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(Women in Radio & Audio Production)
AM Clear Channel for Feminists
October 23, 1995
Last time you were in Austin you talked about having had a live talk show in New York that started around the time Rush Limbaugh's did, but was later cancelled. Since then, I've thought you should have one again, but at the national level. [Your performance on McNeil/Lehrer before the Beijing conference was a great example of getting the world out under fire.]
In doing research for media possibilities around Beijing, I started looking into AM clear channels - you know, the stations that have really wide coverage at night - in rural areas, and on the highways is probably their main listenership.
One of these stations called me back this week saying they have an opening - a half-hour lot M-F 11:30-midnite (local time, New Orleans). Their asking price, which is typical for clear-channels, is $375/half-hour. For an annual contract, that would be about $85,000 - not counting, of course, the phone bill, satellite or ISDN fees to deliver the program to the station, personnel, or anything else.
The owner of the station told me that the program right after this - starting at midnight - is a show for truckers called "The Road Gang Show" that has 30,000 card-carrying members and is simultaneously on five 50,000-watt stations that combined blanket the whole U.S.
I'm not going to say that this is a great idea and you should do it, but it's worth brainstorming about. The AM stations are a kind of radio ghetto that may be ripe for gentrification. Clear-channels are based on an obsolete notion of national need, and there is starting to be a move to dismantle them, so if we don't use them now, in a few years they may not be there. It would be an opportunity to carry feminism into the heart of enemy territory - typical users of these stations now are radio ministries, who subsidize themselves by a combination of raising money from their churches and selling "prayer cloths" and such; sporting events; Rush Limbaugh and his clones; and advice lines.
If you had a talk show in this realm, I would think at the least it would be of huge interest to other media, and scare the bejesus out of the so-called Christians who are always attacking feminism (while sometimes co-opting our issues) on these same stations. While the station might be in reach of feminist listeners around the South (and there will be some), a feminist program could also offer some alternative thinking to people who haven't heard anything but vilification of our movement up to now.
The advantage of these stations over noncommercial ones is that you can solicit money any way you want, including selling unrelated products. My assistant suggested the right thing to sell would be contraceptives ! I mentioned this to the station owner at WWL, and he didn't freak outů
I'm not ready to write up a formal proposal for this thing yet, but would simply like to know if you are interested in the idea and want to discuss it. As Hillary told the NGOs, it is up to us to take action on the Platform for Action - including getting access to media.
Good work in Beijing, thank you!