, saw another huge move, with Rush affiliate WLS also taking first place during his timeslot (12 and older), from 5.2 share to 6.9 and a total local listenership of 396,700 in the third-largest market.

KSFO / San Francisco saw similar results, despite the extreme-left bent of the Bay Area: 4.7 to 6.0 share, now ranking second overall and with men aged 35-64. Total audience: 346,000.

In Dallas - Fort Worth, 4.8 to 6.4 men 35-64 and fourth overall (12+), 3.5 to 4.5. Cumulative audience: 250,000.

Houston's results were truly blockbuster: 6.0 to 9.8 overall, ranking number one with a bullet and audience of 382,300. Men 35-64: number one again, from 8.6 to 12.2 over three months. Adults 25-54: first place, 4.6 to 8.7. Women 25-54: 3.7 to 8.3 again good for a top ranking.

DC's WMAL also saw Rush-related growth: 4.1 to 6.7, good for third overall and an audience of 155,300. Men 35-64: number one with a staggering 6.4 to 13.4 move.

In Atlanta, Rush has helped WGST fend off an enormous competitor, WSB-AM, with a similar 4.0 to 6.2 upward move, good for fifth place overall and a total audience of 473,500. The results are better in the male 35-64 demographic, surging from 5.5 to 8.0 share.

Bucking Detroit's recent Democratic voting trend, Rush's performance on WJR-AM has been more significant than ever, moving into first place with a 5.8 to 9.6 jump. Men 35-64: number one and 11.6 share. Total audience: 253,000.

Given this blockbuster data, will the White House think twice before targeting Rush again?

Keep in mind that these numbers don't even include Limbaugh's strongest markets, medium-sized cities such as Reno, Albuquerque, Boise, Fresno, Bakersfield and hundreds of others where his program dominates local radio.

UPDATE: Rush's surge has also led to overall, full-day gains at most of these stations, with WABC/ New York moving into fifth place overall, ahead of many music stations. That's its best showing in at least a year.

KSFO/ San Francisco also rose overall, grabbing sixth place, while WLS/ Chicago now ranks second, a stunning feat.

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24 March 2009

Potential MSNBC Hire Has Explosive Temper


Will Schultz's Ego, Temper Sink Cable Talk Prospects?



As NBC's corporate suits
ponder whether to add liberal talk show host Ed Schultz to their weeknight lineup, how much do they really know about his track record?

In anticipation of his hiring, the usual mainstream media subjects are busy cooking up Maddow-style fawning press coverage. Will this come back to haunt them, however?

Already, industry blog TVNewser is calling him "MSNBC's next potential star".

Forget digging into his personal background, however, it isn't necessary to go any further than what has gone out over the airwaves, in addition to some other questionable public antics. From his hot temper to rapidly-expanding ego and sometimes muddled stances on key issues, network execs may be getting more than they've bargained for in Schultz.

From October 21 2008, for example, here's Ed Schultz mistreating a fellow liberal who dared to politely challenge Big Eddie's position. Note how the caller remains calm and reasonable while an unhinged Schultz channels the ghost of Sam Kinison in Back To School.

This meltdown occurred just a few days after Schultz walked off the set in the middle of a Fox News Channel interview:

CALLER RODNEY (Hour Three, 44:40): I'm going to have to call you out on what your response was to Congressman (Robin) Hayes (R-NC), who I do not know. I live in western North Carolina close to Asheville, I hope to see you next Wednesday night. But we cannot accomplish getting Barack Obama elected in this coming election by stooping to the level of some of the other talk show hosts. And when you came back with your comment concerning Representative Hayes a while ago and making fun of his accent, talking about that you think they want to start a civil war, I think you're taking a chance of alienating a lot of folks that are still on the fence down here in North Carolina and Obama needs North Carolina. We can't stoop to their level.

ED SCHULTZ (45:28) (with exaggerated Southern accent): Well, first of all, Rodney, you have your opinion and I have mine. The conservative movement in this country, in my opinion, completely out of material and now in the arena of being vile. For a United States congressman to claim that there actually is a political movement in this country known as liberals that *hate* real Americans, now Rodney, if you want to let that go, fine.

