Austin Hill, Idaho Freedom Foundation and the ever-changing media landscape

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Talk-show hosts thrive on controversy, but the company airing Austin Hill’s new show on NewsRadio KINF 99.1 FM says the arrangement is anything but controversial.

On Feb. 11, Hill launched “The Austin Hill Show” from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on KINF. Hill also is employed by IdahoReporter.com, an arm of libertarian lobbying group the Idaho Freedom Foundation. So his KINF gig might raise potential questions. The obvious one: Who exactly is paying his salary to do the new radio show?

I was contacted Feb. 8 by a Boise radio professional concerned that the IFF was paying Hill to do the show.  That would make it akin to a daily three-hour bullhorn for the organization, which is a non-profit 501(c)(3).

That is not the case, says Darrell Calton, CEO and general manager at Impact Radio Group, which owns KINF.

“The short answer to the question? He doesn’t get paid to do (the) show by the Idaho Freedom Foundation,” Calton said. “Period. End of story. Austin is Austin’s own guy. We have an agreement with Austin, not with them.”

This particular agreement, Calton says, is commonplace in radio. It’s an inventory barter: Hill is allocated a certain amount of air time to sell as advertising during his show. And KINF keeps an allotment for its own sales people.

On the air, Hill mentions that he is a reporter for IdahoReporter.com. And you’ll see headlines from IdahoReporter.com on KINF’s website — below an IdahoStatesman.com headline feed. (The Statesman and KINF are news partners. The Statesman and Journal Broadcast Group also are news partners. And, since we’re in disclosure mode: I co-host “The Other Studio” Sundays on 94.9 FM The River, which is owned by Journal Broadcast Group. Ain’t this ever-blurring, ever-changing media landscape great?)

But, Calton repeats, Hill is not being paid by the IFF to do the KINF show.

“If his salary was paid by the Idaho Freedom Foundation, we would be required at the end of the broadcast to state that,” Calton says. “It has to be clearly indicated, whether it’s a commercial for Toyota, or whatever, who’s responsible for that program content. Austin Hill is 100-percent — himself, individually — responsible for that program content.”

Hill, a talk-show host at KIDO 580 AM until he was let go in 2012, also hosts the syndicated “Austin Hill’s Big World of Small Business,” which airs Saturdays on KINF and two out-of-state stations.

Could the new “Austin Hill Show” — which covers a range of topics but focuses on politics, of course — also end up in syndication?

“I think Austin Hill’s one of the most talented guys out there,” Calton says, “and I think if anybody’s got a shot locally to get a deal syndicated, I think he might be the guy to do it.”

When it comes to finding an audience at 99.1 FM, Hill’s work will be cut out for him. The latest Arbitron ratings period was not kind to KINF, which had less than a 1.0 share in both major demographics categories. Last month, the station eliminated its news staff.

Michael Deeds is the Idaho Statesman’s entertainment columnist and Scene magazine editor. His column runs Fridays and Sundays. He appears on the 6 p.m. broadcast of "Today's 6 News" on Thursdays and hosts a music show, "The Other Studio," from 9-10 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM The River.

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