Monday, May 15, 2006

On The Media Beat: Talk Radio Feels Prez's Pain; Local Ratings Nosedive Along With Bush, Plus: Dateline Santa Fe & Lorene Mills, And: My Bottom Lines 

It could be coincidence, but local radio mavens are pointing to the cellar-dwelling ratings of President Bush as one of the chief reasons for a recent precipitous decline in the ratings of New Mexico's leading news-talk radio station. 50,000 watt 770 KKOB-AM has shed over 21 percent of its audience in the last few months, and while it still remains the most listened to station in the ABQ market among those aged 12 plus, it now earns a 7.6 share of the audience compared to a 9.7 share late last year. Also, KAGM 106.3 FM talk, another voice of the conservative gospel, has been unable to gain traction after more than a year on the air. It scores just a 0.9 share of ABQ area listeners.

All this is occurring against the backdrop of the President's dramatic decline in public approval with polls now showing him around 30 percent, the worst of his presidency and among the lowest for any president ever.

New Mexico is no exception. Bush has fallen off the charts here. Perhaps because we are a swing state--the Prez won here in 04' by just a couple of thousands votes--his unpopularity is hurting the stations that still trumpet his cause as the public tunes him out. KKOB insiders say they are confident the station will be back to its old self, but point to the Bush decline as one of the reasons for their bad times.

KAGM says it is in the talk radio game for the "long-term" but without the history and financial stability of the state's largest station, radio insiders say times could get tougher for the fledgling operation unless it starts turning the corner quickly.

And it's not as though talk listeners are flocking to liberal talk radio. KABQ-AM 1350, which carries the tough-on-Bush Air America network, commands a respectable 2.0 share of the radio audience, but has not jumped as its right-wing rivals decline.


One of the more interesting developments is the growing popularity of non-commercial National Public Radio. In recent ratings NPR affiliate KUNM 89.9 FM was the number two ranked ABQ station in the critical 7 a.m. "drive time" hour during which KUNM carries the critically acclaimed NPR news.

Former KKOB general manager and veteran radio executive Art Schreiber says other reasons for the talk radio ratings ramp down here include the advent of satellite radio, the heavy commercialism of all "terrestrial" radio, the decision by the ratings company to "weight" more Hispanic listeners and increased media offerings on the Internet.

Whatever the reasons, radio is confronting the same issue the newspapers have been--declining audiences as the multiplicity of choices eats away at all mass media. And it doesn't help when you are singing the praises of a politician who each week grows increasingly unpopular.

Lorene Mills
Speaking of media choices, we don't have Ernie Mills anymore. The legendary Santa Fe reporter passed away three years ago. But did you know Ernie's wife, Lorene, continues the tradition? Sure does. I checked in with here recently and asked her to update us on all things Mills.

"I am busy carrying on Ernie's work, and loving it! I am still writing The Mills Capitol Observer, producing "Dateline New Mexico" the statewide syndicated radio broadcast and presenting weekly television interviews on "Report from Santa Fe" on the statewide PBS network.

A recent interview was a rare half hour with Stewart Udall, Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and Congressman Tom Udall, of New Mexico's Third Congressional District. The father and son have never been interviewed together for New Mexico television.

"Report from Santa Fe" airs Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. on Channel 3, KENW-TV, the PBS station in Portales. In ABQ and Santa Fe we are on KNME-Tv, channel 5 Sunday mornings at 6:00 a.m. and at 1 p.m. on KCHF-TV, channel 11. Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m. we air in Las Cruces on KRWG-TV."

Thanks Lorene. Tune in if you get a chance as it is one of the last outlets for the long-form political interview. And, as Ernie would say: "Don't say we didn't tell you!"


The number of choices on the Net in our Enchanted Land continues to grow. Former ABQ Journal reporter Diane Velasco has started a site called "The Citizen" to involve the public, she says, in the news that matters to them....Heath Haussamen has left the Las Cruces Sun-News to blog on Dona Ana county and southern NM. Heath fans will be able to hear him in ABQ as he will be my Las Cruces correspondent for our live, continuos coverage of the June 6 primary on KANW 89.1 FM in Albuquerque. I will anchor and top NM Lobbyist Scott Scanland will, as usual, also be on hand for the festivities, along with a bunch of the other usual suspects. If you are interested in sponsoring this public radio event drop me an e-mail. We have a limited number of slots available...

It may be one of the more low-key primaries, but that hasn't stopped the ABQ Trib from putting out a comprehensive voters guide that covers all the key races. Check it out here. Absentee voting is already underway....The campaign of Dem attorney general candidate Gary King never did hit the TV airwaves last week as a campaign spokesman told us would happen, but the spots are apparently done and will, the campaign says, come this week. Meantime, Geno Zamora and Lem Martinez--mainly Zamora--have had the airwaves to themselves for a couple of weeks.

That's it for today. See you later, Gator.

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