Bye-Bye Progressive Radio in Los Angeles

Progressive AM Radio Los AngelesClear Channel to Rebrand L.A.’s Only Liberal AM Radio Station, Will Become a Hard Right Station, Known as “The Patriot”

On January 2, 2014, Los Angeles’ only liberal AM radio station – KTLK AM 1150 – will be rebranded as a “hard right conservative” station, according to station content director, David Perez. Clear Channel Communications, which owns over 9,000 US radio stations, is making a move that further homogenizes local talk radio in Southern California: the Los Angeles-Orange County area already has four other conservative talk radio stations.

“Basically, this is all about ratings and branding,” Perez said. He explained that the current KTLK station never really established its branding, which explains why listener ratings are lower compared to conservative talk radio, he said. He was not able to provide specific ratings figures by press time, only to say that he or someone else from the station would supply these figures later. That call back never came.

According to Arbitron.com, one of the main groups that monitors and reports radio listenership, KTLK’s average ratings in 2013 have been significantly lower than the dominant conservative talk radio station in L.A. – AM 640 KFI. KTLK’s rating has averaged 0.4, compared to KFI’s 3.3.

So it seems to make sense that Clear Channel is dumping progressive radio, and focusing solely on conservative radio because that’s where the listeners – and advertising profits – are. Right? Wrong.

When reviewing the ratings for the other conservative talk radio stations in Los Angeles*  you will find that all of the other stations (AM 790 KABC, AM 870 KRLA, and AM 980 KFWB) have ratings that are very close to KTLK’s numbers. It should be noted here that KFWB bills itself as a “news” station, which ought to attract even more listeners. But KFWB’s numbers barely surpass KTLK’s. Also, anyone who listens – and who has access to a wide variety of information sources – can easily identify KFWB’s conservative position.

One could argue that Clear Channel is trying to steer listeners away from KABC AM 790 (which is owned by Cumulus Media) from KRLA AM 870 (which is owned by Salem Communications) and from KFWB AM 980 (which is controlled by a trust that is owned by CBS). Considering those stations already have their own base of loyal listeners, with their own lineup of hosts, and the fact that Clear Channel is moving one of its current shows (Rush Limbaugh) from KFI to the re-branded KTLK, it would appear that the most this move will do is reduce the number of listeners at KFI and increase the number of listeners at KTLK.

Most certainly, the current progressive group of KTLK listeners are not going to stay with the re-branded KTLK. Most likely they will abandon AM radio and move to FM 90.7 KPFK, FM 89.3 KPCC or FM 89.9 KCRW. That means the ratings numbers aren’t really going to benefit Clear Channel, nor its advertising revenue. That means Clear Channel’s comment, about KTLK rebranding being tied to ratings, is either misguided or misleading.

A staff person at KTLK, who asked to remain anonymous, said the staff there have known since August that the change was coming. That was when Clear Channel decided to move the Rush Limbaugh Show from KFI 640 AM – another LA station they own – to KTLK. The source also stated that some at KTLK suspected Clear Channel wanted to hold off announcing the change until a big news day, in order to minimize possible backlash from critics.

Clear Channel officially announced the Limbaugh move the same day worldwide news was flooded with reports about Nelson Mandela’s death. It can be argued that the attention of many progressives was diverted to the Mandela story, and thereby missed hearing Clear Channel’s re-branding announcement. If the announcement was made on a slow news day, there would be a more concentrated focus by critics – meaning more people would’ve heard about it at the same time, and more people would’ve jointly questioned the reasoning behind the move.

It is no coincidence that Clear Channel is also rebranding the only progressive AM station left in San Francisco. And Clear Channel’s ratings claim is as weak there as it is in Los Angeles. When asked about the rebranding coming 11 months before a mid-term election where progressive are running very strong, Clear Channel’s Perez said they do not make operating decision based on politics.

That’s no way to run a radio station!

Imagine Clear Channel deciding to cancel Los Angeles Kings broadcasts, during their 2012 championship run, saying they don’t make radio decisions based on sports.

forrest-woolmanWhen you consider the fact that the Tea Party had substantially decreased in popularity, and conservatives are scrambling to hold their seat in Congress, anyone running a progressive radio station can see that they ratings over the next 11 months are going to benefit them continuing their progressive talk shows. That is, or course, unless the progressive agenda conflicts with your corporate agenda.

