Roaring Fork Valley’s radio waves break to the right | AspenTimes.com

Roaring Fork Valley’s radio waves break to the right

Chad Abraham

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times Michael Conniff, live on the air with KNFO's talk radio show "Con Games" Tuesday, Nov 8, 2005

Weird things happen when you mention Rush Limbaugh’s name.When asked why a pretty liberal place such as the Roaring Fork Valley has so much right-wing radio, residents somehow let words like “progressive” creep into sentences involving the name of the conservative talk show host.Aspenites are so open-minded that Limbaugh is simply regarded as another part of the cultural stew and it’s a good thing to have access to him to consider other views. That’s according to a very informal poll taken of several people in the Clark’s Market parking lot in Aspen. And while most seemed able to at least tolerate Limbaugh, not one person wanted their name used.OK, tolerance is one thing. But c’mon, does the valley really need six straight hours of Limbaugh and his conservative brother-in-arms, Sean Hannity?Well, no. Hannity was recently dropped by 106.1 KNFO, the Aspen station that also airs Limbaugh. Hannity’s three-hour program has been replaced by Bill O’Reilly’s program, “The Radio Factor,” which runs two hours. The final hour of Hannity’s old spot is taken by “Con Games,” a local radio show with a liberal bent.Colleen Barill, KNFO general manager, said the new lineup offers more diversity. The back-to-back glut of Limbaugh and Hannity drew plenty of complaints, she said.”Rush and Hannity were very similar, and six hours of that is a little bit too much,” Barill said.The decision wasn’t easy. Hannity had many local fans, she said, and it’s the nationally syndicated hosts who bring in the ratings and advertising. But subtracting Hannity and adding O’Reilly and “Con Games” has been positive, Barill said.”We really wanted to give a little more of both sides and make it a little more open dialogue,” she said. “That’s why we added the ‘Con Games’ program. It’s totally taken off. It lets people have an outlet in this valley.”There’s a good chance that the local program, hosted by Michael Conniff, could be extended past its one-hour running time, Barill said.But is there any difference between O’Reilly and Hannity, who both seem a close second to Limbaugh in the loudest American category? Barill said yes.”[O’Reilly] definitely has a very different approach than Sean Hannity,” she said. “His content, his style, everything is very different. He delivers more of a reporting-style show.”People now “love the programming,” including several Hannites who have been converted to “The Radio Factor,” Barill said. And Limbaugh continues to have a following that’s “unbelievable.”To be sure, there are a few national radio hosts who are liberal. But Barill seemed less than enthused about adding one of them to KNFO’s lineup. Asked about Al Franken’s show, she said it is not doing well.”I don’t know that the show is going to be around in a year,” Barill said. “There’s not many choices out there for left-leaning programming that is on solid ground. There just really isn’t. If somebody can present a really good show, we’d entertain [using] it.”Besides “Con Games,” balancing out the conservatism on the local airwaves are community stations KAJX in Aspen and KDNK in Carbondale. Both have multiple frequencies up and down the valley.KDNK general manager Shawna Claiborne said her station is membership-based, meaning that, to a large extent, what the members want, they get.Her station offers such national liberal fare as “Alternative Radio,” “Making Contact” and “Democracy Now.””We are definitely an alternative media source,” she said.In contrast to Barill, Claiborne said such programming is “hugely successful.” KDNK has repeatedly reached the annual revenue goals it sets for itself, and membership and underwriting continue to grow, she said. Even so, the station’s overall goal is not monetary-based.”Community radio is certainly not all about the profit margin,” Claiborne said. “It’s more about offering the listeners a service and what they’re wanting.”It’s not that we’re trying by any means to be a ‘liberal’ radio station. We’re just trying to offer programs that aren’t offered elsewhere on the dial.”In trying to accomplish that, as Barill said, “It’s tough to please everybody.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is chad@aspentimes.com

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