By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
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By Stephen Lemons
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They especially wouldn't want to anger him now that McCain has proven to be such a friend to station owners. Recently, the senator sponsored a bill that would end the long-standing rule that prevents cross-ownership of newspapers and radio and television stations in a single market.
If McCain's bill becomes law, newspapers like the Arizona Republic and radio stations like KFYI could for the first time be owned by the same entity.
And, David Winkler says, what little diversity of opinion there is in the Valley's market could shrink even further.
"Station owners tend to be wealthy and conservative. We're seeing an increased medium monopolization which is accelerating in the last few years. Radio stations are being bought left and right, bought by wealthy corporations with conservative agendas."
Winkler claims that such pressures also exist where they aren't supposed to: in public radio.
"KJZZ leaves very much to be desired," Winkler says. "They're dependent on money from corporations, public funding and wealthy listeners. This limits them."
What Winkler says he'd like to see happen is the addition of more hosts on public and commercial radio like the recently axed Jim Hightower. A former Texas secretary of Agriculture, Hightower could be heard on about 150 stations of the ABC radio network.
"He's a populist, so he's always talking about corporate corruption and how it's destroying American democracy," Winkler says. "He was funny, too, and, as a populist, he was able to appeal to Limbaugh listeners, even though he criticized business so constantly.
"Hightower went after Disney in a big way. And then Disney bought ABC. ABC had syndicated the Hightower program, and six weeks later they dropped his show completely."
Some media experts, as well as Winkler, consider it a purposeful silencing of Hightower's anticorporate message. Others don't. But Winkler hopes that another station or network will give Hightower a chance to catch on.
Another former KFYI employee, Earl Baldwin, says that such political analyses of who's hired or fired are complicated by the simple question of what gets ratings.
"There's an assumption that Pat Murphy was let go because he put the spotlight on McCain and Symington. But I think it also was because he didn't have a sense of humor. He was too serious," Baldwin says.
"The key word is 'commercial.' You have to get ratings right away, and revenue right away."
That's the constant hurdle for activists like Winkler who press for balance. He knows that his demands for equal time will always be countered with a simple capitalistic response: Hosts like Dayl make money.
"I realize that he's entertaining," Winkler says. "He's a buffoon, a clown. He's funny. He says outrageous things. But what I'm saying is, can't Fred Weber do any better than that?