Archive for February, 2012

Why do people dislike Rush Limbaugh?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

You may have heard about the recent Harris Poll that said almost half of Americans think Rush Limbaugh is the News and Current Events personality they dislike the most:

Harris Poll Results

Now the details – Harris provided a list of 26 possible answers and asked the people to select the 3 persons they liked the most, and disliked the most, and asked the people if they were Republicans, Democrats or independents.

Problem #1 – Harris chose the list

You won’t find Glenn Beck as a choice, or Michael Savage, or Mark Levin, or Bill Bennett, or Ed Schultz, or Bill Press.    The only choices on the list are TV personalities – with the one exception of Rush Limbaugh.   Talk about apples and oranges (or how irrelevant radio is to America?)

Problem #2 – The poll is of people on the Internet

This was a poll of online users only, who answered using their web site

Problem #3 – The poll is weighted

Harris took the raw numbers and weighted them based on what they believe real America is – as opposed to the 2,000 people who answered – including weighting the results based on how much time the people spend online.  Once you give up trying to pick a representative sample from a population and instead use a known skewed sample and weight the results to try to create an approximation of the entire population, the results can pretty much say anything someone has paid you to make the outcome to be.

Problem #4: – the poll is self selected

The people who answered the poll are those people who wanted to answer the poll.   As the disclaimer at the end admits, with participation in the poll being voluntary and self-selected, it is impossible to calculate a margin of error – meaning that it’s a totally useless, meaningless poll.




Progressive Talk Stations

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

This is a change I’ve resisted – splitting “news talk” stations into Progressive vs Conservative stations, but the time has come.   Since the failure of Air America and the migration of almost all so-called “Progressive” hosts to Dial Global, there are very few radio stations left that are not all on one side or the other of the coming civil war.

List of Progressive Radio Stations

I probably missed a few – especially those that don’t stream.

Why do we have “Top of the Hour” News on Radio?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Why do some stations have news at the top of the hour and others don’t?   Is it a law?  an FCC regulation?   Tradition?  Because listeners expect it or want it?

If you have done testing or just pay attention, there is a wide difference in what news/talk radio stations do for the first six minutes of every hour.   Some stations run maybe 1 minute of news surrounded by 5 minutes of commercials – others run a few minutes of network news followed by a few minutes of local news, and a shrinking handful of stations still do the entire newscast themselves.

In the 1920s as the legal and technology battles were raging over the future of radio, the Federal government was involved in formulating radio policy – in part because radio waves don’t stop at national boundaries, and it was important that countries around the world agree on what part of the radio spectrum is used for what purpose.

Herbert Hoover called a series of conferences to bring together the people with an interest in Radio to sort out what the rules for radio would be.   Republican Herbert Hoover was strongly of the belief that commercial radio had a responsibility to operate in the public interest.   Licensing and regulation of radio had been located in the Department of Commerce, and as the conferences started to identify the problems, the Radio Act of 1927 established the Federal Radio Commission – which laid out the Class A/B/C system for allocating AM radio frequencies that survives pretty much unchanged after 80 years.

Part of the shakeout of the early phase of the radio business was that AT&T agreed to not operate radio stations in exchange for the agreement that NBC and the other radio networks would rent long distance circuits from AT&T to create the early radio networks.   The Radio Networks were a physical network built on 1000s of miles of coax cable that formed the early long distance phone system – deciding on which network to affiliate with was an expensive long term commitment – just not a matter of changing the tuner on your satellite dish as it is today.

The FRC operated from 1927 to 1934, when the FCC was created to regulate communcations (of which Radio was only one type of communication).   The Communications Act of 1934 – which established the FCC as a “commission”, which is an independent decision making entity, not part of any Federal government department – as a compromise between government regulation and the self-regulation model championed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) since its founding in 1922.

In the 1930s, a war broke out between newspapers and radio as newspapers demanded that AP and UPI stop allowing radio stations to use their news stories – in response, CBS Radio established its own news service – which was enough of a competitive threat to get the newspapers to back down and allow radio to use the wire services stories. It’s no coincidence that CBS still dominates in all news radio stations.

