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“Seattle’s Progressive Talk” to be shut down; CBS Radio converting AM 1090 to sports

Last week, as we reported a few days ago, Clear Channel pulled the plug on progressive talk radio in Portland, converting AM 620 KPOJ (“Portland’s Progressive Talk”) to a Fox Sports affiliate after more than eight years of serving as a home for popular hosts like Thom Hartmann, Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Norman Goldman, Rachel Maddow, Al Franken, and Sam Seder.

Now we’ve received confirmation that CBS Radio will be doing the same thing with AM 1090 in Seattle as of January 2nd, 2013.

On January 2nd, CBS (which used to be known as Viacom before it spun off several of its business units as a separate company called Viacom) plans to convert KFNQ, formerly KPTK, to the sports radio format, along with many other stations around the country. The apparent objective is to create a stronger network of sports radio stations so that CBS can better compete for national sports programming contracts.

Seattle, of course, already has plenty of stations offering sports talk. These include KRKO (broadcasting as Fox Sports Radio 1380), KIRO (broadcasting as 710 ESPN Seattle) and KJR (broadcasting as Sports Radio 950).

But CBS executives don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, AM 1090′s current format isn’t making enough money – so they’re going to completely trash it, just like Clear Channel did with AM 620 in Portland.

CBS hasn’t yet officially announced the change, and they haven’t authorized an on-air announcement or an explanation for AM 1090′s website, but staff in Seattle have been told that it is happening. And they have communicated the news to people they know (including many of AM 1090′s most loyal listeners).

So we know this isn’t a rumor.

Management at CBS claims that although progressive political talk has a dedicated core audience, the overall audience has been declining, both in our region and nationally. We haven’t seen any numbers backing up that assertion, but that is part of the justification for the format change that CBS Seattle staff have been given.

Those unfamiliar with the radio business might be surprised to know that AM 1090 has been through a lot of format shifts before. AM 1090 is Seattle’s third oldest-radio station; it began broadcasting in 1927 as KVL.

In 1947, Dorothy Bullitt launched KING AM on the frequency. KING AM was initially a NBC News affiliate; it also broadcast traditional pop music, jazz, and swing. In the 1970s, 1090 became “Musicradio 11 KING”, principally broadcasting hits from Billboard’s “Top 40″ chart. KING AM shifted to soft adult contemporary music in 1980, but ratings remained low, and two years later, the station stopped broadcasting tunes entirely due to the growing popularity of the FM band.

The station was relaunched in 1982 as KING NewsTalk 1090, with a slate of hosts that included Mike and Candace Siegel, Randy Rowland, Jim Althoff, Carl Dombek, Jeff Ray, and Pat Cashman (later one of the stars of Almost Live!). Fourteen years later, in 1994, the station quit paying all of its local talent and instead began carrying the Associated Press’ All News Radio. Not long after, the station was sold by the Bullitt family, and its call letters were changed nearly half a dozen times.

By 1996, 1090 AM was broadcasting country music, and it was bought by Infinity Broadcasting, which later became CBS Radio (a unit of Viacom, now CBS Corporation). Infinity experimented with a news talk format again after the turn of the century (with local talent such as Bob Rivers and Ron & Don), but pulled the plug after less than a year. 1090, which was by this time known as KYCW, returned to country music, and continued broadcasting that until October 2004, when it became KPTK (“Seattle’s Progressive Talk”).

Now the geniuses at CBS want to convert 1090 AM to a sports format. They figure the audience for sports programming is larger, and the station will be able to make more money by competing for that audience.

We wonder if they’ve done their homework. This is not a market that is currently under-served.

KJR already has Husky football and basketball; KIRO (AM + FM) has the Mariners, Sounders, and the Seahawks, and both stations also carry plenty of sports commentary and analysis in addition to games.

And as of a few weeks ago, sports fans in the Pacific Northwest have even less incentive to listen to games or analysis on the radio.

If they subscribe to Comcast cable, Frontier FiOS, or Dish Network, they can watch all the games that the likes of ESPN and Fox don’t decide to carry on the Pac-12 Networks, a family of television channels created by the Pacific 12 conference.

The Pacific 12 conference, as many readers know, consists of twelve schools, including Washington and Oregon’s four largest public universities. The schools collectively decided a couple of years ago that they could better monetize their athletic events by creating a broadcasting arm under their direct control.

Now that the Pac-12 Networks are live, college sports fans can watch far more games on TV than they could before. Each region of the conference has its own channel, and there’s also a national Pac-12 channel as well.

