Right-Wing Revolt

Local conservative talk radio lives to rant again

If you think Vince Foster was murdered by Hillary's lesbian lover, if you're sure Bill Clinton was running drugs out of a rural Arkansas airport while fathering crack babies, if you just know there was something to Filegate, Travelgate and Whitewater even if Ken Starr couldn't find it, you have been close to panicking lately.

You have watched in horror as the new owners of KPRC-AM have whittled away the roster of right-wing ranters. First to go was station manager Dan Patrick. Next was cornpone former state senator Mike Richards, who always seemed baffled that a just God did not immediately smite the Clintons to the fetid depths of Hades. Eventually all that remained was Jon Matthews, the morning yakker whose idea of sophisticated, nuanced political discussion was calling all Democrats "poverty pimps."

Now he's gone, too.

But fear not, all you who think TheMainstreamLiberalMedia (always pronounced as if it were one word) didn't provide enough coverage of the Clintons' foibles. The ranters -- some of whom left on their own, others who were nudged out the door -- are back.

Patrick, whose improbable rise from goofy sports anchor to enthusiastically Christian talk-show impresario began when he took over tiny KSEV-AM in Tomball (see "God's Plan," by Richard Connelly, August 26, 1999), is starting all over again.

Shortly after taking over the bankrupt station in 1988, Patrick began broadcasting a syndicated show by an unknown named Rush Limbaugh. He rode that rocket for all it was worth. He and his financial backers eventually purchased the much larger KPRC-AM in 1992, for $3.5 million.

Three years later they sold KPRC and KSEV to industry giant Clear Channel Communications for an undisclosed amount. Last year Clear Channel merged with AMFM Inc., owners of KTRH, the city's news-radio leader.

The merger brought with it a new philosophy about what talk radio should be, and it didn't include a lot of politics.

Patrick left last September to work for a TV station informally affiliated with Lakewood Baptist Church. Richards followed soon afterward. And Matthews was no longer working at KPRC-AM effective March 20.

All of them and other KPRC mainstays -- financial adviser Steve Drake and Edd Hendee, the restaurant owner with the biggest "Rush Room" in town, where fans lunch as they listen to Limbaugh -- have landed at KSEV. Dr. Steven Hotze, a power in local GOP politics, also will have a show.

Clear Channel sold the station to California-based Liberman Broadcasting, and Patrick is leasing the operation from Liberman.

"I think our chances of success are excellent -- we're going to move the entire lineup and audience and just about all the advertisers we had at KPRC down to KSEV," Patrick says.

Which, essentially, is just fine with Ken Charles, who runs KPRC and KTRH for Clear Channel.

"I would just say they're leaving, and who cares?" he says of the former hosts.

Matthews, the last one left at KPRC, "stuck out like a sore thumb" as the station tried to move to nonpolitical local subjects, Charles says. "I wish him well with what little of his career he has left," he says.

Charles clearly believes that the fans of Matthews, Patrick and Richards, while rabid, are small in number and too old to attract the most desirable advertisers.

He's brought in Chris Baker to take over the afternoon slot that had been filled by Richards and a sports-talk show; Baker tends to talk about stuff like Annoying Things People Do While Driving. He memorably rejected one recent caller who obviously was looking for more of the same from the station: "I don't want to talk about taxes," Baker said. "The only people who want to talk about taxes on the radio are old, cranky people."

Charles says some listeners have reacted negatively to the changes, but he expected that. "We knew that no matter how bad the station had been, the only people who would notice a change would be the ones who were already listening to it and thought it was great," he says.

Patrick says young people simply don't listen to AM radio. "I'm happy to do shows that talk about politics and religion and values to people who are over 40," he says. "By the fall [ratings] book, with the exception of the hours Rush is on, we will be getting higher ratings, and by April we will be outbilling them."

Charles doesn't think Patrick and his crew will duplicate their past success with KSEV. "The thing he doesn't remember is that what made KSEV was Rush Limbaugh, and we have Rush Limbaugh now, and he ain't going anywhere," he says.

KSEV will counterprogram medical shows against Rush and make their move elsewhere, Patrick says. "This is all clearly God's plan. I couldn't have orchestrated this….It's unbelievable how they've created competition for themselves."

March Badness

If it's March, then the NCAA basketball tournament must be on TV. And that means that Houston Chronicle sports-media columnist David Barron is quoting CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz as saying that people should tune in. To CBS.

"Nantz Sees Longhorns As Possible NCAA Sleeper," the headline on Barron's column read March 16, as UT prepared to face Temple. "That's a tremendous first-round game," Nantz was quoted as saying. And it's on CBS!

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