Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Turning Off The Mic

Mega media conglomerate Clear Channel and progressive talk radio always seemed like a poor fit. Still, it was disheartening – no, make that thoroughly disgusting – to hear that Clear Channel is pulling the plug on progressive talk on Madison's Air America affiliate – WXXM 92.1 FM "The Mic" – in favor of Fox Sports Radio.

I love sports as much as the next guy, especially baseball and my beloved Chicago Cubs. And I bleed Badger red, particularly during the college basketball season. But do we need more sports on the broadcast airwaves, at the expense of passionate discussion of political issues and civic affairs no less? Of course not.

Clear Channel clearly is putting its bottom line ahead of the best interests of the citizenry and our democracy. You don't have to take my word for it. Listen to Clear Channel magnate Lowry Mays, who has been quoted saying, "We're not in the business of providing news and information.... We're simply in the business of selling our customers' products."

What Mays stunningly but deliberately overlooks is that his company has received a free license to use the public's airwaves on the condition that its programming must serve the "public interest, convenience and necessity." More sports at the expense of democracy does not meet that condition. This move should be reconsidered.

If you feel like talking back to your radio, contact the station (WXXM, 2651 South Fish Hatchery Road, Madison, WI 53701 Phone: 608-274-5450 FAX: 608-274-5521) and also Clear Channel corporate headquarters (Clear Channel, 200 East Basse Road, San Antonio, TX 78209 Phone: 1-210-822-2828). To sign a petition to WXXM's management, go here.


Common Sense said...

While I agree with your assertion that "passionate discussion of political issues and civic affairs" are crucial, at the very least, to both preserve democracy and foster an informed citizenry, you seem to forget that all forms of dispersing such information (whether they be radio, newspapers, television, advocacy groups, etc.) must also remain financially solvent, if only to continue to disseminate said information. The simple fact of the matter is that "progressive" talk radio does not muster the large audiences that conservative talk radio shows do. This is unfortunate. However, it is wrong to expect radio stations to incur the loss of profits for no other fault than people are not interested in the programming. It would be foolish, from a business stand-point, for Clear Channel not to alter its format in order to stave off financial losses. The harsh reality of the situation is that few listeners translates into lost dollars while also falling far short of a more informed public. If no one listens, it does not add to that all important public discourse. Not only that, but if Clear Channel continued to subsidize a losing venture like WXXM 92.1 FM it could pull funding away from other radio programs that do well both financially and draw large numbers of listeners. These tend to be those conservative talkshow hosts that I mentioned earlier. Of course, hurting these shows, which do indeed provide "passionate discussion of political issues and civic affairs," in order to help a station with few listeners as well as one which thereby contributes less to the public discourse, would not only be wrong, but also goes against the very thing you advocate for.

Anonymous said...

I often agree with Mike on a number of issues, but I think "Common Sense" is right on this one...

Anonymous said...


I don't doubt that Clear Channel could make more money with sports or oldies or rap or BUT they are not subsidizing or taking a loss. The Mic had like two employees. The rest of the lineup comes from network feeds for free. If they were grossing $100,000 or $1,000,000 I'll bet Clear Channel was netting 95% of that.

Also, let's not blame the listeners. I can't hear 92.1 at home because of their weak ass signal ( I stream or listen in the car when I get within range near Peck's). I can hear ESPN at home. Even though 92.1 has a weaker signal then ESPN... 92.1 has more listeners. Signal strength is even more lopsided when you compare WIBA and 92.1, but their audiences looking for conservative and progressive talk are pretty similar.

If Clear Channel were truly interested in passionte discussion they would give the left and right equal budgets, staff, and signals. As it is now CS, they are giving more of everything to a retired and shrinking audience and completly abondoning Dane County's core audience.

The people have spoken. We want democracy, not dribbling.