“Radio Active:” Liberal groups trying to hit mute button on Milwaukee’s conservative talk radio

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MILWAUKEE -- Liberal groups are trying to hit the mute button on Milwaukee's conservative talk radio hosts, or at least get more air time of their own.

Ted Kraig

Ted Kraig

They are in the first phase of a fundraising campaign called "Radio Active," trying to raise $20,000 of seed money to monitor the shows of five talk show hosts whose views they find troubling. The plan faces an uncertain future: previous attempts at progressive radio have failed, but organizers said this effort has more momentum.

"We sense a lot of excitement, we don’t think it’s going to fizzle out," said Ted Kraig, regional director for the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the statewide teachers' union. "This campaign is about building something permanent so other points of view are heard."

WEAC is one of a handful of groups fundraising for the campaign. Organizers with Citizen Action of Wisconsin say if it's successful, they will pressure radio station owners to put a progressive voice on the air, and may consider buying a small station of their own.

Radio Active

The targets of the campaign are 620 WTMJ's Charlie Sykes, News/Talk 1130 WISN's Mark Belling, Vicki McKenna and Jay Weber, and Jerry Bader with Green Bay's WTAQ.

Bader told FOX6 News the campaign shows a lack of understanding. Conservative talk radio is on the air because it's popular, he said.

Jerry Bader

Jerry Bader

"I`m going to be honest -- I thought it (Radio Active) was hysterical," Bader said in a Skype interview. "Conservative talk radio is a business. We are there for profit. So if they want to raise money to try to challenge that, or silence that, good luck."

Some of the liberal groups' concerns -- that talk hosts have too much influence over the political process, and hosts coordinate with one another on a central message -- are untrue, Bader said.

"We operate on our own, we come up with compelling content of our own," he said.

Jerry Bott with iHeartMedia, which owns WISN-AM, says the plan is a political attempt to silence popular and influential voices.

iHeartMedia statement

"These actions are not about Wisconsin's airwaves or the local communities that talk radio stations and programming serve every day," Bott said in an emailed statement. It's an attempt at censorship."

Bader welcomed the challenge, saying the groups' plans were unsustainable.

"It`s going to collapse under its own weight like similar efforts have because again, you do not compete in the free market in the way they`re trying to do," Bader said.

Kraig said southeastern Wisconsin teachers have grown tired of a one-sided voice on talk radio, and pointed to hosts calling teachers "bullies." He said dozens of his members have contacted organizers and want to be involved in the campaign.

"We think a lot of people are unaware of how severe the bias is and what the consequences are," he said. "If you line it up, you can see it is really bad for the teaching profession and public schools."

Radio Active



  • Z

    I don’t align with either the right or left because I think they are both equally evil, but this is big why liberals are the scum of the earth.

    Here is an idea dummies. Go get your own station to broadcast on.

    • Benjamin

      “I don’t align with either the right or left”

      yeah, i someone think you probably align very well with the right, but just don’t admit that you do.

  • 2ECOND

    maybe the mental hospital in killwaukee can give the libs one of their spare rooms, that way the liberal freak radio hosts will be close to home….

  • Marcia

    The Milwaukee Urinal and the local news aren’t enough for this group? The only way the conservative view gets out is through these talk shows. Otherwise the liberal view is the only one heard. Censorship at it’s finest. Yeesh!

    • Benjamin

      the urinal and tv news don’t represent the left. i think they are mostly owned by the same people who put out the blatantly right wing propaganda. i know many conservatives believe the MSM is left, but only because they label anything everything “left wing” or “liberal” for simply not being ridiculously right wing.

  • Peter Tripoli

    . “This campaign is about building something permanent so other points of view are heard.”
    No, it is about shutting down points of view that they disagree with.


    This like my 4 year old trying to thrown a tantrum while I’m talking. He wants me to shut up so he can keep ranting and whining instead of waiting his turn or finding a better outlet. I just love the tolerant left and their quest for restricted-free speech. Oh, but conservatives hate everyone, right.

  • Tom

    Left wing radio fails for one Yuuuuge reason. We don’t need an “echo chamber” reinforcing our views! Lefties are capable of developing our own viewpoints without being told what to think, over and over again!

