Talk radio in the United States
Talk radio is not limited to the AM band. "Non-commercial" usually referred to as "public radio", which is located in a reserved spectrum of the FM band, also broadcasts talk programs. Commercial all-talk stations can also be found on the FM band in many cities across the US. These shows often rely less on political discussion and analysis than their AM counterparts, and often employ the use of pranks and "bits" for entertainment purposes. In the United States and Canada, satellite radio services offer uncensored "free-wheeling" original programming. ABC News & Talk is an example of "rebagging" for the digital airwaves shows featured on their terrestrial radio stations.
Pew researchers found in 2004 that 17% of the public regularly listens to talk radio. This audience is mostly male, middle-aged and conservative. Among those who regularly listen to talk radio, 41% are Republican and 28% are Democrats. Furthermore, 45% describe themselves as conservatives, compared with 18% who say they are liberals. In 2011, the Arbitron portable people meter ratings system, compiled data suggesting that out of 11 nationally rated radio formats, talk radio had lost nearly the most market share and ratings continue to slide. In 2013, Arbitron's Executive Summary noted that " 92% of consumers aged 12 years and older listen to the radio each week" and "News/Talk/Information + Talk/Personality remained No. 1 in PPM markets and No. 2 in the rest of the U.S."
Expressing and debating political opinions has been a staple of radio since the medium's infancy. Aimee Semple McPherson began her radio broadcasts in the early 1920s and even purchased her own station, KFSG which went on the air in February 1924; by the mid-1930s, controversial radio priest Father Charles Coughlin's radio broadcasts were reaching millions per week. There was also a national current events forum called America's Town Meeting of the Air which broadcast once a week starting in 1935. It featured panel discussions from some of the biggest newsmakers and was among the first shows to allow audience participation: members of the studio audience could question the guests or even heckle them.
Talk radio as a listener-participation format has existed since at least the mid-1940s. Working for New York's WMCA in 1945, Barry Gray was bored with playing music and put a telephone receiver up to his microphone to talk with bandleader Woody Herman. Soon followed by listener call-ins, this is often credited as the first instance of talk radio, and Gray is often billed as "The hot mama of Talk Radio."
Author Bill Cherry proposed George Roy Clough as the first to invite listeners to argue politics on a call-in radio show at KLUF, his station in Galveston, Texas, as a way to bring his own political views into listeners' homes. (He later became mayor of Galveston.) Cherry gives no specific date, but the context of events and history of the station would seem to place it also in the 1940s, perhaps earlier. The format was the classic mode in which the announcer gave the topic for that day, and listeners called in to debate the issue.
In 1948 Alan Courtney — New York disk jockey and co-composer of the popular song, "Joltin' Joe Dimaggio" — began a call-in program for the Storer station in Miami, Florida (WGBS) and then on Miami's WQAM, WINZ and WCKR the "Alan Courtney Open Phone Forum" flourished as an avowedly conservative and anti-communist political forum with a coverage area over the Southeastern U.S. and Cuba.
Joe Pyne, John Nebel, Jean Shepherd, and Jerry Williams (WMEX-Boston) were among the first to explore the medium in the 1950s.
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. KTKK, 630 in Salt Lake City, then known as KSXX, adopted a full-time talk schedule in 1965 and has claimed to have been the third station in the country to have done so. KSXX started with all local talent, and KTKK today has a larger portion of its schedule featuring local talent than most other stations that run a full schedule of talk.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, as many listeners abandoned AM music formats for the high fidelity sound of the FM radio dial, the Talk Radio format began to catch on in more large cities. Former music stations such as KLIF (Dallas, Texas), WLW (Cincinnati, Ohio), WHAS (Louisville, Kentucky), WHAM (Rochester, New York), WLS (Chicago, Illinois), KFI (Los Angeles, California), WRKO (Boston, Massachusetts), WKBW (Buffalo, New York), and WABC (New York, New York) made the switch to all-talk as their ratings slumped due to listener migration to the FM band. Since the turn of the 21st century, with many music listeners now migrating to digital music platforms such as Pandora Radio, Sirius XM Radio, and the numerous variations of the iPod, talk radio has been expanding on the FM side of the dial as well.
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