More progressive talk pushed off OUR PUBLIC AIRWAVES and, again, in one of the nation's most progressive cities...
By Brad Friedman on 11/9/2012, 5:29pm PT  

[UPDATE: As of 6:00pm PT, the KPOJ website has now flipped to "Fox Sports AM 620 Portland".]

This is horrible. Tonight, without warning, Clear Channel Communications-owned 620 AM KPOJ in Portland, Oregon, one of the most progressive cities in one of the nation's most progressive states, has flipped from its years-long progressive news and talk format over to Fox Sports as of 5:30pm local time.

KPOJ was the only commercial progressive talk radio station in Portland. The city will still have several other Rightwing talk radio stations, including one owned by Clear Channel, and they already have two sports stations, but the Bain Capital-owned media conglomerate is now killing yet another progressive voice from our publicly-owned airwaves.

An earlier piece today in The Oregonian had reported that the station would be flipping as of Monday. An UPDATE in the Willamette Weekly, however, reports that the station, which had long featured Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy, Thom Hartmann (who had broadcast for years out of KPOJ until moving his show to Washington D.C.) and other progressive talkers, will change to its Fox Sports format as of this evening.

The BRAD BLOG can now confirm that KPOJ has flipped its programming format and website to Fox Sports as of 6:00pm PT tonight.

When one company owns "competing" talk radio stations in the same town, and gets to decide which one enjoys a stronger signal and which one receives promotional dollars (and which one doesn't), "competition" in the market place is a mirage. It's the equivalent of a Coca-Cola distributor owning the sole rights to distribute both Coke and Pepsi in the same town. Which one do you think is going to sell better there? That's precisely what talk radio is like in almost every major market in the country now. One company, usually Clear Channel, generally owns both the "Right" and "Left" talk stations. (In Portland, Clear Channel owns Rightwing talk outlet KEX as well as KPOJ.) Promoting one station would likely decrease listeners and ratings --- and, thus, ad dollars --- for the other. Thus, there is no "free market" competition in talk radio.

This is hardly the first time that Clear Channel has done the same thing, in very progressive cities, underscoring yet again that there is no real, "free market" competition in talk radio over our publicly-owned airwaves. The market place is decidedly rigged...

Last last year, The BRAD BLOG detailed Clear Channel's plan to dump their progressive talk radio station, Green 960 in San Francisco, and turn it over to Rightwing talkers, such as Glenn Beck, whose radio show is syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio.

Listener complaints, and upheavals just days later at competing San Francisco talk station KGO, led Clear Channel to reverse course, partially, and to keep some of the progressive talkers on the station after all --- though they were scheduled to run delayed, instead of live, many hours later in the day and night. Beck, however, would still run live in place of the popular Stephanie Miller Show in the mornings.

Miller has told The BRAD BLOG that Beck's ratings during what had previously been her live 6am-9am PT time slot have been a fraction of what she had previously garnered during that time slot.

Nonetheless, Beck remains there, as his live clearance in the large city media market is key to his national ad sales for the syndicated program.

There is no "free market" competition in talk radio. Period.

In 1987, enforcement of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine --- requiring equal time to made available for opposing political viewpoints --- was done away with by President Ronald Reagan.

In the Telecommunications Act of 1996, President Bill Clinton did away with many of the limitations on the number of radio stations that could be owned by a single company in each market across the country. That would pave the way for mega-corporations like Clear Channel to take control of almost all of the bandwidth over our public airwaves, shutting out independent competing voices.

In the 1948 landmark anti-trust case, United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., the Supreme Court ruled that movie studios, which owned many of the nation's theaters at the time, were in violation of anti-trust laws by controlling which movies would, and wouldn't, be exhibited in those theaters. Prior to the case, they had owned both the means of production and the means of exhibition.

The movie studios were forced, thereafter, to sell off their theater chains, allowing other, smaller studios, to compete in the marketplace.

There is no longer any such "free market" competition in talk radio. In fact, as we noted when Green 960 was being flipped to its new call letters KNEW in San Francisco, when progressive shows are allowed to compete head-to-head in the market place, they often out-perform their Rightwing competition, even on lower-powered radio stations, which is usually the case when companies like Clear Channel own both the "conservative" and progressive stations in the same market.

They also aggressively promote the corporate-friendly Rightwing shows, while failing to do the same with progressive shows. That is the case even with shows like Stephanie Miller's whose morning program often outpaces Laura Ingraham's, an extreme Rightwinger and regular Fox News Channel guest host, in the ratings in markets where they are broadcast live head-to-head. And yet, Miller's show is carried by just some 36 affiliate stations, while Ingraham's is carried by more than 300.

In 2012, major corporate conglomerates such as Clear Channel, and a just two or three others, control the licenses for almost all of our public airwaves, particularly in large markets, and are able to choke off all but the corporate-friendly voices from talk radio, while using those very same stations to promote radio shows over which they also have corporate ownership through their Premiere Syndication arm.

A documentary film, Save KLSD, has been screening around the country this year. The film documents the ultimately unsuccessful 2007 fight to keep Clear Channel-owned KLSD AM-1360, the only commercial progressive talk radio outlet in San Diego at the time, from flipping to a Fox Sports format. The film details the dangers of media consolidation and "how corporate influence corrupts government regulation, limits the free flow of information, and adversely affects American democracy."

Shameful history repeats itself once again in Portland, Oregon tonight. Though, this time, Clear Channel did not make the mistake of letting the word get out until the very last minute, when the flip to the new format was already a done deal. Once word did get out, the reported plans to change the format on Monday were moved up to change the format immediately this evening.

That there is no major commercial outlet over our public airwaves for political voices other than those friendly to corporations like Clear Channel in most of the major media markets in the U.S., much less, as of tonight, in a progressive city like Portland, is simply another national disgrace. We can only hope that a newly re-elected President, without the need to run for election again, may be able to direct his FCC to restore the public interest obligations of broadcasters who enjoy the privilege of being granted licenses to broadcast over our public airwaves.

* * *

UPDATE 11/15/12: Looks like Seattle's KPTK is about to be flipped to sports also. Details now here...

Share article...