Thursday, January 20, 2005

Limbaugh, O'Reilly dumped for liberal shows

Rutland Herald

Limbaugh dumped for liberal show

BRATTLEBORO — A southern Vermont-based radio station will trade in the rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh and other conservative talk show hosts for the liberal commentary of Air America next week.

WKVT-AM 1490 in Brattleboro will replace four of its weekday syndicated conservative talk shows on Jan. 17 with programs from the fledgling liberal radio network Air America, which launched in March.

The station will be the second in Vermont to broadcast Air America programs, which include shows hosted by comedian Al Franken and actress Jeanne Garofalo.

The Brattleboro area is highly liberal in its political beliefs and the Air America shows will be a better fit for the station's listeners than the conservative programs hosted by Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly, said WKVT program director Peter Case.

"We're calling this a right-to-left switch," he said. "For many years, our programming leaned to the right, but Brattleboro is a very liberal area and our lineup had to reflect that."

Added to WKVT's lineup Monday will be "Unfiltered," hosted by Rachel Maddow, Lizz Winstead and Chuck D; the "Al Franken Show;" the "Randi Rhodes Show;" and the "Majority Report," hosted by Garofalo and Sam Seider.

The Air America programs will replace daily radio shows hosted by Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Howie Carr and Joy Brown, Case said.

"This is the 'clearing the air' campaign," Case said. "These new shows will be a better fit for the area."

WKVT-AM 1490, which is owned by Michigan-based Saga Communications, broadcasts in a 15-mile range in the Brattleboro area, hitting nearby towns such as Dummerston and Hinsdale, N.H. A sister station, WKVT-FM 92.7, also broadcasts in the area.

Air America Radio launched in March, and despite a rocky start marked by fired executives and bounced checks, the network has expanded to more than 40 markets across the country. It is also available on two satellite radio networks and over the Internet.

Conservatives took over talk radio several years ago and Air America is the start of liberal voices returning to the radio airwaves, said Lynn Bedell, the chairwoman of the Windham County Democratic Party.

Air America's programming will fit well in a county that supported Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, 66 percent to 31 percent over President Bush in the presidential election last year, Bedell said.

"Vermont is a blue state, but its deep blue in Windham County," Bedell said. "Airing Rush Limbaugh — you are bound to lose a lot of listeners down here."

The move to the liberal programming was not based on finances, Case said. The station pays to air both the conservative and liberal shows.

WKVT management had been considering the change for several months, Case said. Recently, when word leaked of the possible lineup change, the station received nearly 150 e-mails supporting a move to Air America's liberal programming, he added.

"We've received between 15 and 20 more since the announcement thanking us," he said.

Starting Monday, WKVT-AM will also add the liberal-leaning "Ed Schultz Show."

Combined, there will be a total of eight hours of liberal talk shows on the station, a majority of it coming from Air America.

That's not good news for Milton Eaton of Brattleboro, who worked as secretary of development for former Gov. Richard Snelling, a Republican. Eaton said he listens to Limbaugh two or three times a week when he was in his car running errands.

"It's really disappointing to hear that," Eaton said. "There is such a liberal media down here that Rush was a refreshing change."

The station has not scrapped all of its conservative programming, Case said.

Political moderate and Imus in the Morning host Don Imus will still be the station's staple morning show, and the weekend lineup features the Drudge Report.

"People listened to Rush and the others because they challenged the listeners to think," Case said. "We think this new lineup will be just as challenging and thought provoking."

originally published Jan 12, 2005