Archive for September, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 27

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Deck_view_4 Here’s the second installment of an AM band dial scan I began a couple weeks back at BOTB. This little radio safari was recorded while I camped out on the deck of a beach house on the Connecticut coast near Bridgeport in late August.

Serious DXers favor the eastern coast of North America for picking up AM stations broadcasting from Europe and Africa (although a location right on the Atlantic Ocean rather than Long Island Sound would be preferable). However, the best time for that would be early evening and the best results would include employing an external antenna. I’d love to try this sometime, but was hardly equipped to do so on this excursion. One day…

This upcoming weekend I’m headed out of the RF noise of the city for the Catskills Mountains where I plan on scanning the international shortwave bands in search of interesting and exotic programming to feature here. With these two posts I’ve made a point of getting back to exploring the AM band again, because it remains the heartland of amplitude modulated broadcasting and sometimes it’s just fun to hear traffic reports from other regions of North America.

Oinky I gotta say that I think we may be coming into a prime season for some compelling and strange content on both U.S. AM radio and international shortwave. In a few days we’ll enter October, a month preceding a national election in this increasingly bizarre country of ours, and the polls still hint that the Republicans are at risk of losing the house and possibly the senate. It might just be prime time for a big political firestorm… I mean, a BIG surprise. And it’s not just the constructively paranoid types predicting it. Word is King Pig Karl Rove himself is promising something special for the faithful. So do stay tuned.

Meanwhile, as far as the content offered here, there’s nothing all that amazing (or ghastly) in this scan (other than some pleasant music from Canada)– just a fairly representative sampling of the AM band filled with a number of clear channel 50 kilowatt transmissions (on an evening when the big story involved a pale clown eager to be charged with the murder of a baby beauty pageant contestant).

Listening_2_2 As far as archiving AM radio, I try to sweep the band before 1 am Eastern time when “Coast to Coast” comes on the air. Because after that the dial is clogged with the five hundred or so North America affiliates carrying the show and there’s so much less variety of programming available for the rest of the night. And sometimes the supernatural and paranormal topics on Coast to Coast can be so damn boring.

This reception was recorded on my Degen 1103, a portable digital receiver. It’s has decent medium wave performance, but the way it renders the sound of coming in and out of frequencies (and inherent radio noise in general) has a bit more of a edge (and to my ears is less graceful) than you’d usually hear using an analog set. This part of the scan starts sometime after midnight.

Segment 3 – Connecticut Coast AM Radio 08-28-06 – 780 to 840 AM  8:44

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780 – WBBM Chicago, IL

It’s the AM news station in Chicago. Reception is dodgy.

790 – (nothing intelligible)

But lots of signals throbbing in the distance.

800 – CKLW Windsor, ON               

To Canada again, this time it’s Windsor (across the river from Detroit) and CKLW, the former North American top 40 giant. Nowadays they do “lifestyle” talk, which seems to be much more popular in Canada than the U.S. After a promo for their lightweight morning drive program and a beer commercial it’s “Healthy Talk.” Like I said, it’s a talk station but politics isn’t on the agenda.

810 – WGY Schenectady, NY

Rollye It’s Rollye James, kind of an anomaly in the talk radio world. A smokey voiced blonde with without much of a particular political slant who does kind of a conspiracy/paranormal “lite” routine along with an on-air obsession for discussing (and occasionally playing) old R&B hits.

I first heard Rollye (strange spelling, eh?) a few years ago when she was trying out as a guest host on Art Bell’s “Coast to Coast” program. Then I came across her on WPHT in Philadelphia. Now Rollye is national, but not currently syndicated on many stations. Mostly small markets. It ain’t easy being a freelance talk host these days. Lots of competition. Coast to Coast is hugely popular and other hosts in that vein (Jeff Rense for example) haven’t made much headway in syndication.

Gosh, what a rushed and uninspired version of “Stranded in the Jungle” Rollye.

820 – WNYC New York, NY

The AM side of New York’s NPR outlet, playing the BBC World Service, which they do a handful of hours each day. Superficial money and business news, not terribly exciting. And not a strong signal from WNYC here in southern Connecticut at night.

830 – (nothing intelligible)

A few stations. I assume one is WCCO in Minneapolis.

840 – WHAS Louisville, KY and ?

Not coming in well at first, but this is the usual suspect at 840– WHAS, a Kentucky talk station. Instead I move the radio around, attempting to pull in the more exotic broadcast emanating from further south. This is where the circumstances may have changed since I’m listening right on the coast. North American clear channel stations like WHAS usually own their frequency over a huge swath of the continent.

Kentuckiana_1 However, here a Latin music station is coming in with a bit of power if I turn the radio to a certain angle– a flute and conga drum can be heard. Just after eight minutes into this archive you can hear what I believe is an ID for this station in Spanish (it’s right before the blank space caused by a tape flip). Anybody catch this?

And when I turn the radio (again, I’m not “tuning,” I’m adjusting the internal antenna by physically rotating the radio) WHAS is as clear as usual, with a little bit of distant thunderstorm static on top.

And “Attention Kentuckiana!” (You gotta love this local nicknames for regional media markets. Metro Chicago is known as “Chicagoland.”) is the intro for a car dealership spot offering a free little car if you purchase a big (SUV) car. Wow. Two-for-one car deals? As automotive sales continue to slump, the industry is coming up with some creative schemes to lure buyers these days. What happened to balloons and candy for the kids?

Segment 4 – Connecticut Coast AM Radio 08-28-06 – 840 to 900 AM  19:40

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840 – WHAS Louisville, KY and ?

The rest of this frequency after the recording was interrupted by the tape ending.

850 – WEEI Boston, MA?

