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Clear Channel kills progressive talk in Portland; activists rallying to bring it back

Clear Channel has struck again.

Last Friday, without providing any explanation, the radio and outdoor advertising conglomerate trashed the entire programming lineup for KPOJ 620 AM (“Portland’s Progressive Talk”) and converted the station into a Fox Sports affiliate.

The sudden format change means Randi Rhodes, Mike Malloy, Thom Hartmann, and other progressive hosts can no longer be heard over the air in Portland, Oregon’s largest city. Carl Wolfson’s live and local progressive talk show, which aired in the mornings, has also been cancelled.

KPOJ was one of the now-defunct Air America’s original affiliates. It carried shows like Unfiltered (with Rachel Maddow, Lizz Winstead and Chuck D) Morning Sedition,  The O’Franken Factor (later The Al Franken Show) and the Majority Report (with Sam Seder and Janeane Garofalo). Like CBS Radio’s AM 1090 in Seattle, KPOJ was largely unaffected by the 2010 breakup of Air America because it was airing progressive talk shows syndicated by other companies.

Clear Channel, which was taken private in 2008 by Bain Capital, is one of the largest media conglomerates in the United States. It has become infamous among media critics for censorship, abrupt format changes (like this one) operating many of its stations remotely and robotically, and paying actors to call into its talk shows.

Clear Channel spends hundreds of thousands of dollars every election cycle on political contributions to candidates. Republicans have typically received more Clear Channel money than Democrats, though Democrats received a greater share in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles because the party controlled Congress at the time. The company primarily gives money to incumbents as opposed to challengers.

Clear Channel owns dozens of stations in the Pacific Northwest. Most are located in Washington. Five are in Oregon, all in the Portland area (including KPOJ). Another eight are in Idaho (Pocatello, Idaho Falls, and Twin Falls).

Kari Chisholm, a friend of ours and the founder of BlueOregon (which is indexed by Pacific NW Portal) has launched a petition to Clear Channel to bring KPOJ back. The petition reads:

620 KPOJ was a respected and profitable station with dedicated listeners and advertisers. KPOJ’s local programming also played an important role in our community, connecting elected officials and advocates with listeners across the region.

We strongly urge you to bring back progressive talk radio in Portland, Oregon.

On BlueOregon, Kari explained that he was motivated to act after receiving phone calls from anguished listeners. “As someone who appeared nearly every Tuesday morning on KPOJ for seven years – and was their longest-running weekly guest – I’m well aware of the power and reach of KPOJ. It really was a critical gathering spot for our progressive community… I believe that we can reverse this decision.”

“It won’t be easy, and it won’t be fast. But by demonstrating that KPOJ’s progressive audience is dedicated and large, we can get Clear Channel to reverse course. And if they won’t budge, then we’ll demonstrate to another company, another station that there’s an audience here for progressive talk. ”

If you agree, consider signing on to Kari’s petition at SaveKPOJ.com. Especially if you live in Portland, Beaverton, Tigard, Gresham, America’s Vancouver, or their suburbs – the area that KPOJ’s signal reaches.

We at NPI launched a similar site in the aftermath of the cancellation of The David Goldstein Show more than four years ago. That site, Letter to 710 KIRO, remains online as an NPI archive. It had over one thousand signatories, which demonstrated that David’s weekend show had a surprisingly dedicated and loyal audience.

We hope Kari is successful in his efforts to begin a dialogue with Clear Channel. But we wish media conglomerates didn’t have this kind of power. When a group of executives sitting in a boardroom in Texas have the authority to choose what over-the-air programming is available to people in cities like Seattle and Portland, something is wrong. If it wasn’t for National Public Radio (NPR) and its affiliates, practically the entire medium of radio would be controlled by companies like Clear Channel, which care about money and power, not community or sustainability.

18 Comments

  1. Pseudo Hipster
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 6:57 AM | Permalink

    NPR is the Clear Channel of non commercial radio.

    When all I can hear on the non commercial side of the dial is NPR something is wrong.

  2. Mark A.
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 8:18 AM | Permalink

    As a slightly left of center independent, I enjoyed listening to 620′s progressive line-up, particularly Thom Hartmann. Wolfson, although entertaining, was largely a partisan hack. With that said, I remain firmly a capitalist, and I guarantee that Clear Channel would not cancel a significantly profitable line-up of programming. So, at the end of the day, make money and you’ll stay on the air . . . .

