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Saturday, October 1, 2016

No ‘Free-Market’ In Talk Radio: Our Public Airwaves Have Been Rigged

On Friday, as the news was breaking, and even as the unannounced flip was occurring before it had otherwise been planned, I detailed the outrage of Bain Capital-owned Clear Channel killing KPOJ, the only commercial progressive talk radio station in Portland, one of the nation’s most progressive cities, while leaving their two “competing” Clear Channel-owned right-wing stations in the same market intact.

They flipped the station, one of the first and most successful progressive talk stations in the nation, over to the Fox Sports format, which, I have since learned, is also syndicated by Clear Channel-owned Premiere Radio, further underscoring the unenforced antitrust issues that seem to be in violation of, among other things, the 1948 U.S. v. Paramount Supreme Court decision.

In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Paramount Pictures was in violation of antitrust laws because it was unfairly leveraging its chain of movie theaters around the country to keep films made by competing movie studios from being exhibited. The vertical integration, controlling both the production and means of distribution, was the very definition of a monopoly. In this case, as I’ve argued, Clear Channel is using the very limited public airwaves broadcast licenses that it receives for free from the government—in exchange, supposedly, for serving in the public interest—in order to push its own Premiere syndicated programming, even when other, non-Clear Channel owned shows and formats both garner higher ratings and, arguable, are far more in the public’s interest than a third sports talk station in the very same market.

That’s exactly what Clear Channel did when they replaced the popular Stephanie Miller Show with the right-wing Glenn Beck program on San Francisco’s progressive Green 960 earlier this year, despite his much lower ratings in the same time slot, on the same station, ever since.

More to the point, as I have noted many times in the past, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which allowed companies like Clear Channel and a handful of other mega-corporations to buy up control of licensing rights to theoretically “competing” stations in the same market — Clear Channel, for example, owns both the right-wing and progressive talk radio stations in many major markets—assures that there is no real free-market competition in the talk radio business. While right-wing talk radio is allowed to propagandize over our public airwaves in favor of supposed “free-market” competition, there is no such free-market competition in the talk radio business itself. The game is as rigged as it would be if Coca-Cola had the sole distribution rights to both Coke and Pepsi in the same major market.

Last Friday, I was informed by someone inside the business who in a very good position to know, that “the Seattle station is next.” They were referring to Seattle, Washington’s KPTK am1090 Progressive Talk station, owned by CBS-Viacom. On Monday morning, Stephanie Miller, whose very successful show is heard on that station and many others (as well as on Current TV), told listeners the same thing, that the progressive Seattle talk station, in another very progressive market (in a state that just approved the recreational use of marijuana, for Chrissakes) was expected to flip to the newly introduced CBS Sports format on January 1…

On Tuesday, industry outlet Talkers Magazine repeated the same rumor, without confirmation. And, on Wednesday, Talkers noted that “local blog SeaTacRadio.com reports that KLAY, Tacoma is planning to add some of the progressive talk shows—reportedly WYD Media’s Stephanie Miller and the Ed Schultz show—currently heard on KPTK to its program schedule.”

“As numerous CBS Radio and Cumulus stations prepare to flip to sports talk in January, KPTK is just another victim of the companywide desire for affiliate stations,” Talkers writes. “While consumers and the consumer press bemoan the proliferation of sports talk (“How many sports stations do we need in this market?”), the answer is that CBS Radio and Cumulus need to have affiliates in as many markets as possible to be able to sell a national sports talk product to national clients.”

Well, isn’t it nice that mega-corporations like Clear Channel and CBS and Cumulus—the three largest media outlets in the nation—feel they can leverage their free licenses to broadcast over our public airwaves in order to help improve their bottom line, even if it has nothing to do with serving the public interests for which they are granted those licenses in the first place by we, the people?

KPTK Program Director Carey Curelop responded to our request to confirm the rumors of the station’s January 1 flip to CBS Sports by replying via email: “I have no comment on KPTK’s format. If that changes, I will contact you.”

  • nobsartist

    Time to rescind the bill.

  • Lovefacts

    It’s time for the DOJ to actually do its job re antitrust and the findings of the 2008 economic meltdown and let’s not forget voter suppression. We need a new AG who has some guts.

