Monday, October 08, 2007

What Companies Dominate the Right-Wing Radio Talk Show Business?

--analysis by Rex Frankel

A report by a progressive media watch group released in June of 2007 stated:
"Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive. Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk."

Several interesting things were not mentioned in the summary of this report: for CBS radio, of their total of 30 news or talk stations that air or could air 720 hours of programming a day (24 hours times 30), they only aired 68.5 hours of conservative talk. That's only 9.5% of their total airtime. Only 3.3% of their total airtime was devoted to progressive talk, but also a whopping 88% was non-political by the standards in this study. While the progressive percentage should be equal to the conservative time, this huge amount of non-political fare is what a good news broadcaster should be doing.

On the other hand, the other big 5 radio owners had super-high percentages of conservative talk compared to their total airtime. Clear Channel was 40% conservative vs. 6.5% progressive; Citadel was 49% conservative vs. .0018% progressive; Cumulus was 38% conservative vs. 0% progressive and Salem was 83% conservative vs. 0% progressive.

Another big broadcaster that is not in the top 5, Disney/ABC, has similar high percentages of conservative shows. In fact, nationwide, they are the network that airs Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity in most of the U.S.'s big cities. Disney now no longer owns ABC radio, as they sold it to Citadel Broadcasting in June of 2007. What this shows is that CBS, owned by the same guy who owns the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, is not necessarily the right wing cesspool that they have been lumped into. The other broadcasters, however, are clearly abusing the public airwaves with which they have been entrusted.

Here's the press release for the report:

REPORT: The Right Wing Domination Of Talk Radio And How To End It

The Center for American Progress and Free Press today released the first-of-its-kind statistical analysis of the political make-up of talk radio in the United States. It confirms that talk radio, one of the most widely used media formats in America, is dominated almost exclusively by conservatives.

The new report entitled The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio raises serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public radio airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans. While progressive talk is making inroads on commercial stations, right-wing talk reigns supreme on America’s airwaves.

Some key findings:
-In the spring of 2007, of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners, 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming was conservative, and only 9 percent was progressive.
-Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk; 10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.
-76 percent of the news/talk programming in the top 10 radio markets is conservative, while 24 percent is progressive.

Two common myths are frequently offered to explain the imbalance of talk radio: 1) the 1987 repeal of the Fairness Doctrine (which required broadcasters to devote airtime to contrasting views), and 2) simple consumer demand.

Read some of them in response to our report here.

Each of these fails to adequately explain the root cause of the problem. The report explains: Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast, the elimination of clear public interest requirements for broadcasting, and the relaxation of ownership rules including the requirement of local participation in management Ultimately, these results suggest that increasing ownership diversity, both in terms of the race/ethnicity and gender of owners, as well as the number of independent local owners, will lead to more diverse programming, more choices for listeners, and more owners who are responsive to their local communities and serve the public interest. Along with other ideas, the report recommends that national radio ownership not be allowed to exceed 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM broadcast stations, and local ownership should not exceed more than 10 percent of the total commercial radio stations in a given market.

Read the full report here.


Other Groups Keeping track of right-wing media bias

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