Radio vet Michael Jackson, who virtually invented talkradio in Los Angeles, has joined Infinity-owned KNX-AM. He will conduct interviews with major newsmakers for the station, which plans to air the chats twice a day — beginning Thursday with Disney topper Michael Eisner.
Jackson, whose erudite style and more liberal viewpoint stand out in an age otherwise ruled by right-wing talkradio, has been off the air for more than a year. He lost his show on KLAC when the Clear Channel-owned station flipped to an AM adult standards format at the end of 2002.
“I painfully missed it, particularly when all of my radio colleagues are lackeys for the Bush administration,” Jackson said.
“I’m ecstatic that I get to reinvent myself. The station is all news, so I will not be doing the kind of call-in talk radio that I’ve done for past 40 years,” he said. “It’s a chance to meet anyone who fascinates me. (KNX execs) said that if you think it’s interesting, then we think it’s interesting.”
Jackson was recruited by David Hall, Infinity’s newly installed VP of AM programming in Los Angeles. The two have been discussing a possible collaboration ever since Hall helped induct Jackson into the Museum of Broadcast Communication’s Radio Hall of Fame in October.
Jackson and Hall last worked together at KLAC, back when Hall was with Clear Channel.
Jackson’s decision to kick off his gig with Eisner comes with a dose of irony: The Briton spent 32 years at Disney-owned KABC-AM, where he was first demoted to weekends and then booted altogether by 1999.
But Jackson said he has remained friends with Eisner, despite his less-than-ceremonious departure from the station (and Jackson’s displeasure with that move, about which he was very vocal at the time).
KNX’s move to hire Jackson is the latest in a series of changes at L.A.’s two newsradio outlets since Hall took over at the end of last year. The addition of Jackson likely will add to criticism that the station is moving away from its all-news identity.
Jackson said he has already lined up Robert Reich and John Kerry as future guests; only Johnny Carson has turned him down so far. Upcoming interviews include Michael Moore, Bill Press, Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson.
He also hinted that the synergistic minds at Infinity’s parent, Viacom, may have other things in store for him as well.
The host said he’s still frustrated by the combative state of talkradio and believes there just isn’t room for regular discourse over the airwaves anymore.
“This is a different format for myself,” Jackson said. “Maybe one day I’ll go back to talkradio — but not in its current state, that kind of hard-edged, one-sided approach.
“If (talkradio hosts) are as influential as they trumpet themselves to be, how come fewer Americans vote? Maybe they don’t turn us on, they turn us off.”