  • Brainwashing at its best. If you can’t convince them with deeds and a vision, feed them B.S. and enough of them are bound to take the bait. In any case, tactics such as the one described in this article are not going to get the GOP very far, especially in progressive states such as Oregon, Washington state, California, and the Northeast. They may be more successful in the Deep South and the Bible Belt, but since they already control the airwaves in Jurassic Park I reckon the next step is to expand in areas where their chances of success are as daunting as Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency.

    • Replying to Dominick Vila –

      This is all a long con. Bain knows that in the short term they will not be effective. However, TELL A LIE OFTEN ENOUGH, AND EVENTUALLY PEOPLE WILL BELIEVE IT.

      The sad thing is that the sleaze factor is just getting worse. This is the very reason laws were passed decades ago to outlaw the use of corporate money to fund elections.

      Citizens United, (WHAT AN OXYMORON!!!!), obliterated that.

      This seems to be a clear case of Bain thumbing their noses at what is left of existing laws. And using “Public” airways to further promote “Conservative” values.

      • Michael Kollmorgen

        As long as they don’t use profanity over the airwaves, these nutheads can say whatever they want. It’s called freedom of speech.

        And, as long as corporate money backs them, they will.

  • Clear Channel is a mouthpiece for fascist propaganda just like Fox “News”. Voter suppression didn’t work well enough, and that scares the fascists. They will do or say anything to gain support and people are scared enough and gullible enough the despite the recent elections, they are looking to the fascist principles for rescue.

    The problem, as I see it, is that just like every repressive fascist regime they will soon become its victims just as much as the hated unions, non-christians, socialists, and foreigners.

    Fascism offers an easy mark for finding blame for the nations problems. Conservatives want to believe they are right about everything because to their minds it is the only thing that allows them to feel justified in embracing principles so offensive and as un American as throwing billions out in corporate welfare while begrudging the poor and the sick the pittance they receive from the insurance they paid for their whole working lives in the form of F.I.C.A. taxes and Medicare tax.

    Sinclair Lewis told a basic cosmic truth when he warned that fascism would rise in America “wrapped in the flag and carrying a bible” even though a conscientious person could easily see through the charade if they chose to. Remember, your rights are only as safe as mine and when you threaten mine you forego your own.

    • Wow all these comments attacking conservatives not one mention about the debt, that working class taxes are rising 50%. That Medicare and Tri-Care are being gutted to fund Obama care. That our National Debt is enormous and that we face economic collapse or that many businesses are downsizing to avoid mandates!
      We have come to that fork in the road where we have to make a turn but which way? Do we all take the same road? Taking anything from one Any one and giving to another is a Sin as evil as any other! Paying our own way in life is part of living and having PRIDE is the one thing I believed kept us above the greedy hoards. If you take away a man’s /woman’s Pride and you have a nothing left but an empty vessel!
      My Grandmother always said if you point the finger at someone remember you have more fingers pointing back at you! So decide do we bring the best of us together and get out of this mess or do we keep calling names and falling deeper into trouble?

      • Michael Kollmorgen

        Don’t even bring up Pride!

        Conservatives have NO Pride. Conservatives certainly don’t have any HONOR either. You gave that up when you supported a Antichrist Mormon Bishop, not only for President, but one who actually supported other candidates which expounded on the virtue of raping women in gods name. Shameless Fools! I wonder how many young girls got married to old men in secret in the Mormon Church Romney approved of. Probably more than we know.

        And, OH BOY, Warren Jeffs, the ultimate Mormon Chester the Molester. Oh, I forgot, his church don’t like is views(wink).

        Liberals are not interested in “taking” anything from anyone. But, we’re no longer going to let it be taken from us to feed the top 5%!

        You want to know how to bring THIS country back together again? Move that stupid, right-wing, bigoted, disenfranchisement-prone Republican Party back to middle mainstream america.

        Get these religious freaks and the “religious connection” out of the Republican Party. Then, let’s talk when you return to middle America………………….

  • atc333

    The title answers the question.

  • bertye brown

    For all who are always spouting off about socialism and government control by the President, where is the outrage in allowing companies to create monopolies, which are only good for those controlling the monopoly. Sadly, many of the far right don’t seem to understand what puppets they are and will follow the Pied Pipers of the ultra right , down the last exit past relevance (loved that comment).

