Thursday, March 20, 2008

Medved on Franken

The Michael Medved Show
KTTH 770 kHz
Weekday afternoons noon-3

While priming his national audience for Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman's appearance on his program later in the hour, Michael Medved a few minutes ago discredited Al Franken by referring to the Democrat celebrity challenger of Coleman as "a failed radio talk show host". That's profoundly unfair and incorrect, despite Franken having in his previous endeavor been at the center of one of the worst productions in newstalk radio history.

There is no reason to believe that Air America, the mismanaged, struggling liberal newtalk radio network which aired The Al Franken Show 2002-2007, would not have continued the production, had the onetime Saturday Night Live stalwart not elected last year to try to unseat Coleman.

Sure, Franken's style was breathtakingly inappropriate for the commercial newstalk genre, but his AA show, by the time of its cancellation, was most assuredly no failure. In fact, it had cultivated a loyal following on its Sundance Channel cable simulcasts in addition to the affiliates AA had lined up for Franken on several dozen minor AM outlets around the country.

As much as I hated Franken's show due to the factors explained below, I detest even more the tendency of so many talk radio listeners--and even practitioners like Medved--to reflexively dismiss any cancelled show as "failed".

Newstalk radio shows are cancelled for various reasons, many of which are completely unrelated to ratings; just because your favorite program is no longer carried by a station doesn't mean that the production was unsuccessful at realizing whatever aims the show had, or that it had not necessarily acquired a sizable following.

Oh how I wish that AA had dumped Franken's show merely because of its supposed anemic numbers, for that would be a small victory for the those of us who naively dream of a media world where the best newstalk radio shows get the best ratings while the lame ones all languish as Arbitron cellar dwellers. Alas, with the notable exception of genre kingpin Rush Limbaugh, whose consistent peerlessness in broadcast execution matches his unchallenged ratings dominance, in newstalk radio success seldom tracks with quality.


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