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Tuesday, August 26, 2003


How Progressive Talk Radio Can Succeed
Whenever I listen to non-musical radio, I find that my views are not represented—much less treated fairly. Most of talk radio is dominated by right-wing hatemongers and juvenile “morning zoo” types. I was happy to hear that some rich businesspeople were putting up the seed money to start a progressive talk radio network. If progressive talk radio is to succeed, it must not make the mistake of becoming the mirror image of right-wing talk radio; an analysis of the composition of right-wing talk radio shows is needed. Here is what you’ll find on right-wing talk radio:
1) Slander and character assassination.
2) Advice for the non-hip. Listening to talk radio lets me know how the people listening to it are not with it. For instance, Dr. Laura Schlessinger tells her callers/submissives not to have sex before marriage; she also tells them that they shouldn’t get married before their late twenties. It follows logically that Schlessinger wants people to spend the first quarter of a century of their lives as celibate. Ick!
3) Ads for expensive baldness and impotence cures, “no-money-down” real estate, miracle diets, and gold as an investment.

That’s why there’s no Rush Limbaugh on the left. If someone tried to do the same stuff as Limbaugh but with a left-wing bias, then that person would be excoriated not only by the right but also by the left. The left doesn’t want to hear bullshit. Sadly, much of the right does (click here for the experiences of an exasperated rumor-debunker).

I think if progressive talk radio is to succeed, here are some things it should do:

1) Politics should be a major point of discussion, but it should be in a truly “fair and balanced” manner. It should hit hard but fair against the forces of reaction. This is not a difficult task, because the American right is so extreme.
2) It should have an investigative/journalistic component. It should do some real muckraking—unlike the faux muckraking of people like Drudge.
3) It should have celebrity guests. The right has few celebrities (and they’re usually lame; Tom Selleck and Pat Sajak come to mind). We have the interesting stars who could be interviewed and get big ratings.
4) Sex. Sex sells and people want to hear about sex. Not in a juvenile smutty way like Howard Stern’s show but it should be about erotica a la Nerve.com. There’s not much talk about sex on right-wing talk radio (what do you expect from a guy like Limbaugh who had to drop 150 pounds in order to physically be able to consummate his marriage to his trophy wife?). In fact, much of right-wing talk radio is anti-erotic. Perhaps it’s because I’m on the out-of-touch left coast, but am I the only one who views the Dr. Laura radio show as being kinky in an overwhelmingly unpleasant and anti-erotic way? The way this Alpha-Bitch hectors her callers—it seems to be a sick kind of dom/sub relationship.
5) It must be an alternative to the mainstream media. It must use its voice to hold the media’s feet to the fire.
6) It must be cosmopolitan. Have smart and witty people on as guests. This would give it a big advantage over right-wing talk radio. When I listen to talk radio, I’m amazed at the high percentage of mouthbreathers who are on as guests and callers.

If progressive talk radio incorporates these elements, it can get an audience that has not only progressives but also a lot of independents who would see it as a breath of fresh air to the talk radio status quo. There are niches in radio that need to be filled and these are just a few ideas to help fill those niches.


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