“Save KLSD:” The Corporate Consolidation of America’s Airwaves

by on July 3, 2012 · 8 comments

in Media, Politics

San Diego’s last progressive talk radio station a victim of the loosening of media ownership laws

Talk radio has become big business in the last decade and a half, particularly conservative talk radio, which has seen an explosion in popularity and influence.  Progressive talk radio?  Not so much.

San Diegans have become accustomed to the conservative stylings of locally owned 760 KFMB and the not so locally owned KOGO 600.  When you’re looking for news in this city, there are no other choices.  You’re stuck with the nonsensical, anti-government, sensationalist, and sometimes maniacal ramblings of Rush Limbaugh and Roger Hedgecock.  But that wasn’t always the case.  For a brief while, San Diego did have a progressive talk radio station to call its own:  1360 KLSD (for “Liberal San Diego,” as we are informed by radio and television news personality Bree Walker).

KLSD at one point was the home of San Diego personalities like Stacy Taylor and Jon Elliott.  It was also San Diego’s home to Air America Radio, the national syndication outfit that brought voices such as Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Randi Rhodes, and Al Franken, now a United States Senator from Minnesota, to the airwaves.

And the station, despite some limitations, and despite being hampered by a weak signal that didn’t reach the entirety of San Diego County, was doing quite well and continued to grow.  “I beat Hannity” in San Diego, said Ed Schultz, now a host on MSNBC in addition to his daily radio show.

According to Cliff Albert, the KLSD program manager in 2007, KLSD ranked number one in San Diego in time spent listening—the average amount of time a listener would actually tune in to the station without changing the dial.

“There are two things that make up ratings.  How long do they listen to you, and number of people,” said Randi Rhodes, the nationally syndicated progressive host.  “The time spent listening, I was number one in San Diego.  Advertisers look at time spent listening—TSL it’s called—because they want to see if I can hold the audience through the commercial so that their commercial gets heard by my audience.”

“The other part of ratings,” she continued, “is the number of people.  If you can put together 100,000 people, which is what we had, and combine it with four or five hours a week of listening, that is the ballgame.”

For the remainder of this story, please visit the San Diego Free Press.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

judi Curry July 3, 2012 at 9:45 pm

When this radio station went off the air, I spent countless hours in trying to get it back. My husband and I participated in many different fund raisers; protests; and public service activities to let people know what had happened to the only “liberal” station
in the area. I think I have some pictures of some of those protests but CLEAR CHANNEL would not back down and put it back on the air. When we found they had substituted the station with a sports station we knew we had lost the battle. Every since that time I find it hard to listen to radio stations airing from San Diego. A friend (?) told me that I should stop my bitching and start listening to Rush so I could find out what was really going on. Perhaps if we had a more objective station San Diego, in all its finery, would not have elected a “birther” to the court. I’m ready to start campaigning for a return of KLSD.


nancy July 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

I’m with you, Judi. I really miss Al Franken and Ed Schultz esp.. NPR has some oka ysegments but not enough which is why we need a progressive station all day long.
Facts were given, and comments made to get you to think about what was said and find out more if you wanted to.
My husband and I were with you and Bob to keep KLSD going, and sure wish we
would have succeeded.
And according to Cliff Albert, there were longtime listeners, but the span didn’t reach out to enough people to hear the program.


judi Curry July 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I heard Cliff Alpert (or Albert) say the same thing about not getting enough listeners to purchase the items touted on the program. But I also heard executives from Clear Channel say that that was not why it was terminated. Rather, they just didn’t want the liberal standpoint aired on their channel. I think that Cliff spouted the party-line until it was apparent there was no hope for a return. After looking at my pictures of Bob holding up a protest sign, it looks like KUSI covered the protest fairly well. Sure would like to hear some of those old commentators now. I truly think that they helped mold my ideas.


RB July 4, 2012 at 8:02 am

The passion of its listeners does not determine radio success. If you can’t sell ad time because the number of listeners is low and they don’t spend money on products promoted in the ads, the station will fail. We have PBS for those that have a hard time understanding how the economy works.


Goatskull July 4, 2012 at 9:17 am

I am quoting my own post in the SD Free Press.

“Interesting. When KLSD came into existence as an Air America syndicate if figured OK, I’ll check this out. It will be nice to finally hear some talk radio form a liberal perspective, so I listened to it for a couple weeks and quite simply lost interest. It really seemed to be the same things as conservative talk only liberal. By that I mean arrogant know it all argumentive hosts, clueless uninformed callers, long long commercial breaks advertising pretty much the same products as conservative talk. Pretty much all liberal/progressives I talked to said quite simply that they were not interested in the talk radio format, even if the direction coincided with their politics and I agree. When it came to news or interacting they preferred other mediums and when it came to radio they were into strictly music or NPR as far as talk and news. In reading this article it’s very surprising to me that the ratings were as high as what’s stated here.”


barbara July 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm

KLSD was taken out right before the election for political purposes. It was a concerted attack by Clear Channel and they did it in as many markets as they could. This movie, 4 years in the works, documents it very well. The movie goes even further than just our local station, there is a brief history of the FCC and how it was politicized beyond belief during the Bush years.


George July 5, 2012 at 8:04 am

“KLSD” never really stood for “Liberal San Diego.” It was a cynical view of liberalism by conservative Clear Channel executives who never really wanted to program liberal talk but were forced to in the middle of last decade to stem a groundswell of public sentiment for localism and against the further loosening of ownership limits, which now — thanks to an effort started by the Heritage Foundation during the Reagan administration (coupled with repeal of the Fairness Doctrine) and obliviously enabled by Bill Clinton when he signed the Telecom Act — allow one owner to control eight radio stations in a market. “LSD” actually refers to the hallucinogenic drug, which the right wing is convinced that any liberal endorses, and was a knee-slapping joke among conservative Clear Channel executives who also got a kick out of a northern California station which adopted liberal talk — Watsonville’s KOMY, which they were sure meant “Commie.”


Wireless Mike July 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Progressive talk radio can still be heard in San Diego (barely) from KTLK AM 1150 in Los Angeles. The signal is very weak and only comes in during daylight hours. The station is owned by Clear Channel’s subsidiary, Citicasters.

Pacifica Radio’s listener supported KPFK from Los Angeles can be heard in San Diego from a repeater at 93.7 FM on Mt. Woodson. The signal is very weak in Ocean Beach, but it is the best we have. KPFK’s powerful direct signal has been jammed for years by two different Tijuana stations.

The group Activist San Diego is building a new radio station in San Diego, KNSJ 89.1 FM. I have high hopes for this new station.


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