[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: The Fairness Doctrine and South Florida Radio

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Fairness Doctrine and South Florida Radio

As any typical conservative, I am vehemently against the Fairness Doctrine. I can spend the next several sentences describing why, but essentially it's a slap in the face to freedom of expression and free-market principles.

I've often thought about what impact a Fairness Doctrine would have on South Florida radio. I did a little research on local radio, particularly focusing on AM stations focusing on talk, and the end result is an interesting, if not unpredictable, example.

South Florida may be one of the few markets with separate AM stations dedicated to or focused on conservative and liberal talk. These stations are WIOD and WINZ, respectively. For those of you from outside South Florida and/or unfamiliar with our talk radio landscape, here's a listing of each station's weekday lineup:

WIOD's weekday schedule:

5-9 AM: First News with Jimmy Cefalo
9 AM-Noon: Glenn Beck
Noon-3 PM: Rush Limbaugh
3-6 PM: Schnitt Show
6-9 PM: Sean Hannity
9-11 PM: Mark Levin

WINZ's weekday schedule:

1-6 AM: Air America Radio (Mondays)
Midnight-3 AM: Alan Colmes (Tuesday-Friday)
3-6 AM: Thom Hartmann (Tuesday-Friday)
5-9 AM: Don Imus
9 AM-Noon: Stephanie Miller
Noon-3 PM: Thom Hartmann
3-6 PM: Randi Rhodes
6-9 PM: Lionel
9 PM-Midnight: Mike Malloy

Here are the 2008 Arbitron ratings for each station:

2008 Arbitron Ratings Miami/Fort Lauderdale

As you can see, WIOD (conservative news/talk) easily beat WINZ ("Progressive" Radio). In a diverse area such as South Florida, this is no easy task. Especially when you consider that this market includes Broward County, which is likely the most liberal county in Florida, and Miami-Dade County which isn't exactly a conservative haven once you get outside of the Cuban-American community.

There's one significant wrinkle I haven't yet mentioned, but the knowledgeable or astute reader may have already caught: both stations are owned by the same company, Clear Channel. In essence, Clear Channel is practicing the Fairness Doctrine, although entirely by choice (the way it should be). South Florida liberals have nothing to complain about when it comes to talk radio (there's actually a third station in the market, WFTL -owned by James Crystal Enterprises - which also leans conservative but whose signal doesn't penetrate too far into Miami-Dade County).

The Spanish-language radio market may be a different story, however. Three of the 4 main AM talk stations are dominated by Cuban-American personalities and, with some variance, traditional Cuban-American points of view. These are WAQI (the famous Radio Mambí), WQBA and WWFE (La Poderosa). The fourth station is WSUA Radio Caracol, which caters to a more diverse Latin American audience. Without doubt, most of these stations tilt toward the conservative side. The top 2 stations in the ratings, Mambí and WQBA, are owned by Univision.

It's probably safe to say that a Fairness Doctrine would impact the South Florida Spanish-language radio market to a large degree. Univision would probably have to significantly change or break up one of their 2 stations, giving Caracol and La Poderosa an advantage they currently don't enjoy.

Despite conservative-leaning WIOD's big advantage and Clear Channel's domination of the English market, it wouldn't be all roses for them either under a Fairness Doctrine. Clear Channel, despite its balance between conservative and liberal on their 2 stations, could be forced to air more local programming to provide further "balance". This doesn't necessary have to be a bad thing, but aside from Jimmy Cefalo's morning show, who's going to step up and give a station solid ratings? Remember the Footy Show experiment? Jim DeFede on WINZ? All locals. All losers in the ratings, unfortunately.

I would like to hear your comments on this.



Blogger Jonathan said...

I think Obama is smart enough not to pick this fight, which would keep conservatives energized for years. I'm not sure if our Congressional leadership is smart enough. But I could be wrong. Obama has already foolishly picked fights with Limbaugh and Hannity, to the great delight of Limbaugh and Hannity.

BTW, Robert, please email me.

12:21 AM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Ken said...

WINZ is dropping the liberal talk format in favor of Fox Sports. The change should be happening in the next 2 weeks. Liberal talk doesnt work.

7:28 AM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

Ken - wasn't aware of WINZ's plans to switch to sports. Interesting since we're already saturated with sports talk in this market.

Jonathan - Agree that Obama should know better in this case. Let's see what happens. I just sent you an e-mail via your photoblog account. Not sure if you check this one regularly.

10:05 AM, February 19, 2009  

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