31 December 2006

State of Talk Radio in the Valley 2006

Furiously, I race to complete this 2006 roundup as 2006 draws to an end. With every passing year, the publish date for my annual roundup of radio talk show offerings in the Valley of the Sun comes later and later. Well, I've run out of buffer space, lest I completely omit 2007 from the ledger. And if I did cease to provide another account, will there be any listeners left to even notice? A big reason for the delay is that in 2006, with all the podcasting fare available (and a subject for a subsequent article) and a significant decrease in my commute time, it's been difficult to give a listen to all the shows reviewed here.

KTAR made the boldest splashes in 2006, culminating with a move to 92.3 FM, mirroring their AM programming at first, but starting in January 2007, 620 AM will morph into sports talk only leaving 92.3 FM as the Valley's flagship news/talk station. This move coming after a return to a live and local talk format, and the restoration of Pat McMahon to the talk host lineup. More lineup changes lie ahead, with McMahon jumping to afternoons and Bill O'Reilly clone Darrel Ankarlo assuming Mr. McMahon's morning position.

KFYI 550 AM keeps chugging along, led by syndicated conservative blowtorches Limbaugh and Hannity, along with a pack of junior wannabes and an uninspired Mister Komando and his faithful sidekick Cruella Michella Buffy Lee Larson. Although there are reports that KFYI's financial master, Clear Channel, is going to slash local programming even further.

Early in the year, Liberal Air America was booted off of KXXT 1010 AM in lieu of fire and brimstone style religious programming, but just a month later found a new home at 1480 KPHX AM. Missing from the migration was Charles Goyette, who instead landed at KFNX 1100 AM, nestled between colon blow informercials and entire shows dedicated to hawking silver and gold. KFNX itself is a gross disservice to the listening public, a waste of broadcast spectrum that should be providing the public interest, so much so that the FCC should revoke their license, but fat chance of that happening.

Back to the saga of Air Americaout the ashes of its bankruptcy and inevitable demise, arises a new progressive network, Nova M, with it's flagship KPHX 1480 AM. Hopefully, Sheldon Drobny, one of the original AAR backers, in tandem with Mike Newcomb, prospects for the new network are greater than the train wreck that was AAR. It does appear that Nova M management, unlike the lords of AAR, actually get radio and will program accordingly, instead of trying to do cheap imitation Daily Show knockoffs on the radio. While I think Mike Malloy's spiel is just as awful as Limbaugh and Hannity, I am encouraged by others filling slots now — Thom Hartmann, Peter B. Collins and John Loftus to name a few.

So onwards and upwards, or more aptly, downwards to the roundup.
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28 December 2006

Like we needed another one of these

KTAR hires Texas Bill O'Reilly clone
Darrell Ankarlo starts his new show on KTAR-FM on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. If he stays true to form, he will be one of KTAR's most outspoken hosts.

Through much of KTAR's life, especially before it had competition from KFYI-AM, most hosts have been simply hosts, moderate voices who did interviews and took phone calls.

It has had some people with strong opinions as hosts. Among them are David Leibowitz, a former Republic columnist and the brilliant Tony Femino. For a while, they even branded the legendary Pat McMahon as "No More Mr. Nice Guy."

More recently, it appears to have gone back to having hosts rather than opinion makers. McMahon and Ted Simons have returned to interviewing newsmakers rather than being the stars of a show that concentrates on the hosts' monologues.

That could change with Ankarlo, whose website,, shows him to be a flag-waving, Bush-supporting host in the mode of Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. With a liberal sprinkling of Bible quoting thrown in.

Ankarlo sells T-shirts that say "I am offended by...people who don't get illegal." The back of the T-shirt offers a handy definition followed by the word "Comprende?"

16 December 2006

John Gambadoro and Mark Asher have decided to end their 10-year run as afternoon sportstalk-show hosts for KGME (910 AM)

Gambadoro, Asher end 10-year run on XTRA 910

10 years is an eternity in sports talk radio. A feat not to be shrugged at.

The two made the announcement as they signed off the air Friday afternoon, saying they wanted to pursue other opportunities.

After the show, Asher said the two had a clause in their contract that allowed them to opt out.

“We just kind of felt it was time to move on and explore other options,” Asher said. “It was a very tough decision.”

Maybe they just need a little break before dashing off to a competing station in the local market.

Never was a big fan of Gambo and Ash show, but for a great while, they were the only game in town, for sports talk radio. Others come and go, but they've been etched in that weekday afternoon slot for what seemed to be a permanent basis.

13 December 2006

Has Barry Young jumped the shark?

"Why do you ask?" you ask. Well, seems that "Cruella Michella Buffy Lee" Larson — Young's producer and straight gal — is out of town on vacation this week. Yet she's still slogging through two full hours with the Mouth that Bored every day ... by telephone! Barry can't hang for even a week without her?

