Changing networks to move away from ABC is not an option for us. There are a
number of reasons.
First let me respond to the belief held by you and a number of others that
ABC News Radio displays a liberal bias. As you may know from my weekly
feature called “You Tell Me” (www.ktbb.com/youtellme) I am a committed
conservative. KTBB’s hospitality to conservative thought is well-evidenced
by the fact that we are the home in East Texas for Glenn Beck, Rush
Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Michael Savage.
If you believe that ABC displays a liberal bias, you join a fairly large
chorus of others. But when you examine that belief closely, you will almost
always find that the liberal bias charge pertains principally to the news
product on the ABC Television Network, mainly their flagship broadcast ABC
World News with Charles Gibson.
I am not going to debate whether or not ABC News as seen on television is
biased. Some very reasonable and well-informed people believe that it is.
Others believe otherwise.
What I am going to dwell on is the product we get from ABC News Radio. The
ABC News Radio newsroom is in a separate building in a separate part of town
in New York from the ABC newsroom that serves the television network. ABC
News Radio uses separate staff and separate facilities. On big stories, the
radio network and the television network will occasionally share some
technical facilities and may exchange audio with each other. But for the
vast majority of the time, radio news and television news each create their
own products separate and apart from each other.
And in general, the ABC News Radio people are much less impressed with
themselves than the people at the television network.
“But,” you say, “I hear Charles Gibson on your radio station every day.” Yes
you do. Charles Gibson does the first two mintues (which is all we clear) of
the top-of-the-hour newscast at 4 p.m. central time. This is largely a
promotional effort on behalf of ABC News promoting the evening television
network newscast “ABC World News.” The Charles Gibson radio newscast is
written by the radio news desk and the copy is sent to Charles Gibson to
read. I have seen the process first-hand at big news events that I have
covered such as the New Hampshire Primary and the two political conventions
this summer. With respect to editorial content, the radio newscast featuring
Charles Gibson’s voice remains a radio product.
My eyes are wide open on this. If you were to ask me to make a bet, I would
bet that the majority of the staff in the New York and Washington newsrooms
of ABC News Radio vote Democrat. I would bet everything that I own that Ann
Compton, ABC News Radio White House correspondent since the administration
of Gerald Ford, is a liberal Democrat as well.
Before George W. Bush was governor or president, he lived near my home in
Dallas and we belonged to Highland Park United Methodist Church. I saw him
every Sunday morning and over a period of several years, I struck up a
casual friendship with him and consider him a friend to this day.
Thus, for the past eight years, I have listened to Ann Compton’s coverage of
the Bush White House with a very critical ear. To my ear, Ann has been
consummately professional. In nearly eight years of the administration of a
man I voted for and count as a friend, I have not heard Ann step over the
line once. If I had, I would not have hesitated to let the network hear from
I have worked literally elbow-to-elbow at major news events with the people
you hear on the ABC Radio Network every day. I’m talking about Doug
Limerick, Aaron Katersky, Vic Ratner, Steven Portnoy and others. I can tell
you from personal experience that these people are professionals who are
trying to do a professional job. They likely are liberal Democrats and they
bring, as we all do, their personal biases with them to work. But I have
never heard or observed any of them actively pursuing an agenda-driven
On to a couple of other points…
Many who write or call us to complain about ABC suggest that we affiliate
with the Fox News Radio Network.
That is not a practical option. With respect to radio, Fox News is little
more than a brand name and a minimal top-of-the-hour news product. It offers
none of the resources of ABC News Radio. A single example is ABC Newscall.
This is a service to radio affiliates that makes audio cuts from the news
available on a searchable database. It is updated 24 hours a day, seven days
a week, 365 days a year. We make use of Newscall every morning in preparing
the KTBB Morning News. It is something that we would never want to live
Fox News does not offer a comparable product.
When a major story breaks, ABC News Radio has people and equipment and
resources developed over the past 50 years to cover it. Fox News Radio does
not. On a major story, they can offer affiliates little other than
re-purposed TV audio that is, by the very process of re-purposing it,
delayed from real time.
A number of radio stations that left the CBS Radio Network and ABC News
Radio to join Fox have quietly re-affliated with one or the other. They may
still run the Fox newscast on the top of the hour, but if a big story
breaks, these stations revert to ABC or CBS.
We at KTBB have been able to cover major stories such as the past four
political conventions, the key anniveraries of 9/11, the election of Pope
Benedict XVI and other stories because of the resources that ABC offers its
affiliates. As an example, both ABC and CBS had “Radio Row” installations
for affiliates at the political conventions. This is a service, however,
that Fox News does not offer its affiliates.
As I said at the outset, I am a committed conservative. I believe that media
bias is a serious and growing problem. I can make the argument that
journalism in America as we have defined it for generations is in very
serious jeopardy. I believe that the major TV networks and a number of large
daily newspapers have wittingly or unwittingly tilted their coverage so
severely as to have forfeited the public trust.
But, with that belief as background, I have not been unhappy with the
product we have been getting from ABC News Radio.
Thank your for listening and offering your comments.