Kellia’s World – Recommended Reading

Challenging the assumptions we live by — Because I want to.

Posts Tagged ‘talk shows’

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Posted by kelliasworld on December 3, 2008

My radio station, KPFA, is known for its liberal editorial positions. That’s long been the case for the flagship of the liberal Pacifica Radio Network. The irony is that decades ago, KPFA opened its phones to the listeners, launching the talk show format now dominated by people who are to the right of Attila the Hun.

KPFA itself doesn’t do that much talk radio, anymore. Thank goodness! I think having John Q. Public bloviating on the airwaves is a waste of valuable airtime, whether the opinions are liberal or conservative. The same with sports talk radio. I love the interviews, which is why I listen. But I tire quickly of both the the fans complaining about whatever, and the hosts opining to each other. That is not to say that I am innocent of participating on both sides of the microphone. The first few times I ever talked to Eric Byrnes of the Arizona Diamondbacks was on sports talk shows in San Francisco. I’ve talked to him three time on radio. I also have called in a few times to shows on KPFA, though not in several years. And I have taken calls as a radio host on at least two occasions. One of them was with the consent of the interviewee, and the other was when there wasn’t time to finish the documentary I was working on, so I filled out the last twelve minutes of a 58-minute program with calls.

I suppose one of the reasons I don’t like talk radio is that I just don’t want to hear the average Joe or Jane on the air. Call me elitist; I don’t care; I’ve been called worse things than that. When I listen to the radio I want to hear interviews with experts whether it’s a pro athlete or coach discussing his team’s chances this season, or an author who has researched the impacts of peak oil on industrial; agriculture. And that’s what I present as a host, the knowledgeable people you don’t get to hear from everyday. I’m willing to hear EVERYMAN and EVERYWOMAN when they are within my circle of friends, or at a demonstration, or in letters to the editor of a newspaper, the reading of which is at my leisure. This is not to say that callers never make good points, some of them do. And some of them ask questions of an interviewee that I didn’t think to ask, and that’s good. Others don’t though. And I don’t have time, as a listener or a host, for that.

Then sometimes you have to cut listeners off or rush them in the interests of time. It’s not always their fault. Sometimes it’s near the end of the program and you want to get in as many as are waiting. This is an example of how the idea that open phones creates a conversation between listener and show is not exactly right. And talk show hosts, liberal and conservative, are not always very nice. Certainly none of us would want, in person, the type of “conversation” we have on the radio.

Another thing is the wait time. Callers sometimes spend hours waiting for 30 seconds on the air. There are people who wait to call in regularly to a show, be it sports or politics, and I wonder why they don’t have anything better to do with their lives than to hang on to that line, or let their cell phone battery run down.

I endured the long wait once. It was another chance to talking to Eric Byrnes, who is on KNBR in San Francisco occasionally as a fill-in host during the baseball off-season. As one of his biggest fans–something he’s acknowledged publicly–I wanted to let him know I was listening, though that wasn’t what we talked about. Maybe that’s different. Maybe it’s not. Having had opportunities to meet Byrnesie and see him on Live Video, I don’t really feel the need to call in anymore.

But perhaps what I dislike most about the talk show format is what the conservatives have done to it: Make it an opportunity for many small minds in America to get their 15 seconds of fame spewing their ignorance, hatred and narrowness all over the airwaves, marching to the drumbeat of a hateful, narrow-minded host, who is not ignorant, but who is deliberately fanning the flames of the worst sentiments in America. And probably being contemptuous of the callers off mic.

I don’t think the first hosts to open the phones at KPFA saw this coming.


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