Bellingham’s progressive radio replaced by classic hits, “not right-wing conspiracy”

Fans of The Joe Show gathered outside of Cascade Radio Group during the last show on Monday, July 31.
Fans of The Joe Show gathered outside of Cascade Radio Group during the last show on Monday, July 31. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Progressive radio talk station KBAI is now a classic hits station. Cascade Radio Group General Manager Don Kurtis said the change is the result of a national decline of progressive talk radio syndicates.

“It was apparent the time had come for a change. It was certainly not a right-wing conspiracy,” Kurtis said of the change this week. “There is nothing behind it other than we can’t put a consistent product on the air and in order to be viable for our sponsors, we need to have a consistent product.”

While there was strong support for the progressive shows in the county, Kurtis said hosts Jon Grayson and Bill Press alerted KBAI that they were ending their syndicated shows at the end of last year, and that this year has seen the death of Alan Colmes, as well as a reduction of hours from host Leslie Marshall.

Kurtis said KBAI was 95 percent syndicated content, as only the hour-long Joe Show with host Joe Teehan was locally produced. Teehan is now a news anchor for KGMI.

Gary Kanter, a musician and semi-regular guest on The Joe Show, said the decision left him feeling frustrated.

“This was the last local progressive show. It provided an alternative to right-wing radio,” Kanter said. “It allowed listeners to call in from the community and listen to someone who was receptive, to have a conversation instead of a screaming match.”

Rush Limbaugh’s show was added to KGMI in 1991, and Cascade turned KBAI into a progressive talk station more than 10 years ago to “add some balance,” according to a story on KGMI.com.

Don Kurtis
Don Kurtis, general manager of Cascade Radio Group, in his office on 2016 in Bellingham. He says the change in programming for from progressive talk on station KBAI to classic hits K-BAY station is the result of a national decline of syndicated progressive talk radio show material. Evan Abell Bellingham Herald file

Kurtis said there are no plans to change KGMI or introduce a progressive talk show to the station, as he strives for consistent programming.

Birch Bay resident and KBAI listener Ruth Higgins said she and other listeners have asked Kurtis and Bob Lawrence, vice president of programming for Saga Communications, which owns Cascade Radio Group, to allow the Joe Show to continue on one of the other stations.

Kurtis said the station is always trying to focus on increasing local content, but local production is expensive and being a talk show host is more difficult than most people think.

Gary and Joe
Joe Teehan, former host of The Joe Show, left, with Gary Kanter, a guest on the show. Gary Kanter Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Around a dozen of Teehan’s fans gathered outside of Cascade Radio Group during his last show on Monday, July 31. Teehan has worked at the stations for 14 years.

Higgins said she and other Joe Show fans would continue to press for the show to continue.

K-BAY, 93.9 FM/930 AM, which is being branded “Bellingham’s newest station,” is now playing classic hits.