Is Talk Radio Turning Left?

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MSNBC has been been poaching liberal voices from the ranks of talk radio hosts for some time. Last year they bought — oops, “brought” — Rachel Maddow on board in the 9pm time slot. Viewership  jumped. Maddow was previously a host on Air America, a network based on progressive politics. Now MSNBC is at it again, hooking another popular liberal voice from talk radio and bringing him to the small screen. New York Times media reporter, Brain Stelter, reveals that MSNBC signed a contract with radio talk show host Ed Schultz, a self-described “gun-totin’, meat-eatin’ lefty.” According to Stelter:

MSNBC will soon add another liberal radio host, the latest in a series of changes intended to position the network as a venue for left-leaning voices in the evening. Ed Schultz, a radio veteran with a blue-state appeal, will anchor the 6 p.m. hour, to be called “The Ed Show,” starting Monday [April 6, 2009], MSNBC, a unit of NBC Universal, announced Wednesday night.

Talk radio is huge. Take a look at Rush Limbaugh’s following if you don’t believe me. Since its inception it has also been overwhelmingly conservative in nature. Only in recent years has there been any challenge to the status quo in talk radio. Led by Air America — who Schultz has a history of spats with — progressive talk radio has nowhere the reach or hold on audiences that conservatives have amassed. Now, as we enter a new era in the United States with a more progressive administration, it seems liberal talk is going mainstream. Maddow’s success on the radio and in her new cable TV program are a good indicator of the shift. Now Schultz, who calls himself liberal on some issues and conservative on others, will see if his listeners can crossover to viewers. Does talk radio object to being the “minor leagues” for television news show hosts? Why do so many radio talkshow hosts return to the medium after torrid affairs with TV? Why do you think TV networks are poaching talent from talk radio rather than modeling agencies? Do you think the trend of progressive TV talkshow hosts will continue? Do you think the left can match the right in raw radio listenership, or is this just a blip?

Photo courtesy of Bradley G, used under its Creative Commons license

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