Just as this year’s election season is getting cranked up with this month’s primary elections, by one measure — radio ratings — public interest in politics has diminished compared to what it was two years ago.
Among 29 local and national radio talkshows airing weekdays on five Tucson radio stations, 15 of them — including some of biggest names — are averaging fewer listeners this year than they did in 2010, according to data compiled from the radio ratings company Arbitron. And in most cases, the declines weren’t small — the average drop was 36.5 percent.
There were exceptions. Glenn Beck’s audience from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on KNST 97.1-FM/790-AM has grown by 19.1 percent since 2010; Sean Hannity’s audience from noon-3 p.m., also on KNST, was up about a half percentage point; Mark Levin’s audience from 7-10 p.m. on the Truth KQTH 104.1-FM was up a whopping 119 percent and comedian/Libertarian Phil Hendrie’s show from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. on the Star KWFM 1330-AM was up 100 percent (though as a late-night show that amounted to 400 listeners).
But the biggest exception to the downturn is NPR affiliate KUAZ 89.1-FM/1550-AM, where audiences are up for seven of its eight daytime informational shows. In fact, among the five local stations, KUAZ is the only one where its overall average was up — in this case, 24.8 percent — from 2010. KUAZ’s biggest gainer was “NPR Morning Edition,” which was up 4.97 percent to an average of 9,133 listeners, from 6,100 two years ago.
Among the other stations, Clear Channel’s KNST with its line-up of the biggest names in conservative talk radio was off a comparatively small 7.2 percent, Journal’s the Truth was down 34.2 percent, Good News’ the Voice KVOI 1030-AM was off 13.6 percent and locally-owned KWFM, which features many liberal voices, was down 57.7 percent.
It can be argued that compared to the other stations, NPR has fewer purely political broadcasts but then that only further bears out a point that radio audiences may be tiring of politics.
Rush Limbaugh is still the big fish when it comes to talk radio with an average Tucson audience of 12,965 people listening to his show but even his audience is down 10 percent from an average of 14,465 two years ago.
In some cases the declines can be explained due to extenuating circumstances. For instance the ratings of Jon Justice’s morning show on the Truth took a hit — he was the market’s second most popular host two years ago and fell to No. 17 this year — and it probably had something to do with his being either off the air or recovering from his second open heart surgery for six weeks of the three-month rating period that ran from March 29 to June 20. As the Truth’s franchise player, that could have had an impact on the ratings for the station’s entire line-up.
Research has long showed that media consumers quickly tire of political news which is why outlets tend to put off coverage until it’s close to Election Day. In TV for instance, Nielsen Media Research, allows stations to exempt election night coverage from their news ratings averages due to the unpredictability of the coverage but also because viewing on election night tends to be lower.
But radio, particularly AM radio, found success in providing political talk. At least until now.
A sure sign the summer dolldrums are about to be behind us: footballs are in the air — and on the air. And this year there’s the added new arrival Wednesday of the Pac 12 Networks — Pac 12 Arizona can be found on Cox Cable channels 75 and 1075 for high definition, on Comcast channels 103 and 598 (HD) and Western Broadband channels 76 and 776 (HD). Sorry, no deal with either DirecTV or Dish Network as of launch day although Pac-12 officials say diligent negotiations with both satellite providers are ongoing. Comcast customers who subscribe to its sports tier programming will also have access to the standard definition version of the Pac-12 national network on channel 283.
Included in the Pac-12 networks’ first week of programs are half-hour football previews of each school in the conference. The UA preview is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sunday (Aug. 19).
Viewers with access to the Pac-12 Arizona network should see every University of Arizona football game this season, one way or another. Each Pac-12 home game will either be on ABC (KGUN 9), Fox (KMSB 11), one of the ESPN networks, FX or the Pac-12 Networks.
Additionally, cable customers with access to the Pac-12 networks will be able to sign-up for computer, smartphone and tablet access to programming at no additional charge. The sign-up is through the cable carrier’s “TV Everywhere” platform.
So far five Wildcats’ games have been set for TV, the first four games under new head coach Rich Rodriguez and the season ender against Arizona State:
• 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1 at home against Toledo on ESPNU
• 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at home against Oklahoma State on Pac-12 Arizona
• 7:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at home against South Carolina State on Pac-12 Arizona
• (Time to be determined) Sept. 22 at Eugene against Oregon will be on either ABC, ESPN or ESPN2
• 8 p.m. Nov. 23 at home against ASU on ESPN
On radio, the Wildcats network and line-up of affiliates remains the same as last year with the Source KCUN 1290-AM as the flagship station and live football game coverage also on K-Hit KHYT 107.5-FM. If you’re traveling around the state, games can also be heard in Phoenix on KFNX 1100-AM, Sierra Vista on KTAN 1420-AM, Douglas on KDAP 96.5-FM, Safford-Thatcher on KWRQ 102.3-FM, Globe on KIKO 1340-AM and in the Show Low-Lakeside-Pinetop are of the White Mountains on KVWM 970-AM. The games are broadcast in Spanish ESPN Deportes KTKT 990-AM in Tucson and XENY 760-AM in Nogales, Sonora.
On Aug. 30 Comcast is adding another new channel called ESPN Goal Line. It will be on channel 281 as part of the sports tier. Basically it’s a college football version of the NFL’s Red Zone channel giving viewers live look-ins of games in progress usually as one team gets into a scoring situation. It operates on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (until the rest of the country goes off Daylight Saving Time, when it will operate an hour later). The channel fires up again during college basketball season as ESPN Buzzer Beater and operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
And when you’re out and about and want to put NFL coverage on autopilot, there’s radio. Once again the Source KCUB 1290-AM will carry the Arizona Cardinals including tonight’s 7 p.m. pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders. KNST 97.1-FM/790-AM is adding live broadcasts of all Dallas Cowboys games this year starting with Sept. 5 season opener against the New York Giants. And ESPN KFFN 1490-AM/104.9-FM will carry Sunday afternoon doubleheaders most weekends as well as most Sunday and Monday night NFL games.
Contact David Hatfield at email@example.com or (520) 295-4237. Inside Tucson Media appears weekly.