CALLER (crosstalk): No, I don't want to let it go, Ed, I did not say that at all. I am a liberal, I am a supporter, but there are a lot of people that are going to respond to your ...

SCHULTZ (interrupting): Well let 'em freakin' respond to it! Rodney, Rodney, let them respond to it! Let 'em respond to it! Come to the freakin' town hall meeting and respond to it! I'm not apologizing!

CALLER: I'm not, well, I guess ..

SCHULTZ: God! I mean, it amazes me, it absolutely amazes me how many experts there are out there in talk radio! You can't say this because this might happen. You can't say that because that might happen. You can't do any of that because that might happen. You know what something, Rodney? You don't know your ass from third base!

CALLER: Wait a minute now, Ed ...

SCHULTZ: No, no, no, wait a minute, you don't! How do you, what do you know what to talk about?!

CALLER: What do I know what to talk about ...?

SCHULTZ: What do you, how do you know what to talk about?! How do you know what strikes the passion of the people? Have you traveled the country? Have you talked to people in market after market? Have you looked in their eyes and seen the frustration with the conservative movement in this country?

CALLER: OK, but when you start doing things that take away from ....

SCHULTZ: That's your freakin' opinion!

CALLER: Well, and evidently you have a very strong one, but I'm concerned about your ...

SCHULTZ: Well, you shouldn't be concerned about it, Rodney! Why don't you just get off your ass and start working!

CALLER: (crosstalk) ... in North Carolina for the first time in a presidential race, it could be a very important part of this campaign, and the success of this campaign. That's my concern. It's not defending Robin Hayes. It's despicable what he said, I'm embarrassed by it.

SCHULTZ: Well, why didn't you start out with that? But instead it's an attack on me (cross talk) I mean, you started this, Rodney, I can't deal with you, you don't want a conversation. You don't want a conversation.

In addition to mild criticism of his on-air style, another way to set off our hotheaded friend is to mention the success of Rush Limbaugh's program as opposed to the continuing struggles of Schultz and other libtalkers to attract ratings and revenue. From February, here's one example that includes audio.

Far worse, in 2007, Schultz actually got into a physical conflict in a Minnesota bar when a patron mistakenly believed Big Eddie was still a conservative Republican. Schultz's sudden conversion, which coincided with the advent of syndicated liberal talk radio, has long been the source of suspicion on both the left and right. It happened so fast that many listeners were caught by surprise.

Ed has attempted to bolster his left-wing credentials through extreme rhetoric, such as calling Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives "nazis".

During another 2007 incident, Schultz made racially insensitive remarks regarding Barry Bonds and other ballplayers, including Babe Ruth. Only liberal talk radio's obscurity saved him from a Don Imus-like "nappy-headed hos" fate.

In April of last year, Schultz embarrassed Barack Obama on the campaign trail by calling John McCain a "warmonger". To prevent damage to his campaign, Obama quickly repudiated Schultz's remarks.

Ultimately, however, Schultz's anti-Hillary screeds were noted by the Obama campaign, which rewarded the talker with a front-row seat at one of Barack's press conferences. Rather than boosting Big Eddie's public standing, however, it led to public criticism and a defensive tone from the man himself. Worse, it seemed to boost his already pumped-up ego to unbearable levels.

While NBC's executives are obviously free to hire whomever they choose, we thought they might like to first consider the baggage that comes with a potential Ed Schultz television show. Is he worth it?

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Left-wing Blogs Upset Over Questioning By O'Reilly Producer


O'Reilly Producer 'Stalker' Merely Sought Interview



Without Bush, Cheney and other past favorites to kick around, left-wing bloggers have become truly desperate for fresh targets. Dying for something to gripe about while their side enjoys one-party rule, they've returned to the old "Bill O'Reilly's producers are stalking us" chestnut.

In left-speak, "stalking" is what happens when a FOX News Channel staffer attempts to speak with a "progressive" activist and any sort of pursuit is necessary to obtain the interview.

But the term does not apply, for example, to Proposition 8 opponents in California who chase, harass and physically attack the measure's backers. Is the distinction clear? Good.

