Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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Rush Limbaugh, the voice of the regressives, and Ed Schultz, the progressive from Fargo, will not be heard on local stations in Aberdeen after next week. KGIM, which carries both of their talk shows, is converting over to ESPN radio 24 hours a day.
KSDN-AM will feature locally produced programming from 6 a.m. to midnight. KSDN-FM will also feature locally originated programming.
The dropping of the political talk shows is a matter of revenues. While the spokesmen for the station management are reticent about the reasons, politically oriented broadcast shows are not good venues for advertisers. Poltical talk shows have a group of loyal listeners, but it is difficult to sell local advertising for the shows. Advertisers have found that the people who listen to the partisan talk shows are not in the demographic segment that spends much money. And they have found that some people boycott their places of business when they advertise on a political show that offends those people. A survey taken in conjunction with the Press Project study of communications during and after the political campaign of 2004 indicated that many advertisers found strong reactions to their businesses when they advertised on partisan shows.
During the mid-1990s, the face of radio changed drastically in Aberdeen. KKAA, now devoted to religious programming, KSDN, and KGIM all had news departments that covered local government and events. With the sales of KKAA in the 1980s, the news staff was reduced to a one-person operation. KGIM never had more than one person. KSDN had a two-person news staff with the station manager, Aberdeen's current mayor, doing a morning call-in show on local issues and doing sports broadcasting. KSDN covered local government as thoroughly as the local newspaper. By the late 1990s, with a number of sales of the stations and consolidations, the news staffs for radio had disappeared. Most of the programming on the stations has been by satellite.
KABY-TV dropped its locally-produced news show in the early 1980s. Its parent station, KSFY, maintained a news staff in Aberdeen, but its coverage became limited to crime and fatal accident stories and occasional features.
The announcements about the changes in programming for the radio stations do not indicate any plans to cover local news to break the monopoly by the local newspaper. However, the trend back to local programming fits a national trend. Talk radio, newspaper discussion forums, and partisan shows have become financial liabilities. People listen and talk, but they don't buy.
As one media consultant commented, the return to local programming may or may not be a solution to declining advertising revenues. With satellite programming, people stopped listening to local radio for local news and information. It left an audience of people who sit at home with little else to do but listen to radio or watch television. The active people listen to their Walkmans and Ipods--without interruption by advertising. Many people get their news from their computer homepages. If radio stations are to claim a share of the market again, they will have to give people a reason to tune them in and they will have to make local programming relevant to their lifestyles.
With subscriber satellite radio coming on the scene, the local stations have a huge task just to survive. Consultants point out that local radio stations in most market areas lost their audiences when they turned to satellite programming. They set the market up for XM and Sirius satellite radio which permits listeners to do the programming of what they want to hear.
The market for locally produced radio is a greatly reduced one from what it was a decade ago. The changes in programming are part of the struggle to survive.