Economics 101-H: If our friends on the left believe that there is an audience for liberal talk radio, then they should invest in it!

I have mentioned, previously, Rob Kall of OpEd News, and his call for reinstitution of the misbegotten “Fairness Doctrine,” which would compel holders of broadcast licenses to provide “equal time” for the opposing viewpoints, or some other “reregulation” of the media. Fortunately, when the House of Representatives considered the Fairness Doctrine recently, it went down to a huge defeat.

Well, in this morning’s OpEd News is an article by Amy Fried, which further demonstrates the lack of understanding among our friends on the far left concerning economics and the marketplace:

    DC Deserves a Variety of Progressive Talk

    by Amy Fried

    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?

My suggestion would be for Dr Fried to incorporate, buy a radio station in the Washington area, and put on Air America, or whatever else she decides would be good for the people! Her position is (apparantly) that conservative talk radio isn’t doing all that well in the metro area, and therefore the wiser chouice would be liberal talk radio. That conservative talk radio persists, while liberal talk is “underserved,” to use her word, indicates that the professionals in the field disagree.

But the professionals have been wrong before! If Dr Fried believes that there is an underserved market for liberal talk radio in the Washington metropolitan area, she should see this as a tremendous economic opportunity.

That’s the great thing about freedom of speech: Dr Fried has an absolute right to say anything she wishes, and people have an absolute right to listen, or not to listen, to what she has to say. She believes that there is a great, underserved audience in the Washington DC area which would choose to listen to Air America, if someone would just put it on the air.

She may be right. But freedom of speech works many ways, one of which is that no one is required to support Dr Fried’s choices — and thus, no one who is in a position to manage radio station programs in her area has chosen to meet what she believes is a viable market.

So, I say to Dr Fried: go for it! The opportunity you see has obviously not been seen by others in the field. This is your chance to give others a greater opportunity to hear your voice. Don’t just complain about it; do something about it!


  1. I never saw the “point” of Air America. They already have a liberal neywork, one paid by the taxpayers to boot. It’s called NPR.

    PS I wonder if they knew the name Air America came from a secret CIA run “airline” in Southeast Asia?

  2. PS I wonder if they knew the name Air America came from a secret CIA run “airline” in Southeast Asia?

    “Cuteness” is often part of the tactics of the left, just as “glibness” substitutes for humor. Eric may well be on to something. Note that I am in the understatement mode at the moment.

  3. Bill O’Reilly made no sense to be on wjfk, it didn’t go along with he rest of the line up.

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