2/18/2005

Am I dreaming?

From the Associated Press:
The day before President Bush's inauguration, listeners tuning in to the Detroit sports station WXDX-AM were suddenly greeted by the sound of braying donkeys. By the time Bush was taking the oath of office, the radio station had new call letters and a full schedule of liberal talk shows.
WXDX-AM -- now known as WDTW-AM -- is one of 22 stations owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc. that have switched to a liberal talk format in the last year. This month, KTLK-AM in Los Angeles became the latest Clear Channel station to adopt the format.
Those who track broadcasting trends say there's money to be made in liberal talk radio. Todd Webster, a consultant for Washington-based liberal talk show producer Democracy Radio, said Clear Channel is expected to introduce the left-leaning format on 20 more stations by the end of the year.
"There is a tremendous appetite out there for progressive talk," he said.
Webster said that even as recently a year ago, no one thought Texas-based Clear Channel, a media conglomerate that owns 1,200 stations -- including Twin Falls radio stations KEZJ-FM, KLIX-AM and KLIX-FM -- would ever become partners with upstart liberal talkers.
"There has been a tectonic shift in the industry from all of the big brains and the head honchos saying, 'Nobody wants to listen to a bunch of whiny liberals on the radio,"' Webster said.
The partnership might seem surprising because of Texas-based Clear Channel's conservative reputation. Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays and his wife gave $65,000 to the Republican National Committee in the last election cycle, and two-thirds of the company's federal donations went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The company says politics aren't involved in its decision to put liberal talk shows on the air.
"I'm trying to identify needs in our various communities, whether it's German industrial music or punk rock or progressive talk," said Gabe Hobbs, vice president of news and talk programming for Clear Channel. "That happens to be good business."
Hobbs said Clear Channel began programming offerings from Air America Radio, which produces comedian Al Franken's three-hour talk show, and Democracy Radio, which produces a popular show by liberal talker Ed Schultz, because listeners were demanding an alternative to conservative talkers like Rush Limbaugh during the 2004 election.

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