This is what CBS is up against. They’re making an extremely risky bet. By converting AM 1090, they lose the station’s current loyal audience and all the goodwill they have tried to cultivate over the years through “Precinct 1090″ and annual town hall forums. No other station in Seattle broadcasts progressive talk, which means that AM 1090 – in its present incarnation – has a niche.

And it has boosters, too. Many local activists have promoted the station for years with AM 1090 bumper stickers or window decals on their vehicles.

CBS executives are mistaken if they think this community of listeners, which their Seattle staff has worked hard to build, are going to stick around once the company turns its back on them by junking “Seattle’s Progressive Talk”.

At least CBS hasn’t made the switch yet, unlike Clear Channel. If you’re an AM 1090 listener who wants progressive talk to stay on the air in Seattle, you can voice your displeasure regarding CBS’ plans to its corporate office.

CBS RADIO
1271 Avenue of the Americas FL 44
New York, NY 10020

There’s also a Facebook page called “Keep Progressive Talk in Seattle” which you can become a fan of. The creator of the page is urging people to send postcards to CBS headquarters protesting the format change.

33 Comments

  1. Laurie Fort
    Posted November 16th, 2012 at 4:25 PM | Permalink

    I just started streaming this station when we lost KPOJ in Portland and was so happy to find it… I listen at least five hours a day.

  2. Daniel L.
    Posted November 16th, 2012 at 9:33 PM | Permalink

    KFNQ will go after the broadcast rights for one of Seattle’s marquee sports properties. The Mariners, and/or the coming NBA team. I predict Wazzu will be in their portfolio very soon; WSU has been – undeservedly – a red-headed stepchild in the Seattle sports market. Drama queens like Mike Leach make for great sports talk radio fodder (I say all of that as a UW alum).

    Progressive radio’s future lies not with the Big Three C’s (CBS, Clear Channel, Cumulus) but with medium-sized radio networks and independents that offer more local control. We progressives need to build our media ecosystem on this infrastructure base.

    In the long run, we’ll be better off without ‘em.

  3. Karen S.
    Posted November 16th, 2012 at 11:33 PM | Permalink

    Try streaming WCPT, Chicago’s progressive talk, which is independently owned and has a similar line up.

  4. Skip Stein
    Posted November 17th, 2012 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

    As we now lost KPOJ 620 Portland, I also looked to KPTK 1090 for the Progressive discussions of the day.
    If the executives at CBS, which I always thought was a fair and balanced network (?), would see that the Progressive movement is the strongest audience in the USA, take for example the recent Presidential elections. If you, CBS, steps up and represents this powerful segment of our society, you will be hailed as forward leaning network.
    Keep KPTK 1090 as a Progressive format voice for the Northwest and the nation.
    PS: Saving KPOJ would also be a great idea.

  5. Dnver
    Posted November 17th, 2012 at 5:39 PM | Permalink

    “Listen online” really isn’t much of an option for those of us who don’t have easy access to the internet.

  6. javi
    Posted November 18th, 2012 at 11:41 AM | Permalink

    I LOVE the Pac-12 Network (and those like it), and really appreciate their effort to challenge monolithic networks like CBS. I know DirecTV hasn’t inked a deal yet, but I have DISH, and Pac-12 is constantly playing around my home on the weekends. DISH itself is no stranger to controversial programming moves, and it only makes sense that DISH would be one of the few providers to offer a relatively new network like Pac-12. A DISH coworker told me we would be getting it, and although I love the sports like any other Pac-12 fan, I also like the interviews and behind the scenes work, which offer a larger perspective into the goings-on within the conference.

  7. Posted November 18th, 2012 at 3:58 PM | Permalink

    Tough deal for the staff, who will have to spend weeks of answering angry phone calls on why the station switched.

  8. William Curtis
    Posted November 20th, 2012 at 4:11 PM | Permalink

    I listen to KPTK several hours a day as I sit at my desk to work. I formulate my political beliefs by listening to Thom, Ed, Norman, and Randi. I like sports too, but to have four sport stations competing against each other seems like an overload. What do we progressives do now? I feel like boycotting the new station!

  9. betty coulson
    Posted November 20th, 2012 at 4:49 PM | Permalink

    Please, please keep Seattle A.M. 1090 on the air. It is our only life line for honest broadcasting of current political happenings as well as educational. Not everyone has access to cable t.v., or internet. I listen to 1090 every day several hours faithfully.

    There are so many sports covered on t.v., and radio, there many times when there is nothing substantial to listen to or watch.

    I am so upset I may never watch CBS again.

