The news was big -- it's the end of Talk Radio 570 as we know it.
FisherComm pulled the trigger Monday afternoon: heritage talker KVI will flip next week to AM oldies.
It ends a 15-year stint for a station widely considered seminal in the talk format. It was the first all-conservative big-market talk station.
In a written statement, KVI PD Travis Box said the station will play "Greatest Hits of the '60s and '70s", starting Nov. 8. (Music on AM? sounds nutz, but then again we thought right-wing talk was nutz).
Gone with the format is the recently-re-hired morning guy Bryan Suits, along with syndicated talkers Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, George Noory, and Dennis Miller.
KOMO sports announcer Tom Hutyler and news reporter/anchor Marina Rockinger will be spinning the Creedence and Beatles in the morning, former KBSG jock Mark Christopher will spin' em in the PM drive, and ex-KJR DJ Ric Hansen will do nights. Sue Romero, Bill Rice and Ana Kelly will do local news, traffic and information.
(Actually it's a flip-back ... KVI was doing oldies when Gene Autry owned the station, Brian Jennings and Shannon Swette were programming, and Mike Webb was assisting. Around 1990 Rush Limbaugh was brought in, and saved not only KVI, but ayem radio which was in the process of being killed off by FM, which produces a superior audio product especially for music. KVI, with Jennings and Sweatte at the helm built a powerful model for conservative talk, and led the Seattle market in many ways. John Carlson, Kirby Wilbur, Dave Boze, Luke Burbank, Michael Reagan, and Michael Medved started radio careers working at the station).
This is just a stop the bleeding move... expect them to unload the station one of these days. (Nonetheless, with his strong no-cut contract, they'll still be paying Brian Suits for years to come).
Conservative talk radio has declined mightily in the five years BlatherWatch has existed. There's but one conservative talk station left in Seattle -- KTTH, home of Limbaugh and Beck; and the live & local David Boze. There are right-wingers on KIROFM, Dori Monson and Frank Shiers, but the money is being spent on the liberal-ish Dave Ross/LukeBurbank Show (m-f 9a-12p) or the inane-ish, apolitical Ron & Don (m-f, 3-7p). John Carlson (m-f 3-6p) does conservative talk on KOMO, but it's a pale shadow of the old KVI-style hyperventilatin'. (Even these local talkers are watering down their shows with "lifestyle," Youtube audio, sports and celebrity tabloidism in order to appeal more widely).
With all the steam and drang allegedly generated by the tea-party and the I-hate-Obama crowd, you'd think the conservative talk format could at least survive in this, the town that helped create it.
Instead, it has mirrored the declining health and welfare of its aging Boomer audiences. Radio management didn't change anything for years, they didn't think they had to. When their mighty and reliable 25-54 demo aged into 35-64, they forgot to go back and figure out how to entice the next bunch of 25-54's.
When the bottom dropped out of the business in '08, they finally saw what was left, and it wasn't much more than the young end of an old demographic.
Can they save it? Can radio - more specifially talk radio -- attract new earballs to their product?
We think they could. But the question for the teevee-heavy Fisher Communications is: do they want to?