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Liberal Talk Radio Returns to Los Angeles

Clear Channel Format Changes Pave Way for Air America

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com)-- Liberal talk radio is returning to Los Angeles as Clear Channel converts local sports talk station KXTA 1150 AM to talk station KTLK, hosting radio network Air America.

Photo: AP
A year after being dumped from the Los Angeles radio market, Al Franken and Air America are returning to the airwaves there.

"The people in Los Angeles are about to get a double-barrel of a gun-totin', meat-eatin' liberal," Ed Schultz, a midday host, told Billboard Radio Monitor.

Rapidly anti-Bush
The format change in the nation's second-largest radio market is scheduled for Feb. 3. Rabidly anti-Bush, Air America debuted in Los Angeles and Chicago early last year but quickly disappeared after a falling out with Multicultural Broadcasting, which owns Air America's former affiliates in those markets.

"Sixty-five percent of voters in the L.A. area voted for Kerry in the last election. Clear Channel is opportunistic and I think there's opportunity for this format here," said John Quinlan, general manager of the new KTLK.

In addition to re-entering the Los Angeles market, Clear Channel recently announced it would launch progressive talk formats in Cincinnati, Detroit and Washington.

Progressive talk stations
Clear Channel's progressive talk stations air a combination of local and nationally syndicated hosts, including Air America's Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo and Randi Rhodes, plus Jones Radio Networks' Mr. Schultz. Additionally, Clear Channel broadcasts Jesse Jackson's Keep Hope Alive program in 23 markets, including five of the top 10, calling the show "one of the most dynamic programs in radio."

Clear Channel, the nation's largest radio company, says it's been very successful in shifting under-performing AM stations to the progressive talk format. In its first book after converting from adult standards, San Diego's KPOP-AM rose from a 1.5% share to a 2.6%, and Clear Channel has logged similarly dramatic successes in Denver and Portland, Ore.

"The format is starting to prove that it's got some life," Mr. Quinlan said. "The first time Air America was in Los Angeles I don't think it was ready from a marketing or talent or financial standpoint. But a lot has changed since then."

Conservative critics
Conservative competitors on the radio waves are quick to point out that the progressive talk format is still just a drop in the bucket. While Air America talent can be heard on 44 stations, plus XM and Sirius satellite radio, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is broadcast on 600.

Clear Channel also owns Los Angeles's most conservative station, KFI-AM, which features Mr. Limbaugh in its mid-morning slot.

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