Political Talk Radio In DC Is Giving Listeners A Big, Fat Headache


Bad news for Rush, Sean, Michael, Randi and Al: listeners are getting tired of you and tuning out..at least in Washington, D.C.

It turns out that rather than making listeners run to their radios to hear to this hot, sizzling format, since after the election many DC listeners are seemingly running for Excedrin and other listening options. In the nation’s capitol, at least, listeners are tuning in less and less, according to the Washington Post.


How can that be? How can anyone get tired of an outraged host and listeners calling in attacking a party they don’t like for several hours a day, five times a week?



And despite what we’ve read on several websites (one on the left pointing to the problems with right wing talk show hosts; one of the right pointing only to the problems of the left wing talk show hosts) the Post reports big BIPARTISAN problems for the genre.

The latest quarterly audience ratings spell it out: Local talk stations — both on the right and on the left — saw their audiences dwindle during the January-March period, according to Arbitron Inc.

We boldfaced the word “both” for those who do selective reading.

WMAL-AM (630), home of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other mighty righty talkers, was one of the big losers in the latest survey. WMAL lost nearly 30 percent of its core audience (adults ages 25-54) from the preceding three months, when the election was the dominant story. What had been an up-and-coming station a few months ago (WMAL ranked 11th among all stations during the fall) is now a middle-of-the-pack afterthought (it tied for 16th in the latest survey).



So Air America rules? NOT!

WMAL was at least able to record some ratings. Two of its AM talk competitors, WTNT (570) and WRC (1260), barely registered. WTNT — which features conservatives Laura Ingraham and Joe Scarborough — captured an average of just 0.5 percent of the Washington area’s 2.3 million adult (25-54) listeners; it finished in a tie for 26th. WRC, which turned to a liberal talk format in January by adding Al Franken and some of his “Air America” crew, was nowhere to be found. It captured less than 0.1 percent of the audience, too low to be counted.

So we’re sure that means the debate will now be over who’s the bigger failure with listeners.

The Post speculates that part of the reason this is happening is that conservative talk show hosts are no longer on the outside looking in: they represent the establishment. But that doesn’t explain the poor performance in DC of Air America, which would have seemed to be a natural for that market. Perhaps it’s because there are so few liberals working in government there….

Meanwhile, defecting listerners have reportedly moved on to other formats. The details on that are less important than the conclusion: the talk format and all of the sustained partisan outrage and demonization that it seems to require is starting to get a bit old to some listeners.

PS: On long trips The Moderate Voice now listens to CD music, books on tape, and old radio shows broadcast way before he was born. He likes talk radio on both sides but there truly is a LIMIT. And perhaps that’s what’s happening with listenership in Washington.



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