Hiding in Plain Sight

To find truly progressive media outlets, try looking beneath the radar.

Although this methodology is relatively inexpensive, Thin Air remains a shoestring operation. Kovash gets money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Program Fund and private donors such as former Beirut hostage Tom Sutherland, whose largesse helped Greeley's KUNC remain independent ("Going Public," February 21). But his proposal to produce new episodes of Thin Air on a weekly, rather than monthly, basis, remains out of reach. "We're not there yet," he says.

In this respect, FSTV is more fortunate. It currently has the financial wherewithal to invest a six-figure sum in a satellite "bus" that will allow the channel to broadcast live from hot spots around the country. But buying satellite time is expensive, and so is paying so many employees. "It's risky to do this," anchor Service admits. "We're in a period of huge growth when we're in a recession, and our country is at war with the whole world. So it's a bold move, but it's also an important one. With what the media's like today, Americans especially need Free Speech TV more than ever."

Conservatives who feel the media is already liberal enough would undoubtedly disagree. But FSTV's E'der thinks there's value in a station that openly acknowledges its opinions rather than pretending to be completely evenhanded.

Public service: Shannon Service anchoring from Free Speech TV's Boulder studio.
Public service: Shannon Service anchoring from Free Speech TV's Boulder studio.

"In a way, the whole fair-and-balanced argument has been co-opted to attack a diversity of voices," she says. "And if that can be demystified, maybe folks won't be so freaked by what we do. We're hopefully a part of a democratic media system -- and we should be."

Christmas in November: Each year's pre-Christmas push seems to come a bit earlier than the last one; it won't be long before retailers of every stripe dispense with the pretense and leave their December decorations up permanently. This trend seems to extend to Denver radio stations, too. Specifically, easy-listening KOSI has completely redesigned its Web site, www.KOSI101.com, to evoke a Yuletide mood and began playing wall-to-wall holiday music way back on November 15. The jingle bells will keep ringing until December 26.

On the surface, this seems like a desperation move intended to bring attention to a faltering station -- but KOSI doesn't fit that description. In the summer Arbitron ratings book, the outlet placed an impressive second overall among listeners ages twelve and above, behind only KBCO. So why on earth is the outlet tossing out its entire playlist and getting Santa-centric well over a month before the big day?

"It's an idea I've seen stations like KOSI around the country do," says program director Mark Edwards, who joined KOSI on November 1 following stints in Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis. "Some of them have done it for a long time, but a whole lot of them did it last year, and it was wildly successful. With the world being the way it is and people wanting to concentrate more on family and the good feelings of the season, we thought it would be good to do it here, especially since KOSI's always done Christmas music. We wanted to get it on the air before anyone else did and see what the listeners' response is."

Thus far, Edwards concedes, the feedback has been mixed. "It's been about fifty-fifty," he says. "The downside of this, for a big station like KOSI, is that listeners have been listening to it for a long time, and not everyone's ready for Christmas yet. And any kind of change can be unnerving to a listener: changing air personalities, a musical shift, whatever. But a lot of people really like it, especially since most of the artists we're playing -- Whitney Houston, Elton John, Kenny G -- are artists we play anyway. And I think that number will grow. This year, Thanksgiving is about as late as it can be, and after that, it's only a little over three weeks until Christmas. It won't be long before everyone is in the Christmas spirit."

Scrooges out there should consider that a warning.

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