It will be interesting to see how the Arbitron ratings show for the rebranded KTLK in 2014, as well as the other conservative AM stations. Will we see an increase in the ratings for FM progressive stations?

*(Note: Arbitron ratings might require membership login, the ratings can be found at https://tlr.arbitron.com/tlr/public/ratingsDisplay.do?method=loadRatingsForMarket )

Forrest Woolman

Comments

  1. ronwf says

    There’s a misunderstanding here. The income a station generates is not purely a function of how many people listen to it It’s also a function of who those people are. If your ratings are, say, a 4.0, but those listeners are all poor, you can make more money by switching format, seeing your ratings drop to 2.0, but attracting listeners making $70,000/year or more. The demographics of your listeners can override the number of them.

  2. Dick Price says

    Sharon and I were regular participants on Mario Solis-Marich’s KTLK show for months. We had a ball talking with Mario for 15 or 20 minutes, once or twice a week, about progressive issues.

    Fellow activists said we made a good contribution, and we were thinking of trying to do a radio show on our own, maybe on the Internet — sort of a “he said, she said” around progressive issues. We might still want to do that, if only we could clone ourselves or find funding.

    But then Mario had to stop calling on us, perhaps because we were more than a little too progressive for his betters running the station, or perhaps because Sharon kept kicking my butt in our segments and maybe Mario felt sorry for me.

    One of Mario’s colleagues liked to call me a socialist, which is a compliment, really, though I think of myself more of a Hubert Humphrey social democrat.

  3. Kim_Kaufman says

    bad link to Arbitrons :(
    I don’t get it: KTLK has a crappy signal, KFI is much stronger. This looks like a demotion for Rush, et al., who are being dumped onto the inferior signal.

    • U.S. Citizen says

      I think Rush is on more than one station in L.A.–Not sure. This is the case in other areas of the nation.

  4. Gary100 says

    This paragraph from the article sums it up.
    “When you consider the fact that the Tea Party had substantially decreased in popularity, and conservatives are scrambling to hold their seat in Congress, anyone running a progressive radio station can see that they ratings over the next 11 months are going to benefit them continuing their progressive talk shows. That is, or course, unless the progressive agenda conflicts with your corporate agenda.”

    Well, this is AM radio. We still have Pacifica Radio (KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles) and even NPR is more progressive than Clear Channel program.
    These pro-business pro corporate interests will end of shooting themselves in the foot if people tune out and their ratings drop.
    Solution, support public sponsored progressive radio programing where ever you find it.

    – Gary

    • Ryder says

      I think the quoted paragraph is actually quite wrong. Station ratings don’t work like that…

      This theory would be the idea that when republicans make gains in congress or win the oval office, that people would suddenly tune in to Rush Limbaugh (media consumption following electoral results).

      I see no indication that this has any truth to it at all. In fact, when a Bill Clinton or an Obama take office… Limbaugh enjoys as much or more listener-ship.

      When Republicans win office, do a bunch of democrats start listening to Rush? Or do they just turn off their radios?

      There is no reason to think that this would happen. Finding consoling voices in the wake of defeat is probably a more reasonable estimate of human behavior.

    • Donna Halper says

      Not sure I agree with you on this one. Stephanie does like President Obama (as do I, although I don’t always agree with his policies), but she has a wide range of views on her show, from centrist all the way to far left, and even some conservatives have been guests or callers. But you raise a good point: conservative talkers all seem to hew to the same basic ideology, whereas leftie talkers have many more disagreements and varying interpretations. I don’t find one “official” view expressed on liberal talk shows– yes, they all disagree with the views of the Republicans and the Tea Party– as articulated by Limbaugh, Hannity, et al. But I’ve heard a number of policy differences with the Obama administration from Thom Hartmann, Bill Press, Stephanie, Randi, Ed Schultz, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, etc.

      • U.S. Citizen says

        I don’t listen a great deal but my limited observations. Definitely a broad range of disagreements with Obama by Amy. Hartmann–more so than most other than Amy but doesn’t always directly relate it to Obama and the Dems. I’ve seen Schultz directly disagree on a few occasions. Randi gets the corporate takeover but she spoke more about it when Bush was POTUS and doesn’t relate it to Obama. I lost faith in her when she started shilling for Obama in the primaries, ignoring or backing his support of TARP, support of retroactive telecom immunity and backtracking on the free trade agreements. I don’t listen to Stephanie too much and I haven’t heard her disagree with Obama but trust you have. I haven’t listened to Bill Press. IMO, overall, except for Amy and Hartmann, the others buy in to the corporate paradigm of Repub vs. Dems. It makes for good Kabuki theatre and filles the airwaves with politics and personalities rather than discussion of the issues.