Well it might be this sports station or maybe KOA in Denver (but I doubt that). Two boring network ads come up and I’m not patient enough to wade through more commercials and end up moving up to the next frequency.

860 – CJBC Toronto, ON

Unfortunately, this is the last major CBC outlet on the AM dial that has any widespread reach into the U.S., and it’s all French all the time. Female announcer, sounds like she might be reading off Canadian tour dates for one of the recording artists she’s about to play. Then it’s a moody folk-rock number, dark and a little quirky. Sound to me like Richard Thompson might be playing guitar on this one. If anyone can ID this song, or translate the french announcer in the comment section below, I’d sure appreciate it.

The next song (and what a nice segueway by the way)–  sounded very familiar to me for some reason. It’s a catchy pop tribal rave-up, featuring a singin’ and stompin’ kid chorus. It’s “Ani-Kuni” by the French-Canadian singer (and actress?)– Madeleine Chartrand. Yes, it rocks.

Anikuni_1 Beside’s the classic country of Nashville’s WSM (at 650kHz) and the easy oldies of AM 740 in Toronto, I’m hard pressed to think of any clear channel AM stations that can be heard in the Eastern U.S. who play a good mix of music. In fact, I’m not sure there’s any that play music at all. It’s a sad thing. But in all my years of AM DXing east of the Mississippi I’ve consistently heard the most interesting and diverse mix of music on CJBC at night. On any given evening you can hear great African music, all sorts of jazz, obscure rock and folk, all kinds of stuff. If there were a just a few more powerful North American stations blasting music programming half as thoughtful as CJBC, the quality of listening to AM radio at night around here would improve exponentially.

If you’re scanning the AM dial late at night anywhere within a few hundred miles of Toronto, CJBC is well worth checking out. Although Cuba’s Radio Reloj also beams in pretty strong on at 860kHz from time to time.

870 – WWL New Orleans, LA?

That’s probably what this is. They’re a sports heavy news/talk station, and this definitely sounds like some sports commentary or something, but it’s buried by adjacent (clear channel) WCBS at 880, which is what usually happens anywhere near New York City.

880 – WCBS New York, NY

Yankees_suck I believe this is the tail end of a Yankees game. What astounded me was the list of sponsors. Instead of two, three or four companies funding these sportscasts, I was blown away by this list of TWENTY advertisers. Just listen to the roster with each business’s name followed by a strategically edited slogan. Capitalism at its finest. Imagine how many bazillion dollars WCBS paid to snatch the rights to air Yankee games from WABC back in 2001? While the NFL must be a media profit machine beyond compare, I’d bet that the Yankees are the most lucrative sports franchise on Earth.

890 – WLS Chicago, IL & ?

It’s a mixed bag here, again the fact that this reception is from the eastern edge of the continent might have something to do with it. Some Spanish "la la" music introduces this segment, and then it’s an impromptu collage with the sappy Español pop music vying with a WLS commercial break as I rotate the radio to focus on each signal.

When I lived in deep south, finding foreign (mostly Spanish) stations infiltrating the AM band was much more common. As I recall when I lived in New Orleans you could actually receive English language broadcasts Radio Habana Cuba on the AM car radio most evenings.

900 – CHML Hamilton, ON

Ontheair_1 An antique radio drama from Ontario. It’s cool that a clear channel AM station lets loose a few hours of old time radio across a large expanse of North America each night. Again, it would be nice if more old broadcasts would fill some of the night time hours on some AM stations with historical content instead of crap like rebroadcasts of right-wing talk shows.

That’s it for this medium wave scan. With some good luck, I’ll be back in the next week or two with some intriguing shortwave radio recordings confiscated from the night sky of upstate New York.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Air America vs. The Truthseeker

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006

Malloy_portrait_2 After carrying on at length here at BOTB on the state of Air America over the last month or two, I thought I’d just shut up and let AAR do what they were going to do and see what happened next. I wasn’t all that hopeful, but I was frankly tired of thinking about the whole mess. Then while working on another post I happened across the Air America website, and I had to laugh and then shake my head. And so here I am again, blogging about the sad state of affairs at the struggling progressive talk network.

Yesterday, a new and revised on-air schedule went into effect at Air America radio. And although I happened to post an almost identical schedule (which I heard through the grapevine) here as a comment on one of my BOTB posts four weeks ago, and to my surprise I appear to have been the only one to actually promote the line-up. Sure, a few folks reposted and linked to the schedule I posted, but for some reason Air America never officially publicized their programming reshuffle until the day it actually took effect.  Very strange.

Sunday night, only hours before the new schedule became operational, the old one was still on the AAR website. However, If you spent some time digging deep into their site you could figure out that “The Young Turks” were taking over the network six to nine morning slot (not in NYC), and that Sam Seder and Rachel Maddow would now have new time slots as well, but there was no big announcement online or on the network itself touting the programming changes. I had assumed that after the line-up make-over there would be some major revision of the website to clean it up and add more current information. But so far it’s a turning into a poorly maintained online fossil.

And I got to wondering. Are they trying to keep their programming and decisions a secret for some reason? Or are they just so incompetent or short-handed that they’re not able to publicize (or define) themselves efficiently?