Now, watch what happens when O'Reilly producer Jesse Waters confronts a contributor to the far-left Think Progress website over her claims that O'Reilly is insensitive to the suffering of rape victims (a smear campaign recently initiated by other lefty sites in response to Bill's support for It Happened To Alexa, a victim's rights organization):

Sure, it's a no-holds-barred confrontation, not exactly "stalking", however. But that didn't stop the left side of the Internet from erupting in OUTRAGE (!!!) over the interview.

At Gawker, for example, the headline reads "O'Reilly Producer Indistinguishable From Psycho Stalker". The Raw Story used similar language, while at AlterNet, the attempt to make O'Reilly appear insensitive to rape victims continues (using a three-year old radio excerpt taken out of context), while the "victim" of Jesse's "stalking", Amanda Terkel, lays out her laundry list of grievances:

– The Stalking: Watters and his camera man accosted me at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 21, in Winchester, VA, which is a two-hour drive from Washington, DC. My friend and I were in this small town for a short weekend vacation and had told no one about where we were going. I can only infer that the two men staked out my apartment and then followed me for two hours. Looking back, my friend and I remember seeing their tan SUV following us for much of the trip.

– The Ambush: Shortly after checking into our lodgings, we emerged and immediately saw two men walking toward us calling out my name. Watters said he was from Fox News, but never said his or his companion’s name, nor did he say he was with The O’Reilly Factor.

– The Surprise Attack: Watters immediately began asking me why I was causing “pain and suffering” to the Alexa Foundation. He never gave me the context for his questions. Confused, I repeatedly asked him what he was talking about and whether he could refresh my memory, but he just continued shouting his question.

– The Evasion: I said that it was inappropriate for O’Reilly to imply that just because a woman may be drunk and/or dressed in a certain way, she should expect to be raped. Watters asked me whether I had listened to the interview (which I had) and claimed that O’Reilly had made the comments in the context of a commentary on Mel Gibson/drunkenness. When I tried to ascertain why he was attacking ThinkProgress in particular — even though other sites had also covered the story — he said that we were part of the “smear pipeline,” which also included the “Soros-funded” Media Matters. He ignored my comments when I asked if Fox News also smears people.

– Setting A Guilt Trap: Watters ended the charade by demanding that I look into the camera and apologize to the Alexa Foundation and rape victims. I told them that I don’t speak through Fox News and if someone from the Alexa Foundation would like to personally call me, I’d be happy to speak with that person.

– More Stalking: The camera man then continued to film me as I walked down the block. After a few minutes while I waited at the light to cross the street, Watters called him back and they left.

Don't "ambush" and
"surprise attack" belong in the same category? Talk about melodrama.

The bottom line: this entire conflict is the result of liberal uneasiness with the idea that O'Reilly might generate public goodwill with this work on behalf of rape victims. Worried that he might be seen in a positive light, the smear machine was cranked up to the max, but when O'Reilly's team fought back, "progressive" bloggers were apoplectic.

Sorry guys, you reap what you sow.

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23 March 2009

Popular ABC Reporter Murdered In New York City


ABC's Weber Had Strong News-Talk Ties

With news that
a popular ABC Radio reporter / anchor has apparently been murdered, New Yorkers and radio industry professionals are joined together in shock and grief this morning.

Well-known to WABC radio listeners for his anchor role at the station's former Curtis & Kuby morning drive program, George Weber had more recently assumed a national on-air position with ABC Radio.

The New York Post has more:

Weber began at WABC in 1996, joining Kuby and co-host Curtis Sliwa when their show debuted in 2000.

A career radio man who worked in Denver and San Francisco, Weber became a fixture in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood, good-naturedly arguing with the famously anti-mob Sliwa over whether the area's wiseguy-supported eateries were off-limits.

Sliwa said Weber used his beloved Dachshund, Noodles, as an icebreaker to score interviews at news scenes.

"The guy was fearless," said Sliwa. "Him and Noodles would pursue a story no matter where it was. He had a nose for news, and an insatiable appetite."

He was let go last year, as part of a slew of changes brought on by the addition of Don Imus to the station's line-up, but landed at ABC News, which provides national network news to stations across the country, including WABC.

