Would be worth knowing more of the background of what is going on at KOPT-AM in Eugene, a liberal talk radio station which this week dropped all of its local-based programming. A one-time news staff of nine had been cut back and this week the last three staffers' jobs were eliminated. Oregon Media Insiders noted that "Their news department had just come off winning best news for the 2nd year in a row, and nabbed all kinds of other awards as well."
KOPT will continue airing national Air America programs; Insiders said that the station is up for sale, and presumably might change format if sold.
The Eugene Register Guard's editorial on this had some useful background: "KOPT has a curious corporate lineage. It is owned by Churchill Media, the president of which is Suzanne Arlie. Arlie's husband, John Musumeci, first became widely known in Eugene as a principal of the Gang of Nine, an initially anonymous group that lampooned liberal members of the Eugene City Council in a series of sometimes funny, sometimes cruel cartoons published as paid advertisements in The Register-Guard. It seemed odd - to some, suspicious - that Churchill would launch a radio station aimed at the very audience whose toes were still sore from being trod upon by Musumeci."
All sorts of conclusions are being drawn out of all this. Some look on it as a local business conspiracy to drive out liberal talk. Insiders argued the transition is "proving that even in a liberal town like Eugene, you can't sell Air America." (There's an intense debate over this worth reading on the Insiders' post on KOPT.) Neither argument really sounds entirely right; in fact, they almost seem to cancel each other. (Should be noted that Air America has a fairly solid roster of 60 stations nationally carrying broadcasting, and its Portland outlet, KPOJ-AM, is one of its most successful.)
The Register-Guard pointed out that there's no locally-based conservative talk either, and concluded: "The core problem is not one of ideology, but of economics. That makes the problem worse. If KOPT's local format had failed because its political orientation was rejected by the market, another station could succeed with a different political mix. The sad fact is that stations with local broadcasters reporting local news and taking local calls have trouble selling enough ads to sustain themselves."
Odds are, given today's standard economic model for radio, they're right. Just maybe, we need a new economic model.