Clear Channel's Premiere Networks has reversed course. After previously announcing they would end their relationship with her at the end of 2013, the nation's largest radio syndicator has decided to keep progressive radio talker Randi Rhodes on air into next year after all.
According to an email announcement with the subject line "Randi Rhodes Show Continues!", as sent to radio station affiliates that carry Rhodes this morning, Premiere has apologized for their previous announcement earlier this week. That announcement, first reported on Wednesday by Politico, indicated that they would not be renewing Rhodes' contract as of year's end.
"In a happy turn of events, we are pleased to announce that Premiere Networks will continue to produce and distribute The Randi Rhodes Show," reads the new email sent Friday morning by Premiere's Peter Tripi, Senior Vice President of Affiliate Relations.
"In an industry of constant change, it's a pleasure to provide good news about a talk talent we think so highly of," the email continues, before concluding with an apology. "We apologize for any inconvenience the previous announcement caused, but look forward to a very successful 2014 with The Randi Rhodes Show."
Phone calls to Tripi and another Premiere executive, seeking an explanation for the quick turnabout, were not immediately returned. The BRAD BLOG was first tipped off to Premiere's decision to keep Rhodes on the air late Thursday, by a station owner who had received a call from Premiere's Director of Affiliate Marketing, Kurt Kretzschmar...
"I just got a call within the past half hour from the distributor, Premiere Networks, saying that 'we've decided to keep Randi past the end of the year,'" Hal Ginsberg, owner of Monterey, CA's progressive talk station KRXA 540am told us last night. Later, we confirmed Ginsberg's information with a show insider who was unable to go on record.
This morning's email from Tripi to show affiliates confirmed again what we had learned late yesterday.
A petition effort had just been mounted by progressives at MoveOn.org to call on Premiere --- which is owned by Clear Channel, the largest station owner in the country --- to keep Rhodes on the air. It's unclear whether or not outraged response from listeners and the fact that Rhodes is one of the only non-Rightwing political voices carried by the nation's largest syndicator (which distributes dozens of Republican shows such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, etc.) had an effect on Premiere's decision, or whether or not the issue was simply a matter of hardball negotiations.
Ginsberg speculates that it may have been the latter. "What I think happened, without first-hand knowledge, is that both Rhodes and Premiere were playing hardball in their contract negotiations," Ginsberg told us this morning. "So Rhodes said that she was going to be taken off to gin up listener support for her and Premiere said darn right we'll take you off. Ultimately, they reached an agreement."
Rhodes is one of the very few progressive talk show hosts carried on our nation's public airwaves, as many of them are licensed across the country, especially in major markets, by broadcast behemoth Clear Channel. Clear Channel is owned by Mitt Romney's Bain Capitol LLC, which took the company private in a leveraged buyout in 2008. Rhodes' termination would have added to the already-near-complete dearth of non-corporatist voices left in talk radio over our public airwaves.
While Rhodes has declined to respond to The BRAD BLOG's request for comment, there was one more oddity in today email from Tripi worth noting. The email to affiliates was dated today, 11/15/2013, but the body of the email, before the actual announcement, included a header dated Tuesday...
Peter Tripi - SVP Affiliate Relations
Date: November 12, 2013
Re: Randi Rhodes Show Continues!
Ginsberg, one of the recipients of the email, confirmed he received it this morning and believes that the incorrect date of November 12, inside the body of the note, was likely just a typo.
"Premiere's email is clearly misdated," Ginsberg tells The BRAD BLOG. "The email confirms what [Premiere's Director of Affiliate Marketing Kurt] Kretzschmar told me yesterday by phone. The announcement that Premiere was dropping Rhodes was also dated 11/12/13. Probably, they just used the same memo, wrote over it, and forgot to redate."
It's not the first time Clear Channel has publicly announced they would cut back on progressive programming, only to quickly change their mind after doing so. In 2006, after announcing that Madison, Wisconsin's WXXM-FM would flip to Fox Sports Radio, which is syndicated by Premiere, the company changed their mind after public outcry and decided to keep the progressive station, known as "the Mic" 92.1FM, on air as is.
In 2011, Clear Channel had announced they would be removing all progressive show hosts from their San Francisco progressive talk station --- the only commercial progressive station in one of the nation's most progressive markets --- in order to replace them with Premiere Network shows from Glenn Beck and other Rightwing talkers. They ended up reversing that decision as well...sort of...two weeks later.
In any case, there's some good news for progressive talk radio fans to begin their weekend...for a change...
FULL DISCLOSURE: I have guest-hosted The Randi Rhodes Show in the past, and have been a frequent guest on the program over the years.
UPDATE: Politico's Mackenzie Weinger also now confirms Premiere's new decision, adding that "A source close to the deal confirmed that Rhodes is back on for one-year through December 2014, with the potential for an extension."
LATER UPDATE: Rhodes gleefully announced the news that she will remain on air in 2014 at the beginning of her show today (audio posted below). Describing her career as "one of the craziest radio careers ever", she explained to listeners that she had come to terms with Premiere as of October, knowing that her show would be cancelled, with her last live show scheduled for December. "Since October, I knew what the plan was, the show was going to be cancelled. I knew that," she told listeners. "But I just didn't want to spend my time talking on the show about me."
There was an agreement to announce the news of the show's cancellation long set for this week, she explained. But then, after the announcement was issued earlier this week, she said, "I got news that was pretty freaking magical".
She couldn't explain the reasons for the company's change of mind, describing it as "the most confusing story since the 2000 election in Florida," but with a "better outcome this time for our side."
"I can't say rumors of death were exaggerated. It just turns out it wasn't the final story. The final story is the company has changed their mind."
"I honestly don't know what happened. I got a phone call saying 'there are still opportunities for you, 2014 is a very important year, we don't want to lose your perspective,'" she said, describing the call she received from a company executive. "Which is to say, they probably wanted a perspective...I mean, look where I work," she added wryly.
Rhodes said when she got home last night there was a contract waiting for her from Premiere, basically an extension of her current contract into 2014 with the possibility of extension beyond.
"This is too cool, this is too crazy, this is too good," she said. "Thank you to every person in this audience. I think what you guys did out there went a very long way. I couldn't be happier!"
Audio from Randi Rhodes' opening segment today, announcing the news, follows below...