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Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Radio Days

Via Calpundit, I found this news article claiming to have the inside scoop on the beginnings of the long-planned liberal talk radio network, in New York. (This being the New York Post take it with a grain of salt.)

Honestly, I don't think this is going to work. There are reasons talk radio caters to the right wing, far out of proportion to their numbers:

1. Most people these days listen to the radio mostly in their cars, much of it during morning and evening commute time. People in outer edge suburban areas tend to have the longest commutes and therefore tend to be the most prolific radio listeners, and are far more likely to be conservative than liberal. Liberals/progressives are more likely to live closer to their workplaces, and therefore have shorter commutes or take public transit or walk/bike to work.

2. Taken as a whole, conservatives - particularly cultural conservatives - skew older, skew rural, and skew less educated, which happens to match the profile of radio listeners in general. Conservatives are less net-savvy than either liberals or libertarians, the latter of whom are particularly over-represented online. Most research indicates that the more time one spends online, the less time one spends listening to the radio (or watching television, which in part explains the similar though less dramatic skew to the right of cable news channels.)

3. For all the conservative griping about the "liberal media," the media can only as liberal as the corporations who own them will allow them to be. (I've already ranted plenty of times about Clear Channel, so I'll spare you that.) If you're a media conglomerate, I imgaine it's harder to stomach paying people who like to criticize the power of large corporate entities.

4. NPR has in a sense occupied some of the potential "liberal talk radio" market. Though they strain and strive for balance in content and guests a way that most commerical talk radio doesn't bother to, the audience for NPR's public affairs programming tends to skew to the left. A lot of us, if we even bother with radio, would rather discover new (or old, or different) music to listen to, or straight news without an explicit point of view attached.
NPR, and, to a lesser extent, Pacifica stations (despite the latter's strident left-wing nature) tend to serve these functions.

5. I just get the general impression that liberals and progressives aren't as interested in hearing political ranting and raving and griping on the radio as those on the right. Talk radio is a sewer of poorly informed hosts serving as a forum for even more poorly informed callers spouting ignorance; even in those rare occassions I've come across a caller on C-SPAN or a commentator on Pacifica spewing nonsense from a "left wing" point of view, I have not enjoyed it much and can't imagine I'd want to listen to three hours of it any more than I'd want a three-hour dose of Limbaugh or Hannity. Similarly, sports talk radio irritates the hell out of me, because there's always some pea-brain who:
• Wants to fire the coach, the manager, the general manager, the atheltic director, the mascot, whomever;
• Proposed the most ridiculous trades ("Let's send..uh...Adrian Brown to the Mariners for Freddy Garcia..yeah...") or acqusitions ("Let's just sign everybody.")
• Is blinded an irrational love or hate for his favorite or least favorite player or team ("Yeah, there's no f**kin' way you can leave the Terps out of the dance.")

6. Give me music any day over someone's babbling, regardless of point of view or subject. I bet more liberals than conservatives agree with me.

Incidentally, I hope I'm wrong, and the left can use radio to help get some of its memes out into the larger national discussion the way that right-wing talk radio has done. But I am not exactly optimistic.


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