It seems to be the latter. As everybody who has been following the recent twists and turns in the behavior of Air America management, late-night firebrand Mike Malloy was suddenly canned a few weeks ago (with plenty of protestations among the AAR faithful). Well, apparently they haven’t been able to figure out what to do with Malloy’s time slot, and have brought in Peter Werbe (Malloy’s friend who often filled-in for him when he was away) to man the late night position at the network while they try to decide what to do with those hours. And much to my surprise, as I looked at the Air America when Werbe went on the air and there was no banner image of the host (as there always usually would be) and there was a brief description of Werbe’s broadcast posted by Mike Malloy himself. And it was hilarious:

"Hi. Malloy here. It’s Monday, September 18, 2006. Well, it’s been almost three weeks since we were fired by the really, really strange pod-people who have temporarily taken over Air America. Tonight’s program will be hosted by my good friend Peter Werbe. Not sure what he’s talking about tonight, but do tune in. If you’re wondering how we’re writing and posting this mini-blog it’s simply because the airheads in Air America’s executive suites – the pod-people mentioned above – are too, um, stupid to figure out how to handle their own website access.

The door’s wide open. Well, eventually their bodies will start to react to Earth atmosphere and they’ll have to leave. Meantime, Mike and Kathy here saying, stay tuned!"

Wow. Apparently, not only is Air America unable to keep their website up to date, but a host they fired weeks ago is still able to post text that shows up on their home page! Considering the possibilities, Malloy was practically graceful. Here’s what he says about it on his personal site:

"Strange things can happen when certain corporate entities fire much of their website editing department without first making sure at least one remaining employee knew how to operate the darned thing. I’m just sayin’ . . . . .

And be sure to tune into Peter Werbe at 10 PM ET on Air America Radio while you can. He’s a good guy and a premier talk show host and you should check him out, wish him luck, and pray his checks cash."

Cup_1 On the same page Malloy mentions that he was interviewed for an upcoming Salon article where he says we’ll all be able to read some of his “interesting observations” about the network. That should be fun.

The firing of Malloy infuriated thousands of fans and supporters (you can see or sign the petition to reinstate Malloy at AAR here) and led at least three or four Air America hosts to take time on the air to discuss their disagreement with the decision. (And all this following their split with Maron, a decision which caused the same kind of stink). But what’s even more curious, is how he was let go a few minutes before going on the air when they don’t even seem to have had a viable plan for his replacement. And the fact that Malloy can make fun of the Air America brain trust right on their home page just adds insult to injury. To be sure, Air America is hurtin’.

So, I do wonder if they’ll catch on by tomorrow night. It’ll be worth checking to see if Malloy can continue to poke fun at Air America’s sad state of affairs right on their own website. But the site is like a ghost town. There’s even a link to Marc Maron’s show, which hasn’t been on the air since July and never made it to the network. On the AAR Malloy page, which remains up as well, Mike put up a post hinting he’ll keep causing trouble there as long as he can get away with it:

"The door’s wide open. So we dashed in just for the hell of it to post this “howdy, how is everyone?”

Frankly, we think the suits are too stupid to stop us so we’ll probably do this every day and also post a longer blog inside the site where we used to. Until they figure out what we’re doing and stop our fun. Bastards. Just mean ol’ right-wing bastard pod-people running our Air America."

(Read the whole thing and some comments here, . The blog post and Malloy’s page at AAR’s website since vanished.)

 Yet, perhaps just mentioning Malloy’s little prank on this blog will be enough to make somebody scramble and change the password to keep the mischievous talk host off their site. I mean, I’m starting to feel like I’m an unpaid consultant for Air America. The new schedule has at least two changes I’ve advocated a few times here at BOTB– Springer’s off the schedule, and Randi Rhodes has been cut back to three hours. And in my last AAR post I discussed their shameful weekend Aarbe_1newscasts by the smarmy “Miles Cameron” (formerly “Frisco Hills”) which were obviously pre-recorded many hours beforehand and repeated the same "evergreen" (calculatingly viable all weekend long) stories throughout the day. Then when I was listening this last weekend, Miles was gone! The new weekend newsreader, a woman (Paula Reid?), was actually reporting news relatively current to the hour of the newscast. Coincidence? Or is somebody over on Sixth Avenue reading these posts? More importantly, why isn’t somebody who understands what makes radio compelling and worthwhile (specifically news and talk radio) listening to the network (and checking the website) and remedying embarrassments before a blogger like me points them out? Just the fact that the website has begun to rot and Jerry Springer even had a network show for longer than a week should tell you one thing– nobody making important decisions at Air America actually listens to Air America for more than a few minutes at time, or keeps up the network’s online presence (or gives a rat’s ass about it).

 A while back I fantasized that Randy Michaels might either take over, buy out, or merge his progressive talk company (Product First) with Air America. It seems that might have been a damn good idea. While recent rumors of Air America declaring bankruptcy have been officially denied, Positioningthey’re obviously in deep financial trouble. And Al Franken says he’s not getting his paycheck lately (at least that’s a step in the right direction). But what is obvious is that Air America really is bankrupt– of vision, new ideas, and the ability to even maintain the status quo of running a radio corporation.

While progressive talk radio has already proven itself in a number of ways as a viable new format (Clear Channel and Randy Michaels wouldn’t have gotten in the business otherwise), Air America itself is heading for failure with the current leadership. If Sheldon Drobny and Jon Sinton and others who remain of the original founders really give a shit about the network they need to either sell it to somebody who knows what they’re doing, or trim Air America down to a manageable syndication outfit and bring in real radio veterans to run the damn thing. And if they want to hire me, I’ll give them more detailed advice and quit sending snarky commentary into the blogosphere. I thought Air America Radio was a promising proposition from the beginning and I’ve been quick to say positive things about good programming on the network, but despite much good work by so many folks on and off the air, but AAR is obviously broken and needs to be fixed. First they hired a doofus CEO from the music business to steer the company, and now I hear the new guy calling the shots came from the cosmetics industry. Unbelievable.

