‘Democracy Now!’ joins progressive talk lineup

Robservations on the media beat:

  • In a long-awaited addition to local radio, the New Year will bring Democracy Now! to Chicago's progressive talk station. Hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan González, the New York-based show is billed as "a daily independent global news hour," funded entirely by audience and foundation grants. Starting Wednesday, it will air at 8pm weeknights on Newsweb Radio's WCPT-AM (820) — simulcast on WCPY-FM (92.5), WCPT-FM (92.7), WCPQ-FM (99.9) and ChicagosProgressiveTalk.com. It will replace Leslie Marshall's syndicated talk show on WCPT's lineup. Launched by Pacifica Radio in 1996, Democracy Now! became an independent non-profit entity in 2002. Up to now, it's been airing here only on Chicago Community Access Network Channel 19 and Chicagoland Radio Information Service for the blind and print-handicapped. For years, citizens groups such as Chicago Media Action and Illinois Coalition for Justice, Peace and the Environment have been petitioning Chicago Public Media to air Democracy Now! on WBEZ-FM (91.5). WCPT also recently picked up Smiley & West, which previously aired on WBEZ, and The Tavis Smiley Show.

  • With Tribune Co. finally emerging from bankruptcy after four years, the Chicago-based media giant was forced to endure one more embarrassment, courtesy of billionaire vulgarian Sam Zell. The Sun-Times reported last week that the woman Zell handpicked to handle real estate transactions for Tribune Co. has been indicted by a federal grand jury for bilking the company out of $260,000. So not only was Zell unfit to own a big media company, it turns out he wasn’t very good at his supposed area of expertise — managing real estate holdings — either.

  • It's another December to remember for WLIT-FM (93.9), the Clear Channel adult-contemporary station. In Arbitron figures released last week for the period from November 8 to December 5, The Holiday Lite more than tripled its audience, jumping from 14th place to second overall with a 6.0 percent share. (The station began airing all-Christmas music November 9.) Even so, competitors noted it was Lite FM's worst November/December ratings performance in the past four years.

  • Jake Hartford was as surprised as his listeners Saturday when WLS-AM (890) began running promos for a gold infomercial program to air during his own Awake With Jake time period, starting next weekend. Bosses of the Cumulus Media news/talk station did not respond to inquiries Sunday. "When I heard the promo, I figured that when management decided when it was time for me to know, then I would know," Hartford said. He's been a Saturday morning fixture for 15 years (including a two-year detour on WCPT). The good news is that Hartford is being heard more than ever on WLS these days. Since September, he's also been co-hosting from 9 to 11am Monday through Friday with Tribune columnist John Kass.

  • Sunday marked the farewell broadcast of Radio Arte, the Spanish-language community programming service of WRTE-FM (90.5). With Chicago Public Media having acquired the station from the National Museum of Mexican Art, the frequency has switched over to a simulcast of Vocalo. The $450,000 deal for the license of the 73-watt station in Pilsen was finalized last June. “However, we will not officially launch Vocalo until we complete the signal upgrades at the end of January and move to 90.7 [FM],” a spokesman for Chicago Public Media said Sunday. “We will also, at that time, launch some new programs that build on the Radio Arte legacy.” 

  • Condolences to WGN-AM (720) morning star Jonathon Brandmeier on the loss of his mother, Frances “Hanky” Brandmeier. She died Sunday at 81 in hospice care near her home in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, after battling Alzheimer’s disease. Beloved by Johnny B.’s fans, she was recalled by family as “a loving, lovely woman.”

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)