Non-RW listeners in largest and most progressive media markets to be almost completely unserved over our publicly-owned airwaves
UPDATE: Move may also signal very bad news for Rush Limbaugh...
By Brad Friedman on 12/5/2013, 2:55pm PT  

The largest media market in the world is about to lose its only non-Rightwing commercial talk radio station. Los Angeles' KTLK 1150am will be flipped to a far Rightwing station featuring hosts like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and other rightwing talkers. "The changes are set to take effect for the first broadcast of 2014," according to the Los Angeles Times this afternoon.

KTLK is owned by Clear Channel Communications, Inc., the nation's largest owner of radio stations. Clear Channel is now owned by Mitt Romney's Bain Capital LLC. The talkers mentioned above who will be taking over the previously-progressive station are also syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Networks, the largest radio syndicator in the nation. The BRAD BLOG has long argued that the outsized control of our public airwaves enjoyed by Clear Channel/Premiere and a handful of other conglomerates --- including their ability to leverage our public airwaves (licensed from we, the people, in exchange only for their promise to serve the public interest) to distribute their own syndicator's shows --- is a likely violation of U.S. v. Paramount, the 1948 anti-trust Supreme Court decision which found that the major movie studios could not also control the means of distribution by owning the nation's largest theater chains at the same time.

As if ending progressive talk radio in L.A. isn't bad enough, Clear Channel will now also reportedly be flipping its formerly progressive San Francisco talk station KNEW 960am (a move which they had threatened and then partially changed their mind about flipping in late 2011), over to a completely Right-leaning station as well, says the Times. That will leave San Francisco, arguably the most progressive city in the nation, without any commercial progressive talk radio outlet at all. But, as in L.A., listeners will still have many different Right-leaning talks outlets on our public airwaves to choose from, several of them owned by the same major corporation.

In Los Angeles, Clear Channel also owns KFI 640am, the number one station in the market. That station currently runs Limbaugh, along with a host of other Right-leaning local talk shows. KTLK, had once described itself as "Progressive Talk", before changing it's tag line to "L.A.'s Voice" earlier this year. They had already gutted of most of the station's progressive-leaning talk shows over the past several years. The station will now be re-dubbed "The Patriot". The Times reports that "Clear Channel is hoping to pump up [KTLK] as an outlet exclusively dedicated to right-leaning chatter"...

Other than progressive-leaning Pacifica Radio-affiliate KPFK 90.7fm, a community radio station, once Clear Channel flips KTLK to "conservative" talk, Los Angeles will no longer have any non-corporatist talk radio stations over its public airwaves. While both L.A. and San Francisco have several National Public Radio stations, all underwritten by large grants from corporate outlets such as the fossil fuel industry, two of the nation's largest and most progressive metro areas will be almost completely unserved on their publicly-owned airwaves, thanks to the flips now planned by Clear Channel.

KTLK currently carries only two syndicated progressive talk show hosts, Randi Rhodes and Stephanie Miller (who currently broadcasts from the KTLK studios). Those shows, unless Clear Channel changes its mind, or the shows are picked up elsewhere, will become unavailable to both Los Angeles and San Francisco radio listeners as of January.

Both Clear Channel and Premiere Networks have made similar announcements over the years, before later reversing course. We already noted the Clear Channel flip-flop in 2011 in San Francisco, when their plan to replace all of their progressive shows with rightwingers was changed several weeks later. Instead they added Premiere's Glenn Beck to the morning line-up and moved many of the progressive shows to other parts of the day, airing them on delay.. Back in 2006, Clear Channel had announced they would be flipping their progressive station in Madison, WI, but changed their mind following a petition drive by outraged listeners. Last Month, Premiere had announced they would be ending their syndication of the Randi Rhodes Show at the end of 2013. She is the only progressive talker syndicated by Premiere. Days later, for still unknown reasons, Premiere changed their mind and announced they would continue carrying Rhodes in the new year after all.

On the other hand, Clear Channel has closed down many of their progressive radio stations in most of the nation's major metropolitan markets without changing their mind, leaving radio listeners in the majority of the country completely unserved by anything but corporatist, Rightwing radio over our publicly-owned airwaves.

Disclosure: I do a weekly radio show on Pacifica Radio's KPFK in Los Angeles, and had, for some five years, served as the regular guest host for the Mike Malloy Show, a late-night progressive talk program carried, until this year, by KTLK. While guest hosting his show, I was allowed to broadcast from the KTLK studios inside the Clear Channel building in Burbank. That courtesy arrangement ended after Malloy was dropped from the KTLK line-up in early 2013.

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UPDATE 6:44pm PT: Longtime radio veteran and BRAD BLOG commenter Howard Hoffman points out another important point here. With Clear Channel's move reported above, while Rush Limbaugh will still be on the air in Los Angeles, he's being dumped off of one of the most powerful stations (KFI), with the largest signals, in the nation's largest media market for one that is often difficult to pick up in the KTLK parking lot. Limbaugh has lost stations, listeners and advertisers following his offensive remarks last year about activist and attorney Sandra Fluke. He's also said to have a $40 million per year contract with Premiere, which has most likely been hurting them (and Clear Channel) a great deal since the #StopRush actions in the wake of his remarks. See Hoffman's comments below for more details on those points.