The City of Los Angeles, in the 70’s, was a hub of action. The entertainment industry was exploding with exciting new stars like Jack Nicholson, Bo Derek and Meryl Streep. Movies like “Chinatown”, “Ten” and “Grease” populated the movie houses, and “Star Wars” became a sensation.
On sprawling Los Angeles freeways, drivers tuned into a fairly new phenomenon, “talk radio” with an entertaining twist. KABC, a Los Angeles radio station offered talk show host, Michael Jackson, who popularized talk radio to be more than just news. Jackson baptized an era of a new kind of radio show… a combination of news, political talk and celebrity interviews. It brought a little bit of Hollywood into your car while traveling along freeways in rush hour. Michael Jackson interviewed everyone from Presidents to actors. I worked with Michael Jackson in the 90’s when I worked at KABC, and found him to be the perfect gentleman. I loved sitting in the KABC studios watching Michael interview Charlton Heston and George Carlin. He wasn’t controversial and made guests feel comfortable. I was lucky enough to meet my childhood heartthrob, Charlton Heston, a gracious guest, indeed.
In time, sports shows, cooking shows, restaurant and movie reviews, high tech advice and psychology shows became popular trends for radio listeners.
Dr. Toni Grant, famous radio psychologist, also had a popular show on KABC790 Talk Radio in Los Angeles during that time. Listeners called in with problems about their kids, spouses or friends. Imagine, having your problems resolved within a few minutes by a perfect stranger..over the radio. The country was changing towards getting information faster and results quicker.
In the 1980’s with the elimination of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine, talk turned to politics. The Fairness Doctrine was originally intended to make sure that there was diversity of programming, not as a censor. For example, if there were three radio stations in one town or area, no one industry, such as music, religion or news could dominate.
Rush Limbaugh started an entertaining radio show phenomenon that gave rise to talk about politics and current events on national, state and local levels. It wasn’t journalism but rather entertaining opinions on today’s news and current events. And America loved it…well some of America loved it. Others hated it. This was probably the first time that listeners reacted negatively to radio broadcasting. Some say an outgrowth of the hippies and radical movements of the 60’s brought with it a negative reaction to conservative talk radio which they identified as the establishment. Others see conservative talk radio as an option to liberal press and liberal TV media that they perceive as presenting only one side of an issue.
Nevertheless, Rush Limbaugh developed a winning show format. Others followed the winning style and format of Rush Limbaugh and echoed in a new era of talk radio and a formidable option to the main stream media. Hosts Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Mike Gallagher, Laura Ingraham and Dennis Prager are just a few.