A little known fact: AM radio is home to voices other than rabid right-wingers in the Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh vein. This week, Radio Free America, a progressive talk radio station, will debut in Monterey County. At press time, the station was on schedule to begin broadcasting July 21.
From its Sand City studio, KRXA 540 will broadcast 18 hours a day, showcasing nationally syndicated hosts including Rev. Barry Lynn, the left’s answer to Pat Robertson, liberal redneck Ed Schultz, who’s currently the number-one rated progressive host in the US, and Stephanie Miller, the smart, funny daughter of former Republican Rep. William Miller, Barry Goldwater’s running mate in the 1964 Presidential election.
“As talk radio has more and more become a sea of right-wing wackos, I think the audience has finally realized the need to balance that with some good left-wing wackos, and I’m thrilled to be able to fill that need,” Miller says, on her Web site.
KRXA Managers Peter B. Collins and Hal Ginsberg agree.
“There’s a pent-up demand for other voices,” says Collins, who will host Live From Monterey, a call-in show that will run 3 to 6pm daily. “It’s either right-wing hate speech or public radio—which does a good job, but leaves people wanting more.”
Adds Ginsberg, “I have been thinking for years that there is a great opportunity to put more progressive voices on the air. Since the mid-‘90s, the conservatives have controlled talk radio exclusively. It’s a staple of right-wing talk radio to dehumanize people with whom they disagree. We can do better.”
Collins is a former San Francisco radio personality and consultant. Ginsberg, a recent transplant from Washington DC, is an attorney who worked on Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign last year. After Kerry lost the election, Ginsberg contacted Collins, originally intent on bringing the liberal Air America network to DC. Instead, they found Joe Rosa, who owns People’s Radio Inc., a group of local stations. Rosa was looking to sell one of them, and the Monterey Bay area looked like a good fit for the type of liberal programming that Collins and Ginsberg were aiming to bring to a new market.
In November, 60 percent of Monterey County voted for Kerry, as did 72 percent of Santa Cruz County voters.
“We believe those are striking indicators that people here in this area would be delighted to have a choice,” Collins says.
Collins and Ginsberg point to skyrocketing ratings of progressive talk radio stations in other markets: In San Luis Obispo, a much smaller 1,000 watt station (compared to KRXA’s 10,000 watts) scored a 3.4 rating (anything above a 2 is considered impressive) in the first rating period after its April 2004 launch.
In New York during April 2004, its first month on the air, Air America attracted more listeners in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic than did the conservative station where Limbaugh is heard.
In Monterey County, KRXA will also broadcast local and national news at the top of the hour during Miller’s 9am morning show, and more in-depth stories during Collins’ show.
Collins says his show will be “a mix of news, interviews and interaction with callers,” and will run the gamut from local and regional to state and national issues. “I am a person who’s burdened by too many opinions,” he explains. “But it’s better than therapy.”
Therapists, Collins says, get tired of listening to him talk about Bush. Now he’s got a willing audience.
FOR A COMPLETE PROGRAM SCHEDULE, VISIT www.KRXA540.com