Ken Charles knows how to generate buzz

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Back when the Dan Rather memogate controversy broke, KPRC-950 general manager Ken Charles received some media buzz when he announced that he was dropping Dan Rather’s news updates from the conservative-talk station’s rotation.

Predictably, the buzz died as everyone but a handful of Move On diehards figured out that Rather’s memos were fake, and that CBS News had taken a tremendous hit in credibility as a result.

Still, Charles managed to attract more media attention when the AP picked up the story earlier this week.

That attracted the attention of Owen Courreges, who praised Charles and KPRC on Chronically Biased, the conservative weblog affiliated with Dan Patrick’s KSEV-700 talk radio station.

Apparently, that attracted the attention of Dan Patrick himself, who posted a good rant calling Ken Charles a RINO (which at one point in the day was changed by someone to Rhino, and then changed back) and questioning his conservative credentials. Here’s an excerpt:

Even though is affiliated with KSEV, we surely don’t hide from mentioning our competition, good or bad. We have also given the Houston Chronicle praise in the few rare times it was deserved. However, in this case, Charles deserves no credit. He is simply grandstanding, once again pretending to be a conservative. Along the way he destroyed another once great news radio station, KTRH. It was his brilliant idea to downgrade their news for liberals like Sam Donaldson. That was a disaster.

It was the same Ken Charles who took over KPRC in 2000 and declared that his station would no longer cover conservative politics or discuss God on the air, as he took his station in a liberal direction. It was only after his station sank in the ratings that he made an about face and suddenly re-programmed his station back to a conservative format. Now, the same station that told conservative callers to take a hike back in 2000, when they complained about the liberal direction of KPRC under Charles, has become a born again conservative station waving the republican flag.

This is the same Ken Charles who misled many national conservative hosts back in 2000 by promising to air their shows live. He either didn’t air the shows at all or put the shows on late at night. The prime examples of his misdirection were in keeping Laura Ingraham off of the air in Houston for almost a year with his false promises; he also buried Sean Hannity late at night, after promising Sean a live clear. Sean called me in frustration at Charles’ dealings, but was afraid to move to us in fear of retaliation at the hands of Clear Channel. (CC carried his show in other markets.) Charles did these things because he did not want any conservatives on the air back in 2000 and 2001. He didn’t want their shows and he made sure no one else could get them.

There are several problems with the rant.

First, I don’t know that Ken Charles has ever CALLED himself a conservative (or a Republican). He’s a general manager of a talk radio station that’s been conservative a long time, and he has a responsibility to Clear Channel to get them ratings and make them money, not to declare personal allegiance to God, conservatives, or Republicans. So it’s hard to see how he could be a Republican In Name Only (RINO) if he doesn’t even claim to be a Republican.

Second, Charles may well be a closet liberal who doesn’t want conservatives on the air (although it’s hard to conclude that based on KPRC’s current lineup), and that may explain why some hosts got “buried.” However, it would be pretty typical of media behemoth Clear Channel communications simply to buy up all available talent to ensure their local monopoly, and put it on the air — or not — when they feel like it. Charles may simply have been following Clear Channel operating procedure in securing Hannity and Ingraham and not running them live.

Finally, Patrick neglects to give his readers much background on his own personal history with Charles, who took over KPRC not long after Clear Channel acquired the station. Clearly, Patrick has an adversarial relationship with Charles, which is understandable, but readers deserve to know that (as several of the commenters point out). For some of that background there are two pieces by Richard Connelly here and here. These two columns also represent Connelly at his best, back when the Press let him do serious media criticism.

Ken Charles is probably having a good laugh. He’s gotten good buzz in conservative circles for his move (which was a no brainer). He’s gotten local and national media coverage of his move. And he’s even gotten two blog posts and extensive comments about his move on a competitor’s weblog! He may be a RINO, but he also seems to have a knack for using current events to boost himself and his station. And in the end, isn’t that his job?

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Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX