Today, news filtered down on programming changes at KUDO 1080AM Radio, “Alaska’s Progressive Voice.” It may feel like a sad day for many of us, and many of those reasons are personal and valid. For me, it has been a sad year for Alaska’s Progressive Voice.
I was hired as a first time broadcaster by Larry Bell, business manager for the IBEW 1547. We were sitting next to each other on a long flight. We kicked up a conversation about Alaska politics. I was on my way to my grandmother’s funeral. I instantly liked Larry, he reminded me of my pop; principled, disciplined, looking for the best in everyone and a “by the book” man of his word. He proved my first impression right at every turn.
When the IBEW bought a radio station, I thought it was brilliant investment. They would finally have a voice to counter the national and local right wing, fascist voices dominating and spinning lies disguised as opinion on the airwaves of Anchorage.
The radio medium is high drama; egos, ratings, money, pressure, balancing entertainment with content, equipment failures, duct tape solutions; and an occasional mouse in the studio.
Progressive Radio is no different. However, the stakes seem higher than just ratings alone. Those stakes are about elections and quality of life. Municipal elections, local energy co-op elections, important state and national legislation as well as social issues have all been affected by the mosquito fleet of listeners who picked up their phones and called City Hall, Juneau and Washington. The “Ku-Dawgs” and their daily doses of “Vitamin Democracy” forced CHANGE.
Last Spring, the political landscape in Anchorage shifted to the left. KUDO had 7 hours of local programming between my show, Cutting Edge with CC, and the Aaron Selbig Show. We had a record Democratic Caucus turnout-1,700% higher than the last presidential election caucus. Hundreds of listeners showed up at assembly meetings and participated in their government. Folks showed up en masse at protests. The Anchorage Assembly turned blue. All of the progressive initiatives on the ballot passed.
This red town was being painted blue one stroke at a time. It was progressive nirvana approaching a blue state of mind. KUDO was a huge part of that change. It was a time not seen before or since in Anchorage radio.
I support the Union. I still believe their decision to buy KUDO 1080AM was one of the most progressive moves a union could make. A year ago, a contract was signed with TATI broadcasting and Cary Carrigan. On Day One, Aaron Selbig was fired along with with several others. Cary Carrigan became Program Director and host of a new 3 hour morning show.
Arbitron books cost stations’ thousands of dollars. The lifeblood of a station is determined by those books. No one ever changes direction in the middle of a book; let alone a book that would reflect the tremendous political change that just occurred in Anchorage. That was the first of many unprecedented and detrimental changes that would occur under Carrigan’s direction.
Two months later, after much stress and inconsistent programming, (Cary moved my show from the highest rated time slot to the lowest, sliced it in half, and inserted a half hour gold infomercial at the beginning) I was fired. A week later, I had a meeting at TATI with Mike Robbins and Cary to put bread on the water. I had new sponsors lined up for my show’s return. I had the union’s support. I even promised to behave…they said no. They told me they weren’t renewing my contract-code for “you’re fired!”
Until now, I have never written about what happened to me at KUDO except to say how much I love and support the union. I still do. I wanted to take the high road.
I haven’t suffered because of Cary and Mike’s decision. Neither has the very happy, new Homer resident and Homer News reporter, Aaron Selbig. CC, to her credit, has hung in there under what I can only imagine to be regressive circumstances.
In a year dominated with the expansion of the Corrupt Bastards Club, Sarah Palin’s Vice Presidential run, Ted Steven’s indictment-conviction-election loss and subsequent conviction reversal, AND Mark Begich’s election as the first Alaska Democrat to go to Washington since I was 10. KUDO should have been on the NATIONAL map, and yet, they couldn’t crawl out of the cellar according to the Arbitron ratings.
When I was paid for my radio life at KUDO, it was never lost on me that every dime was from an hour of a union members time. Those same dollars were squandered by Cary Carrigan and Mike Robbins at TATI.
CC knows being a progressive isn’t just what you talk about on the air…it’s who you are…and she is an amazing woman and activist. What happened to KUDO is in no way reflective of CC, she is nothing short of valiant.
Cary would broadcast from Home Depot if he was offered a hardware show. He’s a mic whore; it’s different.
The decision to cut bait (local programming) by the Union for having their voice on their station is self explanatory. The baby leftward steps we have made as a community are in some part because of the thousands of un-returned dollars put up by the men and women of the IBEW local 1547.