Washington DC FM talk radio station 106.7 WJFK yesterday announced it was dropping Bill O’Reilly’s nationally syndicated show, and replacing it with a sports-talk program. The Washington Post reports today that O’Reilly’s cancellation is a “case in point” of how poorly conservative radio programs have fared in DC:
With the exception of Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk-radio hosts have struggled for years to find a wide audience on the local dial. While Limbaugh’s afternoon program remains popular on WMAL (630 AM), not many other conservatives’ programs have.
Yet despite their underwhelming performance, numerous right-wing radio hosts have been given repeated opportunities to succeed in DC. “Such radio stars of the right as Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck and Michael Savage at times have literally had no ratings in Washington, as measured by Arbitron.”
In its diagnosis of conservative talk’s failures in the DC region, the Post points to a host of factors including the weak signals of some stations, weak programming, and the unique culture of the area that is resistant to political talk radio. One factor that went unmentioned, however, is the impact media consolidation has had on the local market.
In the Center for American Progress’s recent report on the “structural imbalance of political talk radio,” it noted that Washington DC had 65 percent conservative content and only 35 percent progressive. In this region, the market is dominated by only five owners:
|Ownership||# of stations||Station ID|
|Bonneville International||5||WFED, WGYS, WTOP, WTWP-AM, WTWP-FM|
|Radio One, Inc. (Urban Talk)||1||WOL|
|Clear Channel||2||WTNT, WWRC|
This pattern of ownership homogeneity is reflected in radio markets throughout the nation. CAP’s report calls for increasing the ownership diversity in the talk radio market, allowing more local participation in determining the content communities want to listen to.