R.I.P., KPOJ

For the first dozen or so years of my career in construction, I went to great lengths to provide audio entertainment for myself (and others working on my sites), and it was never easy.  As far back as the early 90′s, music radio was notoriously awful and unreliable, a constantly shifting landscape of  format changes and lazy, corporate programming that left even the hippest stations playing the same list on any given week, little of it any good.  I went through many CD players (and trashed many CD’s) by dragging such things to job sites, but did use the hours to find and listen to music I liked, so it seemed worth it.

Then, in the waning, dark days of 2003, word leaked out that some angel funding had come in (albeit belatedly) for a liberal talk radio station to counter the saturation propaganda from the right that had grown to dominate talk radio in the wake of Reagan’s scuttling of the Fairness Doctrine.  You see, the fact that the public airwaves were saddled with restrictive rules about political content (and given that much of them were drafted during Hitler’s media-driven rise to power, such a bias is understandable), the Reaganites were still rankled by such intrusions into the all-hallowed Free Market, wherein the inherent rightness of their every idea would finally be clear for all to see.

As with most Republican fantasies, this hadn’t worked out very well; by 2004, when KPOG, the local Air America affiliate, went on the air, we were in two wars ginned up by hate radio and Fox News, and the worst President in US history was looking forward to reelection.  I was despondent, and more politically engaged than ever, when I went out and bought a radio to bring to work, to listen to the voice of what I hoped would be a return to sanity.  As most Hag readers know, I took to it with slightly more eagerness than a duck takes to water, and in retrospect, those were heady times, if only for their prescience.

Former SNL comedian Al Franken teamed up with Catherine Lanpher for the morning show, which mixed potty humor and pathos in three hours that passed more quickly than I’d ever imagined, no matter how grueling and miserable the task at hand.  Then, an obscure old former football player from Fargo, North Dakota named Ed Schultz charmed me for his convert’s devotion to the liberal cause and warm accessibility, even as I was annoyed sometimes at his lack of, well, erudition.  He was followed by Randi Rhodes, who showed that excessive book learning, while dazzling and quite impressive here and there, can lead to a superior attitude that could at times be grating.  Yes, she’d obviously read perhaps even more dusty tomes about Watergate and Iran/Contra than even I had, but could she let the caller get a word in edgewise once in a while?

I was hooked, though, and continued listening in the evening, drawn into the weird drama playing out between Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder in the Majority Report, wherein a funny and provocative show went on the air each night despite the worsening dysfunctional relationship of the hosts.   Then came Rachel Maddow, whose wonky sincerity was more than matched by her sense of the madcap, and I soon was moved to buy  an expensive radio for home use.  To my considerable chagrin, it turned out that the radio only got reception in one corner near the floor, so I designed and had built a set of bookcases to accommodate the radio and offset the new couch, which helped to make the whole thing work.  Let’s just say I was invested in this.

As luck would have it, even though Air America ultimately collapsed, KPOG was so successful that it proved a model for dozens of other affiliates nationwide, and if progressive talk would soon be drummed out of monopolized markets elsewhere, its success in Portland would make it durable as a format in a rapidly changing market.  Ed Schultz said repeatedly, that KPOJ was the “Plymouth Rock of Progressive Talk.” and he was correct; a town that was 70/30 left ought to have one liberal talk station to go with the four righty ones, don’t you think?  Nope.  KPOJ is now Fox Sports, as of Saturday, with all the charm that entails.

Unsurprisingly, the company that owns all radio here, including KPOJ, is Clear Channel, a failed right wing chop shop which is currently owned by (wait for it) Bain Capital, but for me, all I was worried about was Saturday and today at work, when I would go flat cuckoo listening to, if I were lucky, the sound of my own farts occasionally interrupting the crickets.  I downloaded iHeartradio to my iPhone, and went digging for other lefty stations, and oddly found that there were hardly any of them these days.  Stations I’d listened to in the past, in Seattle, LA, and San Francisco, were already long gone; and Denver’s station had all sponsored programming on the weekends, so I ended up listening to 92.1 The Mic; Madison’s Progressive Talk, which would be great if I cared about weather and traffic there, much less the advertisers.

What’s significant about all this is that of the progressive talk pioneers I’ve mentioned would probably have spent their lives in relative anonymity had it not been for the idea that progressives deserved a voice on the radio, and one is now a US Senator, two have their own shows on MSNBC ( beating Fox last week, to boot), and their cause has won 3 of the last 4 elections in which it was engaged.  Of course no righty authoritarian could put up with such effrontery.   Sorry, dudes, we’ll find a way around you, and you can just keep going Galt.  Please.

 

16 Comments

  1. michlib says:

    Ouch. This one hurts. When I was in Bridgetown KPOJ was the best. Sorry to hear of the loss. WDTW ( 1310 AM ) in Detroit is still up and operating, although if KPOJ can be picked off, no liberal talk station can be considered safe. Time to fire up the FCC, fire Eric Holder, knock the dust off those Sherman Act cases, and get to work !

