Sunday, February 08, 2009

The 'evil' conservative talk radio

Today's paper has a front-page story about how terrible conservative talk radio is. It focuses primarily on NewsTalk 1370 WSPD, where I host a one-hour show, Eye On Toledo, focusing on issues relevant to the Toledo area.

My first thought upon reading the opening paragraphs was, 'we're getting to them.' For years, the paper has been the only voice driving or influencing thought in the area. Now, they have competition from the Toledo Free Press and from WSPD. Which is why they're certainly in favor on censoring anyone who threatens 'their' territory.

But then I read the section on Sen. Debbie Stabenow pushing for 'standards' in the talk radio market. Here's where WSPD is so much better than The Blade. On air, we talked about the fact that Stabenow's husband, Tom Anthans, was/is involved in liberal talk radio. As I wrote in an earlier blog post:

"(He's a )... former executive vice president of Air America's syndication division and previously ran Democracy Radio, another liberal talk radio upstart, which folded in 2005. In the spring of last year, Athans announced his new venture, Talk USA Radio, though I could find nothing on the Internet about its status today."

Obviously, Stabenow has a personal and vested interest in using Congress to give her husband an advantage in the industry he's in...and that's a conflict of interest. But The Blade never mentions that fact. They do this on a regular basis: exclude information (either purposefully or because of a lack of space) that would give the reader a more 'balanced' viewpoint of the person or the idea. And yet, they seem to be saying in their article that talk radio needs to do just that, despite their own failure to follow such 'standards.'

They also mention Mayor Carty Finkbeiner's complaints about WSPD:

"The mayor accused WSPD of not giving him equal time to respond to "diatribes" against him..."

Again, they give only one side. Finkbeiner made a public statement calling morning show host Fred LeFebvre a liar, accusing him of telling "mistruths, half-truths and outright lies." Carty was challenged to prove his claim or apologize. When he did neither, he was prohibited from the air until he did so. Twice since that occurred, he was given an opportunity to come on air, but he refused. In retaliation for not allowing him on the air, he then prohibited his staff from speaking on air to the talk show hosts. The ban and retaliation do not include the WSPD News Department.

This is a second example in the paper's article that neglects to give the 'whole' story. Certainly the mayor's own behavior is as much to blame for his lack of air time, but that might give you a different impression of talk radio - and that's not what this article is all about.

The paper interviewed Al Peterson, president and editor of, a national daily newsletter directed at the talk radio market.

"I don't subscribe to any grand conspiracy theory or anything else," he said in a telephone interview from his San Diego office. "The only real political philosophy that broadcasters have for the most part is capitalism."

They even acknowledge that our morning show host has said the exact same thing. But if it's just about market demand, the left would have to admit that the market doesn't clamor for their ideas - and that just can't be. So they talk to Mike Stern, news, talk, and sports editor for Radio and Records, an industry trade magazine.

"It would need to make money to be successful. That's true as far as it goes," Mr. Stern said.

"But to say it wouldn't make money because no one has done it is circular logic. No one was doing conservative talk until somebody did conservative talk. The logic of, 'Somebody would have figured it out already,' is kind of hollow."

He said the biggest challenges facing progressive or liberal talk radio aren't necessary financial issues but involve star power and listener conditioning.

Progressive radio lacks a breakthrough radio personality along the lines of a Limbaugh or Hannity, although Air America's Rachel Maddow, who also has her own hour-long talk show on MSNBC-TV, comes close.

Liberal audiences also haven't been taught to tune in to the AM frequency, where most talk shows air.

"I don't know if liberal or progressive people who would enjoy those stations are using that band," Mr. Stern said.

First, Stern admits the market influence, but then discounts it. His 'circular logic' claim is bogus, as no one is saying liberal talk radio won't work because no one's tried. it. They're saying it's been tried for five years now and has not proven successful - yet. Air America had to file for bankruptcy because they weren't able to earn enough to stay in operation. They've reorganized, after learning some hard lessons, and still may make a go of things. But they didn't fail because conservative radio is profitable - they failed because they weren't.

But Stern has a theory for that, as well - and it's typical of liberal thought in general: our listeners are just too dumb to find us on their own.

It's this sentiment that permeates liberal political thought: people can't take care of themselves without government support; they'll make bad decisions unless we make the decisions for them; you're the victim - there's nothing wrong with what you've done, it's that someone else is taking advantage of you which is why you need government. You see, you have to be taught to use the AM band, because you obviously are just too stupid to switch the button yourself.

Don't people who are left-of-center ever get tired of such negative perceptions? Why aren't they offended by the condescending, you're-too-stupid-to-know-better attitudes?