As it stands Air America is a bloated and mismanaged monster adrift in the mediastream, and it’s become an embarrassment. There’s some solid programming, but it’s more by accident than part of some grand plan. There’s no focused leadership or willingness to make any major decisions that aren’t dictated by petty economic concerns.

And if you hear Air America via their new New York outlet have you heard Armstrong Williams (nickname "Army"??) on the local morning show? It’s a tragic state of affairs…

Of course I want to say all I’ve already said– bring back Maron and Malloy, and (PLEASE) get rid of Franken, all that. And maybe it wasn’t so smart to part ways with Carl Ginsburg or Shelley Lewis either. But while those may be good ideas, it’s now all too obvious that there are deep and pervasive problems with the entire structure and vision of the current management. Have I mentioned how much I hate these people who have taken over Air America?

This isn’t going well. The last thing I want to do is toss my lot in with morons who live to live to celebrate the demise of Air America. I hope Malloy is right, and "pod people" have only temporarily taken over. But I do plead with you suited men who can make such decisons–please let somebody else run the show or just let the seeds you’ve sown find more fertile ground. Air America provides an important role in a biased mediascape. Hand the reigns over to somebody who knows what they are doing.

 (This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 26

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Deck_view_1 The geek that I am, when I found out we were invited to join our in-laws for a few days at a beach house rental on the Connecticut coast at the end of August, I wasn’t so much looking forward to sun and sand and seagulls. I was thinking more about the DXing possibilities.

Having a huge body of water at your backdoor is typically a fine place to set up a shortwave set to snatch wandering radio waves bouncing unobstructed from beyond the horizon. While this wasn’t exactly the open ocean, it was Long Island Sound, and it all seemed rather promising. However, from moment I powered up my Degen that first evening I began to realize that this quaint little cottage was NOT going to be the dream radio shack I had hoped it might be. Oh, the reception was pretty good, that is for the stations that were strong enough to overcome the WORST RF noise I’ve think I’ve ever had to deal with. I’m not kidding when I tell you that it was the worst chorus of buzzing and bleating across the shortwave dial that I’ve ever heard throughout an entire house. And the deck and yard were no better.

The problem? Technology of all sorts in every room. Every light in the house was on a dimmer switch, which are notoriously RF noisy. And entertainment gadgets were everywhere, even a TV (and video equipment) in the bathroom. Not only that, but these beach houses are crammed together on the sand, and I suspect most were loaded up with electronics and gizmos. Hell, from the deck I could see that the people next door had a monstrous billboard-size TV blasting living color chase scenes up on their wall.

 Fortunately, the AM band wasn’t so rudely affected by the inadvertent roar of high frequency broadcasting. So, the dial scan I offer in this post is medium wave reception from my first night there (August 28, 2006). I was near Bridgeport, with a nice view of Long Island across the way and waves crashing just a few feet from the stilts supporting the deck. Actually, sitting right on the coast of a continent provides a lot of excess noise as well, but the roar of the sea can easily be overcome with a set of headphones and doesn’t affect the recording.

ListeningI was determined to overcome my RF predicament without sitting out in a parked car again, and later that weekend I walked down the beach away from all the gadgetry and recreational housing and recorded a somewhat eventful shortwave scan or two. However, after a couple hours of having a sea wind of twenty miles an hour or so blast you in the fact gets a little tiring after a while, and eventually got a little impatient sorting out faint signals. If I have time I’ll sort through those recordings and see if they are worth offering here as well.

For the last five months all these posts have focused on shortwave. So here we’ll dig into the original broadcast band, the one all of can easily hear yourself (but most of you rarely do…)– AM radio. As you may know, I tune by night, when the signals bounce off the sky and stations from hundreds of miles away can be heard. This is a recorded scan of the lower end of the AM dial, slowly crawling up the numbers and stopping to see if there’s anything interesting to be heard at each stop along the dial. And again, I’m using my Degen 1103. It’s all being heard on a late summer evening at the bottom edge of New England. This recording starts at about 11:18 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.

Segment 1 – Connecticut Coast AM Radio 08-28-06 – 530 to 750 AM  25:41

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530 – Radio Vision Cristiana, Turks & Caicos (W.Indies)

A saccharine Spanish musical selection, most likely something rather Jesus. This distant Carribean station blasts into the northeast most any given evening.

540 – WLIE Islip, NY – The Authority Radio Show

Wet_traci When I first came across this show I was kind of excited (not by the content, although that’s the intention) thinking this might be some AM pirate radio broadcast. I mean, the presentation is shamelessly amateur, the content is salacious and dopey… What else could it be?

Brokered programming, DIY style. While pirate radio is legally risky, just about anybody can do a radio show, if you’re willing to pay the rates charged by radio stations who sell air time. Typically people who are willing to spend money for radio time are either offering ethnic or religious programming for a specific community, or have a scam for selling plenty of ad time (And there’s always those infomercials). However, the Howard Stern wannabes who host “The Authority Radio Show” (authority??) every Thursday night have another type of community in mind– horny and unsophisticated Long Island males.

You can look at the official Authority Show MySpace page here, and here’s another MySpace page which belongs to one of the guests on this program, Miss “Traci Islands." Apparently Miss Islands is promoting an upcoming Halloween fetish party, she’s putting together, and one of the hosts has convinced Traci to participate in some future “erotic adult-oriented” event to fund cancer research. Is it my imagination, or is Long Island just kind of strange in general? And did I mention that some of these butt ugly MySpace pages are some of the worst dreck I’ve ever come across on the web?