    • cocktailhag says:

      I called Gayle and told her to get ready, when I heard it from a caller (!) on Thom Hartmann’s show and he drearily acknowledged the whole debacle, in front of Bernie “Yooge” Sanders, no less.
      The entire fucking Left Coast has, basically, no Left radio, and that’s pretty ridiculous. Either that, or…. The Miracle of the Free Market.

      • michlib says:

        And you never hear the virtues of the free market crowed louder than when recited by those who enjoy monopoly powers. Odd , innit ?

  2. dirigo says:

    I AM, OFFICIALLY, A DEAD WHITE MALE.

    I’ve been resisting it, until now. But, with this election, it’s time to make the leap. Into what exactly, I can’t say. This or that abyss; what does it matter? But it’s past time for me. So long!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed9KRab_2_Q

    I’ve mentioned a few times aspects of my checkered career in American broadcasting, including working in news for Clear Channel in Connecticut at a time when Glen Beck was morphing into what he is today. (I never met Beck, but worked in the same building; nor was I involved with him on-air).

    Reflecting on the disaster that is Clear Channel, I’ve read many, many articles about its influence on what used to be called “full service” radio, which at one time simply meant that most communities across the country could count on local radio to maintain news operations (based mostly on 1930s-era FCC licensing requiring a minimum amount of “public affairs” programming). In small towns this meant there was at least one person employed in the newsroom. News, weather and sports. On the hour. Every hour.

    And in rural communities, where weather warnings (based on National Weather Service data) meant life or death in economic terms on farms and ranches – to say nothing of actual life and death when a tornado was bearing down – local radio was a real public service.

    For the most part, thanks to deregulation and the predations of Clear Channel (and Bain), that’s all gone.

    To me, this anecdote says it all:

    One day some time back, in a town somewhere in the Dakotas (maybe where Ed Schultz sold time and did high school football play-by-play), local or county law enforcement wanted to hand-deliver extra, or enhanced, weather warnings to the radio station (probably a thousand watt day-timer). Part of their concern was: no one answered the phone when the station was called earlier in the day. When a deputy drove up to the station and knocked on the door of the little three bedroom ranch on the outskirts of town where the broadcast behemoth was housed (with a red-lit tower spewing lightning bolts out back), there was no answer. No one was manning (or womanning) the station! The deputy walked all around the building. No one there. Inquiring further, the police realized that the station no longer had a news staff, nor any daytime staff. It had become fully automated. Kind of in the dead of night.

    • cocktailhag says:

      A similar story begins Eric Klinenberg’s excellent book, “Fighting for Air.” A train derailment has cause a chemical spill, and first responders discover that there is no way to warn anybody, because ALL the town’s radio stations are automated. Sadly, Portland not only lost KPOJ, but a beloved and highly engaged local host, Carl Wolfson, and his producer, too. Gotta love those Job Creators.

      • dirigo says:

        I just hope people finally wake up to the Fox News scam; but that’s probably asking too much.

        • cocktailhag says:

          If it’s any hope for you, MSNBC beat Fox THRICE last week in the crucial 25-49 demographic (of which I will only be a part for a tad longer…), and that’s saying something.
          This has never happened, but I bet it will increasingly as their audience tips over like so many dominoes.
          “We’ve got the 70-somethings all tied up” is NOT a business plan; just ask Buick.

  3. RUKidding says:

    Sorry to hear this, CH, but unsurprised.

    Here’s some online radio that you can tune into, including the inestimable Pacifica Radio, which continues to broadcast:

    http://tunein.com/radio/stations/Pacifica-Radio-Stations-a33805/

    Post the ‘Lection, I am hearing on National Propoganda Radio & reading in my local “nooz” paper more than I ever did over the decades post-Reagan that our “media” has been hijacked & turned into an incessant rightwing echo chamber of lies, bullshit, hype, nonsense & pandering to the worst of the batshit lunatic fringe.

    It would be “nice” to think that such “revelations” – no matter how late in the day – might, you know, *lead* to something better, such as re-implementing as least some limited version of the Fairness Doctrine, but I won’t hold my breath.

    The 1% is ever able to hire “brains” to figure out how to massage the system “Just So” to make it seem like somehow things are “better” when they’re not really.

    I used to listen to Air America initially, but gradually it went off the air. I liked it, too, even though sometimes it could come off as shrill. I think there was an audience for it, but the PTB clearly didn’t want to fund it. My understanding is that El Lushbo, despite his “salary” to match his bloated gargantuan girth, & weird Glenn Beck (and his gi-normous “salary”) have always been aired as Loss Leaders, in that neither of these Carnie Barkers really “make” the ad revenue to match what’s paid out to them.

