Eugene may soon find itself without progressive talk radio station Air America if a deal to sell local affiliate KOPT to Oregon Public Broadcasting goes through.
From the Register Guard:
Progressive talk radio may be slipping away from Eugene, despite interest from a national radio talk show host to keep it alive.
Oregon Public Broadcasting announced on Tuesday that it will buy KOPT from Churchill Media. The AM station offers Air America’s lineup of liberal talk shows.
The details of the sale are still being finalized, but OPB expects to pay close to $500,000 for the station, president and CEO Steve Bass said.
The sale must still be approved by the Federal Communications Commission.
Talk radio host Ed Schultz, whose nationally syndicated show airs on many stations that also carry Air America, had been trying to put together a group of Oregon investors to buy the station, but that deal fell through, said James Holm, Schultz’s producer.
“We wanted to keep progressive talk on in the market, but were never able to follow through with the deal,” Holm said.
The station has been struggling to generate enough advertising revenue:
Churchill Media believed it had a winner with the progressive radio format in liberal Eugene, broadcasting Air America’s slate of talk shows that included comedian Al Franken, Stephanie Miller and Randi Rhodes, beginning in 2004. A few months later, the station added local news and talk programs allowing people to debate a range of issues from the war in Iraq to the West Eugene Parkway.
While it did lure a devoted audience, said Churchill General Manager Paul Danitz, the advertising required to support the expenses never quite materialized.
Last summer, KOPT cut all the local programming, laying off experienced broadcasters such as news director Rick Little and talk show host Brian Shaw.
“It hurt me to let people like this go,” Danitz said. “But we couldn’t maintain it. There’s such a small commercial base. It’s a good city but it’s not a huge city, not as large as Portland, and we had a better product. We were something special.”
Danitz holds out hope that Schultz — the national talk show host — will still be able to put together a deal that could save Air America in Eugene. Churchill Media also owns two Spanish language stations, one which broadcasts ESPN sports programs. That station could be sold and the Air America programming switched to it, he said.
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