  5. Ryder says

    The explosion of conservative talk radio is really simple to understand…
    As the “big 3″ networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) were all leaning left, the PBS stations leaned further left and the addition of cable networks CNN, MSNBC, etc… there was a clear saturation of center to left media… even the largest papers. NPR dominated the radio waves. Not to mention all of Hollywood.

    Since most Americans have views to the right of this media grouping, there was a massive vacuum… an under-served market. Limbaugh just basically had to show up… and boom. With a new place to go that better matched Americas political composition, growth was rapid and sustained.

    Meanwhile, with the exception of FOX (also having exploded in a tv line-up that was all center to left), there is such a massive collection of left leaning media that trying to add more left media in a crowded field is simply difficult as heck. NPR (under various names) dominates left leaning radio, and has for a very long time.

    Don’t expect that it should be easy to grow more left of center media, in a market that is saturated with it.

    The only thing that makes possible a MASSIVE explosion of the likes of FOX and Limbaugh is that with scant few exceptions, the left has saturated all major media for a long time.

    Its like having an ice cream store with nothing but variations of vanilla (plain, french, and vanilla bean), then someone shows up selling chocolate… the results are predictable.

    • U.S. Citizen says

      The corporate media are hardly liberal. We are saturated, especially on radio, with right-wing talk shows. The corporate t.v. media promotes a corporate agenda which is also right-wing. The corporate agenda is a right-wing agenda embraced by the Dem and Repub electeds. MSNBC shills for Dems and Fox for Repubs while CNN promotes a non-party corporate agenda. The lack of real news and the wealth of politics and personalities mixed with a right-wing corporate narrative is just what the wealthy want. Our corporate broadcast media is a joke.

      • Ryder says

        We know from studies that the media are generally well left in America… so that’s not debatable. Also the writers/editors are, in polls, historically, self described to left… (noting that as this kind of data began to appear, members of the media started registering independent in order to mask bias. “I’m an independent” is a handy shield when you have something to hide.)

        Corporatism makes no particular difference… there is no law that prevents leftists from forming corporations or owning things. MSNBC and FOX are both corporate media, and anyone who thinks they are both right wing would need to check into a windowless room with mattress wallpaper.

        I have already explained that the right dominates the radio, and I explained why. A massive vacuum existed… a massive under-served market.

        To a radical leftist, everything looks “right” of center. It’s just that what they perceive as the center, is very skewed.

        The explosion of FOX and conservative talk radio is proof that American tastes are centered far, far more to the right than someone on the left used to be able to comfortably assume.

        The New York and DC (and LA) elite could look at almost any media in earlier times, and assume that everyone thought the way they did… after all, no media (produced in NY, DC, and & LA, surprise surprise), told them different. It’s called living in a bubble.

        The reason why we can single out Fox, is because it is on the right in a sea of left leaning opinion/news programming.

        Since America is to the right of the “old news” dominated on the left, their clear and only choice, when it appeared, was FOX. Nothing could be simpler to understand.

        cnnnbcmsnbccbsabcpbs are all more or less interchangeable… though I think that msnbc is defining the fringe of that spectrum.

        But again, in a sea of left leaning choices, why leave them in order to spend your time on the AM dial with struggling leftist radio? Why not just stay on FM and NPR?