Island_talk And WLIE? It seems that this station has fallen on hard times. I imagine it wouldn’t cost a lotta dough to get a radio show there these days. (Wanna host your own fetish radio program?) Back in 2002, some folks invested a bunch of time and money to turn a low-budget nostalgia outlet into a news/talk station for Long Island, hoping that a more local focus might draw some listeners from similar New York City stations. They hired some second-string talk hosts who had been around for a while (Ed Tyll, Mike Siegel, etc), upgraded their signal and called themselves “Island Talk 540." Three years later, it’s all come apart. Apparently Long Island listeners weren’t interested enough to switch from the NYC news/talk choices, and WLIE barely reaches most of the New York City market anyway. For now, WLIE offers their transmitter for rent out most hours. Their original website is gone, and all that’s left is this one page where the links are dead as well.

Anyway, this clip goes on for a while (as I was trying to figure out what I was listening to). If you find sophomoric discussions with loose young women as fascinating as I do, then you’ll be just as happy as I was shifting into the static of the next frequency.

550 – (Nothing intelligible)

This might be WGR, a sports station in Buffalo. In all the buzzy noise I do clearly hear the word “Buffalo” in there somewhere.

560 – (Nothing intelligible)

570 – WMCA New York, NY

Yankee_stadium New York religious radio. Something about food prohibitions and sanctified suppers. Beneath this signal you can hear Radio Reloj, Cuba’s news network broadcasting on the same frequency.

580 – (Nothing intelligible)

Lots of talking, make and female…

590 – (Nothing intelligible)

Some distant talk and music, with lots of bleed over from WICC.

600 – WICC Bridgeport, CT

Mariners vs Yankees. The sound of the crowd, the meandering conversation in between each pitch. No digital swoosh effect, just voices, and a few thousand people outside making noise. While I’m not a sports fan, there’s still something comforting in a baseball radio broadcast.

610 – (Nothing intelligible)

Female host/announcer dominating this busy bit of radio backwash. I believe she mentions she’s on a “news/talk” station. Might be WSNG in Torrington, CT. Might be something else.

620 – WHEN Syracuse, NY or WVMT Colchester, VT?

At least these are the two stations in the northeast who broadcast Yankee baseball on this frequency. It’s a poor signal here, wherever it’s coming from.

630 – (Nothing intelligible)

Female announcer. Not in English…

640 – (Nothing intelligible)

650 – WSM Nashville, TN?

Galveston Well gosh, I was kind of excited when I first heard this clip on this recording. When I came across it, I head a couple of ads and just assumed it was WSM’s clear channel signal during a break and kept moving on. But then when I listened closely I noticed that both of these commercials mentioned that their businesses serve Galveston? Then looking around online I discovered a station near Galveston (KIKK in Pasadena, Texas) which only broadcasts at 250 watts! Thought I had a real fluke DX catch there, until I realized that they are still a daytime only station. And even considering that KIKK is further west in the central time zone, that would still mean that they’d be signing off around 9 pm local time. Oh well. And I checked, there is no Galveston, Tennessee.

Still seems a little strange, but there’s not enough of this station here to help solve the mystery, if there is one.

660 – WFAN New York, NY

New York baseball nostalgia. It never ends. Apparently, the Mets are the kings of New York. Sounds good to me. The Yankees always seemed kinda scary.

670 – Radio Rebelde, Cuba

A couple stations beneath this signal. I believe another one is speaking Spanish as well.

680 – (Nothing intelligible)

MattySeveral stations in this muddle, although I found the flute music of one intriguing, I don’t know what that might be, but it doesn’t sound like something you’d hear on a U.S. AM station.

690 – CINF Montreal, QC

French!

 700 – WLW Cincinnati, OH

Another ball game on the “Nation’s Station.” I must admit, just to hear the name "Felipe Alou" (I guess he’s now the manager of the San Francisco Giants) made me a little nostalgic. At some point in the late 60′s I remember having baseball cards of all three the Dominican Alou brothers (Matty, Felipe and Jesus). And I don’t recall the pictures on those cards being particularly flattering either.

Segment 2 – Connecticut Coast AM Radio 08-28-06 – 710 to 770 AM  28:04

(download)

710 – WOR New York, NY

It’s the Lionel Show. Is survivor racist? That’s the question here. I had to look this up to find out why this might be a question at all, but apparently the Survivor series is going to pit “tribes” of different ethnic groups against each other in some reality TV scenario (How about the white people vs. the brown people?) . Sounds kinda stupid don’tcha think? And maybe just a desperate ploy for ratings, or press, or something?

As I’ve said before, I think Lionel is one of the best talk hosts on the national scene these days. However, now and then he gets on some pop culture/TV topic that I either know nothing about, or don’t care to know much about. This is one of those times.

I believe it’s a Cuban station burbling beneath WOR, possibly Radio Rebelde again.

720 – (Nothing intelligible)

Probably WGN in Chicago in there somewhere, and other voices.

730 – CKAC Montreal, QC

French.

740 – CHWO Toronto, ON

It’s the Canadian AM powerhouse, AM 740 playing some white boogie-woogie thing, “Swing Your Blues Away,” and then with a turn of the radio (the antenna for AM is a ferrite bar built into the radio itself) and a Spanish broadcast appears.

Favorites_1My tendency is to figure the Spanish station is probably coming from Cuba, since much of what you hear booming   Español under (or on top of) major North American stations is typically coming from there. They don’t follow the 50 kilowatt limit on medium wave that the U.S., Canada and Mexico stick to. However, looking online I haven’t found a prominent suspect for this frequency down that way.

750 – WSB Atlanta, GA

The news. Man, did anybody believe that skinny dork really offed JonBenet? Personally, I’m guessing it was Michael Jackson.

760 – WJR Detroit, Mi

Levin Now it’s the end of the ABC News, and then the vile spew of Mark Levin. It’s a pre-recorded broadcast of the latest right-wing monstrosity that ABC/Disney has recently launched into national syndication (from WABC in New York).

