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May 1, 2012

Turmoil Continues AT WBSM In the Wake of Ken Pittman's Forced Departure

In the midst of the firestorm that has been brewing over the internet recently over dissatisfaction  with WBSM’s new lineup in the wake of Ken’sPittman’s forced departure, which was first reported by the Jazz Patriot on April  3, 2011, WBSM announced Monday that the station, located in Fairhaven, MA and known for shows featuring political commentary and coverage of local issues,  has been sold to Town Square Media  of Greenwich, RI. Accorrding  to the press release  Townsquare Media acquired 55 stations from Cumulus Media, including WBSM and Fun 107. The transaction is expected to be complete by the second half of 2012, pending regulatory approval.

This may be an opportunity for fans of Ken Pittman to communicate with the new  owners that they are not happy with the present lineup which includes nationally syndicated hosts Mike Gallagher, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Bohannon, but excludes the type of informative and cutting edge shows focused on local issues that Ken Pittman excelled at, developing a significant following over many years,not only in Southeastern Massachusetts but nationwide as well.

The truth is, I am not a fan of Ken Pittman, which I chose not to get into during  my earlier post, Ken Pittman Removed From Lineup  at WBSM in Fairhaven, MA because of his on air attacks against good social conservative political candidates and activists, I respect. My complaint with WBSM's programmers is with their decision to go with nationally syndicated talk show hosts leaving a void in the coveralge of  local issues of concern to  the station's listeners.

Nothing against the less confrontational Mike Huckabee who is being put up against Rush Limbaugh  nationwide,  which  is a futile effort anyway on behalf of his syndicators, but it seems to be a clear decision to neglect the local audience which has a thirst for issues that affect life in Southeastern Massachusetts and throughout this part of the country.  And Ken was one of the best local talk show hosts I've ever heard on delivering informed, cutting edge commentary on issues that concern the Massachusetts South Coast. I mean local news is more imporatant to most listeners in this area than political commentary on national issues anyway, especially the type with a conservative slant and no one is more conservative than yours truly.

Although I'm a Fox News Channel junkie, even Fox can't replace my love for local television news out of Boston and Providence. The fact is, I need to know what is going on in my city and my state, and that is exactly the way listeners who have been listening to WBSM for years feel, believe me..
When I visited my father, Thomas R Wholley, Jr of New Bedford,  Sunday,seen above celebrating his recent 97th birthday, he expressed similar sentiments to me. Dad, who is still sharp as a tack and knows more about the history of New Bedford, than any person I know, has been listening to WBSM on a little portable radio in the afternoons for as long as I can remember. When the subject turned to politics and the article I was working on about Ken Pittman, he said … 

“Ken Pittman is gone now over there and Phil Paleogopolis just doesn’t …I don’t know… He was Okay in the morning but not for this type of show. And they have this guy from Arkansas ...you know...Huck something and I don’t know, this other guy in the morning ….Mike Mulligan ". After pointing out his name was Mike Gallagher, whose name I had trouble remembering myself, clicked into high gear  by saying…

“Yah Mike Gallagher. Oh that guy.....One day he was talking  about how he was driving behind someone who was talking on her cell phone while  changing lanes, slowing down, speeeding up and so on, not paying attention to things, and making it difficult for him to pass, and driving him crazy, and he went on and on and on  as he described how beeped his horn and did this and did that, and then she did this and he did that" and at that point the retired firefighter and World War II veteran , straightened up and looked at me saying...“We have serious problems in this city with the fishing industry and many things…and oh my…what are they doing over there. That is not what people want to hear."

After trying to defend Mike Huckabee and Mike Gallager, who I can relate to because of their strong conservative world view, even though their delivery  is more conversational and less confrontational than I prefer,  I could see my words were going nowhere, so I changed topics to the Red Sox which got his attention quickly again, but his point was well taken. 
Under the new controversial format at WBSM forced on them apparently, by Cumulus, the only show covering local issues now occurs between 3:00  to 6 PM and is hosted by long time WBSM staffer Phil Paleologos. Phil fit in nicely in the morning, in my opinion, because his easy going, syrupy, and gushy style of flattery and discussions about non controversial topics bothered few people at that time of day,  but when he moved to the afternoon spot, it became clear very quickly that he was making no effort what-so-ever to address the concerns of Pittman's audience, but was simply doing his morning show in the afternoon.

Whether he is addressing  a serious breaking news story about an abandoned child at a local day care center or a city official making an announcement about an "earth day" event, Phil's smooth talking and polished radio voice filled with liberal, touch feely pasions, comes across like pablum for a toddler, or a session with Dr Phil rather than the abrasive and confrontational style that characterized Ken Pittman's approach  during his successful run at the station.

Of course, one of the things Pittman did very well was get under the skin of local Democrats which always attracted very upset listeners, and may also have contributed to his being released. Phil, on the other hand, seems to offend no  one, from what I can tell, which is not good for that type of show.

His attempt to follow in Pittman’s steps while covering local and political news continues to fall far short of what people have grown accustomed to hearing i.e.raw emotional reactions to stories affecting life in South Eastern Massachusetts;   informed, articulate, and direct  questioning of guests and rude and arrogant listeners from a host, who demands direct answers and  responds directly during heated debates, whether he is talking to average callers or political leaders in the community.