In keeping with the perspective that it's always someone else's fault, Stern and the paper then blame National Public Radio (NPR). Yes, a government-funded program is to blame:

"The NPR station may be fulfilling that niche enough that it makes it hard for a commercial talk entity to get off the ground," Mr. Stern said.

"If you can have forward-thinking, liberal-leaning progressive talk with no commercials in the form of NPR, it makes it doubly difficult to launch a commercial effort in that area.

"People don't think of [NPR] that way, but it does hold that place in a lot of people's minds."

(Side note: is this the same NPR that when conservatives call it liberal, the left howls about how balanced it is? The same NPR that when conservatives want to cut their funding, liberals get all up in arms?)

That Stern is making a conservative argument in favor of less government interference in the market has obviously been missed by him and The Blade. 'If only NPR weren't there, our liberal talk shows would thrive...'

Yep - here's a government-funded entity in competition with privately-funded radio stations and, because they've got money from the government, they have an unfair advantage and might be filling a need that the private sector would fill if only it didn't have the competition.

Irony at its finest. And no different than the conservative opposition to the city of Toledo's takeover of tow lot services, ambulance services or home rehabilitation with HUD money. Opposition, it should be noted, that comes primarily from WSPD talk shows.

But even though Air America has emerged from bankruptcy, the problem isn't their message - it's that they're having trouble, still, breaking into markets - because, you see, it's not fair, according to Bill Hess, Air America's senior vice president of programming.

The challenge, Mr. Hess said, is to create a level playing field for Air America affiliates.

"Where progressive stations are on competitive signals, with management and staffing levels similar to the other stations, we're perfectly successful," he said.

That dreaded 'level playing field.' The thought that they shouldn't have to compete in the open market, the same as everyone else, completely escapes them. This will be the spin as the Fairness Doctrine (or the concept under a new name) makes its return.

But if you pay attention to what Hess said, you'll see it isn't about government providing a level playing field - it's about their own ability to fund their operations: "Where progressive stations are on competitive signals, with management and staffing levels similar to the other stations, we're perfectly successful..."

So if Air America can afford to have similar staff levels and signal strength, they can compete? So the problem really isn't that they've got competition, it's that they don't have enough money (after a few short years) to be where the competition is today (after decades of trial and error and eventual success).

Again, it goes back to the open market and the 'evil' capitalistic concept of being able to sell a product and make enough money to expand. And the article even includes a quote that echos this sentiment:

Progressive radio is growing - gradually - in markets such as San Francsico and Portland, Mr. Peterson said.

"It is probably more slowly than some of its proponents would like. But it's not just there are more Democrats than Republicans in Toledo," he said.

"It's how many people are going to spend their money on advertising and how many people are going to listen to it. It's just a business; it's not philosophical."

Mr. Peterson noted that it took a long time for the conservative talk shows to gain traction and their growth was slow.

And then there is this - an emphasis on the financial backing:

If progressive or left-leaning radio is going to work in Toledo, it will require someone with deep pockets and patience to invest in purchasing a station and making it happen, Mr. said. (this is how the article appeared on line - without the name)

But even then, that's not a guarantee of success. As the paper points out, even long-time Democrat party operative and lobbyist Jim Ruvulo might not listen to liberal radio:

He said he's not sure he's ready for another station with a narrow ideological perspective.

"If they're giving me info that's more than their opinion and there is some news and analysis, I might listen for a while," he said. "But if they're just going to say things over and over again that get me fired up, I don't need that. I'm already fired up."

If you can't attract your base - who else will listen? Conservatives?

This is not the end of the subject. If The Blade is true to form, they will have some sort of sob story (or three) about someone who's tried to provide balance in talk radio but failed due to something that 'evil conservatives' have done.

Then they'll have an editorial endorsing some form of censorship of talk radio. Oh - they won't call it that. They'll couch it in the same terms as Sen. Stabenow did - accountability, standards - or call for a 'level playing field.'

But they'd better be careful about wishing for more 'fairness' in the media because they could be next. Currently, in Toledo, WSPD is providing the 'balance' that so many are saying needs to be present. We're talking about the things the paper doesn't.

Despite the paper's long-time emphasis on public records, do you remember all the news stories about Toledo taking months to provide red-light camera information? No? What about all the stories on how the red-light camera appeal hearings were closed to the public? Missed that one on their pages as well?

What about comparing the performance of elected officials to their campaign promises?

How about the facts rather than the emotion when it came to the bogus Food Stamp Challenge?

Or their lack of consistency when they say the area needs 'change' but then endorses the same failed philosophical perspectives year-in and year-out?

These have been topics of discussion on WSPD, which is providing the 'balance' in the Toledo market that has been lacking for decades. But if the paper really wants some sort of 'standards' when it comes to balancing conservative and liberal, they should start with themselves.


Matt Hurley said...

You want to know why liberal talk radio fails? I'll tell you why liberal talk radio fails...