However, this call is quite curious. The caller is a female baby-boomer– Kathy in Tampa. She sounds like one of the typical chronically patriotic moms I hear calling Sean Hannity all the time. She comes up with some real wisdom here. There’s two things that “sicken” her. She honestly believes that politics has become nothing more than a business! And religion too! But just in the last twenty or thirty years. Wow. From there you’d think she’d be a upset with the Bush regime’s rampant corporatism, or the ongoing theocracy movement. But no. While she’s actually approaching some reasonable insights, she’s also a little confused. Apparently, she also believes that Mark Levin articulates those particular beliefs every day. And then the sneering forked-tongue of Levin sets her straight– he lectures that for the “hard left” politics isn’t a business at all, it’s an ongoing effort to destroy America. The military, the capitalist system, our health cars system, corporate America, and the “traditional family” are all under threat from wild freaky liberals like Hillary Clinton, or something like that.

What a worm. You know, WJR used to be a great radio station, and now they’re reduced to playing syndicated (and pre-recorded) garbage like this.

770 – WABC New York, NY

Batchelor_show It’s the John Batchelor show, which I gather after looking online has since gone off the air (although it may return). ABC/Disney tried syndication with this program, and I guess it didn’t pan out. From what I’ve heard, Batchelor does a rather in-depth newsy program (which the NY Times once described as "NPR on drugs") from a center right perspective which is guest intensive. I don’t believe he took calls.

However, it’s not the shrill neo-con non-stop attack of Hannity or Levin. He has discussions. And this one is interesting. The author he’s talking with has an ongoing theory that the U.S. has intervened in the Muslim world in such a way that we’ve given birth to (and empowered a new and broad Muslim consciousness that is going to be big trouble for the west. He talks about an “electric” and “palpable” sense within the Pentagon that we’ve already lost the Iraq War, and that by “staying the course” we’re “perpetuating our defeat.”

This few minutes is the biggest chunk of wisdom I’ve heard broadcast over WABC for a number of years. No wonder Batchelor’s off the air…

That’s it for now. Next week we’ll keep creeping up the AM dial from this particular recording. As always, comments, corrections and suggestions are welcome. I appreciate you reading these missives.

And most of all, thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Air America vs. Reality – Part 4

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

Billboard_2 September has arrived, and so far almost none of the changes I prognosticated for Air America (to coincide with their leaving WLIB) have come to pass. At least not yet. However, I did clearly state that I was offering rumors and guesses, and reports of decisions probably still in progress. But with great sadness, I can confirm I that Bush administration toady Armstrong Williams is indeed co-hosting the morning show on New York’s new Air America affiliate, WWRL.

Also contrary to what I reported here, Randy Michaels has not gotten a foothold into New York City’s progressive talk scene, either by taking over WLIB or making a deal with Air America. Although it had been reported in radio trade journals as a done deal, Mr. Michaels and Inner City Broadcasting were either in negotiations, and or had a tentative agreement that fell thorough. Instead as September arrived WLIB switched to an all-gospel format, and Air America jumped to WWRL– where they now have significantly less coverage in the New York market and fewer hours of the broadcast day to open to their programming.

The upcoming new schedule I posted here isn’t valid yet. Check the current one here, (here’s a PDF of it today, to see when the link is updated) on Air America’s site. And here’s the current WWRL schedule (again with a PDF here to see once the page is updated) In fact, the weekday line-up is EXACTLY the same as before, with one big exception. Mike Malloy is history.

Last week, Malloy was filling in for the vacationing Randi Rhodes for the entire week, obviously enjoying the opportunity to vent and profess in a more conspicuous time slot. Then on Wednesday afternoon, driving on the expressway to the studio his cell phone rang. His friend (and Air America honcho) Jon Sinton suggested Malloy might want to pull over for some bad news. Then on the shoulder of a suburban Atlanta interstate highway, Mike Malloy was fired. If you’d like to hear Malloy’s version of the situation, check out this interview of Malloy on a California Air America affiliate

KTLK Harrison on the Edge – Mike Malloy Interview  16:13

(download)

 The official reason? Financial considerations. So, in order to save some money Malloy was fired in mid-commute? Do you get the idea there might be more to this story?. By his own admission, Malloy was the lowest paid weekday host at Air America. C’mon. The net yearly gross of Malloy and his wife Kathy (his producer) was probably less than the cost of a weekend retreat for Al Franken’s staff. Undoubtedly, there were other reasons which aren’t being released to the general public.

Malloy_smileIf I can shift again into the unsubstantiated rumors department. I’ve heard an alternate story on how Malloy’s abrupt spit with AAR went down. Although Malloy had been promised a contract, the ongoing meetings of the Air America brain trust were heavily split on whether they should keep him around. Then another of Malloy’s friends at network headquarters happened to see the latest draft of the upcoming Air America schedule. No Malloy Show. His friend thought Mike might be interested in the prosepective schedule change.  If so, perhaps the call Malloy mentions was really a return call from Sinton confirming his eminent split with Air America. Either way, that call made it suddenly impossible that Mike Malloy would host the next four hours on Air America in a matter of minutes, or ever. I’ve been told there was a hell of a scramble to find a last minute replacement that afternoon. Again, this is all hearsay…

Meanwhile, we’re left to guess why, and fume and question the practices of Air America. The indignation and rage of Malloy’s fans across the country has yet to crest. And the manner of his dismissal has been a huge to blow to AAR’s credibility and morale headquarters.

