Columns appear in print in the U Entertainment Section of the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News

Monday, July 30, 2007

Radio Column July 30, 2007

Listening In

July 30, 2007

By Sandy Wells

KFI news anchor writes and stars in musical about family therapy

In you feel that there’s too much drama in today’s news presentation you may be right. Radio journalists can be as guilty as their colleagues in TV, print and in the blogosphere of sensationalizing stories to capture a bigger audience.

KFI-AM 640’s weekend news anchor Courtney Kramer is ostensibly very aware of the boundaries between news and fiction, or at least is able to separate the two, since she is also a dramatist and actor.

Kramer has turned her journalistic eye to reporting on the fun and foibles of family life in the new musical she co-wrote and stars in, “Mental” now playing in Santa Monica.

The piece is based on a week-long family therapy workshop called the Meadows in Arizona she attended with co-writer Fiona Hogan.

“Mental” is about Mona Clutterbuck, who attends a fictional family workshop much like The Meadows. In order to be treated for her “love addiction,” she is asked to bring in her parents and siblings.

“The parents are basically based on our parents,” says Kramer.

By the end of the week, the Clutterbuck’s secrets about codependency, sex, depression and love addiction are out in the open.

“Love addicts are dealt with a lot in this musical,” explains Kramer. “It’s about people who can’t be alone, who always need to be in a relationship, ‘serial daters.’ If they’re not with someone they’ll just date anyone who happens to be around until someone better comes along.”

She says a lot of problems that afflict individuals are rooted in family issues and one thing that has provided her the most satisfaction is when audience members come back to see the show again with their families.

Kramer studied drama at Drew University and then moved to the “other Hollywood” in Vancouver where she landed some TV acting roles on shows such as “Andromeda.”

After eight years she felt she wasn’t getting enough acting work and enrolled in journalism school. From there she found work at Vancouver’s only all-news station, where thanks to her dual citizenship (her father is Canadian) she was able to hold a full time job. An audition tape sent to KFI got her a job in Los Angeles radio.

She loves working at KFI, the people and the work.

“I love the fact that I can just come to work in my pajamas,” she says. “I love that I can just talk into the microphone and it’s like I’m talking to my friends. I just love coming to work on Saturday. KFI is just such an amazing station to work for and I feel really blessed. I just have to find another one because I’m only working there one day a week.”

Kramer has another project in the works about a stripper who aspires to be a hip hop dancer. She and her partner hope to take the show to Las Vegas.

“Mental” runs at the Edgemar Center for the Arts at 2437 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405 Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through August 26th. (310) 392-7327.

Talk radio bias analyzed

We all know conservative points of view dominate talk radio.

That is one of the facts driving a movement among some lawmakers to restore the old Fairness Doctrine in a quest to bring more “balanced” discussions of political and cultural issues to the public’s airwaves.

Conservatives claim their dominance is due to consumer preference and the “free market” of ideas. They say listeners prefer conservative hosts because either they agree with them or they find them more entertaining than liberals or “progressives.”

A new study, “The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio,” published jointly by the nonpartisan Center for American Progress and Free Press confirms conservatism’s dominance in talk radio but challenges the view that consumer preference alone is the cause. They say it’s more about concentration of ownership in the hands of a few large corporations.

News/talk radio’s influence is huge, attracting over 50 million American listeners a week on the more than 1,700 stations dedicated to the format.

The study found that their “analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive. Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk.”

Here in the Los Angeles/Orange County market, the study found that conservative content outweighed progressive content 69 to 31 percent.

The authors conclude that if station ownership caps were restored, local ownership increased, and more accountability required of broadcasters to retain licenses conservative radio would be less dominant than it is today.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Radio Column July 1, 2007

Listening In

July 1, 2007

By Sandy Wells

Anti-Illegal immigration firebrand Kevin James returns on KRLA

Kevin James is happy to be back on the air in Los Angeles. The former overnight talk host and anti-illegal immigration firebrand was let go from his job at KABC-AM 790 about a month after Marc “Mr. KABC” Germain exited the station to take over afternoon drive on “Progressive Talk” KTLK-AM 1150.

“I’m very satisfied with the way things worked out,” said Kevin. “I was off the air for seven weeks. A lot of people think that is a short time. But there were a lot of things happening in the news. I wasn’t able to comment on them on a daily basis. That was frustrating. The timing was right for me to get another job.”

Kevin is also very happy with the people at KRLA and with his new schedule, weeknights from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The native of Oklahoma developed a large following in the wee hours on KABC. Many stayed up just to hear his latest take on the red hot illegal immigration (he’s against it) debate.

“I am going to stay on immigration. But there are other important issues that affect this city, such as what’s going on at City Hall and crime. And even crime is connected to the illegal immigration in many ways. I find the problem of the local politics fascinating and I like to spend a lot of time on that.”

Kevin says word of mouth across the Internet is helping direct his fans to his new radio home on KRLA. It also doesn’t hurt that he got a plug from fellow talk show host Marc Germain who took the time to inform his KTLK listeners about Kevin’s new radio home on KRLA.

“A lot of my ‘Red Eye Radio’ audience seems to have found me. I find that through my call screeners and I get a lot of emails from people who listened to me on KABC.”

Kevin came to LA in 1988 to work for a large law firm. He then spent three years as an assistant District Attorney in Los Angeles, which provided him an invaluable education on the workings of local government. Following that he litigated a number of high-profile entertainment cases as a private attorney. And after his legal expertise was called upon as a guest on Al Rantel’s show on KABC, he got hooked on radio.

