Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Talk Radio Imbalance

In response to the liberal report of the Center for American Progress on the ideological imbalance in talk radio, Rich Lowry makes a couple of important points. First,
[t]his is a pinched view of radio. There are upwards of 2,000 talk stations in the country that deal with news and issues, according to Michael Harrison of Talkers magazine, and they encompass all sorts of formats from National Public Radio to urban radio to shock jocks, none of which are dominated by right wingers. Conservative talk radio is a vibrant niche within that market, but there are many other places to go for news and opinion.

What is hard to find are liberal replicas of Rush Limbaugh, and that is due to the deepest structural imbalance of all — talent. Limbaugh and other top conservative talkers are silver-tongued, informative, and — importantly — entertaining. These are qualities that can’t be conjured out of nowhere, and designated liberal-radio saviors have tended not to have the requisite talent “on loan from God” (as Limbaugh puts it).
So the right mix of information and entertainment are key. I like Limbaugh, I find him engaging on a level that other conservative talk show hosts don't, such as Sean Hannity (who tends to be a little too emphatic and loose with facts), Mark Levin (who I find shrill on most topics but very solid when dealing with the legal system), Michael Savage (who is downright rude). Similarly, guys like Glenn Beck appeal for the same reason as Limbaugh. Beck and Limbaugh take their subject matter seriously, but they don't take themselves seriously, which makes for a fun three hours.

Lowry continues:
Broadcasters go where the money is. If a liberal could draw the kind of listeners — and hence the kind of advertising dollars — as Limbaugh, he too would be on more than 600 stations. This is why Spanish-language radio is such a growth commodity. Not because broadcasters have an agenda to Hispanicize America, or because there’s a structural imbalance that favors Spanish-language over German- or French-language programming, but because there’s an audience for it.

The Center for American Progress wants to short-circuit the market. Having bureaucrats determine whether radio stations are serving the public interest is inherently dangerous. There are times — like now, in the debate about the immigration bill — when Democrats and Republicans in Washington will agree that conservative talk radio is not serving the public interest, because it brings to the table public sentiment that the establishment prefers to ignore.
I had said this earlier, talk radio is still a business and business needs income to survive. In radio, income comes from advertisers and advertisers go where there are listners--plain and simple.

When liberal talk show hosts display that same level of informativeness, accuracy and entertainment of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and others of their ilk, you will see more liberal talk radio. Until then, they will be in the hinterlands of the broadcasting businees because in the end, radio is a business--not a government information agency.

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