Thursday, June 21, 2007

You will listen and you will like it

Bill Christofferson likes the recent "report" by the self-styled Center for American Progress and an organization known as Free Press.

The study tallies up the imbalance between conservative and "progressive" talk radio (what it did with NPR is unclear) and calls for action. What I am interested in is the study's assertion that market forces can't explain the predominance of conservative talk because, and I think this is a fair paraphrase, some talk radio listeners are liberal and an occasional "progressive" talk show is successful.

Nothing in the study undercuts the thesis that there is relatively little liberal talk because the market won't support it. Xoff asks "when is the last time anyone tested that theory and actually put a liberal talk show on the air, in the daytime, with an engaging, entertaining host?"

I think that's what Air America was trying to do. It was extremely well-funded, highly promoted and, presumably, featured the best hosts that could be found, including well-known Hollywood celebrities. It has, generally speaking, flopped.

He asks why WTMJ here in Milwaukee won't put a lefty on the air but that reflects a lack of understanding of the radio business and, therefore, is the wrong question. Radio stations generally don't adopt multiple formats. A classic rock station won't throw in some country and western because it knows that the audiences for those genres is different and a mixed format will undercut the listener loyalty that it is trying to build. If you believe that the audiences for liberal and conservative talk are different, it's not surprising that TMJ put James Harris - and not James Rowen - on the air.

A better question is why any of the number of unlistened-to AM stations in Milwaukee have not taken a flier on liberal talk. That's a question to which I have yet to hear a credible answer other than the obvious one: No one believes it will work.

The answer of the Center for American Progress and the ironically named "Free Press" is to get liberal talk on the air through regulatory coercion. How the current absence of forced liberal talk amounts to, as Bill puts it, "shutting up progressives" is beyond me.

NB: Bill does point out that there is a "progressive" talk station in Milwaukee, WMCS-1290. As is normally the case on Thursday afternoons, you can hear me on Backstory this afternoon from 4:30 to 6:00.


James Wigderson said...

The study also misses the point about different forms of media competing. Just because conservatives dominate in one area, for-profit talk radio, it does not mean there isn't balance or even an overall leftward tilt in the media. Talk radio doesn't exist in a vacuum. It's alongside television, newspapers, the entertainment industry, the internet, even music radio (think 102.1's on-air personalities are conservative?). Talk radio is popular precisely because it is an island of conservativism in a vast sea of media liberalism.

I make this point in my Waukesha Freeman column coincidentally appearing today. :)

Real Debate said...

There is one in Racine too WRJN AM 1400. They have Ed Shultz, Alan Colmes and Don Rosen who is lefty as the day is long but refuses to admit it.

If these people gave a damn about TV and print and the balance there they might have a case.

How about a fairness doctrine for every time an editorial writer attacked someone?

Xoff said...

Perhaps I should have been clearer, but when I wrote:

when is the last time anyone tested that theory and actually put a liberal talk show on the air, in the daytime, with an engaging, entertaining host?"

I was talking about Milwaukee.

So the Air America defense is irrelevant.

Xoff said...


As my post said:

Right. People say, "I'm so tired of all of the left-wing, slanted news that I get from the Waukesha Freeman that I need a good dose of 8 hours or so of Sykes and Belling for balance."

Methinks not.

Dad29 said...

It's very tempting to look hard at the common stock of Sirius.

Rick Esenberg said...

I guess you didn't like Dave Melnick and Joel McNally (who I will concede is probably not a very good host) doesn't count because it's a "black station."

Why hasn't it been tried otherwise?We know that there are a number of AM stations that no one listens to.
If liberal talk has potential, why haven't they tried it? I am always skeptical of arguments that the goverment has a better idea of how a business might make money than the people who own it.

James Wigderson said...

Actually Bill, I think the near-universal reaction to reading my column in the Waukesha Freeman (appears every Thursday) is, "Gee, I feel so enlightened I think I'll find my checkbook and write a donation to whomever is running opposed to the Christofferson-endorsed candidate."

However, I think I'm wrong about this whole equal time thang (as we said growing up on Milwaukee's northwest side). I think we should really push for equal time and I can't wait for Ted Nugent to be played on WKLH as much as they play Bob Dylan. I'm sure you'll agree.

James Wigderson said...

Oh wait, someone just reminded me, would equal time to Bob Dylan be Pete Seeger? "Watch out! He's got an axe!"

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