I sincerely hope this marks the end of the end for the "Nearly Famous Barry Young," a news talk-talk show that's taken way too long to die. You'd have to search dilligently to find a bigger waste of Phoenix air time — indeed, of Phoenix air — than Barry Young.

7 December 2006

The Tech Guy

Saturday afternoons for me are typically devoted to errand running, crisscrossing across town in the car, guided by checklists of weekly purchasing needs and dry cleaning or other articles to pick up. And for some reason, Saturday afternoon is the dedicated time slot for computer talk shows on the radio.

On the surface, computer chit chat over the airwaves seems as exciting as standing in line at the grocery mart. But I suppose there's quite a bit of computer brokenness to be addressed, and no shortage of callers who need help in restoring their machines to an operational state.

The two leading talk giants in the Valley, KTAR and KFYI both feature such programming fare in the same time range. Both offerings pale in comparison to one that airs in the Los Angeles market on KFI, at roughly the same time, but is available for download and as a podcast to subscribe to. But first, let me assess the choices available on the local radio dial, as this article is structured on a worse to best sequence.

Data Doctors (KTAR 620 AM/92.3 FM, Sat 12-2p)

The KTAR (620 AM, 92.3 FM) showpiece is Data Doctors, hosted by Ken Colburn and Brandon Disney. Colburn and Disney oversee a burgeoning empire, centered on, but not limited to, providing computer repair and data recovery services. They also provide networking setup and consultation. So they are indeed very qualified to speak on matters of broken PCs. However, that strength is offset by the notion that everything on the show is a reflection of that fact. Basically, broken PCs, dysfunctional software, virus and malware epidemics, networking problems is what the show is entirely centered upon. I rarely hear the positive side of technology, or coverage of alternative solutions that would strike out 80-90% of most user problems. Like getting a Mac. Alright, seriously, even coverage of "technology in general", like PDAs, cellphones, digital music players, etc.… If your only tool is a hammer, I guess everything looks like a nail. I am probably being a bit harsh here, but all the negatives, including the over-geeky sounding hosts far outweigh all the positives. The hosts are extremely knowledgeable, but that knowledge seems pigeon holed a narrow frame of Windows PCs, and even there, a fraction of that realm. And when I listen, I can't shake the feeling that the show is just a crafted public relations funnel to siphon ailing Windows users into their financial fold.

The Data Doctors offer up podcasts of past shows as well as some other resources on their web site.

Kim Komando Show (KFYI 550 AM, Sat 12-2p)

Strange that the competing show just down the radio dial airs on tape delay, despite the fact that KFYI is the flagship station for the WestStar Network. Mrs. Komando is the wife of Valley KFYI 550 AM talk host Barry Young, or Mr. Komando. Mrs. Komando runs a lively, fast-paced show, and like the Data Doctors, is very knowledgeable about the subject matter, though her expertise is a more user centric variety. And, she doesn't sound like a nerd either. While callers are treated to an endless grab bag of software and hardware giveaways, the canned sound effects are tediously annoying. Unlike the Data Doctors show, Komando applies a wider scope and technology in general is apt to be covered as well as mundane PC issues.

One thing not so polished about the Kim Komando Show is the crap-tacular nature of her website. Most of the stuff there is stashed behind a subscription based "Kim's Club" setup. Even queries for listing the radio stations and times requires one to enter an email and the response is e-mailed back to you, not displayed. There is a message board available there though.

The Tech Guy (KFI 640 AM, Sat/Sun 11a-2p)

Yes, I know, I can't receive Los Angeles broadcasts (at least during daytime) via a standard AM/FM radio. But I cannot write an article on computer radio shows without mentioning the best there is in this category. How Leo Laporte, the host, is not a household name, baffles me. Leo might be recognizable to some as the former host of the The Screen Savers, a show that aired on the now defunct cable television network TechTV.

Leo Laporte is amazing, in both the breadth and depth of knowledge imparted to listeners. On top of that, he's affable, patient, and in possession of a wonderful radio voice. In the opening monologue of the show, Leo stresses that he covers the entire gamut of tech, from cell phones to digital cameras. Honestly, I am amazed at Leo's ability to field caller questions and problems. And even if he is unable to formulate a solution, or even complete diagnosis, he's always able to provide a resource that can answer the question or resolve the problem. Although Leo has forged sponsorships with vendors like Dell and others, he's straight up and assesses tech affairs on what he believes is best for the user. He is a fan of Macs and Mac OS X, but he'll champion any product he believes is a good deal for the user.

The Tech Guy is just one piece of a podcasting empire that Leo is a the center of. Checkout and you'll now see over a dozen podcast shows, each featuring a different flavor of tech. Shows on open source, Macs, Windows, gadgets, biotech, tech law, media tech, security, and my favorite, This Week in Tech are available for your listening pleasure or to point your iTunes (or other podcast capable software) to and subscribe.