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November 19, 2005

KUOW Kicks Ass – And the Downside

Michael Hood over at blatherwatch.com has a post about KUOW, it’s popularity and the unintended consequences of that popularity on the rise of right-wing talk radio in the Northwest. 

He highlights the good news that KUOW is the most popular talk radio station in Seattle.  Normally commercial and non-commercial radio shows don’t get compared so we don’t see this.  Michael reports the number-crunching that Bill Virgin of the PI did for his “Radio Beat” column where he “found that not only was KUOW the highest rated talk station, it was the #2 in the whole market (second only to the mighty country music format KMPS).”

So what could possibly be the downside you ask?  As did I.  Michael lays it out very well:

One of the reasons that right-wing talk has become so powerful in the Northwest, is that so many of us liberals are escaping the crassness of the commercial-strewn AM stations and tuning in to the nuanced and intellectually satisfying NPR.

Meanwhile many other folks, apolitical or non-aligned, and trapped in their cars, have become politicized by the repetitive drumbeat of conservative talk. While we're getting the finer points, others are having partisan polemic literally pounded daily into their brains at the cellular level.

It's a big problem for Air America or other liberal AM talk. The commercials, the tone of voice, and unmitigated bias of AM talk is a turn-off to the on-the-other-hand crowd. Nuance is cool intellectually but Sean Hannity, Kirby Wilbur, John Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, et al, not only deliver punchy intense entertainment, but also turn listeners into passionate partisans. They have perfected- written the book on- making political rhetoric a popular entertainment medium.

NPR doesn't try to do that, but while they get big numbers in Seattle, their listeners are kept naive about the reality of local partisan politics.

~~They have, through salacious repetition, helped poison the minds of people against politicians, government and government process. While skepticism about government is good, the total distrust is unwarranted and problematic to the Republic.      
~~The extreme anti-tax I-912 was conceived by two talk hosts who used their shows to accomplish the amazing feat of getting it on the ballot in record time. It took a huge effort and millions of dollars to defeat the regressive measure.
~~Tim Eyman and his monkey-wrenching tax revolt initiatives would be nowhere without Seattle talk radio. Neither would the anti-affirmative I-200. Or the one-size-fits-all justice of "3-Strikes You're Out."
~~The attempt to unseat Christine Gregoire, though a failure in court, was a tremendous political success for Republicans. They succeeded, through talk radio, and triangulation with blogs, in convincing citizens that a) the King County Elections Dep't committed fraud and b) that Christine Gregoire had something to do with it. They put her numbers in the tank, a place from which she is only now recovering.

During all of this, we progressives in Seattle were listening to KUOW, considering all things and were amazed when the fruits of the talk radio conservative activists fell from the tree.

Who needs to address this is the Democratic Party, who incredibly blows off AM talk radio. They should, like the Republicans, recruit and groom young people to get into broadcasting; and take the medium seriously- they're getting their ass-kicked. The talk radio listeners are, for the most part, the swing voters--they can be won over.

I admit that it was only two weeks ago that I started listening to Thom Hartmann on Air America here (1090 AM KPTK) and that was only because he had asked me to comment on the elections in this state for him and so I wanted to get a sense of  his style.  He was very good.  The trouble of course is that it’s hard to wade through all the commercials and AM radio nonsense to get his words of wisdom.  I agree with Michael.  As Democrats, we need to figure this out.   

Posted by Lynn Allen on November 19, 2005 at 10:54 AM in Media | Permalink

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