I knew the situation in Madison was getting fired up when the story was picked up the Associated Press. That means that story appeared in probably over 100 papers including virtually every daily in Wisconsin. It even was a featured on ABC, Channel 7 in Chicago. And why not? This is biggest listener revolt effecting the radio business in many years. Probably the biggest insurrection since the Dixie Chicks fiasco three years ago where Cumulus and Clear Channel had to deal with a ton a negative PR when they dropped Dixie Chick songs from their country music stations.
The Madison situation is different. First of all, it involves a format change. (The "Chicks" were just banned on some stations.) This is something that stations do all the time. Sometimes a few people grip, maybe even write a few nasty letters. But this is Madison – one of the most liberal, and activist minded cities in the country.
Last night over 500 livid supporters of "The Mic" WXXM crammed into a Madison bar/restaurant –including a former Madison Mayor --to express their dissatisfaction with Clear Channels decision to drop lib talk and change the stations format to Sports. Ironically, much of the programming will be provided by Fox Sports. (which of course is owned by Rupert Murdoch) This despite the fact that there is already a sports station – WTSO – in the market.
CC’s lackey in Madison, market manager, Jeff Tyler told the AP reporter that "the station is making money but has consistently ranked dead last out of 14 Madison stations who report earnings." First of all, I thought "making money" was good. Also, Tyler was dead wrong in saying that WXXM was "dead last" in ratings. According to the most recent Arbitron ratings, WXXM recorded a 3.7 share, which makes them ninth out of the 14 rated stations. What is even more significant is that since the WXXM changed to lib talk about two years ago they have doubled the stations ratings showing increases every month. The conservative talker WIBA featuring the usually line-up of right wing talkers like Limbaugh and Hannity, while ranked number four has lost 20% of its audience over the past two years.
What CC is going to find out with their brazen move in Madison is that removing a liberal talk station is not like dropping and oldies or standards station (which is ironically what they did when they rolled out lib talk on two dozen stations over the past two and one half years.) Yes, the likely demise of Air America Radio will create problems for CC and other lib stations and owners, but the alternative – bailing on political talk in bluest of cities in a very blue state represents an even bigger problem.
If you want to keep "The Mic" in Madison join over 5,000 other people and the sign the on-line petition.