Talk Radio’s Noteworthy November/December Stretch

| December 17, 2012

By Mike Kinosian
TALKERS
Managing Editor/West Coast Bureau Chief

LOS ANGELES — In just an approximately six-week period, Americans have:

• Relished our freedom by participating in our democracy’s fundamental building block – the electoral process – which this year happened to include another historic presidential election

•  Helplessly watched parts of our country’s northeast region savagely pounded by the storm of a lifetime

•  Attempted to aid our neighbors regroup from “Sandy,” while simultaneously starting the annual tradition of gathering families to give thanks; anxiously began the official start of the holiday season; and heard (many adult contemporary) stations maintain their ritual of playing continuous Christmas favorites

•  Been shocked, horrified, and in a state of speechless disbelief as deranged gunmen ended the lives of defenseless victims in a Portland shopping mall and a Connecticut school

Thus, it has been the best of times with political freedom, coupled with the anticipation, bright lights, and warmth of the holidays.

Conversely, it has been the worst of times with widespread destruction from a natural disaster and the nationwide fallout from one of the most outrageously vile unnatural disasters, as the precious lives of 20 innocent Newtown, Connecticut youngsters and six adults were senselessly, ruthlessly erased.

Collectively, the country fervently – and with tremendous frustration – is left with an intensely empty feeling and ponders one, three-letter question: “Why?”

In a “We are better than this” manner, it evokes a memory of a haunting slide that New York City’s WPIX-TV put up for two and one half hours after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968. The only message WPIX-TV viewers saw for that 150-minute duration was, “Shame.”

Many barely had time to exhale about the Portland tragedy, which claimed the life of former Entercom, Portland general sales manager Steve Forsyth, when we became all too acquainted with the town of Newtown and a school (with eerie irony) called Sandy Hook.

As gruesome as those stories are and the numbness that pervaded the country this weekend, it boggles the mind that there was potential for a similar situation approximately 40 miles from Tulsa, had police not arrested a teen last Friday for allegedly plotting to attack his high school. Charges were so serious that the 18-year-old suspect was held in jail on $1 million bond.

That actually preceded what happened in Newtown.

Over the weekend, security was compromised at St Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham. A 4:00 am shooting there left three people injured, and the gunman dead; police shot him.

As if it were a continuing nightmare, law enforcement in Southern California’s Newport Beach took a 42-year-old man into custody on Saturday for firing more than four-dozen shots in the parking lot of Fashion Island shopping mall.

In place of its customary, topical comedic sketch, “Saturday Night Live” earned bravos for its tasteful cold-open tribute to the Newtown tragedy with a New York Children’s Chorus/Choir rendition of “Silent Night.”

Sunday morning though brought more disconcerting news, including evacuating St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church during Mass, owing to a bomb threat phoned-in by someone claiming, “I’m coming to kill.” The church is located in … Newtown.

Then we learned that a Cedar Lake, Indiana individual – and parenthetically a member of the Invaders Motorcycle Gang – was arrested for allegedly threatening to “kill as many people as he could” at an elementary school near his home. Cogent points here are that officials, in fact, did find 47 weapons in this person’s residence, which is approximately 1,000 feet from a school. Cedar Lake is located 45 miles from Chicago.

“Newtown – you are not alone,” was the emphasis of last night’s in-person address by President Obama to mourners at a Newtown interfaith service. The only thing victims did wrong were that they were in the “wrong place at the wrong time,” and the President stressed, “We can not tolerate this any more.”

Radio ramifications

Radio listening levels are bound to be even more robust the next 10 days or so, if not beyond.

History indicates that FMs playing all-Christmas music (roughly) between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day will receive significant positive spikes in the December monthly, and especially in the “Holiday” report.

To quote a line from one Christmas classic, those outlets may benefit even further from a prevailing, “We need a little Christmas right this very minute” attitude.

December data starts rolling out the day after Christmas, but we will have to wait until January 22, 2013 for “Holiday” survey period (12-6-2012 to 1-2-2013) results.

It will be curious to see if spoken-word outlets, which are generally negatively-impacted during the all-Christmas music programming tactic, hold their own in light of post-Sandy, and Sandy Hook coverage.

Today, virtually every general-topic talk show host in America will be prepared for the barrage of anti-gun and pro-gun callers.

Naturally, none of what has been happening regarding these shootings is logical; nonetheless, expecting listener input on both sides of the gun control issue is highly predictable.

Here is something though that is not and why talk show hosts will once again earn their stripes. They will most likely endure some offbeat reasons that precipitated these types of outbreaks.

Some may even have the audacity to justify the killings and that, of course, will spark an outrage.

There will be unfortunate political rhetoric; however it will be difficult to outdo the already surfaced, outrageous theory (by a group unworthy of even mentioning) that “the blood” of the innocent victims in Newtown “is on the hands of” none other than country superstar Carrie Underwood.

Clearly, there are no “light” moments in covering what happened in any of the locales noted here, but there could be a bizarre entertainment value, as talk show hosts attempt to connect the dots to some genuinely crackpot speculations and allegations.

Today, therefore, should be a fascinating one on the vast majority of local and syndicated talk radio programs.

In the meantime though, we can reflect on that format’s extremely dramatic November (2012) survey, where more than seven of ten stations in our sample of approximately 140 stations were either up or steady (6+), compared to their October stats.

Talk has the distinction of being the lone format to have at least one station in the top 20 of all 48 PPM markets.

Reach TALKERS managing editor/west coast bureau chief Mike Kinosian at Kinosian@RadioInfo.com or (818) 985-0244.

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Category: Analysis