Why Has Liberal Talk Radio Failed in Miami?
Political liberals are almost everywhere in Miami. They're lining up for pro-Obama rallies. They're filling up our college campuses. And they're sure as hell showing up at the ballot box. (Yes, even the Cuban ones.)
Photo by Taylor Wray
But there's one place you won't find left-leaners in South Florida: on the radio.
Since the downfall of WINZ (940 AM) in 2009, the area has not had a station devoted to progressive programming. Talk leader WIOD (610 AM) currently splits its programming with news in the morning and Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck in the afternoons. These conservative pundits pull a huge nationwide rating and seem entrenched on the South Florida airwaves.
But South Florida is different from the rest of the Sunshine State. It's a pocket of liberalism in a state that often leans to the right. Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in 2012 and basically secured the state's blue status.
So why don't we have more liberals expressing their views over the airwaves?
Ken Charles is a former programming director for WINZ and WIOD. He grew up in Tampa and came to Miami in 2007. Two years later, he was instrumental in the shift of WINZ from a progressive format to an all sports station.
"They are both different, but WIOD's primary purpose was news while WINZ's was talk," said Charles, the national brand manager for news talk for Clear Channel. "They stood for different things."
While WIOD was successful in balancing both news and conservative talk, WINZ was always heavy on talk according to Charles. Hosts like Jim Defede and Nicole Sandler brought a local flavor to the station, but the national shows syndicated on the network brought down overall ratings and revenue. Those national shows came from the now defunct Air America.
"The people who launched Air America forgot that entertainment is important in radio," Charles said by phone from Sacramento. "I learned early on that my politics didn't matter. If I made decisions based on my politics, we would probably be broke and unemployed."