Liberal Talk Shows Held to Different Standard, Radio Host Says

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - A popular left-wing talk show host claims liberal radio listeners are being denied the "fair market opportunity" their conservative counterparts receive, but a national media expert countered that the only standards any radio personality must meet are "ratings and revenue."

"The numbers are undeniable - this industry is owned, operated and programmed by conservatives," Ed Schultz said during a broadcast late last week. As a result, he told listeners that "progressive talkers are being held to a totally different standard than conservatives."

"What you hear on this program you do not hear from 450 right-wing talkers in America who permeate the ears of those who don't follow the news and [who] influence elections," said Schultz, who is carried on more than 100 stations nationwide.

"This is about market opportunities. This is also about ownership. This is also about being given an opportunity to be on an equal signal with equal promotion," he said.

In recent years, Schultz asserted, "America has shifted" to the left on many issues. "The neocon agenda is dead, and the right-wing talkers that built up the neocon agenda for the last 10 years, they got nothing."

Yet even so, he said, "there are radio companies in this country that broadcast absolutely zero seconds of anything other than hard right-wing talk."

"In Miami, Denver, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, San Diego and Albuquerque, we [liberal radio shows] are making tremendous gains, and these radio stations are viable, salable products," he said. Why don't companies that own several stations "go after some progressive talk?" he wondered.

Highlighting what he said were the problems hosts like himself face, Schultz said he had been put on the air in Salt Lake City, but after two weeks, the program was taken down after "some soccer moms" gave the station "a little smoke and a little pushback."

He cited a recent report by liberal organizations which found that 91 percent of the total weekday programming of the stations run by the top five commercial station owners was conservative.

The report called for increased government regulation and greater diversity of commercial radio station owners. Schultz said, "We're just asking the question [of radio companies]: Are you operating in the public's interest if all you broadcast is right-wing crap when lefties are over here getting ratings and doing commerce, too?"


But Michael Harrison, publisher of the Talkers trade magazine, said Monday he did not believe that liberal and conservative talk show hosts are judged by different standards.

"The only standards anyone is held to are ratings and revenue," he told Cybercast News Service. "Liberal or progressive hosts face the same challenges that conservatives do."

While acknowledging the success of conservative Rush Limbaugh, Harrison said he "does not represent across-the-board radio. At his biggest and his best, he is only a small player in the broader picture of radio."

Harrison was also critical of the report and those who support its conclusions, saying it merely proves that "conservative talk radio is dominated by conservatives, just as sports talk stations are dominated by football."

The writers of the report "picked more than 200 stations owned by certain companies and created the impression that's all of talk radio, and that all of talk radio is dominated by conservatives," he said.

"Where's National Public Radio [in the report]?" Harrison asked. "Millions and millions of people - some of the biggest radio audiences in the country - are listening to NPR. It certainly is not conservative, but it certainly is talk."

In addition, Harrison asked, "Where are the top big stations in the country that are not owned by the top five companies? What about all these large stations that are owned by smaller companies?"

He said the same question could be asked of urban talk radio, shock jocks and the thousands of personalities who refuse to be categorized.

Harrison also pointed to what he referred to as "stationality."

"Stations that play rock don't like to play opera. What if you did a survey of the top 200 rock stations and found they're 95 percent rock and only five percent classical music? Would that mean opera is held to a different standard than rock?"

Even if what the report said is true, he said, "it's still very dangerous" for politicians to determine such issues for the media. "I think that terrestrial radio is regulated enough as it is while it competes against all the other media available today."

Harrison stressed that both he and his magazine are nonpartisan. "The only reason I'm critical of this [liberal report] is because it's wrong. I would be critical of anything that the conservatives came out with that was wrong as well.

"What I'm in favor of is what should be on everyone's agenda - free speech, the free marketplace of ideas and the First Amendment," he added.

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