  10. John Alwyn
    Posted November 20th, 2012 at 9:03 PM | Permalink

    Wow! Imagine Seattle without a progressive radio station! That would be like New Orleans without Jazz and Milwaukee without beer. This can’t be allowed to happen. Is it possible to get an army of sponsors signed up before the deadline to show CBS that this format will make plenty of money?

  11. Doug Pratt
    Posted November 21st, 2012 at 9:53 AM | Permalink

    I am totally sickened. The news that KPTK will stop broadcasting progressive talk radio is absolutely unbelievable. I’ve listened to it 6-7 hrs. a day 7 days a week, since 2004, while I’m working in my shop. Now what? CBS?…..you all go to hell and rot!

  12. mithreal
    Posted November 21st, 2012 at 10:37 AM | Permalink

    While progressive remains synonymous with Democratic Party, I say good riddance to progressive radio am1090′s format.

    This is coming from someone who spent way too much time listening to Hartmann, Schultz, RR and others.

    I like Norman nearly entirely and I’ll miss Malloy as well.

    Hartmann went wrong subtly at first but quite progressively the longer he remains in DC. Close proximity to that cesspool was a bad move for him. Schultz may as well do sports radio, am I right? And RR is often thought provoking as much as she is simply wrong.

    The future isn’t progressive equals Democratic Party, rather, I think it is closer to something like progressive equals independent.

    The political revolution is over. There is one party on the big issues.

    Maybe progressives can’t wrap it around their heads that the country is in dire straights and needs a politics that doesn’t include the normal seesaw of D vs. R which is a false choice when you get past the divide and conquer issues.

    WA state has gay marriage and marijuana is legit if still not entirely legal. I really do wonder when people will wake up and realize that we have been conquered by TBTF international crime lords like J Diamond and Lord Nofine. I’m not trying to be cute, but the time for the usual radio is over unless the status quo suits you.

    Anyone listening to am1090 for long must have thought this was coming. I mean come on, it’s cbs radio. Don’t you all get it?

    I think this an admission by cbs that the oligarch’s won. Thanks, cbs.

  13. Diana Manhan
    Posted November 21st, 2012 at 4:18 PM | Permalink

    I feel so sad & angry that CBS is taking Progressive radio off 1090 am. I feel it’s a place I could go to hear the truth. I always checked things out elsewhere before I made my final decision. I listen to 1090am Monday thru Friday for about 10 hours a day. I feel if it weren’t for progressive radio Mitt Romney might be president. Not something I really want to think about. I used to be part of the middle class but now that I’m unemployed I’m not. From what I’ve heard there’s plenty of sport coverage out there. But what can you expect from a corporation. (Even though corporations are considered to be persons.) I don’t feel like probably listen to too much sports!

  14. William ODell
    Posted November 23rd, 2012 at 4:44 PM | Permalink

    Went away for two weeks on vacation and found another sports radio station (We don’t watch or follow any sports) replacing Progressive Talk AM 620 KPOJ.
    I listened most of the night to that station and streamed it into my computer during the daytime.
    I refuse to watch any Fox news or sports station so will have to rely on streaming internet until the media moguls take that away. Bad move on their part as it was the only way they could reach some Progressive Consumers.

  15. Posted November 25th, 2012 at 10:31 PM | Permalink

    Dear CBS.

    We as listeners to progressive talk radio, understand the corporate need to make a profit. In that regard, I absolutely know that you are misguided. The listeners to AM 1090 in Seattle and KPOJ in Portland are vastly underestimated when you look at your customary numbers. From listening to the call-ins, it is rare to hear some one that says that they listen live. The vast majority stream the program or podcast it (as I do) to listen to them at their convenience.

    So in your calculations as to whether you can get well-healed advertisers on your program to support the program, you have missed the boat.

    But let’s say you don’t make money, because you fail to convince advertisers that is a good place to display their products. Even in that case, where is progressive talk to find a voice? When did the airwaves cease to exist for the public good? When did PROFIT become the only reason to continue broadcasting? Where is the ethics of a station? Why is it OK to have Limbaugh on every single station in America spewing his hate and lies? Is there no end of greed, allowing you to overlook people like him and their destructive role in society?

    The FCC should have a say in this, but from our standpoint they are probably bought as well.

    Unfortunately for you, you just cut off the most intellectual group of radio listeners in the country. If you ever listened to Randi Rhodes you would know what I mean. Many many thousands of people depend on her for her presentation of factual information with resources and encouragement to read for ourselves the reliable sources.

    Take your money and run — just remember you are useless to this society with one more sports program. We need that like another “fiscal cliff.”

    Wish we could change your mind, but it’s a waste of time.

    Ray Westermeyer, M.D.

