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.