Eugene's Air America, KOPT, drops local programming

Tragically, it seems that KOPT 1600 AM in Eugene has decided to can all of its local programming - in favor of nationally syndicated content.

From the Register-Guard:

The decision silences a local outlet for news and opinion, and marks the end of a fascinating experiment in the highly competitive Eugene-Springfield broadcast market.

KOPT launched itself as a progressive political voice late in 2004, with liberal hosts interviewing local newsmakers and taking listeners' calls. The local talk shows were supplemented by a strong local news division. Nine members of the news department were laid off as of Thursday, leaving only one. Now, KOPT will fill its hours with syndicated material from Air America and other sources.

The decision is all the more notable as it seems to have been made just as Oregonians face the prospect of the most expensive (and thus, advertising-heavy) campaign season in its history -- with a presidential race, a competitive US Senate race, and wide-open races for Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer.


  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)

    Other than the loss of local coverage, I do not see a major loss politically. The station is still airing progressive talk. This story is not even close to what happened in Ohio with the shutting down of all of their progressive talk radio after the '06 election.

  • George Seldes (unverified)

    Hmmmm, given the struggle KBOO is experiencing (persistent falling membership), this is worrisome. The airwaves, briefly non-homogenous, are returning to an all right-wing, all the time paradise for fatheads like Rush and Lars.

  • (Show?)

    I hear they outsourced the local content to India as a cost savings measure. Today's weather: Monsoons, with slight chance of basmati. Norm D. Plume

  • spicey (unverified)

    could this be made into an action item? ie, who are the folks at the station that people could write to? Are folks in Eugene/Springfield up in arms - wishing that this change were not taking place, if so, how about someone stepping up to the plate to push back?

    and go KBOO, time to send in my membership, thanks for the reminder.

  • Eric Hanson (unverified)

    I hate to say it, but I'm listening to KOPT at work again now that they've dropped the ridiculous Brian Shaw.

    A town of 150,000 (when students are around) is not large enough for 15 hours of local talk a week by someone who only wants to discuss the Eugene Police. It's just not.

    I never liked Brian Shaw and I actually switched my radios at work and in my bedroom to the local NPR station to avoid having to hear him prattling on about how much he loves our mayor, Kitty Piercy, when she has yet to take a single effective action to solve the problems he loved talking about.

    Besides, he almost never had anyone local on the program. His "experts" all came from Evergreen State or Washington DC. He made no real effort to connect to local grassroots organizations, or to policy experts at the U of O.

    They've still got Thom Hartmann 100 miles to the north to cover regional issues.

    I don't think this is a serious problem for KOPT, in fact, I applaud them for dropping Shaw and I will listen more. It's not that I don't like local programming, it's that the local programming option has really sucked to this point.

  • SteveL (unverified)

    The register-guard bothered to point out: "KOPT has a curious corporate lineage. It is owned by Churchill Media, the president of which is Suzanne Arlie. Arlie's husband, John Musumeci, first became widely known in Eugene as a principal of the Gang of Nine."

    Musumeci, and his real estate company which carries his wife's family name, played the role of conservative ogres quite well. They came into town, grabbed land at the edge of the urban growth boundary, pushed their weight around to blackm^H^H^H^H^H^Hencourage the city of Eugene into trading away city property and/or tax abatements. When the city council told them no, the Gang of Nine was created: nine anonymous people who "cared about the community" and proceeded to buy large ads($) in the Register Guard to mock and ridicule members of the city council, painting them as arrogant and anti-business. As if. (the gang was revealed to included some major characters in the traditional media in Eugene. wink wink nudge nudge).

    KOPT was created a few years later and confused the progressive community in Eugene. Why would the Arlie land barons give Air America access to the Eugene audience? Why would they give voice to progressive talk radio programs?

    Contrary to the Register Guard's love letter I quoted above, they have arguably "interfered" with the station's programming on at least one previous occasion to silence local progressive voices.

    Eugene needs local reporting. They have the Eugene Weekly, but more is better, and this will be a loss for them.

