Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Talk radio is a radio format which features discussion of topical issues. Talk radio typically includes an element of listener participation, usually broadcasting conversations with listeners who have placed telephone calls to speak with the program's host. Generally, the shows are organized into segments, a program segment followed by a commercial segment. In public (non-commercial) radio, sometimes music is played in place of commercials to separate the program segments. Listener contributions are usually screened by a show's producer(s) in order to maximize audience interest and, in the case of commercial talk radio, attract advertisers.
Two radio stations—KMOX, 1120 AM in St. Louis, Missouri, and KABC, 790 AM in Los Angeles—adopted an all-talk show format in 1960, and both claim to be the first to have done so. KABC station manager Ben Hoberman and KMOX station manager Robert Hyland independently developed the all-talk format. While "all-talk" was new, call-in talk programs had existed in a number of markets prior to 1960.
In the late 1970s, as listeners abandoned AM music formats for the high fidelity stereo sound of the FM radio dial, the Talk Radio format began to catch on in more large cities. Former music stations such as WLW (Cincinnati, Ohio), WHAS (Louisville, Kentucky), WHAM (Rochester, New York), WLS (Chicago, Illinois), KFI AM (Los Angeles, California) and WABC (New York, New York) made the switch to all-talk as their ratings slumped due to listener migration to the FM band.
Talk radio is not limited to AM radio; shows like Talk of the Nation and Car Talk can also be found on the FM-based National Public Radio network. Commercial all-talk stations can be found on the FM band in Los Angeles, Boston and other cities.
Commercial talk radio's market share in the US is evaluated by Arbitron, a commercial rating service. Stations utilizing Arbitron's information are contractually forbidden to mention Arbitron on the air.
U.S. politically-oriented talk radio
The United States saw dramatic growth in the popularity of talk radio during the 1990s. The repeal of the FCC "fairness doctrine" in 1987—which had required that stations provide free air time for responses to any controversial opinions that were broadcast—provided an opportunity for a kind of flatly partisan (and often intentionally inflammatory) programming that had not previously existed. (There had been some precursors for this, such as the Los Angeles-area controversialist Joe Pyne , who would attack callers on his program in the early 1960s – one of his famous insults was "gargle with razor blades!" – as well as the similar Bob Grant in New York City.) The most successful pioneer in the 1990s talk radio movement was the politically conservative humorist Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh's success demonstrated that there was a market for passionately delivered conservative (and in most cases, partisan Republican) commentary on contemporary events, and many nationally-syndicated hosts have followed Limbaugh's lead in recent years, including Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy, Laura Ingraham, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, Larry Elder, and Michael Reagan. The Salem Radio Network syndicates a group of religiously-oriented Republican activists, including evangelical Christian Hugh Hewitt and Jewish conservatives Dennis Prager and Michael Medved. Libertarians such as Neal Boortz and Gary Nolan have also achieved some success. Many of these hosts also publish books, appear on television, and give public lectures (Limbaugh, again, was a pioneer of this model of multi-media punditry).
Politically liberal talk radio aimed at a national audience has also emerged, although an organized attempt to provide liberal/Democratic commentary to counter the dominance of conservative/Republican politics in talk radio is largely a fledgling enterprise. Air America Radio, a network featuring The Al Franken Show that was founded in 2004 as a "progressive alternative" to right-wing talk, is a prominent example of liberal talk on commercial radio, and there are syndicated liberal talk programs of recent vintage as well, such as The Ed Schultz Show. A few earlier syndicated programs were hosted by prominent Democrats who were not experienced broadcasters, such as Jim Hightower, Jerry Brown, Mario Cuomo and Alan Dershowitz; these met with limited success.
Left-wing opinion radio has long existed on the Pacifica network, though only available in a small number of cities, and in formats that more often act as a volunteer-run community forum than as a platform for charismatic hosts who would be likely to attract a large audience. Some conservatives argue that the long-format news programming on National Public Radio serves as a platform for liberal commentary on radio, although the network denies any partisan agenda.
Variety of formats
Other topics of discussion in talk radio include:
- ethics and morality from Dr. Joy and Dr. Laura,
- relationships, as on shows such as Loveline and "The Satellite Sisters"
- mental health from David Viscott
- computers from Leo Laporte and Kim Komando,
- consumer advocacy e.g. Clark Howard,
- automobiles, as on Car Talk, and
- personal finance from Bob Brinker and Dave Ramsey.
Others specialize in talk radio comedy such as Phil Hendrie. George Noory and Art Bell take turns hosting the late-night talk radio show Coast to Coast AM, which deals with a variety of paranormal topics. Some shock jocks such as Howard Stern, Don Imus, and Tom Leykis, are also talk radio hosts.
Sports talk radio can be found locally and nationally (with the networks ESPN Radio, Fox Sports, and Sporting News Network). Sports talk stations like WFAN in New York City and WEEI in Boston have done well in the ratings (aided by baseball and football game broadcasts.)
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