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Airwaves: October 15, 2010

Radio Columns and Politics

Never talk about religion or politics, conventional wisdom tells us, or you risk starting a fight. Add to that list talk programs.

Over the past few weeks ... or more accurately, years, I have lamented the fact that as KABC (790 AM) dropped local hosts in favor of syndicated fare, ratings fell. And continued to fall, until the station got so low it was essentially irrelevant.

The last ratings survey had KABC at 29th place in Los Angeles with a 1.3 share of the audience, compared with KFI’s (640 AM) 5th place 4.0 share. A far cry from the days when KABC -- the originator of the talk format in Los Angeles -- was among the top-rated stations in town.

This column is about my opinion. And my opinion is that KABC made a huge mistake going with syndicated hosts. I base this on a simple fact: outside of Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlessenger, KABC’s own Doug McIntyre and a small handful of others, syndicated talk hosts just don’t do well here. Nothing personal, just stating a fact.

It is also my opinion that bringing Larry Elder back into the fold, along with some other small changes, should be good for the station’s ratings, though I can’t help but wonder if it is too little too late.

But I know that every show has its fans, and it seems I did hit a nerve when I “dissed” Sean Hannity and Mark Levin. So for a moment, here are two reader rebuttals:

From reader KDS: “As a new listener to KABC since they brought in Hannity and Levin, I was puzzled at your comment recently about bad syndicated radio. The only thing I could think of was Frosty, Heidi and Frank (who were dreadful) but they are gone and AFAIK, not syndicated. This week you made it very clear. Oddly enough, the only hateful comments I see are by you and your reader. 

“Mark Levin is one of the kindest people one could meet, and Hannity always includes liberal commentary along with the conservative edge. Levin is a Constitutional attorney and we could all stand a few lessons on our country's Constitution. "Bad" is subjective in relation to syndicated hosts.

“I suggest you stop complaining about KABC's decision to give conservative listeners something to enjoy, and do what you do best, keep us informed on changes in the radio market.”

Agreed Alexander Muller of Granada Hills: “So another reader finds Mark Levine hateful. In her mind, he and Sean Hannity *certainly distort the news.*  Whereupon follows your suggestion about getting rid of some of those syndicated hosts.

“Sounds one-sided to me. Is your column intended to be informative? Or inciteful propaganda? Surely you must receive letters from readers who like not only Elder and Limbaugh, but also Levine and Hannity. For a more persuasive suggestion, why not include those opinions in making your suggestion?  Or are you gunning for L&H?”

For the record, I received exactly three emails from fans of Levin and Hannity.

Truly Local

Pasadena’s KPCC (89.3 FM) is partnering with Torrance-based Works in Progress to present a staged reading of Annett Lee’s “English Only” in association with San Pedro’s Little Fish Theater on October 16th at 2 PM. The reading will take place in the Crawford Family Forum, 474 Raymond Avenue in Pasadena.

English Only presents a comedic dramatization of changes to Monterey Park in the 1980s when an influx of Chinese immigrants spurred a group of residents to come together and help make English the official language of the city.


Copyright © 2010 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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