Senators, Presidential Candidate, & a Republican Mayor Support Keeping Progressive Radio Format in 6th Largest American City
Carlysle Group Rumored to Seek Acquisition of Clear Channel...
By Miriam Raftery on 8/28/2007, 12:12am PT  

Guest Blogged by Miriam Raftery

SAN DIEGO - “We believe dissent is patriotic. We believe in the constitution and we believe in the United States of America,” AM 1360 KLSD talk show host Stacy Taylor said on his morning show in San Diego on Monday, drawing cheers from a crowd of more than 500 listeners who showed up at 7am to rally in protest of Clear Channel's plan to convert San Diego’s only progressive radio station to an all-sports format.

Over 1,100 people have signed a petition calling on Clear Channel to keep KLSD’s progressive format since word of the planned format change leaked out late last week. Clear Channel executives have also been deluged with thousands of emails, virtually all in favor of keeping Air America on the air in America’s sixth largest city.

KLSD has received letters supporting KLSD progressive radio received from Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Mike Gravel, and Ambassador Joe Wilson, husband of former CIA-agent Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked to the press by a White House source.

“Clear Channel has no agenda to shut down progressive voices,” programming director Cliff Albert said at the rally. Consideration of a format change is motivated solely by falling Arbitron ratings and concerns over advertising dollars, KLSD insiders have disclosed.

But some expressed skepticism.

“I think this is another effort to shut down progressive voices where the message is most effective, especially here in a military town,” said Bree Walker, an Air America host in Los Angeles and former San Diego TV newscaster who recently purchased Cindy Sheehan’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Marjorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild and author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law, shared that concern. “I suspect they’ll be starting in San Diego and moving around the U.S. to shut down the progressives,” she predicted...

A caller to an Air America program last week offered a tip that the Carlysle Group may be seeking to buy Clear Channel—a rumor that has triggered alarm throughout the progressive community. A global private equity firm based in Washington D.C., the Carlysle Group’s board has included George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, former Secretary of State James A. Baker, and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The company operates several major funds and has business dealings in the defense, aerospace, energy, and healthcare industries, among others.

Clear Channel, America's largest radio company with over 1,100 stations nationwide, was acquired by private equity firms Thomas H Lee Partners, Bain Capital, and the company's founding family for nearly $US 19 billion in November 2006.

Carlysle and Bain have a history of collaboration. In June, the two firms teamed up to make an offer, along with Clayton Dubillier, to purchase Home Depot’s supply business for approximately $10 billion, PBS reported.

Both companies have also donated to Republican Mitt Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign.

“If it’s the Carlysle Group versus Rupert Murdoch (owner of Fox News), we’re sunk,” said Walker, who disclosed that a top award-winning investigative journalist is looking into whether Carlisle Group has indeed launched a bid to acquire Clear Channel.

NonStopRadio.com is a website devoted to saving progressive talk radio formats. NonStop Radio recently succeeded in persuading a Madison, Wisconsin, station not to flip to a sports network. According to Aldous Tyler, spokesperson for NonStop Radio, 25 stations around the country have flipped from progressive talk in the past 18 months.

“Of those 25 format flips, not a single one has performed as well in their market as progressive talk did on that same signal,” a letter from Tyler to KLSD’s Albert stated. “We’re talking markets as diverse as Atlanta, Georgia, to Little Rock, Arkansas, to Boston, Massachusetts. Most of the stations have consistently gleaned less than half the Arbitron ratings that progressive talk was able to pull.” Tyler attributes this fact to weak transmitters and notes that listeners will only stick with a station that has poor transmission quality when the content is unique in the market.

Numerous listeners have complained of poor signal quality and suggest that if Clear Channel would invest in a transmitter as strong as those for its conservative talk, sports, and music stations, KLSD would attract a broader listener base.

After a public outcry in Madison, Wisconsin, Clear Channel backed down on plans to convert a progressive station to a sports format. Organizers of San Diego’s rally are cautiously optimistic that the strong community showing will help persuade Clear Channel executives in San Antonio, Texas, who ultimately will make the decision, to keep Air America programming in San Diego.

Of 847 e-mails received by program director Cliff Albert, all but one were supportive of progressive radio. The lone dissenter was an employee asking for a raise, Albert quipped. “I told him `No.’”

Voices from all over the nation are chiming in to support KLSD, recognizing that San Diego County is considered a key stronghold for Republicans seeking to turn California red in 2008.

“The increasing monopolization of the mainstream media today demands that we stand up for independent-minded, progressive voices out there like KLSD AM 1360 in San Diego,” a letter from presidential candidate Mike Gravel stated. “By focusing solely on the bottom line, corporate owners of media fail to understand the vital role they play in our democracy.”

Republican Mayor Art Madrid of La Mesa also sent an e-mail urging that KLSD’s progressive talk format be preserved to allow the public to hear both sides of issues, drawing cheers from the crowd when his letter was read aloud.

Describing himself as a “frequent listener” of KLSD programs, Madrid stated that he finds the station’s hosts to be “more lucid, credible and genuinely concerned for the total welfare of this country than many of their conservative counterparts. Poll after poll continues to reflect the public’s outrage in the manner our constitution is being shredded; this fact is never pointed out by the other side.”

He added, “As a lifelong registered Republican, I and large numbers of other “R”s are offended by how the party has been hijacked by self-serving zealots…It’s not easy for some to accept the fact that having a different perspective is not unpatriotic.”

For more information, visit www.saveklsd.com. To sign the petition, click http://www.gopetition.co...s/save-klsd-am-1360.html.

Photos by Steve Viele and Miriam Raftery