  16. Walter L Johnson
    Posted November 26th, 2012 at 1:43 PM | Permalink

    It may now to time to force the FCC to give due deference to community interests in allowing stations to retain their licenses. Allowing more sports radio stations on over the air radio broadcasting frequencies serves no public purpose whatsoever when there are already 3 competing stations broadcasting sports. It is also generally true the sports enthusiasts are willing to pay for services like satellite radio programs than can allocate tens of stations to sports programming.

    In contrast talk radio is almost totally dominated nationally by arch conservative political views.

    It clearly does serve the public interest to have radio stations on the air with different political perspectives, to facilitate a market for ideas. This is especially true for AM band frequencies which might otherwise be rededicated to other types of communications and abandoned for broadcasting. In sports programming, an AM station with its inability to broadcast stereo sound cannot convey the thrill of a stadium crowd or its enthusiasm nearly as effectively as stereo FM stations.

    Having having radio stations offering different political perspectives does serve the public purpose, especially for AM frequencies which are inferior to FM frequencies because they can’t broadcast stereo, such as the crowd noises from sports theaters. Portland, Oregon’s AM 620 KPOJ was profitable and should not have changed formats, especially in the very Democratic Pacific Northwest.

    If this kind of change can happen easily and without public hearings in Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA, no radio market is safe for Progressive Radio, which is harder to gather programming for with streaming internet services that sports programming.

  17. Mike
    Posted November 27th, 2012 at 1:38 AM | Permalink

    I started listening here when KPOJ went sports – I will not listen to sports radio – Us northwesterners need to show the PTB at those stations who think that sports talk is wonderful exactly who they are dealing with ! I don’t roll over!

  18. Paul Clark
    Posted November 27th, 2012 at 4:27 PM | Permalink

    I see KVI isn’t being pulled, so Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage still have a soapbox.

  19. Angela Coryell
    Posted November 27th, 2012 at 4:58 PM | Permalink

    I am shocked, outraged, and appalled that Seattle Progressive Talk is being replaced by sports. But truth be told, I’m not all that surprised because the CBS executives are probably a bunch of simple-minded, greedy Republicons who couldn’t care less about quality programming like Progressive talk. I hope they see huge profit losses as a result of this hideous decision.

  20. Jane/Seattle
    Posted November 28th, 2012 at 8:55 PM | Permalink

    I am a long time AM1090 listener. First they took our 98.9 Smooth Jazz. Now this. Noooooooo. I did expect it sooner or later. CBS=Capitalists. Their values are in money not informing with truth. I feel sick and sad.

  21. James Banks
    Posted December 1st, 2012 at 1:54 AM | Permalink

    I’ve long suspected that my fellow progressives are cheapskates, wearing old
    Birkenstocks, recycling compulsively, shopping at thrift stores, driving 20-year-old Japanese cars if they aren’t commuting by bicycle, and generally absent from the economic radar in the Seattle area.

    So this is what we get. Nobody with any serious capital is going to gamble on Progressive Talk Radio in any market because it’s not that people don’t tune in, they don’t spend money with advertisers. My business advertised on 1090 and it was a losing investment, even though the majority of our customers are progressives. Maybe if we were selling majic crystals or astrology readings we would have done better.

    So I would suggest a look in the mirror…what have you done to support 1090 and its advertisers?

  22. Posted December 1st, 2012 at 4:29 PM | Permalink

    I never really listened to Radio 1090, as it seemed to be preaching to the choir.
    When I want my “feel good” news, I turn to MSNBC.

  23. Andy Nielsen
    Posted December 3rd, 2012 at 8:41 AM | Permalink

    Thank (insert deity of choice here), couldn’t have better news for the holidays!
    Can’t wait to be rid of that simpering bunch of whiners on AM 1090.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  24. Barb Lord
    Posted December 3rd, 2012 at 9:19 PM | Permalink

    This is a station I listen to for current events and educating myself as well as others. I am sickened that we will lose this station to sports? Don’t we have enough of that? I guess what we have left is Democracy Now on the Bellevue College Campus.

    Is there any hope for this country as they try to control what we listen to?

    And yes, I miss the jazz station too!

  25. Carolyn Tamler
    Posted December 4th, 2012 at 1:01 PM | Permalink

    We have created an on-line petition:

    DON’T LET SEATTLE LOSE PROGRESSIVE RADIO

    It was just announced that AM 1090 will drop progressive talk and switch to
    an all sports format after the first of the year.

    Progressive radio listeners in the greater Seattle area are appalled at the
    prospect of losing the great progressive radio shows hosted by Ed Shultz,
    Thom Hartmann, Norman Goldman, Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller and others.

