December 9, 2013

I think that Nicole Hemmer and Bill Press are a little more optimistic about the state of progressive media than the news that came out this past week would indicate, as Brad Friedman reports:

The largest media market in the world is about to lose its only non-Rightwing commercial talk radio station. Los Angeles' KTLK 1150am will be flipped to a far Rightwing station featuring hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and other rightwing talkers. "The changes are set to take effect for the first broadcast of 2014," according to the Los Angeles Times this afternoon.

KTLK is owned by Clear Channel Communications, Inc., the nation's largest owner of radio stations. Clear Channel is now owned by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital LLC. The talkers mentioned above who will be taking over the previously-progressive station are also syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Networks, the largest radio syndicator in the nation. The BRAD BLOG has long argued that the outsized control of our public airwaves enjoyed by Clear Channel/Premiere and a handful of other conglomerates --- including their ability to leverage our public airwaves (licensed from we, the people, in exchange only for their promise to serve the public interest) to distribute their own syndicator's shows --- is a likely violation of U.S. v. Paramount, the 1948 anti-trust Supreme Court decision which found that the major movie studios could not also control the means of distribution by owning the nation's largest theater chains at the same time.

As if ending progressive talk radio in L.A. isn't bad enough, Clear Channel will now also reportedly be flipping its formerly progressive San Francisco talk station KNEW 960am (a move which they had threatened and then partially changed their mind about flipping in late 2011), over to a completely Right-leaning station as well, says the Times. That will leave San Francisco, arguably the most progressive city in the nation, without any commercial progressive talk radio outlet at all. But, as in L.A., listeners will still have many different Right-leaning talks outlets on our public airwaves to choose from, several of them owned by the same major corporation.

So does anyone actually want to argue that this is the "free market" working? Despite the fact that both the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets have a large progressive population, the liberal talkers have been more and more marginalized over the last few years, often sharing their lineups with less-than-liberals. On SF's KNEW, Laura Ingraham had the coveted morning drive time slot and Stephanie Miller had 7:00-10:00pm slot (with a weak signal, KNEW's transmission after sundown is at best full of static outside SF proper), and yet, it was the liberal shows that got better ratings. In fact, Miller, Randi Rhodes and Thom Hartmann regularly posted better ratings than their conservative counterparts when allowed on terrestial stations.

This is nothing more than the narrowing of voices heard. Clear Channel's agenda is not ratings or advertising dollars so much as it is to direct conventional wisdom to their interests and remove those dissenting voices. If it was all about ratings and advertising dollars, why continue to promote Rush Limbaugh, who has lost ratings and sponsors consistently through the "Stop Rush" campaign?

Ironically, the "Stop Rush" campaign may have been the final death knell for liberal talkers as well, as many advertisers decided to stay away from *all* political talk to avoid offending anyone.

It has also forced liberal voices (who will not be silenced, thankyouverymuch) to become more creative to get their voices out there. Stephanie Miller has an indiegogo campaign to raise money to produce an accompanying television show to her radio program. Nicole Sandler, late of Air America, has her own internet radio network, with other shows joining hers (you can hear me every Monday in our regular segment Fools on the Hill). Progressive activists Cliff Schecter, Alex Lawson and Kymone Freeman created We Act Radio in Washington DC, signalling the success of liberals working at a local level.

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