  3. Wendy Dillon
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 9:32 AM | Permalink

    I can’t believe this has happened. Clear Channel (Brain Capitol… or is that Bain Capital?). You couldn’t beat us in the election so you’re silencing progressive voices. This is America, where we have free speech, not facism!!!

  4. Pamela Jourdan
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 9:35 AM | Permalink

    I am extremely disappointed in KPOJ and Clear Channel. I never thought you would do what other stations in this country did. How much sports can anybody listen to? I was shocked when I went to listen to Ed Schultz and I heard sports. Stations around the country broadcast this format but I never thought KPOJ would do it. I am disappointed. Please return to progressive talk radio.

  5. Esther Pyle
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

    What can I do to help get KPOJ back, especially Carl Wolfson?

  6. Jack N.
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 11:16 AM | Permalink

    I’m pissed.

  7. Jill Sherman
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 11:31 AM | Permalink

    Please, please bring back the progressive talk show line-up! Immediately if not sooner!

  8. Paul J. Wigowsky
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 12:11 PM | Permalink

    Please bring back Progressive Radio (620 KPOJ)– my brother and I depend on it for views that are from progressive thinkers, and for “progressive-linked” news. In this manner, you will be for a “fair and balanced” (progressive and conservative) discussion in America instead of just monopolizing the “bully pulpit” only for radical conservatives (like Rush and others of his ilk). Thanks for considering the request of American citizens.

  9. Gay Ruiz
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    Where do I lodge the complaint??? This is ridiculous, progressive programming pulled out of Portland Oregon?? What the… ?

  10. Andrew
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 4:02 PM | Permalink

    Did you sign Kari’s petition at SaveKPOJ.com?

  11. Daniel L.
    Posted November 13th, 2012 at 5:48 PM | Permalink

    It is widely known that KPOJ was profitable.

    Perhaps not profitable enough, however, for Clear Channel ownership – they lost $300 million last year on gross revenue of $6 billion. With losses like that, they need to go big across all their properties.

    So, in PDX they make a play for market share using Beavers and Blazers games. Let’s break it down:

    • Beavers football season is nearing its end. Going forward, it’s unclear what market share they’ll gain against TV – all Pac-12 games are televised.
    • Beavers b-ball lacks a tradition of success, and has never established much of a radio audience.
    • Beavers baseball? Unclear as to whether their on-field success has created a radio audience.
    • Blazers – they’re 2-5 and dead last as of today.

    So, bottom line: Clear Channel is gambling progressive radio’s demonstrated profitability against two sports properties that are far from being a sure bet.

  12. Posted November 14th, 2012 at 7:25 PM | Permalink

    Portlanders have a right to more than conservative talk radio. Return progressive talk to KPOJ!

  13. Bridgette A.
    Posted November 15th, 2012 at 6:41 AM | Permalink

    A few days after the rich got their behinds kicked in an national election we lose our progressive talk station? Somebody is really mad! Sorry, Clear Channel and CBS… I think I will find 20+ more voters to vote Democratic in the midterms. And I’ll introduce them to podcasting since you’re not interested in airing a diversity of views on the radio.

  14. Scott Michel
    Posted November 15th, 2012 at 4:04 PM | Permalink

    Please bring back our progressive station!

  15. Tonya Veale
    Posted November 15th, 2012 at 5:01 PM | Permalink

    This is more than ridiculous.

    America has already been dumbed down enough in the 21st century, and now you – Clear Channel – want to silence our voices, because you lost? There is a great benefit to listening to KPOJ. Its hosts discuss history, politics, and so much more, we learn a great deal by tuning in. There are numerous right wing radio stations and sports stations in Portland, progressive voices need to be heard. Please return our station to progressive talk, ASAP.

  16. Carole
    Posted November 16th, 2012 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    I will not listen to this station until progressive radio, i.e., KPOJ 620 AM is brought back. This is so wrong!!!

  17. Joseph Richardson
    Posted November 18th, 2012 at 8:58 AM | Permalink

    Well what are they going to take from us next?. I always thought We lived in America!, but I guess We don’t anymore!!!!.

  18. Katherine Shisler
    Posted November 18th, 2012 at 5:03 PM | Permalink

    I would be willing to contribute to a fundraiser or subscription sliding scale fee for progressive talk radio. I’ve often thought how great it would be if we didn’t have to put up with all the advertising on KPOJ.

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