The attack on progressive radio in the Pacific Northwest

How odd!  The progressive talk radio stations for Seattle (KPTK) and Portland (KPOJ, now Fox Sports AM620) are  switching to sports radio formats.

The Tacoma Weekly reports in Seattle’s KPTK expected to switch from progressive talk to sports: “When reached for comment KPTK program director Carey Curelop said, ‘There’s nothing I can confirm or deny.’ But CBS Radio – the conglomerate that owns KPTK – has changed the station call letters to KFNQ on its web site. And local radio insiders expect there to be an announcement that the format will flip on Jan. 2. ”

There’s a petition Save Progressive Talk radio AM 1090 KPTK (CBS radio) Seattle: Keep AM 1090 KPTK Progressive talk radio on the free airwaves!, by Julia Chase and promoted by Seattle Moveon activist Norm Conrad.

Brad Friedman has written about this on Brad Blog:  What Public Airwaves?: Fighting the Death of Portland’s Clear Channel-owned Progressive KPOJ and Seattle’s CBS-Owned Progressive KPTK. “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 anti-trust issues that seem to be in violation of, among other things, the 1948 U.S. v. Paramount Supreme Court decision.”

On the topic of the loss of Portland’s progressive radio, Williamette Week’s Who Killed KPOJ? says”For the past six years,[Carl] Wolfson, a former standup comedian, hosted a three-hour morning drive-time show that had turned into a radio clubhouse for Portland liberals.”  The article suggests that the decision to lay off Wolfson was made mostly for business reasons, not for political reasons: “More than a few of the outraged listeners suspect a dark hand at work.  … But the real cause of KPOJ’s death was more complex: The changing face of Portland radio, a communications company at the mercy of casino capitalists, and a sympathetic audience that—despite progressive talk’s potential appeal—simply tuned in elsewhere.”   But Wolfson’s show did turn a profit, unlike many shows on the old station.

Of the loss of Wolfson’s show, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said “An important voice has been silenced.”

Carl Wolfson himself wrote the following article about his termination: Who killed KPOJ? Carl Wolfson shares the rest of the story. Wolfson says  “Three companies, Clear Channel (Texas), Entercom (Pennsylvania) and Alpha (Oregon) dominate our licensed airwaves.  That means less diversity and fewer points of view; it is a market model that increasingly fails to deliver radio in the public interest.”  Wolfson describes his many loyal listeners but agrees that the WW article discussed above (Who Killed KPOJ) is fairly written — implying, I presume, that the decision to kill KPOJ was made mostly for business reasons.

On the subject of the Portland’s radio switchover, the Portland Mercury reported in Demise of Political Talk on KPOJ Sparks Outrage, Petitions:

The station, over the weekend, was quickly re-branded as Fox Sports AM620 in what appears to be a money-making play by KPOJ’s corporate owner, Clear Channel. Even though KPOJ’s current format is still profitable, sources say, replacing it with the sports property and its national ad buys will make even more cash. Clear Channel already owns right-leaning local talk stations KEX and KXL, both of which,WW reported Friday, outpace KPOJ in local ratings.

In a related matter, Bernie Sanders is supporting Bill Moyer’s and others’ efforts to Stop the FCC from Changing Media-Ownership Rules.  The proposed changes at the FCC would make it easier for Robert Murdoch to dominate more media markets. “The last two times the FCC addressed the issue, they asked for public comments on the change. This time, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski reportedly floated a proposal to relax the rules with no plans for public comments. “  Sign Sander’s petition.

These developments underscore the need for publicly funded (investigative) journalism, which is as crucial for a nation as publicly funded elections and health care. See Why we need public financing of investigative journalism.

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