    • Scott

      I had to lol. Liberal perspectives already have an echo chamber: It’s called the main-stream media. Left wing radio fails because it is simply redundant to all of the other liberal media platforms. There’s no shortage of media vehicles to tell liberals what to think over and over again, so no need for left wing radio.

      • fightingbobfan

        What the legitimate media is lay out the facts. Of course when you are a fascist, everything is liberal. As for us “libs”, we don’t have hateful, paranoid viewpoints like you do and so we don’t need affirmation.

      • Scott

        Ben – You agree that Fox news and the Washington Examiner are legitimate news sources that lay out the facts?

        Isn’t describing millions of people as having a paranoid viewpoint, oh I don’t know, paranoid behavior? Pot thy name is kettle.

    • fightingbobfan

      This is funny. The other day the right wing was crying like little girls because they said Facebook was blocking their content. Looks like FB must have developed a BS algorithm. Apparently the right wing wants equal time after all.

      And now they are crying like little girls because we are going to pay attention to what their out of control hosts are spewing out to the community in the form of hate and lies.

      This is what’s called the free market. Enjoy a taste of your own medicine.

      • Scott

        Your perspective is interesting. When the right campaigns it’s whining and when the left campaigns it’s a fight against hate and lies and advocacy of free market. Perhaps your hate is clouding your vision? I love the free market … it’s why leftist radio has failed in the past and will fail again. The market supports what there is a demand for. We are already saturated with liberal media and there is no demand for more. This is really a non-story, but entertaining none the less and I have no issues with the wasted efforts and money of those involved.

      • fightingbobfan

        “When the right campaigns it’s whining and when the left campaigns it’s a fight against hate and lies and advocacy of free market.” How is what I am saying not true?

        Right wing radio is a mechanism to turn the attention of the gullible away from the real causes of problems in this country to focus it on those who aren’t. Hate clouds your vision, so it’s not surprising for you to expect that of others.

        But let’s face it. Anything that doesn’t conform to your narrow, paranoid view of the world is leftist, even when it hardly is. Do you think that the six corporations that own most of the media in this country is going to let their properties go on some socialist tear? Maybe in your dreams. Don’t forget that the Milwaukee “Urinal” that you hate some much floated serial matrimonialist Charlie Sykes’ program for years.

        Notice that this campaign is being self-funded. Unlike the astro-turf organizations porped up by billionaires this is being done on it’s own. You of course are going to focus on the radio station, but the real hit is going to come when the community comes to realize the garbage that is being poured onto the Milwaukee airways. Then it will be game over.

        They are not going to shut anyone down. Oh no, not like Belling and Sykes wanted to do with Penzey’s and others that oppose them. Instead, they are going to be gelded to the point that their content will be so watered down that no one will listen to it.

        The great thing is you all are so encapsulated in your bubble that you think nothing being said is out of line. But wait until the community gets a load of what is being said. This isn’t violating your rights. This is giving the community the opportunity to think about disinfecting.

      • Scott

        Bob – I still find your responses fascinating. You’ve stereotyped me as something that you would have no basis to do simply because I choose to point out that we already have a heavy left leaning mainstream media in this country and that the free market has already determined that leftist radio is non-viable. Those are my opinions based upon my observations. I can only interpret all of your annoyance over this as whining that somebody doesn’t agree with your “opinion”. These shows have been on the air for decades. They sustain because they are profitable to the companies that produce them. They are profitable because advertisers recognize that there are large listening audiences and they get a return on their marketing dollars. It’s kind of comical to think that some irrelevant grass roots effort is suddenly now going to change that. It’s already been tried … several times. So go ahead and patiently wait for your game over scenario. Penzey’s is interesting example. Nobody tried to shut them down. Radio hosts were simply challenging consumers in the face of having their opinions publicly insulted by a business owner and then the owner being foolish enough to think that consumers don’t have choices. That is free market. Exactly what this little effort will attempt to do. No difference. I think there are tons of things being said that are out of line and filled with hate and lies. BLM is completely out of line and filled with hate. Mr. King would be embarrassed. CAIR is completely out of line and filled with hate. The message that free healthcare and college educations will actually be free is reckless. Nothing is free and nothing the gov’t manages is cost effective. Closing down borders is reckless. This country was built on the backs of immigrants, but we can certainly have standards and requirements of those who are allowed in. Target will evaluate their bathroom policies based upon the business impact, nothing more. If they lose sizeable business over policy, they will adopt a new strategy and policy. That’s free market. Tax policies and compliance requirements that the rest of the world can ignore and that encourage US businesses to move overseas are reckless, many of those come from social programs (conflict minerals, EPA, renewable energy subsidies, etc.). A court system that would actually entertain the suing because coffee is too hot or there is too much ice in my cup is insane. Free market will handle that if people actually believe it. And finally, who said I hate the MJS? You need to move past all of the mainstream stereotypes and engage people in the real world. After all, you only have opinions, just like everybody else.

