The real reason that Clear Channel dumped KPOJ

By Adam Klugman of Portland, Oregon. Adam is a media strategist, activist and former host of KPOJ's Mad as Hell in America.

The announcement this week that Clear Channel Radio was taking Carl Wolfson off the air landed like news of an illness. And in many ways, it is an illness. Because after hosting my own weekly progressive talk show on KPOJ for over a year, it became obvious to me that Clear Channel Radio has a kind of illness – ill with small-mindedness, ill with corporate groupthink, and ill with a reflexive pandering that not only has become the hallmark of conservative radio, but also of the conservative movement. The only good news, as this most recent presidential election has clearly demonstrated, is that Corporate America’s unconscious contempt for the people of this country will, in the end, be its undoing.  

I wish I could say that firing Carl and switching to Fox Sports was politically motivated because at least then I could reason there was some kind of ethical foundation for the decision. But Clear Channel Radio has no ethical foundation for any of their decisions.  And it really isn’t about the almighty dollar either, no matter how much they doth protest, because the truth is that KPOJ turned a profit. I was told this personally by two of the executives over there on multiple occasions and I have every reason to believe them.  

No, the real reason Clear Channel fired Carl Wolfson and dumped KPOJ without so much as a backwards glance is really much more dire than political agendas or money. This recent action is about a dangerous brand of hubris that has been on this rise is this country for over thirty years. I’ve spent a lot of time at Clear Channel Radio and I’ve seen firsthand the profound arrogance that only masquerades as a concern over profit, but really has its roots in something much more toxic - the conceit that they are somehow better than the community they serve and therefore have no obligation to them.  

They’ve conveniently forgotten that the airwaves they use to distribute their mostly conservative smut belongs to us - -the people. They have completely abandoned the idea that radio is a critical instrument of a free press and thereby an extension of our First Amendment. And like their bile- mongering champions Michael Berry and Rush Limbaugh who exalt “real American values” while simultaneously ripping them to shreds, their total disregard for the importance of diverse, democratic dialogue is trumped only by their blind commitment to towing the corporate line.  

This action must not go unanswered. Clear Channel has abused the public airwaves for far too long with its one-sided propaganda party and it is time they answer for it. So I call on all of Oregon to boycott the new KPOJ channel. Make a big, embarassing noise whever you can. Write to the sponsors explaining why you will not be buying any of their products and make it clear that you will encourage your friends to do the same. And sign Kari’s petition today!

I also call on our progressive political leaders like Jeff Merkley, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter Defazio, Ron Wyden and the Governor himself to demand Clear Channel Radio make a public justification for using their national media monopoly to shut down the only progressive voice on our local, public airwaves. This is not about the empty jargon of “free enterprise,” this is about free speech. It is not about “good business,” it is about best practices. And maybe most importantly, it is about holding the arrogance of America’s mega-corporations accountable to the communities they are privileged to serve.

So I say let’s make Clear Channel Radio’s recent decision an example to the nation. When they shut down our progressive outlet with their bloated conceit, we will burst it by shutting down the “new” KPOJ down with our discontent. Then, and only then, will we be able to send a clear message…that we are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Comments

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    The unworthy steward has the browbeating coming, whatever results from it. They need to be reminded that shtty decisions bring on shtty consequences sometimes … just like it does for those of us mythical little guys.

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    The odd formatting on the above message comes from my being cute with type in order to disemvowel a certain strong word and use it anyway. My apologies for the approach, and if it would be seen clear as to delete it I would not be offended.

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    Is it really a good idea to threaten Clear Channel's advertisers with boycott? I assume that KPOJ is not coming back and that our best hope is to convince another broadcaster to pick up the mantle of Progressive Talk on another frequency. But won't other media companies be a wee bit scared to do so if, at some point in the future they change formats too - only to have to worry about a bunch of boycotts hounding future advertisers? Maybe it's just safer for another broadcaster to avoid such trouble at the outset - that's the message I fear we'll be sending...

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      I've wondered how we can boycott 620 Fox Sports's sponsors if we're also boycotting the show. Is there a list of their sponsors somewhere? The other caveat about boycotting sponsors is that a lot of businesses advertise on many stations, including music stations and liberal talk stations (e.g., KPTK in Seattle) in addition to the shows we want to have low ratings. I support the boycott idea, to the extent that Fox Sports/620 AM has sponsors that exclusively advertise on right-wing talk or sports radio.

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    Until the government steps in and re-regulates the airwaves at a federal level, everyone's best hope is internet/satellite radio. Are those radios cheap? Nope. I bought one for a little over a hundred bucks the day KPOJ went off the air, and it's really a fantastic device. I can fill my presets with podcasts, progressive radio streams, international web streams (and music of course). Those guys are getting ad sponsors, too. It may be tough to get ad sponsorship and it will definitely be tougher to pull down a consistent salary, but going to a web only format has saved the careers of plenty of progressive radio hosts that had nothing else when AAR shut down. Right now, there's nothing CC can do to hurt you if you run your own web show...and if you're dead serious about keeping a progressive voice out there, then it's going to take starting off as a web only show, drumming up listeners and getting on Sirius, and maybe getting yourself over on Current eventually.