Part of the self-regulation NAB model was the “Standards and Practices” rules created in 1937 -which applied to NAB members – but not all radio stations are members of the NAB. This set of rules was called the “NAB Standards of Good Practice for Radio Broadcasters”. At the time, NBC dominated the radio business and the NAB Code largely reflected David Sarnoff’s set of rules regarding advertising, programming content and politics (Sarnoff refused to sell time or advertising to labor unions, for example)

During World War II, the appetite for news about the war led CBS, NBC and Mutual to begin regular hourly news broadcasts. TV and FM radio did not yet exist other than as experimental devices. AM Radio was the only way for news to be distributed immediately.   Video of the war were seen mostly from the News Reels that were shown in movie theaters.   Newspapers came out several times a day, with the possibility of an Extra addition in the event of a major breaking news story.   Magazines could show pictures (Look Magazine) and stories weekly or monthly.

News, local events and radio drama were the backbone of AM radio into the 1950s and most radio stations had affiliated with one of the radio networks for their national news.   When FM radio arrived in the 1950s and really came to the forefront in the 1960s, FM stations did not generally have news, unless they were just a simulcast of the AM station.

The NAB encouraged its members to carry news as part of their obligation to operate in the public interest.   Starting in the 1980s as satellite delivery of radio content became practical, stations began to carry syndicated programming and news without relying on leased phone lines.   With stations with many different ideas about programming wanting to pick up syndicated programming (See: Rush Limbaugh) it was important for the syndicated programming to accommodate a variety of approaches to how stations wanted to do local portions.  The result was that every syndicated talk show publishes a “Show Clock” so that stations know when they are expected to fill in with their own commercials and local programming.  Techniques were developed to allow unattended operation of stations – the most obvious used to be Mutual Radio’s bee-deep tones that were sent “in band”.

So the rigidity of the show clocks force a break of about 6 minutes  before the show starts.  A few shows lay down a “bed” of audio playing music for about 30 seconds allowing the station to play another short commercial and allow for some sloppiness in exactly when they rejoin.   These days clocks are very precise and it isn’t generally necessary to signal the times for hard commercial breaks that occur at a specific time, however “soft breaks” that can move by a few minutes require automation cues.

Cumulus swinging the axe at talk lineups

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

In the past few days, Cumulus has been pulling most of its news/talk programming in-house – specifically switching its stations to John Batchelor and Redeye Radio.

They’ve also dumped Michael Savage on a few stations and replaced him with Mark Levin (no suprise there).

While Sean Hannity was orignally owned by ABC Radio (then Citadel), Hannity “Opted Out” of his contract with ABC/Citadel and switched to Clear Channel’s Premiere in 2009 – but with the condition that ABC would continue to syndicate the show on their stations and share in Premiere’s advertising revenue.   Where that contract stands at this point is not obvious – it probably didn’t anticipate a future where Cumulus would own ABC.

Of course, every schedule change opens up opportunity for other stations in the market to pick up the shows that have been dropped, so changes are cascadng all over the place.

For now, most of the change is in the evening and overnight, but it’s only a matter of time until the daytime gets the Cumulus cost reduction program.

Redeye Radio is the big winner so far – not only are the Cumulus stations switching to the trucking radio guys, but a substantial number of non-Cumulus stations are picking up the show .

Chuck Harder: Will We Ever Learn?

Friday, February 17th, 2012

If you know or remember who  Chuck Harder is, he showed up during the third hour of Coast to Coast last night.   He was talking with George Noory partly about Area 51 – he mentioned working with George Knapp back in the 1990s on the Alien Autopsy Tapes, which was a connection I wasn’t aware of.

Chuck Harder did an independently syndicated radio show before the Clear Channels of the world consolidated most of radio into 3 or 4 large networks that control most of radio.   Harder hit his zenith when he decided to support H Ross Perot in 1992 – Perot’s involvement probably cost George HW Bush the election.

Chuck claims to be a “lifelong union Democrat” who fell off the wagon with the election of the Clintons, who he started accused of all kinds of things – Randy Weaver (which actually happened under George HW Bush), drug smuggling by the CIA in the Mena Arkansas airport, and was beating the drums about the Massacre at Waco Texas by the out of control federal government.