        • U.S. Citizen says

          The studies that show corporate media leans left must be flawed or paid for by right-wing think tanks. Anyone who can’t see that radio talk shows are overwhelmingly right-wing can’t hear very well. The t.v. talk shows buy in to the Dem vs. Repub paradigm when, in reality, both parties are corporate parties. The overriding issue of the day that is the pervasiviness of the corporate takeover of our nation. And, the corporatization of America and The Second Gilded Age are the results of bipartisan efforts.
          MSNBC does talk about this somewhat but fails to acknowledge the Dems part in it. It is true that MSNBC does take liberal positions on some issues but, basically, toes the establishment line and only discusses “safe” issues as do the whole corporate media. It is good that we’re starting to see Amy Goodman on some of their shows. And, Thom Hartmann. However, this is relatively recent.
          If we had a truly liberal meda, they would be talking more about the corporate control of our government, regardless of which party is in power, including the co-opting or our regulatory agencies that have been taken over by the industries they are supposed to regulate. They would be talking about climate change, the damage from fracking, that the ACA is a Republican law and how the Repubs were, one time, in favor “individual responsibility” before they were against it and, presumably, the Dems were against it before they were for it, that the ACA is a giveaway to insurance companies like Medicare Part D is a giveaway to the pharmaceutical industry, that Dodd-Frank doesn’t address the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the fact that we have about four big banks controlling the financial industry, that derivatives are still not regulated, let alone banned. And, we should remember that there was a media blackout during the healthcare debate on Medicare for All. There is also the Trans Pacific Partnership which, as far as I can see only Ed Schultz discusses. And, he doesn’t really point out that the real dangers.
          They also fail to talk about the arrogance and hypocrisy of our foreign policy.
          There are many more issues but these are some important issues that a truly liberal media would discuss. And, this is due to another issue that isn’t mentioned for obvious reasons. This happens because there are six corporations controlling our media and they are support the corporate state. Just like Reaganomics morphing into Clintonomics, Reagan’s repeal of the Fairness Doctrine combined with Clinton’s signing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
          Hillary was correct when she spoke of a “right-wing conspiracy”. Unfortunately, her and Bill joined it.
          TR wouldn’t be too happy if he were alive.

          • Ryder says

            I already said, three times now, that talk radio is dominated by the right, and I told you exactly why.

            Who’s not listening?

            And is your position really that, if any information disagrees with your opinions, then they must be flawed or fabricated by the right?

            Wow. Just… wow.

            • Ryder says

              A Measure of Media Bias:

              Tim Groseclose
              Department of Political Science
              UCLA

              Jeff Milyo
              Department of Economics
              University of Missouri

              December 2004

            • -Nate says

              Wow is correct ~! you’re an obvious right wing nutball troll who’s afraid of the truth .

              No one with 1/2 a bran thinks any corporate media is left leaning , you just outed yourself as a fool or retard , in public .

              -Nate

              • Ryder says

                Actually, those who study it most closely, in academia, who I would suggest do have half a brain, do more than *think* that there is a leftward bias, they have conducted experiments that show it. See the reference I provide below.

                I hope that at LA Progressive, tossing around insults does not qualify as actual discussion.

                What I think you and others are focusing on is corporate influence on political policy… and yes, Few media except for alternate media focus on that much, but you are absolutely incorrect to label that as a “right wing” issue.

                Corporate influence is real, but is really just a form of cronyism which span and generally ignore ideological moorings.

                Corporate influence simply isn’t a right wing ideological value. In fact, the Tea Party, especially, despises cronyism and those that seek influence or receive bail-outs due to political connection. Recall that the Tea Party demonstrated against bank bail outs long, long before Occupy ever existed. They hate the “country-club Republicans” more than most…

                What you are confusing as “right” is really just “power and influence” which is sought by many groups irrespective of ideology… from NOW, to NAACP to ACLU to Unions to Defense contractors to Greenpeace, to Bankers to pharmaceutical and on and on and on.

                This is a problem that is ageless, and is, unfortunately a byproduct of STATISM. Those that believe in having a powerful state, naturally attract and develop ties to those that have and seek power and influence.

                A small and weak government has less such corruption for the simple reason that the mechanism of power is far less substantial, thus the benefits of power influence find less result.

                When government is all powerful and far reaching, at that point, and only that point, do “connections and influence” reach their maximum potential.

                In short:
                The lack of anti-corporatism in news is not a good indication of left or right ideological bias.

            • U.S. Citizen says

              I guess we all agree that radio is predominantly right-wing. However, I don’t agree that t.v. media is predominangly left-leaning and I don’t agree with your reasoning as to why.
              Start with the Powell Memo that began the “right-wing conspiracy” (that Bill and Hillary joined). The gradual corporate takeover of our political system began with that. Since then, there has been an assault on government serving the people and a move towards it serving the corporate interests over the public good–a representative corporatocracy. It has taken over all branches of government and the corporate media. The media takeover started with Reagan ending The Fairness Doctrine and continued with Clinton’s sigining of The Telecommunications Act of 1996 that resulted in the media consolidation. This has resulted in news and opinions that promote the corporate agenda.
              MSNBC does lean left of center on certain issues. However, the other cable networks, as well as the The Big Three, are hardly left-leaning. Some examples are the media blackout on Medicare for All and the unqualified support of the Iraq and Afghan invasions. In fact, MSNBC fired Phil Donohue for daring to question the Iraq invasion.