"He loved his work," said Mike Caragliano, the engineer for the show. "He always said he had the best job in the best city in the world. It was really sad to hear what happened. We're all going to miss him, a lot."

Cops initially visited the building this morning at 1 a.m., but got no answer and chose not to break the door down. When they returned nine hours later, a neighbor guided them to a side door Weber kept unlocked.

At the New York Radio Message Board
, Mayor Bloomberg's statement has been posted:


"I was shocked and saddened to learn about the death of George Weber, who 77 WABC listeners and radio listeners from around the country knew as 'George Weber the news guy.'

George was the kind of professional who could give you the news and his views without one getting in the way of the other, and he was an absolutely central part of my Friday WABC radio show with John Gambling and dozens of other programs. George called news events as he saw them with little regard to party politics or ideology.

On or off the air, and especially during our commercial breaks, his views were incisive and insightful. He'll be deeply missed by millions of radio listeners, including me, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family in this difficult time."

New York Times
coverage can be found here.

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17 March 2009

Curious Shift In Coverage Of Conservative Talk Radio


On Talk Radio's Impact, Dems, Media Suddenly Shift Gears


In a remarkable coincidence, a temporary shift away from the White House's anti-Rush Limbaugh attack strategy has been closely followed by a Los Angeles Times piece declaring "conservative talk radio on the wane" in the nation's most populous state.

Amazing, isn't it: just two weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of talk radio were a national menace, out to destroy Barack Obama's presidency and with it, America's chance for "hope and change".

Democrats were so focused on Limbaugh that they cooked up an anti-Rush billboard advertising campaign designed to convert West Palm Beach's liberals into ... (wait, what exactly was that about again?) For weeks, in fact, they could hardly talk about anything other than their disdain for El Rushbo.

Apparently, all of that was a false alarm. Talk radio, it turns out, really doesn't matter at all, according to the Times. But in taking a look beyond the headline, one sees the sheer dishonesty in their approach:

But for all the anti-tax swagger and the occasional stunts by personalities like KFI's John and Ken, the reality is that conservative talk radio in California is on the wane. The economy's downturn has depressed ad revenue at stations across the state, thinning the ranks of conservative broadcasters.

For that and other reasons, stations have dropped the shows of at least half a dozen radio personalities and scaled back others, in some cases replacing them with cheaper nationally syndicated programs.

Casualties include Mark Larson in San Diego, Larry Elder and John Ziegler in Los Angeles, Melanie Morgan in San Francisco, and Phil Cowen and Mark Williams in Sacramento.

Two of the biggest in the business, Roger Hedgecock in San Diego and Tom Sullivan in Sacramento, have switched to national shows, elevating President Obama above Schwarzenegger on their target lists.

Another influential Sacramento host, Eric Hogue, has lost the morning rush-hour show that served as a prime forum to gin up support for the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. Now he airs just an hour a day at lunchtime on KTKZ-AM (1380).

"It's lonely, it's quiet, and it's a shame," Hogue said of California's shrinking conservative radio world. "I think this state has lost a lot of benefit. I don't know if we can grow it back any time soon."

The immediate question facing the state's conservative radio hosts is whether they can wield enough clout to block Schwarzenegger's ballot measures in May. They portray them as reckless proposals that would hasten California's economic decline. The worst, they say, is Proposition 1A, which would extend billions of dollars in tax increases for an extra two years, even while it imposes a spending cap long sought by conservatives.

In a special election likely to draw a dismal turnout, they hope that those most upset by the $12.5 billion in new taxes will be the ones most strongly motivated to cast ballots. Their inspiration is Proposition 13, the 1978 ballot measure that capped property-tax increases.

Yes, local talk radio is on the decline, because nearly-bankrupt broadcast operators can no longer afford them. But the paper never explains what those reasons might be, even though they are unrelated to talk's own performance.

As we've been chronicling for several years here at the Radio Equalizer, talk radio is performing as well as ever, if not better, but is suffering from deteriorating overall industry conditions. Station owners are struggling under huge debt loads caused by overpaying for purchases at the peak of the market several years ago.

