When listeners of Bay Area progressive talk radio station Green 960 tuned into to host Stephanie Miller's weekday morning drive-time radio program on Wednesday, they were in for quite a shock.
Instead of hearing Miller's acerbic, outspokenly liberal commentary, listeners instead heard the voice of Glenn Beck.
To recap: the most liberal commercial talk radio station in the most liberal market in the country now features Mr. Tea Party himself as the cornerstone of its daily programming.
This change is part of a larger series of shakeups at the Clear Channel-owned station that have seen the San Antonio-based media behemoth repeatedly going back and forth over Green 960's future.
Stating in mid-December, Clear Channel announced it was going to take Green 960 off the regular airwaves and move it onto the little-used HD2 format. Its spot on the dial would be filled by its right-wing, also Clear Channel-owned counterpart (anyone notice a pattern here?), Fox News Radio, which, in turn, would have its spot filled with a new, decidedly more conservative, talk radio station. According to a company press release, the new station would embody, "the spirit of Fox's 'fair and balanced' approach," augmenting Beck's show with a program hosted by Fox News' favorite liberal, Alan Colmes.
Even though this plan was quickly scuttled, what ended up happening was something far stranger.
Likely due to an extreme shakeup at legendary Bay Area talk radio staple KGO 810, Clear Channel decided to keep Green 960 in a place where people could actually listen to it, but made a number of significant changes to the station's very DNA.
"You might call it splitting the baby," noted blogger and radio host Brad Friedman, who has been closely following the action at the station. "Sort of," he added.
While Miller's Los Angeles-broadcast show remains on the air, albeit in the less desirable 7pm to 10pm time slot, the station is making a concerted effort to shed its forcefully left-wing image. Gone is the "green" label (although there are still some vestiges of it on the station's re-branded website). That's been replaced by the name KNEW 960 and the fairly nondescript tagline, "Opinions. Finance. Advice."
Similarly, Tom Hartman's show has moved from its late morning time slot to the midnight graveyard shift.
Both San Francisco Bay Guardian publisher Bruce Brugman and lefty talk radio host Mike Malloy, whose show on the network was moved even further into middle of the night then Hartman's, noted that Clear Channel was purchased by Bain Capital, a Boston-based private equity firm founded by Mitt Romney, in a 2008 leveraged buyout. Brugman and Malloy speculated that Green 960's reshuffling could be part of a concerted effort to remove progressive voices from the airwaves in the months preceding Romney receiving the Republican nomination, something that beltway insiders feel is all but assured.
Historically, the station exclusively played easy listening music for decades until it switched over to a talk format--primarily featuring programming from the short-lived liberal Air America radio network--in 2004. It repositioned itself as Green 960 in 2007 with a focus on environmental issues.