      • harry says

        I suggest FOX is the only station that does not lean left which makes them seem to lean right. I could hardy believe the paper published here by Zeese and Flowers was printed.

    • Mike The Bookie says

      The fact that you characterize Big Media as “center to left” tells me all I need to know. You’re regurgitating Astroturf, intended to skew the viewpoints of innocent and uninformed. The “political composition” of Americans , and more importantly, the electorate, is most assuredly NOT Limbaugh’s audience, or we would not be looking at overwhelming Democratic victories in the elections since 2012. Romney lost because he did not understand this basic fact. While they try to overwhelm with bombast, there are just not enough of them , not matter what you maintain. President Obama is Hard Center, and that is where you find America.

      • Ryder says

        I never say “Big Media”, I said “the big 3″. Of course, I don’t know how old you are, but before cable, ABC, CBS, and NBC were commonly known as “the big 3″ broadcasters.

        That’s why I placed it in quotes. Everyone called them that. Even they called themselves that.

        And if you find “all you need to know” is that I refer, properly, to the big 3 networks using the terms of the day… well… I think you might want to start forming views around a bit more information next time… but that’s just my way of thinking.

      • ronwf says

        President Obama is “Hard Center”? I’ve been living in the Chicago area and have seen his political rise. Anyone who can get on a TV show and state that the Constitution is flawed because it only guarantees what he terms “negative rights” – things that the government cannot do to you or take from you – and does not guarantee what he termed “positive rights” – defined as things the government must give you or do for you – is hardly “hard center”.

  6. Donna Halper says

    It is a durable myth, promoted largely by conservative owners, that “nobody” wants to hear progressive or liberal talk. If that is so, then how has Ed Schultz managed to spend nearly 11 years on radio (in addition to his TV show), continue to have between 85 and 100 affiliates, and turn a considerable profit? How have Thom Hartmann and Stephanie Miller also been able to be profitable and popular? The truth is that Clear Channel NEVER believed in progressive talk and never supported or promoted it. Liberal talkers were put on the stations with the worst signals and given no promotion budget. They were set up to fail. Even KTLK had a weak signal compared to the stations with Rush Limbaugh on them.

    Sadly, when the Fairness Doctrine was decimated by President Reagan, Democrats and progressives came late to the idea of hosting talk shows; and by the time they got organized, Republicans and conservatives dominated the radio dial, a fact which has not changed– 97% of talk radio is hosted by identifiably right-wing conservatives. And there is much investment in keeping it that way. Yes, progressive talk can be heard on Sirius XM, but for those who want to hear it on terrestrial radio, the only option is to buy some stations. And without progressive voices on the air, the country will continue to be misinformed. I say this as a radio consultant, rather than as a partisan. For democracy to flourish, BOTH sides of the debate need to be heard.

    Unfortunately for our democracy, big companies like Clear Channel (whose original owner, Lowry Mays, was a long-time friend and supporter of George W. Bush) have taken one side– the right wing conservative side. Okay fine, that’s their privilege. But where are the companies that will support and encourage some of the very intelligent (and entertaining) progressive talkers? Do such companies exist? If so, I hope they make themselves known, sooner rather than later.

    • U.S. Citizen says

      I agree with most of what you say but you’re ignoring the Dem’s part. Remember, Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. By the way, in many cases, there are more than two sides to an issue.

      • Donna Halper says

        I wasn’t ignoring it as much as condensing it. It did start with Reagan, but yes, Clinton and a Republican congress gave us the Telecom Act. And yes, I agree that sometimes there are many aspects or sides to a story… I was mainly referring to the two dominant political parties (wish we had a serious challenge to them, given how corporate they have both become; but that’s another story for another day).

  7. Harriet Garner says

    No worries, I purchased an annual subscription to Sirius XM radio in 2007 to avoid the cultural-conditioning-on-steroids offered by AM & FM radio. The elitists who own close to all of conservative media outlets have not saturated the more diverse satellite radio world, yet.

  8. Tom Barclay says

    It might have helped if they’d spent some promotion dollars. I’d never heard of the station until I read this article.

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