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Madison talker purchases Waukesha station, targets Milwaukee radio market

A liberal Madison talk radio host has bought a Waukesha radio station and will begin broadcasting progressive talk shows to the Milwaukee radio market next week. The idea is to counteract the dominance of conservative talk radio on Milwaukee’s airwaves.

Michael Crute, co-host of a syndicated show called Devil’s Advocates Radio, says on a podcast produced by the liberal group Citizen Action of Wisconsin that he’d bought the Waukesha-based WRRD-AM, 1510 on the dial. The 23,000-watt station currently broadcasts Spanish language content for ESPN radio. A subsequent news release from Citizen Action said of the deal, “Crute and current licensee, Good Karma Brands, have agreed to terms of sale, with an operating agreement permitting the immediate format change while application for licensing transfer is processed by the FCC.”  

Devil’s Advocates Radio was a talk show on The Mic, a progressive news-talk station in Madison that dropped that format in November. That station is owned by iHeart Radio, a company that owns radio stations in multiple formats across the country, including WISN-AM Radio in Milwaukee, which broadcasts a lineup of conservative talkers. Since The Mic dropped its news-talk format, Crute and his partner, Dominic Salvia, have been producing their show in syndication, serving 16 markets around the country, Crute said on the Citizen Action podcast.

Crute has been partnering with Radio-Active, a group organized last spring and affiliated with Citizen Action. Among other things, Radio-Active monitors conservative radio talkers in the Milwaukee market with the idea of holding them accountable.

Crute said the format of 1510 will switch to news-talk on Feb. 1. The Citizen Action release describes the new format thus: “The Bill Press Show, the Stephanie Miller Show, the Thom Hartman Show, and Free Talk Live will join the Devil’s Advocates in providing a live daily weekday line-up between 6 am and 9 pm CT. Westwood One will provide National news, daily features like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and weekend national programming like Meet The Press. WRRD 1510 AM will welcome Milwaukee’s own Earl Ingram Show back to the Wisconsin airwaves Saturdays 12-3 p.m.” It will also include an hour of the Devil’s Advocates Radio show, broadcast from 2 to 3 p.m. and then again in drive time, from 5 to 6 p.m., Crute said in the podcast.

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Terri Williams, organizer of Radio-Active, said in an email Friday, “The launch of 1510 AM provides progressives with a tremendous opportunity to change the conversation in southeastern Wisconsin.”

Vicki McKenna, a conservative talker on both WISN and WIBA, an iHeart station in Madison, said of Crute and Salvia:  “They broadcast down the hall from me for years. I don’t know them really well, but have always been friendly with them. They strike me as nice guys, so I only wish them well in their endeavors.”

McKenna’s colleague Mark Belling, the originator of conservative talk radio in Milwaukee, had a little sharper edge. “I have said consistently that I welcome liberal talk radio programs on the air as every single one of them that has been tried in Milwaukee has bombed terribly,” he said in an email sent Friday afternoon. “Maybe this one will be different. The reason liberal talk radio is a rarity in America is because hardly anybody, including liberals, want to listen to it.

“Joel McNally had a show for awhile (I think it was on AM-1290) and was actually as good at it as a liberal can be. He was funny and engaging. Alas, the show tanked. If Joel couldn’t pull it off, I don’t know who could.”

Crute had an answer: “Mark Belling has reason to fear a dynamic, informative and entertaining product competing with him, head to head,” he wrote in an email Friday afternoon. “Belling has very few guests or unscreened discourse. Unchallenged, alternative-fact-based monologuing is his game. We leave the studio, meet the people, and will take ALL callers unscreened.” 

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He also said his show competed well against McKenna’s in Madison.

Crute added: “Be afraid, Mark, be very afraid!”

This story originally reported that WRRD-AM had a 25,000-watt transmitter. As a commenter points out and Crute confirms, it’s actually 23,000 kilohertz. And the station reaches that power level just during the day. 

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