  • Let’s be honest,Air America was a dissater because because no one listened to it. This is just a repeat of that situation.

    • Actually, while Air America *was* a disaster, it had little to do with the false notion that “no one listened to it”. Like your friend Obozo above, I’d recommend you actually read the article you’re commenting on before you comment on it.

  • ObozoMustGo

    2 important points:

    1) Clear Channel owns the radio stations and has every right to put whatever the hell they want on the radio that will, in their opinion, bring more profit to the company. Plain and simple. I know you leftist freaks hate profit, but too friggin bad. Obozo hasn’t outlawed making profits…… yet!

    2) The plain fact is that no one listens to that leftist freak progressive crap anyway. Any station owner that wants to make money will kill any of that crap programming anyway.

    Have a nice day!

    “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” ― George Orwell

    • Your reading comprehension skills aren’t very good, Obozo. Probably why you enjoy listening to wingnut radio where they can tell you stuff that ain’t true, and count on you being intellectually lazy enough not to go home and read the truth.

      1) Clear Channel owns the *stations*, but we, the people, own the broadcast licenses they use to broadcast over OUR public airwaves. That’s right, they didn’t build that. We did. And they enjoy the government largesse of those licenses IN EXCHANGE for servicing the public interest. If they don’t, they don’t get to keep their licenses. Plain and simple. (Assuming the FCC does it’s job, which they don’t.) No, they cannot “put whatever the hell they want on the radio that will…bring more profit to the company.” Go learn something. Easier yet, go read the article you’re making an ass of yourself by commenting on without having read it first.

      2) Again, go read the article. It describes how, in fact, Progressive radio routinely out rates Wingnut Radio, but the corporations who own the stations have a different interest that goes before profit.

      • ObozoMustGo

        Brad.. you live in leftist freak world… clearly! If leftist freak radio was so popular, it would dominate the radio. Plain and simple. Business guys put on what makes them money. Plain and simple. There is no conspiracy of corporations. Don’t be a moron. 90%+ of the print and televised media are hardcore leftists and Obozo sycophants. And you know it.

        And no, you moron. You did NOT build the airwaves. Radio was actually invented by David E. Hughes, a private citizen. Once radio become more widespread, the FCC was set up to be like a traffic cop to make sure frequencies were not be cross used or stolen from others. It was not set up for managing a particular political ideological agenda.

        So while you leftist freaks love to confuse the issues, the fact is that talk radio is NOT successful with leftist freak talk show hosts. It cannot be successful because it requires the constant revelation of what the left really things and wants. And most Americans, when they learn the truth, turn away from the lefist agenda.

        Don’t worry. You leftist freaks still control virtually all TV and print with your leftist crap propaganda.

        Have a nice day!

        “We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man’s support for absolute government is in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

    • Replying to ObozoMustGo –

      The real problem is the fact that they are using “public” airwaves to monopolize a political point of view.

      Not necessarily by adding more “Conservative” talk shows, but rather, by ELIMINATING “Progressive” talk radio. Which is more insidious that adding more Conservative talk shows.

      When freedom of the press is eliminated, our rights as a free nation will die with it.

      Is that freedom something you want for your children, or would you prefer a monolithic government?

      Choose wisely. Once freedom is eliminated, revolution is often the only means of regaining it.

      That is something I do not wish for our future.

      • ObozoMustGo

        Jim… you cannot force Clear Channel or anyone else to put programming on that they don’t want on their stations. The only reason you call the airwaves “public” is because it was needed to prevent multiple parties from using the same frequencies. In other words, all the FCC does is essentially be a traffic cop. They are NOT content police on subject matter contrary to what you leftist freaks want. They do watch over what they term “decency” and language, but it’s fairly minimal.

        You leftist freaks are completely effed up in the minds. Do you recognize your own hypocrisy in complaining about conservative talk radio leading to “monolithic government” when 90%+ of the TV and print media are completely in the tank for Obozo and are the only reason that he won reelection with such a disastrous record in his first term? Unfriggin believable!!! There’s talk radio, Fox, and a smattering of web sites that bring a NON-LEFTIST perspective, and you have the balls to bitch about Clear Channel? Pfffft!!

