Another Air America Affiliate Bites The Dust

18 10 2007

 Air America Logo

KOKE-AM to Air America Radio: “Adios, Amigo!”

Here in the progressive, hip, liberal blue-city-in-a-red-state mecca of Austin, TX, another Air America affiliate has apparently bought the farm. KOKE-AM 1600 is no longer.

Austinites will now have to tune to XM Satellite radio channel 167 to get their weekly dose of “Ring of Fire,” the Air America show hosted by Bobby Kennedy Jr., Mike Papantonio and John Morgan.

As of midnight October 17th, KOKE-AM was sold by Border Media Partners to Encino Broadcasting, LLP, for $5.5 million, along with two other stations. Encino’s owner, Jose J. Garcia (who owned KOKE years ago before it was sold to BMP) decided to change the format from progressive talk to Mexican Norteno music.

Why KOKE switched to the Mexican music format is somewhat puzzling considering that Austin already has about 5 or 6 Spanish language stations. Three stations in town offer conservative talk programming.

So Austin just lost it’s ONLY liberal news/talk station. No more Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Rachel Maddow, or “Ring of Fire”…and once again, the voice of the left has been silenced.

The sale of KOKE continues what appears to be an unfortunate trend for Air America. The recent loss of affiliate stations in liberal strongholds such as Boston, Austin, and San Diego (whose KLSD will switch formats to sports on Nov. 1st, despite online petitions and local demonstrations imploring the station’s owners to keep AAR on the air) challenges the network to find a way to reach listeners through outlets other than the commercial airwaves.

Although media insiders knew this sale was coming, the average listener in Austin had no advance warning at all. Perhaps because the station owner’s didn’t want another San Diego-style protest on their hands. They just did it quietly, in the middle of the night. No  announcement until after the deal was done.

I noticed late last night that KOKE had dead air for several hours. Just thought it was a transmitter problem (these are not unusual at KOKE), until I turned on the station at 5am when I woke up, only to hear Mexican music instead of the “Young Turks.”

First reaction was “huh”? Then, it became clear this was a permanent format change. Why?

Well, let’s examine the summer `07 Arbitron ratings for this market:






Yikes. Can’t even pull 1% in Austin, TX? Amazing but true. Don’t ask me why. This is a city that is overwhelmingly Democratic, yet the right-wing talk radio stations in town such as KLBJ-AM consistently get much better ratings.

Another factor in KOKE’s demise is that the station lacked local programming. No local live call-in shows. No news staff. No involvement in the local community. The entirety of their programming was Air America, along with a few football games and weekend shows beamed in from the Dallas market.

Austinites don’t give a damn what’s going on in Dallas, but they DO care passionately about local issues. And they had no outlet for interaction on the Austin airwaves, especially considering that KLBJ-AM is rather infamous for screening out callers who disagree with their conservative viewpoint.

KLBJ, to their credit, knows how to do news/talk successfully. They have a newsroom staff of 7-10 people, several local call-in shows, advertising, billboards, promotions, and stay completely engaged in the community. It doesn’t hurt that they are a heritage station with those legendary call letters.

Always thought it ironic that our right-wing news talk station in town was KLBJ, owned for 40 years by the family of one of our nation’s more liberal Democratic presidents.

Somehow, I don’t think it’s quite what Lyndon and Lady Bird had in mind.

Copyright 2007 by All Rights Reserved.




2 responses

2 06 2008
S A Mead

I accidently found RFK, Jr on th we radion Sunday night. I enjoyed the listening. Now I can’t locate the radio again. What are the numbers of the AM station ?

Bobby’s voice sounded awful, like something was wrong with his throat.


6 06 2008
New Frontier

You can check out a list of Air America affiliates to find a station in your area at: or

Bobby’s voice sounds that way because he has spasmodic dysphonia, a vocal disorder that causes the voice to sound quavery.

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