    No, you don't pick up a big paycheck from one source...you make your income from a lot of smaller sources, memberships, sponsorships, etc. But this is the kind of thing that you or Carl could do part time and have FULL creative control over.

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      The only way to have a balance between conservative and liberal talk radio is to bring back "the fairness doctrine" Do you really want the government telling broadcasters what radio formats that have to air? That doesn't sound like freedom of speech to me.

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        Freedom of speech can't be linked to bottom line profits Pete just like profitability can't and shouldn't be linked to to corporate compensation... You need to extract the capitalist model out of it and revert to non profits. This is why I suggest that we own organ of freedom by purchasing our own radio station.

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        The relevant comparison is freedom of the press, not speech.

        Freedom of the press is based in part on the capacity of anyone to own a press. Publicly owned broadcast airwave frequencies exist in a limited quantity. Reasonable regulations regarding their use are warranted just as with public parks or buildings or other limited resources that are both scarce and public.

        Restoring the limits on quantities of frequencies any private party can license would somewhat ameliorate the problem.

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      Totally true Jean... since this happened I have done some research looking for options... the one thing Bain Capital does understand is competition... competition that puts them out of the market... I have done some research and there are a few opportunities but in the end they all are subject to market forces. The easiest is LPFM... a series of low power FM stations and I have a few connections in this market in the Linn County area. after the initial Licensing and set up, a station can cost less than 250.00 to run per month in transmission costs and has a range of about 35 miles max. That obviously is not the best option. Secondly, would be an AM station that is new and looking for a following. There is one station that is in the LINN County area that is breaking ground on a transmitter in the Lacomb area, but it is not a high power station... 5000 Kw. I know the name of the owner off the FCC site... she is Jennifer Lund, but I don't know what her intent is and I haven't been able to track down her address. I think she just intends to play music as I understand it. I was told that she originally had an LPFM station that was broadcasting off Knoxbutte that is in the central valley near Albany. I'm checking to see if that equipment is for sale and if the antenna is still available. even with all of his it is questionable if we could scrape together the money locally. What i would suggest to Blue Oregon is that we start a fund to buy or start our own station... Contributors would receive stock in the new company but the stock would really only be a devise to stop the station from ever being sold. Someone ought to start that conversation. 8900 supporters of the petition times 100 dollars is a good chunk of change. Find some larger contributors and I think its possible.

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        Clear Channel is owned and determined by Bain Capital. Probably one of the most overlooked reasons why Mitt the Twit is so unnerved that he did not win the election. How DOES one own the largest radio monopoly in the USA and still lose to the voice of the chattel? Never the less....I am more interested in (1)how much of this action is happening across the United States and we are not hearing of it and (2) which one of Mitt's son's has set out on this path in petulant mittfobbery and (3) what bottom 3 (ratings wise) non- BAIN AM stations do we have in Oregon who would just LOVE to have a pre packaged loyal audience ready to go? Seems simple to me.

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    I really have enjoyed the progressive radio programs that 'were' on KPOJ. The sports format is pretty much sports fluff. Energy should be used making a Progressive Radio station in the Portland area that is not dependent upon a large conservative corporation. Listener-supported radio would be a good way to start towards the goal of radio station that is 100% owned and operated by Progressives.

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    Maybe this is the reason I received a call from a station rep telling me that they "don't give a s--t" about what I think! Real class!

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    Adam or Carl or someone needs to organize a public town-hall on just what has happened and to decide how to proceed. Invite local media, politicians and the show hosts to speak. It obviously is a much bigger issue than just this station. Even invite CC to attend to defend their action.

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    Several people in several forums have mentioned boycotting the "new" KPOJ's clients, but I worry that's going to be useless... they won't care. However, there is something useful we can do instead. I work for Tom Dwyer Automotive Services, and if you listened to KPOJ you know who we are. To the local businesses that USED to advertise on KPOJ, the loss of the station means a loss in business. If you ever considered using the services of the old advertisers, don't wait... now is the time. And word-of-mouth is the best way to send your friends to LOCAL companies that will APPRECIATE you. Buy an anniversary gift from Katy at Trade Roots, or get your Christmas cards printed at Morel Ink, or update your frames at Eyes on Broadway. We'll still be glad to get your car ready for winter, Better World Mortgage can still refi your house, and Stephen Hendricks can still handle your legal work. We put a list of the former advertisers on our website at TomDwyer.com (in the "Looking for Links?" section). It's almost impossible to punish the big companies that don't care what kind of content they support, but it doesn't take much to matter to the companies that put their necks on the block to support rational information sources. Progressive Radio will return to Portland in some form, but we don't have to wait... our support NOW for these companies means they'll still be there to support Progressive Radio when it DOES come back.

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    Bring back the "Fairness Doctrine."

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