When the story broke that Ken had been let go, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell was reported in the StandardTimes as saying: The local programming available on WBSM including local news, talk, and sports coverage, is truly valued by the thousands of listeners the station draws from the New Bedford region,   He was also reported as saying he had written Lewis W Dickey Jr, president and chief executive officer of Cumulus, urging him to reconsider the decision to reduce local programming in favor of national shows. Of course this was before the decision to sell WBSM to a Conneticutt firm had been reached

The New Bedford paper went on to say that “Mayor Scott W Lang also spoke out against the move, stressing the value of local media.

It’s unacceptable for Cumulus to now go to a syndicated format, and we lose the ability of people to have an open-line-type format to express their point of view, Lang said.

Lang also stated that while he did not always agree with Pittman, he is a talented host and a devoted family man.
Another local politican , City Councillor Brian Gomes, who had received intense criticism from Ken on more than one occassion, was one of the first to echo support for Ken. In fact, the councillor was in the studio the day after Ken got the ax as a guest, and the stations phones were jumping off the hook with furious callers unwilling to  allow the guest host that day, to change the subject.

Gomes, an astute politican sensing the way the "winds" were blowing chimed in by pointing out that Ken's show filled a need for coverage of topics with a local flavor  and then remarked incitefully on the station’s history of providing local talk shows.

And on that point I couldn't agree more. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, listening to a whole series of very opinionated talk show hosts on WBSM discuss matters of concern to area residents, and it was always interesting to listen to the reactions of the listeners, whether I agreed with the host or not.

It occurred to me then, that you can really learn alot about the community you live in, their political orientation, education level, and their values, by listening to talk shows focused on community issues. And in the case of the greater New Bedford area, the image portrayed on air by many of the callers was not always something that made me swell with pride.

But having said that, I think these shows like Ken's offer a valuable community service. We have real problems in this area that are either not being discussed at the moment or if they are the dialogue is presently
being moderated by hosts lacking emotional intensity and expertise, which is a real shame.
I expect to hear a host during this period of time in the greater New Bedford area talk about, not only the demise of the New England Fishing Industry but the insane restrictions and burdens being placed on New Bedford Fisherman in what I consider an act of pure  environmental terrorism by "environmental nut jobs" and marine law enforcement agents with law degrees from Ivy League schools appointed by the Obama administration. These idiots know as much about fishing as I do and I know nothing, except that I enjoy eating fresh fish,  or scallops every Friday. (LOL)
I also want to hear a local radio host say it's New Bedford's and the state of Massachusett's citizens own damn fault for mindlessly voting for Democrats year after year and putting the very political party  that is responsible for bringing the powerful and out of control environmental bureaucracy like  the EPA and NOAA into power in the first place and loading these agencies with liberal screwballs..

And I'd like to hear him finish his rant by saying: "You wanted change New Bedford when you overwhelmingly voted for Obama in 2008. And by God you got it! So, how's that working out for you?"

Make sure you remember how badly your city is hurting, courtesy of the Obama administration, when you walk into the voting booth this November. If you do I'm sure you'll agree that Mitt Romney is the only choice you have, if the present trend continues in the Republican Party Primary nomination process. .

Now do you really think Phil Paleogopolis,  is going to use language like that to describe the situation. Not a chance, but I'm inclined to think Ken Pittman would, even though he usually supports political candidates that head for the tall grass anyway, when the topic switches to social/morality issues, as I'm sure Romney will do as well. But that's a topic better left for another day.

Over this past weekend, The Jazz Patriot Blog  received over a 100 new visitors from Ken Pittman's facebook page after he discovered my article, and for that we're very grateful, but the truth is we had been receiving a steady stream of traffic all month from curiosity seekers all over the country on this sparsely reported story. Ken just happened to find out about the post, Saturday.

Most of the comments left expressed outrage at the firing and support for Pittman but there were some detractors, who of course didn’t have the courage to use their name, but chose instead to use the anonymous pseudonym  when posting as with  the following comment:

“Ken’s a right wing hack with a very shallow understanding of public policy issues. Glad he’s finally gone”

One of Ken’s supporters, Hans Doherty, took exception to the anonymous critique by replying: 

“Ken is one true American. He is diplomatic and balanced in his reporting. If there is an issue that both sides need to be heard he brings in both sides. To the anonymous coward’ commenting on public issues, study a little more about the US Constitution. Find out the principals onto which our country was founded. Then you’ll see America needs guys like Ken Pittman to make sure that public policy (law making) remains in the public eye, not behind closed doors.”

As I stated in my earlier post, if you would like to express your opinions on Ken's firing and your disappointment with the stations new programming format, you may contact WBSM management through the Business line at 508-993-1767 and on the Open Line at 508-996-0500.

Town Square Media can be contacted at 240 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, CT 06830. Phone: (203)860-0900. Their website also has information about WBSM's new owners as well as news on their recent acquisition.

The entire press release on the acquisition of WBSM by Townsquare media, as reported by WBSM on their website is as follows: 

April 30, 2012

A Connecticut-based media company has acquired WBSM radio, and its sister station, WFHN, Fun 107.   The sale was announced Monday as part of a transaction involving more than 60 stations.  Townsquare Media of Geenwich, Connecticut acquired 55 stations from Cumulus Media, including WBSM and Fun 107.  In exchange, Cumulus will receive ten stations plus $116 million dollars in cash.  When the sale is finalized, Townsquare will control 244 stations in 51 small and mid-sized markets.  Townsquare Media CEO Steven Price said in a statement..."we are excited to continue to add premier assets to our portfolio." The transaction is expected to be complete by the second half of 2012, pending regulatory approval.

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