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Airwaves: May 20, 2011

Rantel’s take on talk radio

Al Rantel was a popular talk host on KABC (790 AM) before medical problems and severe injuries from a fall made him take an extended leave. He recently gave his opinion on the current state of talk radio as a guest on Marc Germain’s TalkRadioOne program; his comments were printed on Don Barrett’s LARadio.Com, and it wasn’t too flattering.

He likened the current syndicated hosts to people who throw treats out to their audiences. “What’s going on really frightens me,” he said. “It’s become carnival barkers, people who are not really sincere in the things they say. It’s become people who just want to throw red meat out and say anything for the sake of pandering to their audience, regardless of the facts and regardless of the consequences and regardless of any type of objectivity.”

The word televangelist came up as an example of what these talk hosts have become. “I used to make fun of these people on my show ... (they) come on begging for money and get people worked up so they would send in money.”

His focus was on national hosts, specifically Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, stating that like the old televanelists, they too get people all worked up. “They throw (their audiences) some red meat every single day - non stop - regardless of the facts and they bring up some of the ugliest stuff in American politics. I happen to know for a fact that a lot of what they say they don’t live.” His conclusion is key: “They say it because they know folks that are making a lot less money than they are want to hear it. And it just bothers the hell out of me.”

His comments, while directed at national hosts, fit many local hosts as well, especially here in Southern California. They also came at a very pertinent time for me. I have been wrestling with how to cover the deceit, misleading statements and basic lies from some local hosts for a while. Do I run a hit piece? Do I use the column to balance out their lies?

Certainly its easy to get on the air and cry about taxes, pensions, salaries. Teachers are an especially easy to hit since everyone is an expert on education, even when they couldn’t make it through college. Of course you’d lose your whole argument if you actually stated facts, such as that pensions are funded by districts and teachers, and that the state pays less into the system today than ten years ago ... far less than the government contributes to socal secirity, which teachers do not receive. That LAUSD teachers have not had a raise in five years and that -- like those in other districts they have voluntarily taken cuts the last three. That they gave up raises for years to have health care, making them among the lowest paid in the County. (Full disclosure: I teach math in LAUSD).

Would it make a difference to you if the person stating that teachers and others are paid “too much” makes over a million per year, works in a union shop, has union health care and spends $100,000 per year on private school -- far above what the poor saps listening have spent on their own kids?

So how does one respond? I’ve decided not to do so. In fact, due to the state of talk radio, I’ve given it up, totally. I’m listening to music radio again. All sorts of music, from my favorites on Go Country 105 and The Sound to just about everything else including KROQ, KRTH, KLOS, Playlist 92.7, Jack-FM, KJLH, Hot 92.3 ... everything. I even tune into NPR occasionlly (though I still contend that students should run college stations).

I am still informed; I read newspapers, magazines, and hear news on the radio. But I don’t have fake facts spoon-fed to me as so many hosts try to do. I think for myself and don’t have that feeling that I’m being deceived, because I no longer am being deceived.

And I feel great.


For those who have a computer (or a wifi source), the purchase of a WIFI radio ($150 - $250) is well worth the investment. Less than 50 - 75 cents a day pays for the radio in one year, and brings years of enjoyment. Given the ever changing radio environment, it also allows addicted radio listeners to benefit by an almost unlimited choice of stations, with enough variety to satisfy all tastes. -- Rick Howard, email

FYI: Marc Germain is on KABC Saturday nights Hosting Redeye Radio from 10PM to 2 am. which is hosted by Doug Mcintyer the other 6 nights from 10 to 3 AM. -- Don, email


Copyright © 2011 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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