In addition, music formats have been abandoned by many young people and some corporate suits remain hostile to talk radio, despite its unparalleled success.

Yes, that has thinned talk radio's local ranks, particularly in hard-hit California. But is it really on the wane? Not exactly.

Also omitted from the story is any mention of the almost complete collapse of liberal talk radio in the Golden State. Not only have that format's local hosts been sacked, several of its outlets have been shut down entirely.

While there's no question that conservatives would be better suited with more local hosts covering area topics, the attempt by the Times to mislead readers comes across as a bit on the shady side, especially given a headline that suggests talk radio is down across the board.

To avoid inevitable public confusion, the left ought to get its story straight: is talk radio a threat to America, or no longer relevant? When they've come to a decision, it would be a good idea to inform the voting public.

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15 March 2009

Democrats Say They've "Exhausted" Limbaugh Attack Strategy


For Now, Dems Give Up Failed Rush Attack Strategy

Was it the
way he seemed to relish their attacks? Or, were Obama's rapidly-sinking approval numbers to blame?

Whatever the reason, At least for now, Democrats say they're done utilizing an anti- Rush Limbaugh strategy in an attempt to neutralize their political opposition. Now, it's on to something else. For how long, however?

From the Politico:

Beginning Sunday, the White House will harness every part of the Democratic Party’s machinery to defend President Obama’s budget and portray Republicans as reflexively political, according to party strategists.

A participant in the planning meetings described the push as a successor to Democrats’ message that Rush Limbaugh is the Republican Party leader. “We have exhausted the use of Rush as an attention-getter,” the official said.

David Plouffe, manager of Obama’s presidential race, helped design the strategy, which includes the most extensive activation since November of the campaign’s grassroots network. The database—which includes information for at least 10 million donors, supporters and volunteers—will now be used as a unique tool for governing, with former canvassers now being enlisted to mobilize support for the president’s legislative agenda.

Others involved in the planning included White House senior adviser David Axelrod; the DNC chairman, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine; and DNC Executive Director Jennifer O'Malley Dillon.

The plan follows the private complaints of some Democrats that Obama let the GOP get the better of him during the debate over pork in the budget bill he just signed, and growing concerns among some Democrats that charges of big spending could stick to the president.


This is not an easy message war for Democrats. Obama's budget calls for the largest deficit in U.S. history and a doubling of the national debt to $23 trillion in 2019. That is a big, juicy target for the GOP, which plans to hit this theme relentlessly all spring.

Republicans were successful in making earmarks, which accounted for only a sliver of total spending, the centerpiece of debate over the omnibus spending bill. The GOP sees sky-high deficits as similarly easy to explain to the public.

Have the Democrats come to the realization that their failed effort did little more than promote the talk titan's program? Between the radio and television hit pieces (which Rush himself happily highlighted) and the direct attacks on El Rushbo coming straight from the White House, he's likely headed for a significant ratings boost.

In addition, as many have noted, the anti-Rush billboard contest was a disaster, with the winning entry as underwhelming as one could imagine. Some are now wondering whether the West Palm Beach sign will ever be erected.

Another consideration: the Get Rush campaign coincided with rapidly- declining approval ratings for Obama, with an especially- alarming jump in voters who now disapprove of his still-young administration. From Rasmussen:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 37% of the nation’s voters now Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President.

Twenty-nine percent (29%) now Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of +8 (see trends). Congressional leaders are viewed less favorably.

Sixty-six percent (66%) of Democrats Strongly Approve and 54% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove. As for those who are unaffiliated with either major political party, they are evenly divided between positive and negative reviews (see other recent demographic highlights).

The Presidential Approval Index is calculated by subtracting the number who Strongly Disapprove from the number who Strongly Approve.

Clearly, it didn't take too many days of sinking poll numbers for the Obamistas to get the message: a successful presidency can't be built on attacking Rush Limbaugh and his 20 million American listeners.

At the same time, don't believe for a minute that Democrats are through with Limbaugh. On the contrary, they would love to see talk radio let down its guard so that the real campaign of terror against political opponents can begin.

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

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