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DC Deserves a Variety of Progressive Talk

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Amy Fried, Ph.D.     Permalink
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The Greater Washington, DC area is perhaps unique, in its concentration of highly educated and politically savvy actual and potential radio listeners. Obviously, we also have our share of liberals. After all, John Kerry got 90% of the DC vote in 2004. It’s very disappointing, therefore, that our only choice for progressive talk radio, is a station that splits itself between live Jones Radio Network shows, delayed and abbreviated Air America shows, sports, infomercials, and business shows. Why is this great market being so underserved?

It seems that here, in our nation’s capital, of all places - with D.C. and Montgomery County being particularly strong pockets of Democrats - would be a place where we could hear all the Air America shows, and all the Jones Radio network shows, with sports, etc., going elsewhere.

As is stands now, few Air America shows are played live and in their entirety here (one notable exception is Ring of Fire.)  Randi Rhodes, Thom Hartmann, and Rachel Maddow are not played in their entirety on a regular basis. These radio personalities are not just talented and entertaining; they all raise the level of political debate, because they all do extensive research. (I personally find Ed Schultz to be lacking in that department.)

Now, Think Progress
reports that an FM talk radio station in DC has dropped Bill O’Reilly’s radio show from its line-up. Unfortunately, they are planning to replace it with sports. As the Think Progress article points out, conservative talk shows are doing miserably in the greater Washington area according to the Washington Post, yet they still persist here.

The Post article points to signal strength and lead-in shows as part of the explanation. But the seemingly irrational strategy of persisting with conservative talk, reminds me of the story Thom Hartmann often tells on his radio show. According to Hartmann, contrary to popular belief, the resurrection of the Phil Donahue Show on MSNBC, was extremely highly rated. However, as is often true with the corporate media, GE, owner of NBC, had more to gain from the defense contracts made possible by the Iraq War, than from the anti-war Donahue show.

If the DC progressive radio station is eschewing Air America out of concern for ratings, it doesn’t seem to be working. Ironically, however, part of the “problem” seems to be the unique character of the DC market:

“Chris Berry, president and general manager of WMAL, says there's nothing particularly unusual about Washington and political talk radio, except that ‘people in D.C. are smarter’ than talk audiences in other towns. ‘In Boston, Chicago, even L.A., it's more emotional,’ he says. ‘In D.C., people really do know the issues.’"

This is a problem? In other words, the DC market presents a unique opportunity for a rich exchange of ideas, in the context of a deeper discussion of the issues. What better argument for a variety of progressive talk?


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Amy Fried is the author of "Escaping Dick Cheney's Stomach." She received her Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior, and has been an advocate for church-state separation and other civil liberties issues. She writes on women's issues, media, veganism (more...)

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