Springer_3 Actually, after taking a look at the new Air America schedule there’s one overriding fact– it hasn’t really changed, other than becoming more conservative and frugal. Two and a half years is a long time in radio, and one would think that an admittedly experimental network and line-up would be subject to some tweaking and improving in that time frame, something beyond trying to do more on the cheap. The grand cable TV comedy meets left-wing political talk radio vision for Air America and most of the seat-of-the-pants schedule they slapped together in 2004 around that idea remains in place, only most of the “co-hosts” have been eliminated. So far, despite all the turn over in Air America management, there hasn’t been any rethinking of programming other than downsizing. That is, unless you consider putting a prattling boob like Jerry Springer in the line-up a “eureka moment.”

Observing the outward behavior of the Air America management, it would be a good working assumption that the network leadership has been running on automatic pilot for the most part, with a bit of in-house squabbling along the way. How else can you explain firing Marc Maron, and then signing a contract for a new program with him, and then scrapping that idea and begging him to come back to mornings? What else could cause AAR to promote Malloy’s webcast (and podcasting options to hear his show) during the hours they took him off in New York, and then promoting his return to the New York airwaves (and personally promising him a new contract), only to suddenly fire him when he was minutes away from a prime-time broadcast? Do you get the sense that there’s been some heated discussions over on Sixth Avenue? Probably one or them brought about the exit of Carl Ginsburg.

Seder1 All that said, a schedule shake is probably just over the horizon. Sam Seder in this post (from August 24, 2006) on the Majority Report blog says that he will indeed move to mornings (in Springer’s slot) by mid-September. He also has says: “We’re beginning to develop ideas for the new show…” and that he has “a couple of surprises in mind.”  New ideas? Surprises? At least this sounds hopeful. An article in the Boston Globe also confirms an impending move to mornings for Seder at AAR.

I believe much of the prospective schedule (minus Malloy) that I posted as a comment will probably come to pass this month, most likely on the 18th of September. But don’t look for any hints from the Air America website. As I type this I’ve noticed that Malloy’s show is listed as “coming up next.” And references to Maron’s defunct program are still all over the site. Just last week I saw a dead link on the home page claiming Maron’s show was streaming live (The show was cancelled in mid-July). In fact, a recent post on the Huffington blog made note of how inept Air America has been in promoting their network and programming in general. Hopefully, if the schedule is going to change they’ll update their site at least a few days in advance.

Air America’s inability to substantially promote itself or its programs, and to generally communicate with the press, has been a big problem. Actually, after the huge media circus surrounding the launch of AAR in 2004, the best promotional work for Air America has occurred online (via message boards and the blogosphere), which has been both free (and generally positive, with a exception of few GOP trained blog doggies) although a completely independent network of fans and observers out spreading the love. Actually, the Majority Report has done the best job of serving the net savvy AAR crowd, and Malloy and Rhodes have very active message boards as well. However, Air America as a network doesn’t communicate any better with their online audience than they do with the news media. And the combination of two big and boneheaded missteps over the past year has kicked the online hive of AAR disciples into a burgeoning frenzy. And now many of their most active online promoters have turned to typing disparaging screeds and angry accusations all over the web.

Something they’ve admitted was an egregious mistake just by their subsequent efforts to reverse the decision–  watering down “Morning Sedition” into the Mark Riley show by taking Marc Maron and Jim Earls, really pissed off a rabid and growing fanbase. While it had yet to prove itself a ratings juggernaut, Morning Sedition inspired rabid loyalty and high-power internet buzz, and seemed positioned for a bright future (Especially considering that Howard Stern was about to evacuate morning drive across the country). Out of all the experimental talk shows AAR launched out of the box, it was the only one that eventually worked. It was funny, truly unique, and for many addictive.

Angry_listener If Morning Sedition fulfilled Air America’s initial promise of melding serious political programming with comedy, but incorporating Mike Malloy into the line-up provided a cathartic release valve for thousands of nightly listeners boiling over with rage over our government’s abysmal behavior at home and abroad. Kicking Maron off the network schedule irked many, but at least Maron was allowed to go gracefully. But jerking Malloy out of the ring in mid-fight without notice has unleashed a surge of online blowback that is sure to bounce around negative feedback on AAR for some time to come. While Franken or Springer may have a larger actual audience because of the hour their program airs, Malloy’s listeners are intrinsically more loyal, more engaged and sincerely pissed off in a very un-moderate fashion. It isn’t hard to find many raw bitter emotional strings of messages all over the net now regarding Malloy’s departure from Air America. (Imagine the national outrage when Springer is dropped from the line-up…) Rachel Maddow and Sam Seder have made online statements regretting the decision already. As of now, the Air America website doesn’t officially mention it ever happened. Does that mean they don’t care, or they’re still weighing the decision?

And why did Air America suddenly dump Malloy? Online, conspiracy theories abound. The most common one is that Malloy spoke out against Israel’s merciless ravaging of Lebanon of late. But Malloy was never known to follow the Democratic party line to the letter, and hundreds of civilian deaths would bring about his ire in any case. Malloy never really sounded managed or careful. And that’s what inspired listeners. He spoke his raw unedited gut every night. But straddling the midnight hour kept most of his more meaty commentary out of the limelight, except among fans, followers and insomniacs. But when Malloy would sit in for Rhode’s afternoon drive slot, many people (including AAR suits?) suddenly found themselves basking (or roasting) in the deep purple glow of Malloy’s anger. I mean, Al Franken is so much nicer…

I’ve actually listened to the last two Malloy fill-ins for Rhodes a couple of times now. I thought that by listening to his last broadcasts I might hear a particular damning moment. If there was some obvious wild jab, I can’t figure out what it might have been. That said, there was plenty of Malloy’s trademark ball-to-the-wall commentary to go around. Night after night of venting and ranting, it’s hard to know what one thing (or what things) could have ultimately doomed his relationship with the network. Maybe it was just the flavor of it all. (Oh, and for comic relief check this.)

