In 2002, you wrote an oft-cited piece for Common Dreams in which you noted the overwhelming number of right-wing talk radio stations and the virtual absence of any liberal ones. You advised program directors that radio “stations that take the plunge into progressive talk will serve democracy by offering a loyal opposition (which Americans always appreciate), and earn healthy revenues in an industry where it’s increasingly difficult to find a profitable niche.” You urged listeners to “call [their] local stations to let them know that you want to hear progressive or Democrat[ic] voices, and will even patronize the advertisers of such shows when they run them.”
I’m not sure when I first read this article but it was probably around the time in May 2005 when I took the “plunge” that you suggested. I bought KRXA 540 AM in Monterey, CA, with the express purpose of programming it with liberal talk and that’s exactly what I did. At the time, I had no experience in radio and had never managed any business. In fact, I hadn’t even worked for a for-profit corporation since I was in college 20 years earlier. We started broadcasting in July 2005 and have been on the air in Monterey continuously since then. I am happy to say that you were in our original lineup and despite the inevitable program shuffles and slot changes, you have remained a fixture in our weekday lineup.
At times, it’s been a tough road. During our first few years, our expenses were higher than they are now because I had to employ and pay people to do tasks that I had yet to learn. About a year after purchase, I began hosting my own show thereby bringing a distinctly local vibe to KRXA. Within a couple of years, we got our cost structure under control unfortunately at about the same time industry-wide advertising revenues plummeted. But, it’s been a blast and we are now profitable. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than hosting a show and owning and operating a liberal talk radio station – well maybe owning and operating two stations.
It heartens me in these distressing political times that KRXA is making a difference. Many of the liberal and green candidates whom we spotlighted in recent local elections have prevailed. Sometimes, I even feel like I’m reaching staunch conservatives at least on some issues.
Thom – another thing I love about KRXA is that I learn so much from our hosts including of course from you. You really are an educator. From listening to your show, I have learned much about the history of organized labor in America. Your discussions of debates over various provisions in the Constitution are always instructive and you are a leading voice for our environment.
I have also learned a lot about you. I learned that you have written many books – over 30. The one that I read closely – The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight – calls powerfully for conservation and a sane energy policy. I learned that you are an entrepreneur who has started successful businesses and then sold them. I know that you also acted as a business consultant and that you started working in radio over thirty years ago.
Given your history, there is nobody better positioned to buy and operate a liberal talk radio station. Your many years in radio and as a business owner/operator mean that you won’t have to learn on the job as I did. And, as I mentioned earlier, profits while hard to come by can and do come. Excepting of course websites, radio stations are the most inexpensive media to buy. Indeed, they are substantially cheaper now than when I purchased AM-540. In most markets, you can find a decent signal for between $500,000 and $1 million. And while that amount is prohibitively expensive for many Americans, it should not be for you. I do not know how much money you have but I have to assume that your many books and successful businesses have left you with a substantial nest egg.
In light of the recent suspension of Keith Olbermann, we assume that the corporate media will continue to broadcast liberal voices at our peril. Only through owning the sticks themselves, can we who love America ensure that honest decent voices will be heard.
Thom – follow your advice. Buy a radio station. Heck, buy two. Most markets have no liberal talk radio at all. Choose wisely and you’ll have the fields all to yourself and you’ll never have to worry about a wet-behind-the-ears owner/operator moving you to a less desirable time slot or worse.