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"Back then Fred didn't know the difference between liberal and conservative. But then along came Rush Limbaugh, and Fred decided that the real money was in conservative hosts. Suddenly, it did become important who was conservative or liberal," Leykis says.
"Limbaugh comes, and he tells people that he's successful because he's conservative, and a number of general managers believed him. But it hasn't panned out." Leykis cites several conservative hosts who have become ratings bombs (Pat Buchanan, Ross Perot, Oliver North). "It turns out that Limbaugh was successful not because he was conservative, but because he's good on the radio."
Leykis says that station owners like Fred Weber, who stack their lineups with Limbaugh wanna-bes, haven't figured that out. So the reason there are almost no liberal voices on the air in Phoenix: "Because you only have two talk-radio stations. And at KFYI, Fred Weber has decided that he can only make money with conservatives. At KTAR, you have Bill Strauss, who's a liberal, but the rest don't really have strong opinions."
Leykis doesn't buy Winkler's assertion that pressure from conservative corporate forces prevents the success of liberal hosts: "I totally disagree. That's the opinion of someone who doesn't work in the business."
He points out that his show attracts national advertisers, including Domino's Pizza, a company with conservative ownership known for its contributions to conservative causes.
"Advertisers buy numbers. The only time they shy away is when you talk about your penis, like Howard Stern does," Leykis says.
In general, however, Leykis claims, advertisers ignore content.
That does seem true in Dayl's case. Despite Dayl's disparaging comments about blacks, Latinos and Native Americans, his advertisers include the Gila River Indian Casino.
Questions to the Gila River Indian Community about whether it was aware its advertising dollars supported Dayl were directed to marketing manager Sheila Marago.
Marago said that the casino places ads on Dayl's programs because the community wants his listeners "to hear the other side of the story." She didn't explain how enticing listeners to gamble at a casino offset Dayl's negative remarks about Native Americans.
Marago then said that she wouldn't talk "on the record" about how the casino chooses to advertise. When it was pointed out that the casino's ads financed Dayl rather than negated him, Marago said, "We finance KFYI, not John Dayl."
If advertisers are indifferent, however, Leykis does agree with Winkler about the conservative leanings of some media owners. Media owners, for example, such as Fred Weber, who purchased KFYI with money he made from beer-distribution contracts in Michigan. "Fred's right-wing himself. In Detroit his beer empire broke the Teamsters. In Detroit," he emphasizes.
Leykis says Weber's politics also affected hiring. He says that each spring, before Weber's stations were required to fill out Equal Employment Opportunity Commission forms on minority hiring, the company would recruit several blacks and Latinos for menial jobs. Those employees wouldn't last long.
"That sounds familiar to me," says radio and television personality known only as Snake, who currently works for KPNX-TV Channel 12, but for several years was the only black disc jockey on Weber's FM station, KKFR.
He points out the irony of Weber's strategies for his two stations. "On FM we appealed to a non-white audience, but on the AM I was concerned that the station said questionable things about blacks and Hispanics."
Although Leykis suggests that KFYI's all-conservative format reflects the politics of its owner, it's important to point out that Weber did bring Leykis back in syndication in 1994. Less than a year later, the show was pulled.
John Dayl says it's proof that liberal hosts just can't make it in Arizona.
Recently fired KTAR radio host Pat Murphy sides with Winkler, saying that Leykis and Dayl ignore the political pressures that can be exerted by corporate forces in the marketplace. Murphy--a Republican himself--blames pressure from conservative advertisers for his own dismissal at KTAR, where his commentaries had stung Governor J. Fife Symington III and Senator John McCain.
"When I was hired, I was told to make some noise and rattle the cages," Murphy says. "But then I saw the heavy hands of political pressure."
In response to his criticisms of Governor Symington and various conservative causes, advertisers complained and pulled their support of KTAR, Murphy claims. One advertiser only returned after general manager Mark McCoy began to screen Murphy's material before it was read on the air.
In one of those segments, Murphy planned to report that Senator McCain recruits candidates to run against officeholders he doesn't like, then gets them jobs when they fail. Murphy cited the example of Thelda Williams, who unsuccessfully ran against Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza and was subsequently given a job by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Although Murphy had already printed the material in his Mesa Tribune column, McCoy spiked it.
McCoy, who recently lost his job as KTAR's general manager, confirms that he required Murphy to submit his pieces for vetting, and says he killed the McCain piece because he couldn't personally confirm the material.
But Murphy says McCoy had a more compelling reason for keeping the piece off the air. He points out that McCain has become chairman of a congressional committee that oversees broadcasting, and KTAR's license was coming up for renewal. "I can imagine that a broadcaster waiting for licensing wouldn't want a Murphy pissing off McCain," Murphy says.
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