Wwrl_welcomesAir America is in a strange place. Fans are angry, conflicting information on schedule changes is all over the web, and network’s public outreach is in a sloppy state of affairs. Most of the hosts are now on vacation. And the schedule is filled with reruns and substitute hosts. Sure, Labor Day weekend has been underway, but the network is now in its second week without most of their hosts running live shows.  It’s the kind of situation you’d expect just before a big change.

It’s my guess that at least some of the schedule upheaval changes I offered in a comment here will come to pass soon. Although I frankly find it hard to believe that “Eco Talk,” or even “Politically Direct” will become weekly shows, I guess it’s possible. Officially, Air America has posted that some  square headed local talk host (Jon Elliott ?) from San Diego was taking Malloy’s slot. Funny thing however, is that I haven’t seen any confirmation of this except for on AAR’s schedule page. In a phone in interview on an Air America affiliate, Malloy said he’s heard that Laura Flanders (the host of “Radio Nation” on the weekends) is being groomed to take his place. I also heard that Flanders may have turned the slot down. Then this Monday night (what I assume was a repeat of) Thom Hartmann’s show was running in Malloy’s slot.

I frankly wouldn’t be too surprised if Malloy was invited back into the fold, despite how embarrassing that might be. What does Air America have to lose? Credibility?

Speaking of credibility, there’s a particular lack of it at Air America that I’ve been meaning to mention for a while now. I listen to Air America on the weekends, specifically to “Ring of Fire” and occasionally to Laura Flanders program. And like during the week, the network has a newscast at the top of the hour. However, the newscasts that play on Air America during weekend afternoons and evenings are embarrassing canned affairs, which again smell of radio done on the cheap.

Radio_news These newscasts are OBVIOUSLY pre-recorded, usually by a guy who calls himself “Miles Cameron.” (Nice name, right? For months the same news reader called himself “Frisco Hills,” until somebody probably told him it just wasn’t very funny). Anyway, Miles (or whoever might be filling in for him) seems to come in during the morning, or perhaps the day before, and fudge together a newscast utilizing stories that would probably remain “evergreen” through the weekend. Not only do you hear the same stories repeated in different ways in newscasts through the day, but I’ve even heard the exact same newscast repeated at a later hour (a lazy board-op?). For a network that’s supposed to provide current news and information, it’s pretty shameful. Many times I’ve heard ongoing top stories totally ignored all day and night during the AAR weekend newscasts.

I hear that these lazy productions are the product of a private news “service” wired into the network. And from the looks of it, I hope it’s an inexpensive deal. Is Air America so broke that they can’t afford to keep a living breathing news body on hand around the clock? Hell, any local news talk station worth its salt is able to afford that, you’d think it would be essential for a news/talk network to do at least as much, if not more.

And as far as the news, right-wing stooge blogger (and talk radio has been) Brian Maloney is reporting that Air America is also having trouble paying for their AP wire service. Like much of the slime on Maloney’s blog, it might be true. And Maloney has been shoveling out dirt like this since the inception of Air America– a few big “exclusives,” but mostly a lot of little digs like this one. While it’s certainly not on my roster of regular visits, his blog comes up quite a number of times when I’m in the middle of web searches on Air America. So, I’ve seen it quite a bit. Maloney is a just a hatchet man, a gossip columnist with an axe to grind. I don’t get the impression that he’s heard more than five minutes of any of Air America programs. He appears to have a mole or two who work for Air America that regularly contact him when ever they dig up some little tidbit that might look bad for the network. If you have any real interest in radio or the state of Air America, and happen to end up at his blog for looking for any practical information, keep that in mind that he’s a trained rodent. No substance there, just zingers, potshots, and GOP catch phrases.

However, if you do come across the "Radio Equalizer" from time to time, there’s no reason you can’t have some fun getting equalized. First off, take some time to enjoy some of the "outsider" photoshop gags on display there. And if you’re in the mood, grab a friend and a bottle of something strong and set yourself up for a Radio Equalizer drinking game. Then set up the glasses and start scrolling through Mr. Maloney’s posts. As you meander through his razor sharp insights, take turns upturning a shot of booze every time you come across the word “unhinged.” You’ll both be completely unhinged in just a matter of minutes.

Wwrl_aa_2And let’s raise a glass as well if Jerry Springer is finally being dumped from the AAR line-up. Good  riddance. Other than that I’m hard pressed to hope for any impending good news at Air America. I can tell you one thing, the WWRL signal is big disappointment. I can only get a clear read on Air America on a couple of the more expensive radios I own, or in the car. And then at night, WWRL is slightly polluted by bleed-in from nearby frequecies no matter what I try. It’s sad. And I live less than a mile from lower Manhattan.

Who knows? Perhaps a schedule shake up will tighten up some programs and bring in some fresh thinking. While Franken’s a snore and Rhodes is what she is, Maddow is rock solid and Seder may take the opportunity of having a better slot and put some new life into his new show. However, if Malloy is truly gone for good, Air America may have dealt a crippling blow to its own future. More than just the hosts you hear, Air America is made up of a lot of underpaid hard working people who have expended huge amounts of energy because they believed in the network, and were empowered by raw politcal passion for change.And like the online fans who feel cheated and betrayed by Malloy’s firing, it all makes for a lot of despair and frustration that isn’t going to benefit a business that is already strapped for cash, and doesn’t seem to have any new ideas.

If enough faith and good will dries up, the network is sure to follow, or at least shrink into something much less powerful.

 (This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)