What demographic pushed Obama over the top? Patrick Ruffini is convinced, as am I, that it was the 18-25 demographic. That group does not listen to people yelling and screaming at each other unless it has a good beat to it that you can dance to... they aren't interested in talking about stuff...they might actually learn something.

For "progressive" talk radio to work, Will.I.Am would have to free-form "perform" for three hours a day. Every day. Somehow, I don't think that guy is up to the challenge...

Tim Higgins said...


I found it interesting in this story that once again, the only form of media that needs "a level playing field" and "fairness" is radio. There is no discussion of whether there is fairness in TV news and talk, of whether magazine or newspaper editorial staffs are balanced. There is no talk about whether their is a level playing field in the messages being handed out subliminally in movies today (like the global warming message "The Day After Tomorrow").

As you know, I have spoken out on this on more than one occasion, but it's worth asking yet one more time:

Why is it that in the only form of media in which liberal bias does not hold sway, do we concern ourselves over fairness.

With a liberal Congress however, and with the backing of representatives like Sen. Stabenow (surprisingly called MS. in the article with no mention of her husband)who have an obvious conflict of interest, there is little doubt that the Blade will find itself now out in front of a growing effort to silence one of the few conservative voices in the media.

2Bn11FA said...

My only complaint about WSPD is all the sports they broadcast. I tune in to News/Talk radio for that! but I often find UT sports, or Indians baseball (I'm a Tigers fan) or NASCAR? how can you listen to a race on the radio? Anyway, I miss that talk/news part when it isn't there.

Quite simply though for the liberal side to succeed they just need a product to which people will listen. They haven't done that and I don't think they can do that. it isn't in their nature to worry about the product...their intentions is what counts, not the results. Their whole philosophy revolves around meaning to do good things...not actually getting them done.

Consider all their "family" programs. They are meant to help families but instead they destroy them. But they Meant well...we can never judge liberal programs by the results they achieve but only by the intent when the program started.

it is just silly! is childish.

Maggie Thurber said...

Here's another thought...why is it that a newspaper, so adamant on their own 'free speech' rights would seek to hamper the free expression of ideas simply because they are 'conservative'?

Talk radio is opinion, in that it is clearly separate from the news. Since when did someone's opinion need to be balanced?

It's also entertainment, but like Tim says, there is no effort to provide 'balance' in other entertainment venues.

I find this highly contradictory from people (leftists) who purport to be all about tolerance.

Hooda Thunkit said...


Tolerance has different meaning, depending on where you're coming from.

Tolerance for me, means that I can watch a television station or listen to a radio station that presents both sides of a story in the same show, so that I can decide and come to my own conclusions.

Tolerance for the libs, at least to me, appears to mean that their (the lib's) "liberal only" ideas get aired and discussed through ALL available media sources, drowning out the other (the conservative) viewpoint.

Same old, same old, except that the few "fair and balanced" shows/stations/cable channels that exist are growing/thriving, while the lib's own attempts at spreading the "liberal only" approach (Airhead America for example) struggles to survive.

Funny that "liberal thought only" venues continue to fail while the "conservative thought" venues thrive, despite the most recent election's results.

The "change" theme would lead one to think otherwise.

Hey, maybe even the libs are watching/listening to the conservative message and the fair and balanced reporting... :-)

jrs said...

The "talk radio" situation in Toledo says more about Toledo's Democrats than it does about the nature of conservative talk radio.

Deep pockets ? Since when have Dems been afraid to reach into someone's deep pockets for a good cause ? Perhaps "a lack of committment to the postition" more accurately reflects the problem in Toledo.

I am embarrassed to be a Democrat in the midst of this.

As an aside, I thought it was interesting that Marcy Kaptur advocated squatting in one's "own" home on the floor of the House, on CNN, and in the Blade - with nary an explanation of exactly how to go about effectively using the tactic and suggesting the use of several strategies at once, asking for mortgage audits as well as "produce the note, etc.

She eventually gave up some phone numbers and "procedures"...on Democracy Now, during an interview. I recently suggested to an acquaintance that this was a front-page mistake with a back-page "retraction". Rather than do a series of local interviews with info she chose liberal "talk radio", seems to be no problem there, eh ?

Maggie Thurber said...

Hooda - I'd distinguish between 'talk' and 'news' ... imo, talk radio has nothing to do with being fair and balanced since it's opinion. People are entitled to opinions and to share them. Others, however, don't have to listen or pay for advertising on the shows - that's freedom of choice.

News should be absent opinion, but more or more rarely is.

That 'leftists' listen to conservative talk on the radio is clearly evident, otherwise, how would they know what to be offended by? LOL!

I think all of us would be better off if the left spent as much time building their radio audience and advertisers as they do bemoaning the conservative competition.

