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Inside the Beltway: Talk radio veteran issues warning about medium’s online existential threats

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One industry veteran has offered some serious advice to those who work in traditional talk radio — which can be a bodacious business. 

Consider that Sean Hannity — a syndicated radio host with Premiere Networks — has a national radio audience of 16.25 million listeners a week, according to Talkers.com, a leading industry source. 

And yes, this is the largest radio audience in the nation. Fellow host Dave Ramsey is in second place with 13.25 million listeners.

They are among some 1,200 hosts around the nation who man the microphones day and night, addressing heavy duty politics, culture, faith, rumors, local news, business, recreational matters and much more.

But Michael Harrison — founder of Talkers.com along with its sister publication Talker’s Magazine — has issued an unprecedented “prescription for survival” to his peers who now face serious competition from online sources.

“In order for talk radio to survive — let alone thrive — in the ever-changing digital era, it must provide the absolute best audio communications available anywhere,” Mr. Harrison said in a written statement shared with Inside the Beltway.    

“Real news organizations have to be more credible, reliable and factual than some guy on a computer in his parents’ basement. In turn, radio must ooze the definition of ‘big time’ when it comes to the presentation of audio communications. The medium and its industry cannot afford on any level — local or national — to be schlock. I don’t care if there are 10 zillion podcasts out there — other than the specialty ones that target extremely limited and niche audiences — the cream of the crop will always come down to a rarefied handful,” Mr. Harrison said.

“Radio has to be the big-time audio medium with the best information, personalities, talk shows, musical presentation and production values or it will surely perish in the face of the growing onslaught of grassroots digital media,” he said.

“Only then can it restore the magic and prestige to the word ‘radio’ that has kept the medium alive for the past 100 years — regardless of its current technological platforms or receiving appliances. To use a popular sports phrase, radio controls its own destiny,”  Mr. Harrison concluded.

The McCarthy media

Well, there you go. We’re Speaker-less. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California missed out on his chance — at least for the initial series of votes on Tuesday — to become Speaker of the House. And the media was there of course. Here’s a spate of headlines that have surfaced in the last 24 hours:

“Kevin McCarthy’s first try at speakership goes up in flames” (RollingStone); “In historic House vote, Kevin McCarthy fails on first ballot” (MSNBC); “House speaker battle: Profanities fly as Republican factions get heated over McCarthy speakership bid” (Fox News); “19 hardline Republicans vote against Kevin McCarthy for House Speaker” (Business Insider); “5 Things You Didn’t Know About Kevin McCarthy or the Republican speaker drama he started” (Yahoo.com); “Kevin McCarthy’s reckoning” (The Atlantic); “A crisis of Kevin McCarthy’s own making” (New York Times); “Opponents deny McCarthy speaker’s gavel on first vote” (Roll Call).

Mr. McCarthy is no stranger to such coverage. He has received intense, critical press for a while and has weathered the storm for the most part.

Consider this Vanity Fair headline: “Kevin McCarthy: An even bigger political hack than previously thought,” which appeared on June 9, 2022. Then there was this: “Kevin McCarthy is officially in Donald Trump’s doghouse,” which came from CNN two weeks later, on June 23.

And the eventual takeaway message for one and all after the voting is over and done with? That would be “buckle up.”

Forget about 2024

Meanwhile, this is not the most promising news for President Biden.

“Most voters” don’t want him to seek reelection, according to a Rasmussen Reports poll released Tuesday. It revealed that just 33% of likely U.S. voters think Mr. Biden should throw his proverbial hat in the ring with another White House bid. Another 55% say Mr. Biden should not seek a second term, while 11% are not sure.

The survey of 900 likely U.S. voters was conducted Dec. 28-30 by Rasmussen Reports.

Fuel for thought

The political schism among Americans can be found in many sectors — including the nation’s energy sources.

“Democrats and Republicans have very different views on several major types of energy,” reports Linley Sanders, a senior data journalist for YouGov.com, a major pollster.

And yes, there’s a poll.

“Democrats and Republicans have similarly positive views toward a few sources of energy — including fuel cell energy, biofuels, renewable energy generally, and geothermal energy — but there are vast disagreements between the parties on their views of non-renewable energy. Republicans are much more likely to have a net positive view — a larger share viewing favorably than unfavorably — of oil, coal, and fossil fuel energy compared to Democrats,” Ms. Sanders wrote in an analysis of the numbers.

“Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have positive views of certain renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power. Democrats have a +72 net favorable score toward wind power — meaning they are 72 percentage points more likely to see it positively than to see it negatively — compared to +17 for Republicans. When it comes to solar power, Democrats are +79, compared to +42 for Republicans,” she said.

See some partisan views about fossil fuels in particular in the Poll du Jour that follows.

Poll du jour

25% of U.S. adults have a “somewhat favorable” opinion of fossil fuel; 28% of Republicans, 25% of independents and 21% of Democrats agree.

22% overall have a “very favorable” opinion of fossil fuel; 36% of Republicans, 20% of independents and 11% of Democrats agree.

20% don’t know about the issue; 17% of Republicans, 23% of independents and 17% of Democrats agree.

17% overall have a “somewhat unfavorable” opinion of fossil fuel; 11% of Republicans, 15% of independents and 24% of Democrats agree.

17% overall have a “very unfavorable” opinion of fossil fuel; 7% of Republicans, 16% of independents and 28% of Democrats agree.

Source: A YouGov survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 14-16 and released Jan. 3.

Follow Jennifer Harper on Twitter @HarperBulletin.



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