10 November, 2009

Why It's Conservative And Capitalistic To Air Liberal Radio In Charleston

I just mailed a letter to Lisa Nininger Hale, President of Bristol Broadcasting, suggesting that if she hasn't already made a decision about how to re-program "Z-Rock" which is playing Christmas music until Bristol is ready to unveil their plans for the former rock station, she might want to consider liberal talk radio. No matter what Ms. Hale's politics, being the first to air liberal radio in Charleston, WV, would be a very capitalistic, very conservative, very Republican thing to do for one simple reason: In Charleston, WV, the owner of a liberal talk radio station would have a monopoly on that market.

Program directors whose paychecks are signed by Clear Channel and other politically conservative radio station owners are quick to point to Air America's difficulties as proof that "liberal radio never works" or that "liberals won't support liberal talk radio."

While I'll stipulate that even the most successful liberal hosts like Thom Hartmann, Ron Reagan, Jr., Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes don't have listening audiences as big as those of Rush Limbaugh, there are two reasons I think trying to compare liberal talk radio market share to conservative talk radio market share isn't comparing apples to apples.

First, since most radio station owners are conservatives who have built their radio brands for years, liberal talk radio has generally only been tried on stations nobody was listening to when those stations had a different format.

Second, conservative station owners have chased away nearly all the potential liberal radio listeners who, frankly, feel they can't turn on the radio without being aurally assaulted. If Charleston had a liberal talk radio station it would take a while for liberals who have come to associate radio with pain and insult to eject their CDs or turn off their iPods and seek information and entertainment from the radio again. I never did think it was a wise strategy for companies like Clear Channel to actually shrink the radio audience by alienating half their potential listeners without giving those alienated listeners another station to turn to. If I were an enterprising, cynical radio company I might want to own both liberal and conservative stations in the same market so that when Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity chase radio listeners and advertisers from one station, these listeners and advertisers are driven into the arms of a station that airs liberal programming.

And finally, I think one of the reasons liberals have not always supported liberal talk radio is that liberals don't like liberals who try to sound like liberal versions of Glen Beck or Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh. In other words, I'm saying that you don't communicate to liberals the same way you communicate to conservatives - and I think I'll stop right there. My fellow liberals know what I mean. Let's just say that if Michael Agnello and Rush Limbaugh experienced born again conversions to liberalism and went on the air tomorrow attacking conservatives with the same simplistic arguments and bombast with which they attack liberals now, even liberals who agree with what they say would object to how they say it and tune out in droves once the novelty of their liberal conversion wore off. You don't communicate with a liberal the same way you communicate with a conservative.

Anyway, I sent my letter to Bristol Broadcasting President, Lisa Nininger Hale, telling her that if she converts Z-Rock to liberal talk, not only will she have a monopoly on that format, I'll even help her identify liberal advertisers who might like to use radio to reach liberals.

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