      • fightingbobfan

        Scott, if you are going to engulf us in a tsunami of mansplaining you’d better…

        — Try using character return so that people actually want to read your verbal eruptions. It’s easy, The put them on both sides of your keyboard.

        — Know what you are talking about. The campaign launched against Penzey’s was not around them insulting anyone. It was because Bill Penzey wanted to not make the MPS employees feel like crap so every single one of them got a gift box from his company. Cheap Shot Charley and Beavis Belling of course feel that the MPS has be treated like crap and told their listeners to go to Spice House to punish Penzey, which their loyal robots did. Why that’s not clouded with hate at all is it Scott. Why it’s just love, Love, LOVE.

        I bet you’d be the last person to know what MLK would have thought. But of course you will come back at me and claim you are a liberal who has earned a doctorate studying MLK. Let’s face it. The ring wing loves to lie.

        What a spew. Where did I mention free tuition or health care? As for progressive radios failures, you learn from each one. Look at Donal Trump. Of course the right wing knows so much about economics. Look at the bang-up job Scott Walker is doing with the WEDC and the state as a whole.

        I know you guys are worried. You should be. The community has had a bellyful of rant radio’s hatred and lies.

        You people are a hoot.

      • Scott

        Why all the hostility? Sound arguments make you uncomfortable? Not used to having somebody be able to go toe-to-toe with your BS? Hung up on the little things … like spacing? Isn’t that the same tactic that you accused radio news hosts of … redirecting from the actual important issues.

        How was that?

        Admittedly it’s been a little while, but the Penzey topic that I recall had more to do with his message to all customers in his business catalog claiming that Waukesha county residents were all bigots who had moved west because they weren’t ready for diversity. Or maybe it was the misrepresentation of figures (I guess you would call it a lie and I won’t argue with you) around Walker’s increasing per pupil funding for inner-city schools. He’s a business owner and if insulting his client base in a market with great disposable income seems like a great idea to him, he can do what he wants. Any prudent person though would call it what it was: stupid. Which is what talk radio did. You seem to think people are incapable of making rationale decisions unless they agree with you. I have more faith in people apparently and more faith in free market. So, you are against boycotts? Only boycotts when people don’t do stupid things? You think insulting your customer base is a good strategy?

        I won’t bother with your MLK comment. You offered nothing substantive. It’s continual useless redirecting and you know I am correct so there really isn’t anything you can say. It kills liberals to have to agree that a liberal cause behaves badly. It’s OK, your silence is deafening. I hear you.

        Thank you for acknowledging the bang up job Walker is doing. With regards to overall rankings for best states for business published by CNBC (liberal source to save you useless arguing), Wisconsin has climbed each of the last 3 years (I didn’t bother to go back further) and I believe I just heard that we had almost cracked the top 10 (number 11, I believe) which was just announced on the radio this morning as I commuted to work. I agree and appreciate you bringing it up. 4 more years!

        I didn’t mean to confuse you by offering my opinions on a myriad of political topics. You brought up socialism and I simply offered an opinion on two initiatives that will be financially destructive to this country. I also have many different opinions that don’t fall under one single party platform. I know, that probably confuses you having to accept the mantra of one side only.

        Finally, listeners and the free market have already spoken. While you apparently have a had a bellyful of conservative opinions, it’s obvious that you speak for a small minority of the community. Otherwise the programs would have ceased to exist years ago. I am not sure that you really understand the free market concept. I still wholly support this initiative being funded though. It might create jobs (although very short lived) and distracts from other issues that might actually be influenced. We are on the same side here … I love this idea!

        Taking a break, I’m exhausted from all this use of the return carriage ;)

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