KUDO firings shake up station

Beth Bragg

The city's only politically liberal radio station fired its highest-profile broadcaster this week, but new managers at KUDO-1080 say the station will keep leaning to the left and will still air three local weekday call-in shows.

Aaron Selbig, who focused on state and local politics and gave Democrats a weekly forum on Fridays, lost his afternoon talk show and his job as program manager Sunday.

Mike Robbins, whose Tati Broadcasting company recently took over management of KUDO, said the firing was an economic necessity for a station that has ranked at the bottom of the Arbitron ratings for years. News director Jennifer Summers and producer David Waldron were also fired.

KUDO, whose license is owned by the IBEW, will retain a progressive format, Robbins said. Its promotional slogan will be, "Alaska's progressive voice."

"We're not moving the direction of the radio station. We'll maintain an important position in that we're the only forum where people can discuss the other side of the coin," he said. "But it doesn't do us any good to be a progressive radio station and rank 20th. We want to be a progressive station and rank fifth."

KUDO will launch a new schedule Thursday with the debut of a morning call-in show hosted by the man who fired Selbig -- Cary Carrigan, a longtime Anchorage broadcaster and KUDO's new program director.

Carrigan said his first guest will be U.S. Senate candidate Jake Metcalfe -- a former IBEW attorney who figures in a controversy Selbig had been talking about on his show, involving Web-site attacks against Ethan Berkowitz, another Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

On his show last week, Selbig alleged a connection between the Web attacks and a Jake Metcalfe political advisor.

Carrigan and Robbins said Selbig's firing had nothing to do with any of this. It was a business decision based on economics and ratings, they said.

"You can't continue to run in the back of the pack, whether you're in the radio business or a horse race," Carrigan said. "Aaron was the program director, and it's no secret the programming director is the first to go when you start changing direction."

Selbig said he doesn't think the timing of his firing and his comments on the anti-Berkowitz Web sites were entirely coincidental.

"The last guest on my show was Ethan Berkowitz. I got fired two days later. You tell me," he said Tuesday. "They told me it was a cost-cutting measure. I have no choice but to accept that at face value."

Shannyn Moore and Camille Conte, the hosts of KUDO's other local talk shows, both said they don't think Selbig was fired for political reasons. "Absolutely not," Moore said. "That's just not what it is at all."

In the most recent Arbitron ratings, from fall of last year, KUDO tied for last place among 22 Anchorage stations. Among all listeners aged 12 and older, KUDO attracted an average of 500 listeners at any given time; top-ranked KASH drew 2,800 and all but three stations drew 900 or more.

State Rep. Les Gara, a Democrat who appeared occasionally on Selbig's weekly "Demo Memo," said he thinks the motive for the firing was economic, not political.

"I'm an Ethan supporter, but I doubt very much that Aaron was let go because of the Jake flap," Gara said. "I had an informal conversation months ago with the folks at KUDO, and they were talking that they were staff heavy and were talking about letting one of the DJs go."

Conte said she has invited Selbig to be her first guest when she returns to the air.

"I've been in radio 20 years, so I've seen this before. That it happened and the way it happened isn't unusual at all," she said. "I still don't agree with the choice. ... Aaron is a very funny guy; his show was well-produced and it covered a lot of ground. His show was the anchor to KUDO. I leaned on him daily and probably will still."

Even without Selbig, KUDO will offer listeners something other stations don't, Robbins said.

"There's been all kinds of talk about us ruining KUDO, homogenizing it," he said. "We're doing these things to a product we believe needs to have the engine rebuilt but still needs to be a race car."

And if you're one of those who might be worried, New York Yankee games will still air live on the weekend.

Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4309.

KUDO scheduled of local shows

6-9 a.m. -- Cary Carrigan show

1-3 p.m. -- Shannyn Moore, Blue State of Mind

3-6 p.m. -- Camille Conte, The Cutting Edge

Alaska Politics blog: Video