Friday, October 21, 2016



This past Tuesday (10/16) we commented on a post by consultant Mike Henry [link] asserting that the growth of Low Power FM (LPFM) stations…should serve as yet another wake-up call for local NPR News radio stations. Henry wrote: 

…being the sole outlet for ethnic and community groups, LPFM stations are quickly finding ground and a path as a true hyper-local news outlet in the vacuum being created by NPR News stations that do not cover the local ground. If LPFM stations can now eat your lunch, then your lunch deserves to be eaten.

We received several reader comments, not the least of which is a note from Mike Henry himself:

Mike Henry
Hi Ken.  Good post.  I don’t disagree with you on anything.  We’re saying the same thing from two different perspectives. 

Mine is that some NPR News stations are not doing enough on the local front, and it’s a big void in too many markets.  Some stations are over-relying on NPR News and other national programs. 

Yours is that more NPR News stations are producing more local content, and the effort is growing, which I agree with. Good discussion!

KEN SAYS: Other readers such as Aaron Reed agreed with my premise that most NPR News stations and LPFM stations are in two different worlds.  While local content is important to news stations, there are very few situations where a NPR News station will have its “lunch eaten.” Reed said, in part:

Aaron Reed
Most of the time there are one or more three key factors that are going to make it very, very hard for an LPFM to "eat NPR's lunch". Co-exist, perhaps, but not eat the lunch:

1. The local NPR outlet will do a good job serving their local community with local news and content.

2. The population density is too low for an LPFM to effectively serve the area, so no matter how good the programming is...they won't get enough audience to generate the necessary revenue to support it.

3. If the market is small enough but there's just enough population density to make an LPFM theoretically viable? There's probably a small AM or FM commercial station filling that niche by being highly active in the local community.

That last one's important. Many in the industry, myself included, often bemoan how "big corporate radio" has ruined radio...but there are quite a lot of small town broadcast operators out there who love their towns and hustle to prove it.

KEN SAYS: Reed is correct. I appreciate his pointing out that there are quite a few small market commercial stations where local news and info is the cornerstone of their schedule and social media. There has been a pushback against corporate consolidation by a new generation of “home town” hyper-local stations that has not received the coverage it deserves.

A case-in-point is KXLG-FM [link] in Watertown, SD, owed by Armada Media. Watertown is a market of around 40,000 people and eight stations. Seven of the stations are owned by notorious cost-cutting, bottom-feeding, chain operator Three Eagles Broadcasting. KXLG has used its excellent local news and hometown focus to distinguish itself. According to what I’ve heard, KXLG’s annual revenue is greater than the seven Three Eagles stations combined. 


On Monday (10/17) I took Hillsdale College and Talkers magazine to task for the truly disappointing event they staged live on C-SPAN [link]. They promoted it as a debate about talk radio’s role in the 2016 election. What they delivered were a bunch of old pals sharing inside stories in a dank boomy room – a long way from “must see TV.” 

Michael Harrison

I received a couple of confidential comments from readers who believed I was unfairly criticizing Michael Harrison of Talkers and that I am expecting too much from radio broadcasters. One reader said that radio panels are often low tech and are certainly not made for TV.  I asked Harrison what he thought of my post and he replied:

Hi Ken, I found nothing wrong or upsetting about your review of the program.  You address a legitimate point of view and I support this type of critical thinking/expression.  Thank you for taking the time and effort to do so and letting me know. Best, Michael


Regarding our post on Monday (10/10) concerning Pacifica’s dire financial condition and possible impact on the safety of Pacifica’s treasured archives [link]. Reader Bill Forrest sent this comment:

I'm very concerned about the archives. They should be organized as in a library, digitized, and made available to everyone. I did this for my own tape collection. It's a lot of work, but in the end very worthwhile. Could the Library of Congress be convinced to take on this job?

KEN SAYS: In a perfect world, this would already have been done. Unfortunately the diehards that operate Pacifica are not focused on the greater good, they are playing Game of Thrones with the entire Pacifica legacy. Scorched earth is the result.

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