Saturday, July 15, 2006
by cp In summer of 2005, KOMY 1340FM in Santa Cruz/Salinas/Monterey Bay became an Air America radio network affiliate. They play about 9 hours a day of AAR programming - the Al Franken Show, 3 hours of the 4hr Randi Rhodes show, and the majority report. The station is owned by the Zwerling family, which openly advertises that they have a conservative perspective. They own a second radio station KSCO, which has mostly right-wing shows including Limbaugh, Savage Nation, and O'Reilly. Recently, the owner announced that they will sell hours of the Majority Report with Sam Seder/Janeane Garofalo for $250 for infomercials and so forth. Many of the pre-Air America shows on KOMY were reported pay-for-play, and the weekends and noon hour also are paid programs, advertising things like vitamin supplements, music, Las Vegas vacations, and fishing. However, KOMY also had one of the nation's only commercial left/anarchist talk shows by Peter Werbe, which was suddenly cancelled in a controversial move http://slash.autonomedia.org/article.pl?sid=01/10/25/1733235&mode=&threshold= It is unclear what effect the switch to infomercials during the previous Majority Report has had on ratings. One might guess that many listeners would just turn the dial to something more interesting and they'd be left with people who accidentally happened on the station, and weren't bothered by the talk-show style of the paid program on health remedies. One issue that I wonder about is the fact that the Zwerlings claim that they have been able to sell *zero* local advertisements on their station, and they take this to mean that the listeners are hypocritical liberals who refuse to pay for Air America. http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2005/September/12/local/stories/04local.htm A friend of mine worked for a small city newspaper that was mostly filled with AP articles, the older version of the Berkeley Daily Planet, and he was able to sell tons of ads to local businesses. He bragged about stealing accounts from the Eastbay Express. Unless they are charging high amounts for ads, or aren't paying someone to try to sell advertisements (and are waiting for people to call them), I cannot believe that they are truly unable to sell ads. However, the station really does play the same dozen ads and public service announcements over and over. The Monterey Bay area is filled with local nonchain businesses that would like to sell things to the Air America listener population. While younger people often listen to music stations (or 101.1:)), and working upper-middle class yuppies are likely to listen to NPR for 15 min on the way to work, talk radio has always been popular with older people and retirees. And everyone knows that the Monterey/Santa Cruz area is filled with retired folk who are house-rich and have lots of wealth that they aren't paying on rent or children. During the past couple days, Michael Zwerling, the owner, has played an ad during the Al Franken show saying that he has been getting "vicious" nasty letters about his recent changes, and will be reading these letters on his own talk show at 10am Saturday. This ad stood out to me because he was using such funny and extreme language in describing the email response he's been getting. Most other radio stations don't let the listener know anything at all about the management of the station, but KOMY/KSCO really lays their background dynamics out in the open. Michael Zwerling advertises his own show by talking about how he's loud and politically correct, but that everyone deserves free speech. The station airs editorials by Kay Zwerling that typically take a conservative perspective. They aren't that bad, but they really stand out because hardly any other stations do such a thing (sample editorials: http://www.ksco.com/kay/index.cfm/2006/5/23/KAY-ZWERLING-COMMENTS-ON-FHA-LOANS-20060520 ) They aired another announcement that they have been receiving nasty, nasty letters critizing the Kaye Zwerling editorials, and saying that they want hypocritical Air America listeners to send in money and then they will take them off the air. http://www.metroactive.com/papers/cruz/07.16.98/ksco-9828.html My own perspective is that I wonder why it is so absolutely difficult for the area to get a normal Air America station. You might think that there is limited space on commercial FM/AM radio, but if you look at the AM ratings, there are a lot of really low listenership stations, that are the 5th station with the same format in the market. There are several other good stations in the region. Music at UCSC 88.1 is good, Pacifica Radio at 94.1FM has good news shows in the early evening, 101.1FM often has great music and creative mix shows. The primary reason why someone would want to listen to talk radio, and why I sometimes like talk radio, is the feeling that you are hearing a sampling of other people's perspectives. NPR has to be non-politically biased. Pacifica has dense news during the 5-7pm hours, but you aren't hearing the opinions of regular people, but just the show host or special guests. 101.1FM has some great hosts, and a few call in shows, but it can also be irregular at the times you can listen when you're at work. Plus, much of the community might like a normal schedule or more mainstream hosts and callers. Why does it seem like Air America is such a precious service that it can't be afforded in this area?
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