Tune in to talk radio in Pittsburgh. You might be tuning in to America. “We have the largest and the smartest audience in talk radio.” All talk show hosts claim that. Locally you can hear those words on KDKA. You can also hear: “Trickle-down worked. Global warming is a communist plot to control our natural resources. Employers have to hire illegals because they do jobs that ‘Americans don’t want to do.’ The reason healthcare costs are so high is that the poor are getting it for free…” This is not quite the fare of the “liberal” media I have heard so much about.

Search for “liberal” media on the air here in Pittsburgh and you won’t find it. The closest we had was Lynn Cullen followed by Thom Hartmann on WPTT which was shut down and replaced with the lamest of “investment” programming during the very same month of the world’s investment collapse! And they’re still on. Local WAMO picked up Cullen afterwards but curiously went out of business as well.

I don’t understand. How can professional wrestling and fishing shows exist on tv, yet we can’t get intelligent “liberal” programming on such a primitive technology as radio, especially here in Pittsburgh, on KDKA, the first commercial radio station in America?

We are close to intelligent “conservative” programming on KDKA’s morning show. But the host’s consistent attacks on the poor and their burden on society take the show out of the realm of reflective, intelligent discourse for me. His recent attack on methadone addicts is especially creepy. I mean, talk about soft targets.

Anyone remember Newt Gingrich’s assault on single mothers? “They are ruining our economy!” That’s right. The overpaid health-system CEOs weren’t the problem. The emerging pharmaceutical mega-corporations weren’t a danger. Single mothers. More specifically, welfare mothers. The target was so absurd even a popular tv series, “Murphy Brown,” ruined its story line by going political and making its principal character a single mother.

KDKA’s “investigative reporter” goes so far in his personal assault on methadone addicts as to follow them around to see which clinics they go to in their epic “waste” of hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer dollars. God forbid tax-payer money being spent in the pursuit of a cure for drug addiction. That money would be better spent on, say, a healthcare lobbyist! Like it or not, that’s where your tax dollars are going as well. “Non-profit” organizations like UPMC get huge government grants, yet they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for even one lobbyist in Washington, DC, let alone the CEO’s yearly $16 million in salary and benefits. That $16 million is made possible by taxpayer money. Government funds (taxpayer funds) make that multi-billion dollar research at UPMC possible. That is corporate welfare.

How about a little less government funding in exchange for a little more reasonable CEO compensation over at UPMC? And while we’re at it, let’s cut that UPMC lobbyist in Washington and the one in Harrisburg. What do they do but just spin the wheels of “big government” influence? Perhaps then we could ease those hefty UPMC premiums.

But KDKA’s “investigative reporter” has yet to follow around that lobbyist, let alone lobbyists. Five thousand dollars a day. $5,000 a day. That’s what UPMC’s CEO earns when you add it all up. It may be even more. What government employee earns $5,000 a day? And how long would it last if they did? Yet private insurance company CEOs have earned these amounts and more for years! And for what? Who on this earth is worth $5K a day? Maybe if they had to sponge-bath all the homeless.

But you will never hear much about corporate welfare on Pittsburgh’s local talk radio. And I understand why. It is too controversial for the talk radio crowd. It requires too much “inside” information to make it a “community” topic. There is too little time and too much emotional baggage to make it a topic worth discussing on the local bus ride downtown. My music teacher used to say, “There are three things I don’t discuss: religion, politics and (an inside joke) ornaments.” [It has to do with the performance practice of appoggiaturas…too little time, too much baggage.]

Yet daily, KDKA broadcasts “conservative” opinions like the benefits of small government (not “effective” government, but “small” government), lower taxes and all the other Reaganomics that ended up bankrupting this country, opinions worthy of shortwave radio. Now shortwave radio is, perhaps, America. But KDKA represents “public” airwaves. Taxpayer airwaves. And if our taxpayer airwaves are going to support KDKA’s afternoon boob’s opinion that he would be in favor of “reusing needles for methadone addicts.” “…I’d be in favor of just throwing old needles into a dishwasher. Let’s see how many of ‘those’ people would get clean then! [chuckle],” then I would say, let’s review our public airwaves.

If KDKA’s morning guy is going to weigh in for three hours a day, five days a week, on how to cure methadone addiction without the benefit of differing professional opinions (and I don’t mean the stage-struck professionals he obviously manipulated on air), I would be in favor of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine. (Don’t know about that? When that went away, people like Limbaugh came.)

KDKA’s morning guy has a sense of moral, ethical responsibility anyone could agree with. But when he turns his wrath on those on welfare, specifically those not on corporate welfare, like those who received free cell-phones last year, I completely lose him. He could not understand that a private corporation was providing free phones to the poor. In addition, the poor received twenty minutes, yes 20 whole minutes, of free phone minutes every month! And in true upper-middle-class-horror-that-anyone-receive-anything-for-free hysteria, he hammered the phone corporation representative over and over on the air that these phones were free! “But it’s free, man. The phone is free. I’d like my phone for free!” Which…if he had bothered to shop around, he could have gotten his cell phone for free. Most of us do. Sign a contract, and the phone’s free. But to this guy, it was an outrage!

Did anyone follow up to see how many of those who received phones went over their allotted twenty minutes? What were their overage costs? What? No government oversight on that? Has the talk radio campaign for “lower taxes and smaller government” saved us from our “nanny state?” Frankly, I am in favor of a nanny if a creep like Halliburton is going to be considered my sibling.

I wouldn’t be concerned about talk radio except for the fact that people like Limbaugh (a former KDKA employee: who fired him? Where are those producers today? FOX?) are considered leaders of their respective political parties. When pressed into a corner on the air, their out is, “Hey, it’s just a show. It’s just entertainment.” But how many people are misled by that entertainment?

I wouldn’t be concerned about KDKA except for the fact that it is a national, historical landmark as America’s first commercial radio station, in addition to being heard all over western PA and beyond. As such, I believe it owes more to its public airwaves than it is currently serving.

And where is the “liberal” media here in Pittsburgh? Is that investment truly so bad that some philanthropist isn’t willing to throw a few bucks into it? Are we doomed to fishing shows, wrestling and mindless info-mercials on tv because “liberal” radio is so unprofitable? I find that almost impossible to believe.

In the meantime, people are welcome to their opinions, but when it comes to Pittsburgh’s public airwaves, there needs to be a higher standard. The lack of these standards has allowed public discourse to almost totally ignore the Marcellus Shale “fracking” pollution of our watersheds here in PA. Haven’t heard about that? Ask KDKA radio. Ask all your news providers.

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Thom plus logo Right now the United States and the world are facing four massive trends that, in combination, we haven't faced since the 1920s. We are seeing the rise of a new and brutal form of governance with extraordinary industrial capacity and power in China, much as Nazi Germany rose in Europe.