Guest Blogged by Miriam Raftery
San Diego --- KLSD (AM 1360), the only progressive talk radio station in America’s sixth largest city, may soon convert to a sports format, multiple sources have confirmed.
A banner notice at the top of KLSD’s website this morning confirms that “Yes, there are rumours flying about KLSD changing format. And while various options are under consideration, we also want the progressive voice to remain heard in San Diego. Stay tuned and we will keep you informed. Thanks for listening and supporting KLSD.”
The website has also posted a request for supporters to pledge listening time for KLSD, as local activists have announced an email campaign as well as scheduled demonstrations at the station for next Monday in an attempt to keep the city's only non-"conservative" commercial talk station on the air...
Judy Hess, leader of Progressive Democrats of America’s San Diego chapter, said she received an e-mail from the Vice President of programing for Air America nationally on Thursday, August 23rd. “What a shock…He said he wanted to work with me to coordinate efforts to save the station,” she revealed. "I later spoke by phone with him and the Chief Operating Officer," she confirmed. Hess later arranged a phone conference yesterday with Air America's Vice President of programming and leaders of various organizations to create a strategy for mounting a massive campaign to save Air America’s San Diego affiliate.
Planned actions include a large rally on Monday, August 27, at 7:30 a.m. outside the Clear Channel building at 9660 Granite Ridge Drive in San Diego. High-profile celebrities including prominent media personalities and elected officials have been invited to speak, including several members of Congress who are expected to be in the area during the Congressional recess.
In addition, on Saturday August 26th at 9 am a planning session of community organizers followed by a brief 10 am rally with announcements will be held at the same location...
"KLSD is best described as Radio Free San Diego," international award-winning BBC journalist Greg Palast, author of ARMED MADHOUSE: From Baghdad to New Orleans --- Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild, told The BRAD BLOG. "Despite what the rest of America thinks, it's not just a town of navy guys looking for a way to get to Tijuana. A huge new progressive community has made KLSD one of Air America's strongest outlets - which makes a format change suspect. Local voices like Stacey Taylor and John Elliott are crucial to remaking the California political landscape. I guess that's why they want to silence their microphones."
Unlike Los Angeles or San Francisco, San Diego has no Pacifica/Democracy Now outlet, Palast noted. KPBS, a local public broadcasting station, has drawn criticism locally in recent weeks for canceling key programming and adopting what critics complain is a more corporate agenda.
Some have voiced fears that the move is motivated by desires to squelch progressive voices in San Diego, America’s sixth largest city. California has moved its presidential primary up from June to February 2008, placing California at the forefront of the Republican Party’s strategy for retaining control of the White House and gaining back power lost in Congress. Clear Channel, which owns both conservative and progressive talk radio stations as well as music formats across the country, has been a major donor to the Republican Party.
But local KLSD talk show host Stacy Taylor told listeners on his morning program today that he does not believe Clear Channel is considering a format change because the company wants to shut off the progressive voice. “They could have shut us off before the 2006 election,” he observed. Instead, he cited loss of advertising revenues as the most likely reason behind a format change. Taylor mentioned one advertiser who pulled ads over fears that advertising on a progressive station could hurt his business, but pointed out that KLSD listeners in fact earn more money than listeners of other Clear Channel stations locally.
"What's needed is a 'buy-cott' to support Stacey's sponsors - and a promise to boycott those who would sponsor Air America's replacement," Palast told The BRAD BLOG.
After a caller suggested that KLSD supporters enlist help from advertisers to save the station’s progressive format, Taylor responded, “That’s a good idea,” then proceeded to read off names and phone number of KLSD advertisers on the air. He also pledged to post a list of advertisers on his webpage at the 1360KLSD.com website.
An August 1st article in the North County Times newspaper lends credence to Taylor’s theory. The article cited spring Arbitron ratings indicating that hard-right talk show station KCBQ-AM has “risen from the bottom of the ratings charts and now appears to have more listeners than KLSD.” Describing KLSD as “struggling,” the article stated that the station “somehow lost half its listeners from the winter ratings period.”
Some fall-off in ratings given the station’s political nature, and the fact that 2007 is an off-election year, should not be surprising. Loss of a national Air America host, comedian Al Franken, who resigned to run for Congress, may also have had an impact. Some local activists have also suggested that a more original format may be needed to give the station a ratings boost. “The promos for KLSD pushed it as a hangout for old hippies instead of talk radio for the other half of the population,” Michael Thaller of Bonita observed.
On the flip side of that argument, local host Stacy Taylor has gained national attention recently after serving as guest host on several occasions for the Randi Rhodes show on Air America nationwide. Taylor formerly hosted a program on a conservative station before become disillusioned with the Bush administration and emerging as a leading local voice for progressive political views.
KLSD program director Cliff Albert also serves as program director for KOGO, a competing right-wing talk radio station that Clear Channel owns in San Diego. Albert was on vacation this week and could not be reached for comment.
Linda Armacost, vice president of political action for the La Mesa Democratic Club, sent an e-mail to club members advising that she spoke with a highly placed KLSD insider. According to Armacost, at least two highly placed executives at KLSD are “trying very hard to `pull a rabbit out of a hat’ to save the progressive format.”
Taylor confirmed, “There is a tremendous support from within this building to keep this station format exactly the way that it is.” Supporters inside Clear Channel include some from “surprising sources,” the talk show host added.
A coalition to save KLSD’s progressive talk radio format urges supporters to send letters and e-mails to KLSD program director Cliff Albert, firstname.lastname@example.org, as well as to Operations Manager Mary Ayala, email@example.com. In addition, the group advises that KLSD listeners contact advertisers to emphasize support and call in to local and national Air America programs to create a national dialogue.
“The information I received is that when a change comes, it will be fast,” Armacost advised. “There’s no time to wait—we must act now.”