        Perfect example: The Benghazi cover up. If that was the Bush Admin covering up Benghazi, it would be the lead story above the fold every major paper in America and the lead story on every TV news broadcast for months on end. As it should be. But what are they doing here? Crickets……… crickets……….. crickets……….. crickets

        Plain and simple, the leftist crap on the radio does not get the ratings. This is why Clear Channel makes a business decision to scrap losing businesses for more profitable business.

        Have a nice day!

        “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Ben Franklin

  • Let’s face it, Romney’s Loss is in no way connected to whatever he had been espousing in the various “markets” in this country. It’s just that a recalcitrant audience, that refuses to swallow whole the neocon theory of economics, especially it’s TRICKLE DOWN dogma, will now be subjected to the cool and hypnotic oral ejaculations of a Glenn Beck – in detailed imitation of a COBRA’S HYPNOTIZATION OF ITS PREY…..

  • elw

    How true that the public air ways have disappeared into the mits of big International Corporations. I for one buy local or via the Internet. I stay away from chain stores – whenever possible and only buy what I need. I am working up to dropping cable TV simply because it makes me mad that I now have to pay nearly 30 dollars a month to get the channels I use to get for free. Just to note I have found that 8 dollars a month will get me as much entertainment from Hulu Plus and I can turn it off and find something else if I don’t like what I see. Why pay for crap?

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      We dropped Cable (Time Warner) around 5 months ago. We now use a Roku Box that uses Roadrunner. Net Flix is subscribed to using Roku. Though we still can’t get certain services that we should get except for Cable carrying it, which we aren’t allowed to get via the Roku Box.

      We just got fed up with all the crappy programming and massive commercials. Out of a bank of around 130+ channels, we usually only watched maybe 10.

      Most of the Radio Channels around here are hillbilly crybaby conservative stations. We live in Canton Ohio.

      • elw

        I have a Ruku Box, I really like it. I also have netflix, but am finding I like Hulu plus much better. Although net Flix has better movies. The Ruku Box was a good investment.

  • RBW

    Why has it taken you so long to get on to the Right Wing owning most of the radio stations in the country? Here in south Florida we get 2 hrs a day for progressive radio, the rest of the day we get Right Wing crap on most every channel, even the locally produced shows are bent to the Right, how many sports shows can there be? If over 50% of the people voted Progressive, why are we getting 1% of radio airtime? How can Clear channel make any money with such crap on OUR airwaves?
    Glade I have a Smart phone that gets me a few progressive radio shows that are spread out all over the USA, I wonder how long that’s going to last before Clear Channel finds out and shuts them down.
    Lets get a Class action going to shut them down first.
    Does anyone know how to start this action?
    Or maybe we can buy stock in Clear Channel and fire the bastards,
    CCO is the stock symbol and closed at around $6.52

  • They already have a FOX sports talk radio station in Seattle, I’ve heard it. I have a friend who plays the station often. After an hour or so it is so boring it is painful as an endless stream of wanna-be jocks, so called experts, discuss the endless minutia of every player and coach or owner in every sport ad nausua. And all their projections and stupid immature idle gossip.It is such an unbelievable load of crap. I’m surprised there’s anyone who would listen to it except briefly to hear about their team. Too bad for Portland , I know there are not enough citizens in Portland to dumb down enough to provide a profitable sports talk market in a town that only has a one Pro basketball team and a minor league ice hockey team and of course soccer–let’s listen to a five hour discussion about soccer. Torture. They’re going to hate it as I do. I’ll miss KPOJ to whom I turned 8 months ago when Clear Channel pulled the plug on progressive radio in Spokane (KPTQ)by giving us what we really lacked in eastern Washington-CLASSIC COUNTRY! Believe me every other AM station here is schlock country, not the good country, fundamentalist hate religious or right wing hate talk radio with our own arrogant local Limbaugh clones. I’m about done with AM radio, looking into Sirius XM, while continuing to support public (KPBX)and local community radio(KWSP) on the FM. Screw Bain and the Clear Channel, exile them to China.. This legislation has been a total failure from its stated goals and has resulted in commercial abuse of the public airwaves. Deregulation always means someone is gonna get screwed and usually its consumers who seek fair and honest public discourse on all sides of the political spectrum. Clinton be damned.

