Meanwhile KBOO’s Interim Program Director Erin Yanke says the station is indeed considering putting the program on the air. “We are in the middle of our decision making process,” Yanke told me in an email statement. Not surprisingly, some Portlanders and KBOO folk like this idea; others don’t; some background before we get to the debate:
Late last year Clear Channel pulled the plug on the Portland area’s progressive talk signal KPOJ and converted it to a sports station. The dead format’s now cancelled morning host Carl Wolfson set up his own web stream. His bereft fans went through the usual stages of angst over the change, then realized that there was nothing they could do about it.
Portland’s alternative weekly Willamette Week ran a piece about the switch called “Who Killed KPOJ”? The article noted that KBOO was still around, an observation that produced much “meh” from various readers.
“KBOO?” one responder rhetorically asked. “The problem is that KBOO is to KPOJ what eating vegetables is to sex. Its earnest, and good- but exceedingly boring and at some point tedious.”
But now comes the Hartmann offer. Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles has run his show (and promises to do so again, according to a notice on its website). The biggest booster for the addition to KBOO appears to be the BlueOregon blog, which raised the most hay over KPOJ’s cancellation and has launched a petition drive to get KBOO to stream the program.
“While Clear Channel didn’t reverse course, the movement succeeded in restoring Carl Wolfson’s voice,” BlueOregon declared. “Through his internet radio show, Carl is demonstrating that there’s a robust audience for progressive talk. Together, we have a chance to take bring another progressive voice back to Portland: Thom Hartmann could be back on the air – live, on-your-FM-radio dial.”
If the Hartmann show were simply to substitute for current shows at the times it airs, it would displace about 5 hours of topical public affairs and cultural spoken word shows, and about 10 hours of music shows catering to a diverse set of musical interests including significant Spanish language broadcasting. Some of that programming could be shifted to other times by cutting or cutting back on Democracy Now! , Amy Goodman’s show, which currently is the largest single block of time on KBOO I believe, and like Hartmann’s is national in orientation. Unlike Hartmann’s, its main producers are a white woman and a Latino man (Juan Gonzalez), and it broadcasts wide ranging interviews across a range of issues and topics from a left progressive and arguably democratic socialist perspective, including much more radical voices and much more critical perspectives than is usual in U.S. media, or than are likely to be heard on Hartmann’s show.
This debate takes place as KBOO’s staff have voted to join the Communications Workers of America, a response to centralizations in management launched by the station’s latest “Navigator” (rough translation: general manager), Lynn Fitch.
I asked Louise Hartmann if her operation is offering the Thom Hartmann program to KBOO on the proviso that it run the whole show (three hours each weekday), but her brief reply did not appear to address this detail. Here’s the rest of KBOO interim Program Director Yanke’s summary of the evaluation process:
We started out with a web survey that asked if people wanted to hear the show live for 3 hours every weekday. This would bump 15 hours of local music programming, spanning many genres. The response was about 70% for Hartmann, and about30% opposed. However, the membership response was 50/50.
Our morning news and public affairs director Kathleen Stephenson listened to and evaluated about 16 hours of the program, and got a good sense of what the show does. This is the non-profit version – what would be filled with commercials is instead filled with little break things, like 6 minute newscast. It starts with Thom reading a six minute pre-recorded newscast – it repeats, there’s a break at about 15 minutes. The structure affects how the show flows – he wraps up calls before the breaks, he has 3 to 10 calls per hour – traditional talk radio format: he is the ringmaster. He likes to have a conservative guest, and pretty much always wins in those debates.
She noted it is very male dominated, like most talk radio, and that unlike Democracy Now or other KBOO programs it all goes back to one man’s voice and vision.
At the last Program Advisory Committee meeting, Kathleen gave a report on her 16 hours of listening, and we took public comment that was mostly opposed to the change. There was some interest in exploring a one hour version by the public at the meeting.
We will be talking about it further at our August Program Advisory Committee meeting, and possibly the committee will make a recommendation. The final decision lies with the programming staff, which includes me, as the Program Director, Kathleen, and Jenka Soderberg, the evening news and public affairs director.
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