KTLK, KFAN owner opens door to more political ads

This morning’s post on the political ad wars focused on TV, but here’s another measure of how much the media relies on candidate cash: Clear Channel Communications, which owns sports behemoth KFAN-AM and right-wing talker KTLK-FM, has decided to take more political ads after years of disdaining them.

In the past, the Texas-based radio giant has only allowed ads here for federal races — President and Congress. (Over-the-air radio and TV are both governed by federal law, so these ads are tough to turn down.) Everything state and local — from the governor’s race down to small-town dog catcher — has been refused.

Clear Channel local market manager Mike Crusham explains, “Whenever you have changes in the economy, you have to re-evaluate how you do business. The company looked into it, and decided we should revisit it.”

Why say no before? Longtime Clear Channel operations manager Gregg Swedberg quips, “This isn’t exactly news, but political ads can be dull and/or kind of irritating, and they make half the audience angry.”

That’s why Clear Channel’s floodgates won’t full open. The chain’s highly rated FM stations — KDWB, K102, KOOL108 and Cities97 — remain closed to the likes of Emmer, Dayton, Horner and anyone else not running for the U.S. House. However, if, say, a Secretary of State candidate wants to narrowcast on Clear Channel’s talk stations — KFAN, sibling sports-talker The Score, or KTLK — it’s open season.

KTLK might prove especially attractive for Republicans trying to motivate their base, although the station’s hosts are pretty good at that already. For potentially persuadable men, KFAN might be an intriguing buy.

When I talked to political media-buying pros, radio ranked a distant third on spending lists, behind TV and direct mail. So does Crusham expect big bucks from the move?

“That is the million-dollar question,” he says. “The company is looking at it as if it could be a major expenditure. We’ve been getting a flurry of inquiries, but no specific activity yet. It’s not as big as we thought — but that could all change in a couple of weeks.”

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