“A lot of people say now that the best journalists are not coming out of journalism school but out of law school,” he explained, adding that an education in law is also excellent training for a talk show host.

Despite the University of Oklahoma’s devotion to his alma mater’s football team – he was a cheerleader there while in college – he feels the strongest ties here in his adopted home.

“I’m so glad I got to stay in Southern California radio. I’ve been here most of my adult life – except for the ten months I spent as the morning host in Oklahoma City. But I’m much more knowledgeable about this area so it’s much better for me to work here as far as the quality of the product.”

Gay-themed station debuts on HD radio

LA’s first gay and lesbian oriented radio station is now broadcasting on HD radio’s channel 104.3-HD2. This is the HD channel for hot adult contemporary music station KBIG-FM 104.3 and is run by Clear Channel Communications.

The Pride Radio channel is featuring mixes from artists such as Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, and Scissor Sisters. “Divas” Whitney Houston, Donna Summer and Janet Jackson are also deemed representative of the new station’s mix. KBIG plays a lot of disco music often associated with the gay clubs of the 70s and 80s, so it is a fitting companion station for people willing to buy an HD radio for their home or car, or are can listen online.

Pride Radio is hosted by personalities Ryan and Caroline, who are being promoted as radio’s equivalent to “Will and Grace.” The two present “Coming Out” listener stories, film reviews, travel, style, health, and celebrity gossip with US Weekly Senior Editor, Albert Lee. Ryan and Caroline will interview gay celebrities and gay icons as well.

“For the first time in LA Radio History, our GLBT Community has a local radio source to turn to for content specific to their entertainment interests,” said Program Director, Dave “Chachi” Denes. “With one of the largest gay communities in the country, I’m certain that Pride Radio LA, with its appealing music and entertainment content, will be well received by not only by our alternative lifestyle listeners but by our community in general.”

You can listen to Pride Radio with any HD Radio receiver at 104.3-2 or online at

Fairness Doctrine debated at Museum of TV and Radio

With many in Congress expressing frustration over the failure to pass reform immigration legislation, some are blaming the power of talk radio. They want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine to life, which they say will enforce the airing of opposing views on the nation's radio stations and thus tame popular conservative talk show hosts.

KPCC-FM 89.3’s Patt Morrison (weekdays, 2p.m.3 p.m.) hosted a discussion of the thorny and complex issue. She was joined by about a dozen people gathered in the small visitor lounge that surrounds the museums handsome glass-enclosed broadcast booth.

The May 29 broadcast marked the twenty year anniversary of the doctrine’s demise at the hands of President Ronald Reagan, who vetoed Congress’ attempt to restore it after a court ruling struck it down. For 38 years before that the doctrine had mandated that broadcasters offer equal time for the expression of opposing views expressed on a station’s airwaves. The practical effect of this was that broadcasters avoided controversy, partly out for fear of losing their broadcast license at renewal time. At the same time, radio and TV operators were at pains to prove to the government that they were serving the public interest by providing news coverage of their coverage area and broadcasting programs about community issues.

(L-R, KPCC's Patt Morrison, KABC's Doug McIntyre, Simon Wilkie from USC. Photo By Sandy Wells)

That ended in 1987. Ironically, at that time many conservatives feared that the dominence of the liberal media would further marginalize their political views. But the effect was just the opposite. Since then conservative firebrands such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity, have blazed new trails on the AM band and caused some to wonder since if the whole thing wasn’t some conservative plot to obliterate liberalism and the Democratic Party. And local news budgets have been slashed since license renewal has become a perfunctory, “rubber stamp” process.

Joining her inside the little studio was Doug McIntyre, morning talk show host from KABC-AM 790 and Simon Wilkie, Director of the Center for Communications Law and Policy at the USC School of Law. On the phone, was KTLK-AM 1150 mid-morning host Thom Hartmann, who is based in Portland, Ore. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who wants to restore some semblance of the Fairness Doctrine.

Sanders weighed in saying that the most significant development is concentration of media ownership. He said the public should not be fooled by the apparent abundance of cable, satellite and media outlets. He says most are held by a small number of owners who all share the same interests.

“What is the responsibility of the owner to the people? Right now it's to make as much money as possible.”

Hartmann said that when he worked as a news director thirty years ago, everyone understood that news was there to serve the public and that broadcasters underwrote its costs in return for the privilege of having a broadcast license granted to them by the government.

McIntyre said restoring the Fairness Doctrine would stifle public debate and amount to government censorship of political discourse. He also doesn’t buy the underlying premise of the Fairness Doctrine, which is that since the broadcast spectrum is limited, it must be regulated.

“Technology has changed the landscape,” added McIntrye. “With podcasting and XM and Sirius, a thousand other ways of broadcasting, why are we applying these ‘putting the genie back in the bottle’ standards to terrestrial radio when in fact we’re sharing a smaller and smaller amount of the audience with all these alternatives?”

“Let the public decide what they want to hear, said McIntrye.

Sanders countered that the rise of the conservatives on talk radio is no accident, and that while he doesn’t deny that people like Rush Limbaugh are very talented, they are basically there to say the things the owners of the media conglomerates want said “and that they are saying things that their advertisers are sympathetic to.”

You can hear the full broadcast by going to and clicking on the Patt Morrison show icon.