The following is an email I sent earlier today to The Big Talker, WPHT 1210AM Philadelphia.
Dear 1210 Staff,
As a longtime listener to Michael Smerconish and 1210, it's with sadness that tomorrow I will be changing the 1210 button on my car radio dial to a different station, due to your station dropping Beck and Hannity.
While I agree with Mr Smerconish that most citizens don't see political issues purely from a "conservative" or "liberal" viewpoint, that is an entirely different matter than the unquestioning acceptance of such views, from either side, by someone in the role of a radio host.
Some years ago I was an announcer, and later host of my own local program, on an NPR affiliate. Having said that (and as the person who downloaded and listened to the nightly NPR satellite news feed) it has long been clear to me that there is far more open-mindedness on most "conservative" talk radio shows, including a willingness to let the other side speak, than on shows leaning in the other direction.
As an example, while Bush was still president, both Hannity and Beck became essentially persona non grata with the White House press office, for their constant drumbeat regarding the financial irresponsibility of the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans. When has Mr Smerconish shown such a willingness to question the actions of Mr Obama and his friends?
Instead, what I have too often heard is Michael passing along their version of various stories without comment or question. And, very surprisingly from the man who wrote books like "Muzzled!" (of which I have a copy), I hear very little about the erosion of civil liberties under this administration -- including their unabashed contempt for allowing commentators to speak with whom they do not agree.
There are other things about 1210's broadcast philosophy which have long troubled me. One has been the station's willingness to give free airtime to Philadelphia city officials on a regular basis. An occasional interview is fine and appropriate, but not a weekly 30 or 60 minute soapbox. And I could not help noticing that more often than not, these officials have expressed disagreement if not downright contempt for people who (I believe) make up a good portion of your listening audience, and principles they have considered important. I have sometimes heard such callers to those programs (when calls are being taken at all, which is not always the case) shouted down by these people, or their questions not engaged with. While 1210 has no control over the behavior of these guests, once again I think the appropriateness of their frequent appearance on the station should be revisited.
For what it's worth, I think the station started to go downhill after CBS took it over. Considering that CBS also employs the likes of Katie Couric, I am not surprised at this decline. In fact, I have been pleased the decline has proceeded as slowly as it has (other than Mr Smerconish's rapid and obvious shift, around that time, to views that just happen to be more palatable to folks like those who run CBS).
Between the sort of pressure to change content that I can imagine might have come down from CBS, and from various leading citizens in the Philadelphia city government who are most certainly not aligned with the views of much of your listenership, I would think 1210 might be in a pretty tough spot, perhaps without much choice to do otherwise.
Whatever the reason, I think it's a sad come-down for what I once thought was one of the finest big-city radio stations anywhere.
And since you are now cutting way back on the informative and thought-provoking content for which I have long turned to 1210, in favor of the pablum Mr Smerconish has increasingly been giving us (which is one reason I have more and more often been tuning to Imus), I will be changing my current 1210 radio button to another station where this content is available.