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<title>Bill Wattenburg’s Background: Talk Radio on the West Coast</title>


<h1>Talk Radio on the West Coast</h1>

<p>The ratings for Bill Wattenburg’s night-time talk show “The Open Line To
The West Coast” on KGO Radio (ABC),
San Francisco, have been three to four times above the average of the next best-rated
shows (AM and FM) in the market for at least the last eleven years running (since 1982).
His show gains 11 to 20 shares in his time slot compared to 3 to 4 shares for his closest competitors.
He has been a regular on KGO talk radio since 1972. His nighttime radio shows
reach the entire west coast from Alaska to Mexico, as he announces when he comes
on the air. Based on his Bay Area audience ratings, we estimate that at least
1,200,000 in the eleven western states and Alaska hear some part of each of his
three-hour, 10pm to 1am KGO shows on weekends. We estimate that at least
13,000,000 on the west coast have listened to him at some time in the last three
years on radio and recognize his name or his voice. Out-of-market numbers say
that his total listening audience in southern California is substantially larger
than in the Bay Area in the 10pm to 12pm time slot.</p>

<p>Our staff evaluated tapes of sixteen of his KGO Radio shows and three of his
TV shows picked at random for the period January 1988 to December 1992. He
allowed us to observe him in-studio during four of his live KGO radio talk shows
in October 1992. A recent feature story on his KGO radio performances appeared
in the Capitol Cities/ABC employee magazine. We believe this to be a fair
analysis of his radio performances.</p>

<p><i>[The story from the employee magazine, <i>ABC Ink</i>, is not included here because
ABC does not grant permission for this content to be reproduced electronicly, but it is quite

<hr />

<p>We picked up some sour notes however, from one KGO Radio producer who has
been with the station for many years. This producer said that Wattenburg almost
never takes guests on his show and that he ignores advice from producers who
offer him important material and topics for his shows. We asked this producer to
give us an example. The producer mentioned that Wattenburg ignored some news
stories during the Gulf War that reported the danger of nuclear material being
scattered all over the desert, or that the Iraqis could have retrieved a nuclear
warhead and used it against us. We asked the producer if he/she knew that
Wattenburg was probably very familiar with the safeguards on our nuclear weapons
because he worked on the design of nuclear weapons at one time and was an
advisor to the Air Force. The producer said that he/she did not know that
Wattenburg had ever done that.</p>

<p>As to the second complaint—no guests on his shows—we politely asked if
anyone could explain why Wattenburg’s ratings were more than twice as high as
the top-rated daytime KGO shows that specialized in interviewing guests booked
on the shows by producers. The answer we got was that it was easier for him to
hold high ratings in the nighttime slot at 10pm to 1am than during the daytime.
We pointed out that all the other major radio shows on the west coast in the
same time slot had much lower ratings that Wattenburg. And, we asked why
Wattenburg still had higher ratings when he did the KGO daytime shows in the

<p>The last response we were offered by this senior producer was: “Well,
he’s been around for twenty years, you know. All the rednecks listen to

<p>Another KGO producer who works Wattenburg’s shows commented that some of the
older KGO producers don’t like Wattenburg just because he won’t take guests that
they try to book on his shows. “They get a lot of flak from their public
relations friends in New York who want to book authors on Wattenburg’s shows.
Wattenburg won’t take even his own best friends on his shows. Why should he take
theirs? … The younger producers here fight to work Wattenburg’s shows. It’s a
lot of fun, and it’s sort of satisfying. And it’s a snap. … He tells us to take
every caller who calls on his show. We get a lot of really bright young kids who
call his show late at night. He gets a little mad if you even refuse to let a
drunk on his show. He says a lot of drunks make more sense than the sober ones,
and people love to hear them on the air because if you work them right they will
tell the whole world the truth that they will be sorry about tomorrow. … It’s
sort of nice to start a show when the switchboard is already full of calls
before he goes on the air … our biggest problem is when people start to call
before the end of the previous show and only want to know if Wattenburg is going
to be there later. The host on that show gets mad at you if he is pleading for
callers and he sees calls coming in, but none of them are for him…”</p>

<p><b>We verified that Wattenburg started and promoted two major environmental
campaigns on his radio shows. These were: stopping the giveaway of the Tongass
National Forest in Alaska to foreign-owned (Japanese) interests, and saving the
old-growth redwoods in the Headwaters Forest owned by Pacific Lumber Company.</b></p>

<p>He began alerting his west coast audience to these dangers in 1989, well before
national environmental organizations were on the bandwagon. He first warned that
the takeover of Pacific Lumber by a Houston investor in a junk bond deal would
lead to the cutting of the last of the privately-owned virgin redwoods. State
and federal officials didn’t believe him until Pacific Lumber’s new owners filed
for a logging permit the next year. Major public campaigns and legislation have
since stopped the cutting for the near future.</p>

<p>For two years, Wattenburg’s audience bombarded congress with protests over
the fifty-year contracts given to foreign-owned lumber companies to cut the
virgin forests in the Tongass Forest for as little as a few dollars a tree. Most
members of congress admitted that they didn’t even know that this country’s
largest national forest existed, let alone where it was. Wattenburg’s favorite
ploy was to remind politicians that they were hypocrites for complaining about
the cutting of rain forests in other countries while they allowed the
clear-cutting of this country’s only temperate rain forest.</p>

<p>The U.S. Forest Service finally modified the contracts extensively in 1992
and set aside large areas in the Tongass that can not be cut. Wattenburg still
delights in reminding the environmental lobbies that they only later got
interested in this problem to get contributions to save a forest that was
actually rescued by his audience on KGO Radio.</p>