While partly a crackpot, in retrospect he absolutely had things nailed about the Clintons and their connections with China, and how the government and the world was coming under the control of the global bankers (See:  Goldman Sachs)

So Chuck has a self-published book that he is now selling on Amazon (the title of this post).   Chuck is much older now and sounds a bit more tired (but don’t we all?)…  it was interesting to hear his voice again.

K-Rock goes To Talk that Rocks

Monday, February 13th, 2012

WRXK-FM is located on the Southern end of the Gulf Coast of Florida near Port Charlotte.  Up until today, it was mostly a hard rock station, with Bubba the Love Sponge anchoring mornings.

This part of Florida is not a typical part of America which is why they are going to try a full time talk format targeted at young men.

The only female on the schedule is portrayed on the web site as basically the station slut, doing a pole dance and showing off her legs (hello, this is radio?)

The station is owned by Emmis, one of the few remaining publicly traded radio owners.  It’s currently in an ownership fight several years long as its founder keeps trying to divorce the people he sold stock to.  It was Emmis that split off 3 of its major market stations and sold them to Randy Michaels to pay down some of the debt that is smothering the balance sheet.

So is this the way to get young people to listen to radio?  Bubba the Love Sponge is syndicated on a few stations , and they are carrying Lex & Terry at  night (Lex and Terry is a morning show that probably competes with Bob & Tom, but with hosts with no personality), John & Jeff, Nick & Artie (which appears to be a show from New York)

Sports, partying with chicks, the TV shows last night,celebrity gossip – is that enough to attract an audience?

Pat McCrory and Me

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

In 1976, I decided to run for Student Government treasurer at Catawba College, concerned that the place was in a death spiral dominated by an emphasis on football, beer parties and infighting between the admnistration and  professors over being told to pass through football players who were not able to do the class work.  I’m a pretty shy, non-social person, so me running for SGA Treasurer against a female social butterfly who had been selected by the school as their choice was very atypical for me – but to my surprise, I won the election.

Serving on the SGA as a representative was a young man (one year behind me) named Pat McCrory.   We immediately hit it off as he was also an outsider upset with the direction the college was headed and wanting to communicate the things we were hearing from our fellow students to the people who ran the college (nominally a Christian college supported by the United Church of Christ).   I was an accounting and business major and Pat was headed for a career in politics.

Pat McCrory went on to become mayor of the city of Charlotte North Carolina- – and served for 7 two year terms (1995-2009) – during which time the big small town that had been run by a man named Belk (of the department store chain) was transformed into a major urban city, being the headquarters of Bank of America (formerly NCNB) and Wachovia Bank, and adding many new employers.   Pat McCrory’s reputation is as a very clean honest person who cooperates with business while considering the overall need of the city – exactly as I knew him to be in college.

Pat ran for governor of North Carolina four years ago and lost in a surprise – he had been expected to win easily, but the Barack Obama election may have influenced the outcome.

One of the regular readers here brought it to my attention that Pat is running again for governor of North Carolina and has a huge lead now – with Conservative Democrats defecting to support a Republican candidate for governor as the existing Governor has run the state into the ground.

I haven’t had any contact with Pat since leaving college, but am giving serious consideration to moving to North Carolina now, perhaps to help him win, or at least provide moral support.   If you have read my personal story over time, you are aware I’m unhappy living in Connecticut and was already thinking about moving back to North Carolina.

Here is his web site if you want to get a sense of who he is

If this web site goes on autopilot, that might be the reason why.    I don’t know what the rules are for political campaigns in North Carolina, and since I haven’t had any contact yet with him or the campaign, for now I think I can still speak freely 🙂

Cumulus to put Huckabee against Limbaugh

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Back when the Atlanta based Cumulus acquired Citadel Media (including the former ABC radio stations and syndication) with the mandate from the investors funding the deal to cut costs, I wondered out loud if Rush Limbaugh was going to become a target of that cost cutting (ignoring the revenue he generates).

Rush’s syndication started mainly on ABC radio – predating the 1996 telecom reform act and the consolidation of the radio business – and Rush’s syndicator (Premiere) ended up owned by Clear Channel – but Rush has stayed on the powerhouse former ABC AM stations ever since (WABC in New York, WLS in Chicago, WBAP in Dallas/Fort Worth – but not KFI in Los Angeles which used to carry Bill O’Reilly and while Clear Channel’s KFI carries Rush)

In addition to having an arrangement that works, Clear Channel has continued its relationship with Citadel/ABC because it doesn’t have viable stations in those markets unless it flips a successful FM music station to talk.

