March 5, 2006

A great line from a great song, no?…

In checking out Flight Pundit, lo and behold, what do I discover? His latest post about the Air America Radio station in Phoenix (KXXT 1010 AM) closing shop after months of struggling in the ratings. Then, I come to find out from The Brad Blog that March 1 was its last day. As you can tell from their posts, Flight is ecstatic, Brad is not; what is interesting are the comments from both sides of the political spectrum in response.

For the record, I have no dog in this hunt. While not a fan of Air America by any stretch of the imagination, I confess I will miss the entertainment value of hearing their hosts and callers offering up wild Bush Administration conspiracy theories that would make Jack Ruby and Vince Foster blush as they don tinfoil hats while spinning in their graves.

There is a greater issue at play here, however, which is: the gradual disappearance of uniqueness or diversity in Phoenix’s overall radio market. Both Flight and Brad quote the final “thanks and farewell message” posted on the KXXT website (now taken down) from its last, beaten-up GM. One part of it caught my eye, as it (at least to me) tells you everything you want to know about the desert that is Phoenix AM radio:

Air America Phoenix has now disappeared into the ether and Phoenix is left with multiple Christian formats, some in English and others in Spanish, several “brokered’ time stations (you know the radio stations selling you vitamins, good bowel movements and financial advice) a bagful of right wing “Conservative Talk stations” featuring Rush, Sean, Laura, Bill Bennett, Savage, Medved and all of their local imitators, three “Sports Talk” stations that live off the largess of their sister stations in the big corporate clusters that dominate the dial in Phoenix. Is anyone enjoying Tony Snow on KTAR…did anyone ask for him?

When I first arrived here 2 1/2 years ago, I thought the only desert out here was on and around the ground beneath my sandals. Turns out I was wrong, because Phoenix radio – both AM & FM – is a pitiable thing to behold. The AM dial is cluttered with Spanish music stations (understandable, given the location), syndicated conservative talk shows that are, by and large, fairly repetitive and pedestrian in nature (especially so now that Hugh Hewitt has been all-but-replaced by the sophomoric Liddy and Hill, local sports talk that is REALLY local, with lame personalities and even more lame callers (“so Gambo, how do you think ASU will do this year?”), and Christian radio that mixes Focus On The Family talking points with conservative bible teaching that rarely inspires or enlightens.

Things are not much better on the FM dial. While it contains the usual standard fare of rap, contemporary country, adult contemporary, classic rock, and oldies formats found everywhere else, our one classical music station, while an oasis in this desert, never strays too far in its programming from the typical Euro-centric 18th/19th century standard fare. Great music for sure, but how many times can one listen to “Finlandia” or the “Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F Minor” (or is it #4 in D Major)?

Perhaps I’m just spoiled from living so long in the Boston area with news radio – and I mean real news: local, national, and international – with intelligent talk on WBZ 1030, or sports radio with unique formats and personalities like that on WEEI sports radio, sophisticated classical music stations like WGBH 89.7 and WCRB 102.5, or the “true FM stations” – the local college stations way low on the dial that broadcast everything from Irish, Caribbean, Portuguese, and broadway show music to spoken poetry.

Perhaps I expect too much of the 5th largest American city with a metropolitan area of nearly 4 million people. When we lived in Louisville, you could understand it if the radio choices there were somewhat less than that in a large and diverse metropolitan area like Boston – Louisville always will be a small river town masquerading as a city – but Phoenix is HUGE and ethnically diverse, with two major universities – Arizona and Arizona State – two hours apart. Given the size of the area and its marketplace demographics, one would think you could find broadcast talent out here, but alas, there is none. While Air America’s departure may create an empty space in the listening habits of its devoted audience, the real loser is an AM market desperate for new ideas and different voices, and hungering for more variety in its broadcast fare.

UPDATE 3/5/06 13:31:Dave Richard agrees with me on both the benefits of competition for everyone in talk radio and a sneaking suspicion behind Air America’s woes. The fact is, if you don’t have a good product, or a product that appeals to the lowest common denominator in your audience, how can you expect to succeed? While liberals are always quick people to trash Rush Limbaugh, like him or not, you cannot deny that his basic philosophy seeks to appeal to the best qualities about conservatism in general – the need for self-discipline and self-motivation in one’s life so that you are dependent on nobody (especially the government) but yourself for pursuing and achieving your dreams. Peel away his jibes at the Clintons and liberals in general, Limbaugh obviously believes in capitalism, democracy, the free market, and taking control over one’s life. I’m only a casual listener of his, but when he starts talking about these kinds of values and how it contrasts to the liberal/Democratic themes of government dependency, constant struggle, negativity, and the Democrats’ “culture of death” (support for abortion, euthanasia, and murderers like Tookie Williams, for example), I find his arguments both compelling and appealing.

Filed in: Politics & World Events,Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 03:45 | Comments (4)
4 Comments »
  1. Just a couple of comments on the demise of Air America radio across the county, notably in Phoenix:

    If you were the 3rd highest rated AM station in ANY market, only gross mismanagement would keep you from making a profit. People buy ads from stations where people listen to them. It is the free market at work. OK, so the Phoenix station claimed that they were making money, which just proves my point. Even though other Air America stations have been hemmoraging dollars for the past couple of years, some markets can apparently support “progressive” talk radio. So either the station manager was lying in his post, or they lost so much money in previous months that their investors were unwilling to wait for their payback.

    Which takes me to the next point.

    The last thing talk radio needs is no competition. For one thing, competition is good for business. Without competition, there is no need to improve the product. But more important, without competition, the left can come and try to stop talk radio because of the federal “Fairness Doctrine”, where you have to offer equal time to opposing views. Look for the left to try to force one of two things: unpaid equal time, or shut down talk radio if there is no “balanced view”.

    Besides, there is nothing like listening to the nutcases on Air America rant about anything and everything that they hate about the right. The scary thing is that these people actually believe the things they say. The good news is that there are so few callers to Air America, that the looney left can’t have that many people out there.

    Comment by Dave Richard — March 5, 2006 @ 8:50 am


  2. Dave, you are absolutely correct. In the free marketplace of ideas if you have a good one and a designated audience you live, if you don’t, you die. It’s that simple.

    I will try and post an update to this comment – if I can find it – from either Hugh Hewitt or Michelle Malkin about George Soros spending some God-only-knows how many millions of dollars to prop up Air America for another six months. In the end, he could spend a billion dollars, but there is such a thing as a money pit, and it looks as if that’s all Air America is.

    Comment by The Great White Shank — March 5, 2006 @ 2:23 pm


  3. […] In my orevious post I mentioned how Air America Radio, the AM radio mouthpiece of the liberal/progressive movement, recently closed shop here in Phoenix. Isn’t it ironic, funny, hypocritical – choose your adjective – then, that the mainstream media (MSM), which relentlessly promoted its startup through countless items about it back in 2004, chooses to ignore its ongoing financial woes and suspected improprieties that has no doubt contributed to some extent AAR’s scaling back of operations where necessary. […]

    Pingback by GoodBoys Nation - Archives » Air America’s Woes — March 5, 2006 @ 3:26 pm


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