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Clear Channel gives left a voice

Left-leaning stations posting strong numbers

Hollywood liberals still licking their wounds over last fall’s election found some solace last week via the arrival of a progressive talk radio station.

In a move that had been rumored for almost a year, Clear Channel on Feb. 2 launched KTLK-AM (1150), consisting of a mix of Air America-produced programming (such as Al Franken) and Jones Network-distribbed talkers (including Ed Shultz).

“Progressive talk” is one of the biggest growth stories among radio formats at the moment. Fueled by the contentious presidential campaign, left-leaning stations in New York, San Diego, Portland and elsewhere have been posting strong numbers — dismissing the long-held assumption that left-wing talk wouldn’t work in a right-wing dominated medium.

“Let’s be honest, the reason this format is taking off is because of our last two elections,” KTLK program director Don Martin told LARadio.com‘s Don Barrett.

“There is a huge audience to hear the liberal side. If you pull out the numbers, NPR (National Public Radio) has been one of the highest-rated things all over the country for many, many years, but no one pays attention to it because it is a public thing, not commercial radio.”

The return to Los Angeles is also a vindication for Air America, which hit several bumps after its launch last April. A financial dispute quickly yanked it off outlets in Chicago and Los Angeles, where KBLA/1580 AM was a charter affil but went back to Spanish-language news and talk.

Air America was then dismissed as a failure, but a funny thing happened after the programmer was left for dead. In markets where it remained, Air America started posting strong ratings.

And in a strange twist, Clear Channel — frequently criticized for the actions of its right-wing talk stations — has started rolling out left-leaning outlets around the company.

Progressive talk radio has now sprouted in 47 markets — and Clear Channel is fueling most of the expansion.

Clear Channel clearly sees plenty of dollar signs in reaching out to liberals. It’s a reminder that at the end of the day, profits trump politics.

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