In New York, it has no AM station and none is likely to become available. Salem radio just hired former WABC program director Phil Boyce who recently left the Talk Radio Network (TRN) to head up Salem’s talk programming. Salem has two viable New York stations – the Big Apple (WNYM AM) – current home of Curtis Sliwa, formerly of WABC – and the listless no-ratings WMCA-AM which is a mere shadow of its former self running recorded religious programming begging for money (Salem Radio is a for-profit company publicly traded in the stock market).

In Chicago, Clear Channel owns the expanded band WVON-AM, a traditionally black expanded band (above 1620 kHz) station that it leases to a black talk programmer and would be a firestorm if Clear Channel turned it into a “white” station (WVON stood for Voice of Negroes).  Salem Radio owns WIND-AM,

In Detroit, Clear Channel has WDFN that carries sports (competing against WXYT that owns the market) and WDTW, which is targeted at Ann Arbor carrying progressive talk currently.   Salem owns WDTK-AM, which currently carries some of their talk lineup, but also carries Dennis Miller and Lars Larson.

About a year ago, Clear Channel cut loose most of the Premiere staff, so it is running now mostly on momentum as Clear Channel has been moving Rush to their own stations – even if it means a smaller audience (Boston and Winston-Salem and Raleigh in North Carolina being recent examples).

So Cumulus employs Mike Huckabee who replaced the deceased Paul Harvey on ABC Radio and is starting him in syndication in direct competition with Rush in April. It seems likely that Rush will leave his former ABC homes as a result. Salem Radio runs the pleasant but uninspiring Dennis Prager up against Limbaugh.

Cumulus made its first syndication move by releasing Doug Urbanski and replacing him with the seasoned host Chris Plante and putting his show on all the stations that were carrying Urbanski.   Mark Levin and John Batchelor are the other major talk personalities that are employed by Cumulus Media via their purchase of Citadel/ABC.   Cumulus has no track record in running syndication operations.   They were the buyers of syndicated programming, not the producers of it.   They just recently hired Geraldo Rivera to do a show in New York and Los Angeles.

I’ve written recently about how the entire Salem Tslk lineup is stale and uninspired and getting old and needs a major revamp. The world of conservative talk radio is about to change – just in time for the 2012 election.

Protecting the Big Game ™

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

C/Net is reporting on the effort by Indiana, Indiannpolis, Postal Service and Federal law enforcement (including ICE) along with the efforts in Congress to put people in jail for unauthorized streaming of the big annual sporting event that takes place in February on a rectangular grassy field using a pointed brown ball whose name may never be mentioned that is being held in Indiana this year.

Other press releases from Westwood One (now part of Dial Global) indicate that over 600 radio stations plan to have the Big Game on their radio station this weekend, and typically those contracts do not permit streaming of sporting events by radio stations – the contracts only cover “over the air” broadcasting within the local service area of the station. I fully expect ICE to be spending this weekend looking for Radio Station owners who need to go to federal prison and lose their radio stations for failing to turn off their stream duing the Big Game whose name can not be mentioned.

Curiously, law enforcement seemed to already have the power to seize web sites engaging in copyright and trademark infringement without the need for the new SOPA/PIPA law.

This story actually conflates two unrelated things – one is a man in Michigan who apparently streams the video of sporting events onto the internet (part of the reason I never publish links to radio streams other than those on the station’s own web site) who was shut down. He is clearly a violator of copyright law, but ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has no power to enforce copyright violation. ICE’s involvement in this story is about catching people trying to import knockoff unauthorized merchandise that contains the intellectual property of the sports organization that owns the rights to the big sporting event whose name cannot be mentioned. Customs has seized a total of 65,262 unauthorized items allegedly worth $6.4 million – which works out to an average of $98 per item, clearly an exaggeration unless someone is putting logos on Chevy Volts – and far exceeding the costs of this invetigation.

For extra reading, here is the testimory from the US Copyright Office about the need to control “Parasite” web sites.

The corporate domination of the Internet is almost complete – not that there should have ever been any doubt that it was coming.