Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Clear Channel Hires Jesse Jackson as Host For Talk-Radio Show

Announced on the day Air America's liberal radio network launches.

This is a story from today's Wall Street Journal, written by Sarah McBride:

Clear Channel Communications Inc., the radio company that frequently comes under fire for its large donations to Republican politicians and allegedly conservative bent in programming, is taking a high-profile step in the other direction.

The company has signed up former Democratic presidential candidate the Rev. Jesse Jackson as a host for a Sunday-morning talk-radio show based in Chicago, the nation's third-biggest radio market after New York and Los Angeles. It also will run in New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Norfolk, Va. In addition, Clear Channel plans to test programming from a new liberal radio network, Air America, in the Portland, Ore., market.

"I think they are making a concerted effort to appease the Washington establishment," said Sheryl Leanza, deputy director of the Media Access Project, a consumer advocacy group. "They have become aware that they are a target, and are trying to ameliorate that."

But Clear Channel said it hired Mr. Jackson because it thought he could draw listeners. "We run the radio division for our local markets," said John Hogan, who heads Clear Channel's radio division. "We don't run it for Washington."

Mr. Jackson, who said he had talked with several companies over the past few months about hosting a radio show, said Clear Channel was the most attractive because it could offer him a live, syndicated show in several big markets.

Mr. Jackson currently guest hosts once a month or so on a Chicago radio station, and had a long-running show on CNN in the 1990s called "Both Sides With Jesse Jackson." That show didn't do particularly well in ratings, but Clear Channel believes his personality is better suited to radio. "It's a very personal, intimate medium, and he has that rare ability to connect with people," said Mr. Hogan.

The show makes its debut Sunday at 8 a.m. Eastern time.

I didn't link to this story because the WSJ's site is "pay to use."

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