    IOW, they get paid by the 1% to be the Pied Pipers that they are, leading their gullible & credulous minions to vote against their own interests in exchange for being told that it’s not only “ok” to be a raving racist bullying lunatic, that, in fact, it’s their duty to Jeebus to tirade against the dirty lazy dusky-hued masses, the so-called “illegals,” women, teh gheyz, urban hipsters who vote for the Blah one, etc.

    It came as no surprise that Bain owned (or whatever) Clear Channel, which is known to be bland, dull &, as dirigo points out, basically beamed into local markets via satellite broadcasting, with few, if any, local moochers to be “paid.” Hence taking away a very needed public service – esp in this day & age of climate change resulting in massive storms of destruction & such – of having locals to warn & advise the community of what to expect, how to handle it, what to do and where to go.

    I have lived through some very serious wild fires in Southern CA, and I was very grateful for the local coverage of that, including where citizens should FLEE to next – not joking – as the fires broke out in new & different places.

    In larger urban areas, there is enough local coverage to provide that service both by tv & radio, but in some rural areas, when there’s only Clear Channel to rely on: good effen luck.

    Anyhoo, maybe the online Pacifica Radio will work for you, CH. Best of luck with that.

    • cocktailhag says:

      As soon as I get the battery booster case for my iPhone, I think I’ll be okay. But right now the battery gets dangerously low after five hours or so, with or without headphones. Sigh. I have learned a few things, though. Madison has horrible weather and virtually no traffic. Good to know. Mike Papantonio was on Ed Schultz, today, with a bit of good news: One, that KPOJ had been making lots of money, and two, he’s putting together a legal team to challenge Clear Channel/Bain under the Telecommunications Act.
      Pass the popcorn.

      • RUKidding says:

        Well good luck with that law suit! Would love to see Clear Channel get its comeuppance. It’s such a worthless POS of “media.”

        Keep us posted.

  4. Austin says:

    “North Dakota named Ed Schultz charmed me for his convert’s devotion to the liberal cause” the word you’re searching for is fanatic.

    Radio stations survive by ratings and ad revenue pure and simple. It’s just business, not a right wing conspiracy.

  5. cocktailhag says:

    That’s demonstrably untrue. KPOJ made more money than almost all of the other Clear Channel stations, and unlike the righty ones, it supported local talent. Please read a newspaper once in a while.

    • Austin says:

      It IS demonstrably true and I CAN read (when prodded) ;)

      From October 2011 to October 2013, according to the ratings tracked by Arbitron, KPOJ fell from a 1.1 share to a 1.0 share of listeners—meaning 1 percent of listeners above the age of 12 were tuned to 620 AM. That’s well behind last month’s 3.5 share for News Radio KEX 1190 (which airs Rush Limbaugh) and the 5.0 share for KXL FM News 101 (which airs Lars Larson).

      KOPJ’s numbers also trail KOPB—the public radio station has an enviable 5.5 share—and both sports stations, KXTG The Game (2.5 share) and KFXX The Fan (1.6 share).
      http://www.wweek.com/portland/blog-29441-kpoj_cancelling_political_talk_radio_on_monday.html

      • cocktailhag says:

        Yes, but there are no advertisers on those crummy stations, except for gold buyers and other survivalist outfits, and they don’t pay for their content.

  6. mikeinportc says:

    I remember when Clear Channel came to town . Yuck The one independent rock station , started in one of the prinipal’s mother’s house, finally succumbed. Can’t blame them for taking the cash, but they went from playing anything, at least once, to the same very restrictive list as everyone else . They devoted time to local music (including my brother’s) once or twice a week. If listeners requested it often enough, it could become part of the regular rotation .

    When CC took over, *poof* it was gone , never to be heard again , even if they were among the most in demand by listeners ( 2 of my bro’s included. )

    The last time I drove to my (your*) otherbrother Darrell’s place in CT, I passed seamlessly from one broadcast zone to another,the only difference being the call letters on the station blurb. The only exception, a college station ( guessing) in Cobleskill ,NY .

    Given that IHeart Radio is a Clear Channel production, I suspected that of the advertised 500+ stations, 495 (at least) would be all the same, and all be crap. Thanks for the confirmation. :(

    * Don’t remember if I told you, but while at “Darrell”‘s house , my sis-in-law came in as I was coming here. I said ” Come look at this.”, without mentioning what it was . As soon as she saw you in the coyote fur, she was laughing. You do look that much like “Darrell”. :)

    • cocktailhag says:

      KPOJ had sort of taken the path of the sorority anexoric over the last few years; two morning hosts down to one, their own traffic and weather people replaced by outside content, and other signs the stations were being strip-mined. Still, tossing in Fox Sports basically means throwing away all the listeners (and sponsors, of which there were many), so the move couldn’t have possibly been a business decision. With a constantly shrinking audience, AM talk radio with a full set of ads and 1.1 is still quite profitable.
      Tell “Darrel” it’s quite possible we are brothers; my dad was well known for many things, but marital fidelity was not among them.
      (Joan did finally get him neutered in 1965, though…)