    Please join us in letting AM 1090′s advertisers know that we, their
    customers, want progressive voices be heard! We want to encourage another
    local station to step up as Seattle’s progressive voice.

    MoveOn.org has created a SignOn.org petition. Please sign it and forward it
    to as many people as you can in the greater Seattle Area. We need this to
    go viral as fast as possible.

    http://signon.org/sign/dont-let-seattle-lose-1

  26. Christine Njoroge
    Posted December 5th, 2012 at 4:46 PM | Permalink

    This is a flagrant misuse of the public airwaves. The FCC must be held responsible for allowing companies like CBS to monopolize the radio dial in the Pacific Northwest and take away progressive voices. It seems like a plan to keep us uninformed and disorganized.

  27. Andrew
    Posted December 5th, 2012 at 5:02 PM | Permalink

    Andy, you do realize that none of the “simpering bunch of whiners” on AM 1090 are going away? AM 1090 just broadcasts nationally syndicated shows, all of which stream online and/or have a presence on Sirius Satellite Radio.

    I’m guessing you don’t even listen to AM 1090 and simply want to crow about Seattle-area progressives losing a favorite station. Tell me: if the shoe was on the other foot and KVI and KTTH were converted to sports, would you be happy if progressives showed up on forums you frequented to celebrate? Just curious…

  28. Guy Pere
    Posted December 10th, 2012 at 8:53 AM | Permalink

    Airways, freeways, waterways and Airwaves are owned by the American people.
    No company has the right to them.

    There are two things one does not see in fascist countries. Unions and opposition press.
    Today in America we are seeing both groups under attack.

  29. Guy Pere
    Posted December 10th, 2012 at 8:59 AM | Permalink

    Clear channel is owned by Bain Capital.
    Bain capital is shutting down two other Progressive stations.

    No way Mit has a hand in this.

  30. Nigel T
    Posted December 12th, 2012 at 5:46 PM | Permalink

    This is very sad news. I can only hope that CBS’s profits will not materialize when they make the switch to sports. I already change the channel when they put sports on. I don’t have any reason to watch CBS television anymore at this rate.

    A lot of people have commented about how all this programming is still available, just stream it off this station or that station… well, I can’t do that on my car radio…

    CBS both sucks and blows… may they drown in red ink.

  31. Ron Sharp
    Posted December 12th, 2012 at 8:27 PM | Permalink

    What will progressives do now? Heaven forbid actually think for themselves. I listen daily to the angry hosts make weak arguments, debate obvious morons and talk over anyone who disagrees with them. Governor Etch a Sketch, Republicons? Is that the best these guys can come up with? Even in the liberal bastion of Seattle these hosts lack entertainment value… what reputable business would advertise with them? Hillside Roofing? (Are liberals really surprised you can have your roof looked at for free?) CBS sees that the advertising revenue is near nonexistent, they could not care less about the progressive agenda as delivered by these hosts.

  32. Bert
    Posted December 13th, 2012 at 10:36 PM | Permalink

    I’m one of the folks trying to keep up with the quality commentators out there after losing KPOJ. I am so tired of hearing we can just turn to the streaming on the internet. Guess what: right now I’ve not been able to tune into 1090…it just continuously loads, no sound. I want to just be able to turn on the radio and move about while listening, as before!! What are all the tricks to listening to ones favorites in some fascimile of real-time as before? At least my fellow Northwest listeners in Seattle will get to listen to their old friends over the holidays. Not us. It’s like losing a group of old friends and the silence is deafening! At least I can still turn on the TV and listen to Ed Schultz on MSNBC. Even Thom Hartman’s broadcasts have been removed from public media TV lately — because of his sponsor’s pledge drive, I’m told. What a mess. Folks, focus on getting the matter “aired”(ha!) in Congress: the abuse of the public-owned airways. Sign the petition for Congressman Walden for a Congressional hearing: http://www.savekpoj.com/walden/action/

  33. Michael
    Posted December 14th, 2012 at 10:38 PM | Permalink

    The loss of progressive RADIO hits the people who need it the most the hardest: the poor. Those who can’t afford the gagetry like iPhones and computers; who get their information from the radio in the bathroom or car. We in Spokane lost our progressive station over a year ago (KTPQ) and I’ve been listening to Randi Rhodes and Thom Hartmann by podcast, and recording Stephanie Miller on Current TV since. But when I’m making one of my frequent trips to Seattle, I punch my preset to AM 1090 as I leave Spokane, and sometimes I’ll be hearing it fight with a San Diego sports station(!) as far east as the Spokane County boundary!

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