  • Paulih (unverified)

    A staff member at KOPT told me last month he was worried that they would be fired if the next ratings didn't show improvement. The ratings are due out this week. So the decision to can the local staff was made before the ratings were released. The original morning show team that was on the air in 2005, a man and woman, were pro-Iraq War Republicans who seemed bewildered when listeners challenged/condemned them regarding their position on that issue. Rick Little ran a very good news operation that focused heavily on important local news and public affairs issues. No other station on the AM side of the dial in Eugene has made that kind of effort at local news coverage for some time because of a lack of staff, resources or both.

    But there's an issue related to local news coverage on progressive and conservative talk stations that I have witnessed. I worked at the Limbaugh station in Medford and two friends once asked if we skewed newscasts to the right! I was stunned but then explained that we didn't care whether we were a Limbaugh station or not, we worked to cover the important local/regional news, period.

    However that lead me to wonder if (some? most?) people assume/presume that if you are a progressive Air America type station, the local news is skewed left and if you are a Limbaugh station the local news is skewed right. For the record, Rick Little did NOT do anything of the sort at KOPT that I ever heard and being a competitor for more than two years, tuned in to his station often.

  • Adrian R (unverified)

    While the merits of the local hosts are debatable, and I can't provide any insight there, I think one point where everyone can agree is that it's important to have programming of any sort than can counter the extreme right wing garbage that fills most of the airwaves. The 'free-market' argument of "it's all right wing, all the time because that's what the people want to hear" is bogus and needs to be deflated.

  • anonymous (unverified)

    Radio formats come and go very fast in Eugene. The broadcast assets were conglomerated in the late 90s and its very competitive there. Yes, Eugene is liberal and has 20,000 students at UO between September and June, but the market is the central Lane County area, which is about 300,000 and can be quite conservative. It's a tough place to be in radio.

    The more important lesson here is that local and non-com programming, like with KBOO in Portland, needs to elevate the quality of its content and presentation to remain competitive with content like Air America. They need to upgrade their air talent and be more responsive to the broader market.

  • Adrian R (unverified)

    That's a good point, as they tend to pick their content and format and then look for the market to respond rather than vise-versa. Not that they should take all their cues from the market, but adaptability and presentation is key.

  • paulih (unverified)

    Ratings just out today show KOPT with persons 12+ Monday to Sunday (these are called "beauty contest" numbers in radio) show KOPT moving from 1.9 to 2.1 A year ago in the ratings, KOPT had a 3.4 followed by the drop to 1.9 in the fall with a slight bump in spring as noted above.

  • Leigh Anne (unverified)

    As one of the local programmers who was let go by KOPT -- I hosted the weekend program, "Women Under the Influence of Laughter" on which we discussed everything from politics to caregiving, from ethnic diversity to dancing, from how the world looks different when you're 15 and 75 to the importance of passion -- I perhaps mourn the loss of local programming more than most who have posted here.

    It wasn't just the weekday news that disappeared. Barbara Nixon's "God Talk," which had been on for nearly a year, was the first religious program I'd ever listened to (and I grew up in the south and was forced to listen to many) that treated all people, regardless of their faith or lack thereof, with respect and dignity. "The Sexual Frequency" was very informative and probably provided needed education for many young -- and older people. The food and wine program offered listeners an opportunity to discover new places to dine and celebrate locally.

    What KOPT lost wasn't just local programming (which was a huge loss for some who relied on it for deeper coverage of local issues than can be provided on TV), but programming that one doesn't often find from a local source. My program brought Eugene/Springfield residents, primarily women, but men too, together. I had guests who had never met who ended up exchanging business cards and talking about how their organizations needed to work together to improve food service to the schools or discuss options for care for seniors, etc. And combining these local guests with well-known authors and experts such as Dr. Christiane Northrup, Janet Evanovich, and Kate Clinton was a great format that listeners loved.

    In the end, it was about money. Unfortunately, it always is.

  • Wade C (unverified)

    You liberals should get down on your knees and kiss the feet of the owners of Churchill Media. They lost money on KOPT, you can't staff a news-room & have local hosts with a 2 share in a market that is not growing robustly in revenue. Put up or shut up, buy the frequency & do it your way!. Meawhile Cume-use-less's KUGN is nearly all automated.

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