  • They already have a FOX sports talk radio station in Seattle, I’ve heard it. I have a friend who plays the station often. After an hour or so it is so boring it is painful as an endless stream of wanna-be jocks, so called experts, discuss the endless minutia of every player and coach or owner in every sport ad nausua. And all their projections and stupid immature idle gossip.It is such an unbelievable load of crap. I’m surprised there’s anyone who would listen to it except briefly to hear about their team. Too bad for Portland , I know there are not enough citizens in Portland to dumb down enough to provide a profitable sports talk market in a town that only has a one Pro basketball team and a minor league ice hockey team and of course soccer–let’s listen to a five hour discussion about soccer. Torture. They’re going to hate it as I do. I’ll miss KPOJ to whom I turned 8 months ago when Clear Channel pulled the plug on progressive radio in Spokane (KPTQ)by giving us what we really lacked in eastern Washington-CLASSIC COUNTRY! Believe me every other AM station here is schlock country, not the good country, fundamentalist hate religious or right wing hate talk radio with our own arrogant local Limbaugh clones. I’m about done with AM radio, looking into Sirius XM, while continuing to support public (KPBX)and local community radio(KWSP) on the FM. Screw Bain and the Clear Channel, exile them to China.. This legislation has been a total failure from its stated goals and has resulted in commercial abuse of the public airwaves. Deregulation always means someone is gonna get screwed and usually its consumers who seek fair and honest public discourse on all sides of the political spectrum. Clinton be damned.

  • Sierra111

    Clear Channel is blocking our freedom of speech! They are very dangerous and acting like a ‘Big Brother’ in our society!

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    Clear Channel has been gobbling up as many Licenses and stations as they can, replacing popular programming with religious programming and turning otherwise liberal stations conservative.

    It’s a disgusting situation.

    But, if they planned on swaying public opinion, it certainly did that by the majority voting for Obama. In another words, they wasted even more money over a long period of time.

    Glad to see the rest of us aren’t THAT dumb.

  • onedonewong

    Progressive radio by definition isn’t viable and can’t survive on an economic basis. Just ask Al Gore how his Alternative Radio and TV channel has done they are both monumental flops. The public already has ABC,NBC,CBS, PBS and CNN as liberal far leftwing stations

    • Michael Kollmorgen

      Just another Right-Wing Blowhard…………….

      • onedonewong

        Obviously economics and business aren’t your friends

  • vladdrakul

    As left wing is the simplist one word expression for absolute evil and treason one can find; it surprises me we still haven’t closed down all the commie stuff. We do need a bloody patriotic revolution (it is ‘blood that feeds the tree of liberty’). Eliminate the 1/3 of the population that are liberals and this country could be the great christian crusader global conquering nation God intended it to be.
    America was a white racial colonial enterprise that succeeded becuase God gave the Jews and the Christans the planet to make it thiers. Rule over the animals and beasts means of course the so called ‘non white races’ (but they are not really human). In this overpopulated world there is no room for the non whites and we don’t need them as slaves as we can use machines now instead.
    If we ‘cleanse’ the 100 million liberals ; this nations global militar superiority will allow us; while we are still ahead of China to launch a global preventative nuclear strike on Asia; Africa while using nutron bobmbs on the ME: That way the 1.6 billion muslims can be excised without damage to precious valuable real Estate.
    Then by selective breeding, the us of implants and bioengineering we will create a new MAster race by allowing only the gifted and very strong to reproduce. We will never have a better chance ot build a better world than this and there are more than 100 milion whites in Europe and the other white lands ready to do their duty.
    No more national racial stupidity like Hitler; the worst disaster for whites EVER! He killed more of us than Ghengis Khan; wrecked Europe global position and nearly exterminatted the true ubermensch; the Jews instead of the true untermensch; Arabs, negroes, Asians, leftists , humanists and all the other inferior weak losers; not fit to live.
    The ever shrinking world combined with an ever expanding population of the fat, ugly, weak and useless needs radical cutting. At the very least 90% of ‘humanity’ have nothing to offer the planet except their own demise! Think of mother nature and weep for her burden of human locusts!