Jay Ott said...

Well, the "tolerance" that leftists are puporting is "false tolerance" because they have redfined what tolerance means.

What liberals are really saying is: "Anyone who holds to their convictions with passion, or holds to their convictions with any degree of certainty are intolerant and thus, conservatives cannot be tolerated and must be silenced."

Liberals confuse tolerance with truth claims. Something is either true or untrue not because of "fairness" or tolerance since it's possible that both an intolerant person and a tolerant person can believe exactly the same thing, e.g. that the earth is a sphere. So tolerance has nothing to do with truth.

Leftists seem unable to refute conservatives not because of any "fairness" or the lack of equal time, rather they can't because of their faulty reasoning, faulty methodologies, and faulty assumptions based on emotion or prejudices.

Conservatives for the most part operate on the basis of facts and evidence, and have a willingness to follow the evidence where ever it may lead.

If conservatives are so wrong in what they're saying, then rather than silencing them, why can't they just refute them?

Maybe it's because that much of what they're saying is irrefutable--otherwise the liberals would use whatever media at their disposal to refute conservatives.

Since liberals don't do that, it shows that they're only interested in control, not open and honest dialogue. So actually it is the liberals who are intolerant in the real sense of the word.

Hooda Thunkit said...


Of course, you're right.

However what gets reported and what doesn't slants/biases our view in that a story not reported in say, the Blah slants the perception; like when they reported that some kids were arrested (I believe it was at a school on Broadway), but nothing was reported when a dozen or so kids were arrested shortly thereafter at a (so-called) “good” school.

That is clearly an example of biased reporting/slanting by omission.

As you pointed out, talk radio is not news per se, but is opinion, usually about things that either should have been in the news or were..., most likely the former.

I too KNOW that the “leftists” are out there watching and listening...., I can hear them breathing (usually through their mouths).


chrismyers said...

Of course Debbie's husband also dabbles in prostitution. This past election proves that the Fairness doctrine is not needed. Of course that does stop people who want to use government to make others do what they want.

Mad Jack said...

From Jay Ott: Conservatives for the most part operate on the basis of facts and evidence, and have a willingness to follow the evidence where ever it may lead.

Don't you believe it. I've seen conservative people go absolutely bat shit over certain issues. Abortion, for instance. I know people who are otherwise rational humanitarians who cheerfully applaud that idiot who was shooting abortion doctors down South and stayed on the lam for several years. I can't remember his name. Foreign aide and social welfare programs are two more items that cause many conservatives to reach for their shotgun and offer to give the welfare supporter a good running start.

And whatever you do, do not get me started on gun control and the anti-freedom Commies that support it. I'd shoot every last one of 'em and call it a good days work!

Seriously though, I've read some pretty astute comments here. I work with a dyed in the wool liberal, and the two of us disagree on just about everything. Part of the problem is that he begins all his arguments with "I feel - ", to which I am always tempted to respond that his feelings are not high on my list of priorities today. Tomorrow isn't looking good either.

Jay Ott said...

Mad Jack,

Gee, just when I think I've put enough qualifiers which do enough to clutter up my writing, someone else comes along and wants yet another qualifier.

Seriously, in general, I am in overall agreement with your response.

I would like to clarify my view that some conservatives do not ground their positions based on facts and evidence. Nor do all conservatives have a willingness to follow fact and evidence wherever they might lead.

However, in most cases, they turn out not to be conservatives or at minimum they are conservatives who are not consistent or they are conservatives in name only.

Second, if you take what I said in the context of my argument, i.e. a general contrast to how most liberals justify their positions, they do so on the basis of appealing to pity, appealing to emotions, appealing to force, etc. rather than legitmately arguing on facts and evidence (which is not to say that people do that perfectly 100% of the time).

Third, in your example of an individual going around shooting abortionists, (even though I believe abortion deprive life to a human being with it's own DNA as opposed to removing teeth, tonsils or tumors), I do not consider such an individual who shoots abortionists conservative, rather he or she is some kind of anarchist or vigilante. So are those who advocate and encourage that kind of behavior.

Fourth, I don't think that my point could be disproven by appealing to the so-called hard cases which are isolated, extemist, exceptions to the general contrast I was making between liberals and conservatives. Of course I believe in exceptions--what reasonable person would not?

>>And whatever you do, do not get me started on gun control and the anti-freedom Commies that support it. I'd shoot every last one of 'em and call it a good days work!<<

Here is where you shoot down your own argument (pun intended). You argue that shooting an anti-abortionist is wrong, but when it comes to areas of life that applies to you personally, you admit that you'd shoot them.

How can an individual who murders abortionists be wrong yet shooting gun control advocates be consistent?

I happen to agree with you on the second amendment rights, but I disagree with how you want to maintain those rights.

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