Geraldo's Radio Show Goes National, Falsely Sold As 'Idealistic' -- and Popular

Despite conservative talk radio’s popularity and profitability, the radio syndicators still seem ashamed of it, trying for PR reasons to find a star who is more of a mugwump. Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer is totally mystified by how Cumulus Media, which oversees ABC Radio's AM stations, is promoting the new and under-performing Geraldo Rivera radio show as a national phenomenon waiting to happen.

“What compelled Cumulus broadcast execs to give this notorious huckster a radio show at nearly 69 mystifies many,” Maloney insisted. “But what we do know is that the facts don't match his employer's wild claims. The truth: Geraldo repels radio listeners better than DEET could ever deter mosquitoes.”

But Cumulus put out a press release touting Rivera's ratings appeal:

“When Geraldo agreed to host shows for Cumulus stations in New York and L.A. we had a hunch there’d be national substantial listener interest in his incisive and insightful style, and now we’re thrilled that with GERALDO such a success in those two markets the show will now be available across the country,” said John Dickey, co-chief operating officer of Cumulus.

Maloney says Dickey is simply wrong on the facts:

 According to Arbitron, KABC's morning programming  averages 14,800 listeners six and older per quarter-hour from 9-10am. When Rivera takes over at 10am, that figure immediately drops to 6600 and remains stuck there until the conclusion of his show at noon.

In the especially important 25-54 demographic, the numbers are bleak, averaging about 2600 listeners per quarter-hour.

When Sean Hannity airs at noon, listenership shoots straight back up to an 18,300 average per quarter-hour. By the end of his show, Hannity's number has increased to 22,200. Larry Elder fares even better at 3pm, with 26,500....

Meanwhile, in New York City, where Geraldo has been hosting a separate program unique to that market, the story is the same. On WABC, he's again the lowest-rated host on that station's daytime lineup, with a 1.2 share in the 25-54 demo.

Worse, he's actually played a key role in sinking WABC's overall figures since joining, from a 3.6 share of the audience last December to 2.7 today.

Those figures were also released by the ratings firm yesterday.

This offers the strong hint that Cumulus wants to command radio stations to pick up Geraldo to "balance out" the image of talk radio. Their press release touts Geraldo like Morning Joe with a moustache, a "pragmatic idealist" who can pick and choose from both sides:

Rivera began hosting live and local radio shows titled “GERALDO” in the New York City and Los Angeles markets earlier this year. Following the success of those shows, GERALDO will become a single live national show launching in advance of this summer’s political conventions. The tagline of GERALDO is, “Not Red. Not Blue. But Red, White & Blue.” [That actually sounds like the gimmicky 2004 Barack Obama convention address.]

“Despite the nation’s partisan divide, the success of the show on WABC and KABC is a clear indication that there is room in radio for someone who is not associated with a particular ideology.

"I’m a patriot and a pragmatic idealist, who believes both the political left and the right have contributions to make.”

Geraldo is not an idealist. He is a sensationalist. And he is definitely an egotist.

Cumulus sold Geraldo as a "patriot," and as a war correspondent, forgetting that little "Geraldo helps the enemy locate our troops" incident.

Maloney then lists several examples of Geraldo's recent broadcast debacles. Check it out.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis