The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

26 October 2005

MSNBC Apologist Defends Air America


MSNBC'S Eric Alterman Thinks We're The Problem

After chugging down a rancid carton of Air America Brand milk, well past its sell-by date, MSNBC's Eric Alterman concludes we're the network's real problem. Hope he didn't give them all of his lunch money.

MSNBC NewsYes, it's a right-wing conspiracy to silence the "progressive" alternative, led by yours truly, Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity.

It couldn't have anything to do with $875,000 in shady taxpayer grant transfers from a Bronx-based community nonprofit, to the liberal network and resulting city investigation, right?

Or that we proved (after producing a signed, notarized document) Al Franken knew about the situation last November, not this August, as he's claimed on-air?

How about the outrageous radio and television antics that suggested President Bush's execution? Or wild, unverified claims about ratings and revenue success?

None of this is fair game?

If Alterman had contacted Malkin, or myself, he'd learn the real story: that it took quite a stink to get conservative heavyweights even talking about it. None wanted to be slammed as intolerant of liberal talk radio competition.

Rather than a right-wing conspiracy, it's a response to just how bad things are at Air America, where big guns realized its importance outweighed any flak discussions might generate.

Writes Alterman:

What is it about Air America suddenly has the right-wing fog machine—in the persons of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh in particular-- so worried? In recent weeks, we’ve seen and heard what can only be a concerted disinformation campaign to undermine its increasingly effective challenge to the hegemony of the caveman right on the air. Some examples:

“The O’Reilly Factor” with guests, Michelle Malkin and Brian Maloney. 9/27/05

O’Reilly: the ratings at Air America aren’t good and the programming and talent are full of personal attacks. Last week the AAR sent out a mass e-mail asking people to send money much like PBS and NPR. Why do they need money if they claim they are doing so well. Brian, you study this crew, I have never seen a commercial enterprise ask their listeners for money – ever. Is this unprecedented?

Brian Maloney: Well, Ted Turner did this many decades ago at a TV station in Charlotte, when he made an on-air appeal for funds, but yes, this is like the NPR and PBS approach, send us a dollar and save midnight basketball in the Bronx.

O’Reilly: OK, so their ratings are low, advertising is low and they need sugar daddies like Soros to save them.

Malkin: They have a bad business model and they aren’t drumming up enough advertising. The content on Air America and the talent say outlandish things. …It’s almost comical how they put out this panhandling plea.

O’Reilly: – well, they are trying to survive.

Maloney: – they are down to their last couple of months – that could change if Soros steps to the plate – but things are looking bleak. They overpay their talent, they are fending off lawsuits and are overspending. The just got a new studio, they didn’t need that but Franken insisted on it and now he is not even going to use it – he’s moving to Minnesota.

Alterman continues with more O'Reilly, Malkin and Limbaugh comments, then attempts to counter it all with Enron-esque corporate PR spin from Air America's Danny Goldberg (my responses are below each point):

As for the debts, Danny writes me:

Air America is in strong financial shape. Last week we started broadcasting from our new multi-million dollar studios. Several weeks earlier the Board of Directors of Air America’s parent company accelerated re-payment of a loan from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club of $875,000 two years in advance of a previously agreed upon re-payment plan.

(What previously agreed-upon repayment plan? With [now virtually defunct] Gloria Wise? Actually the money has been funded by "investors" and placed in their attorney's escrow account. Would they have ever repaid the money if not for the publicity? As it was, they stalled as long as they could.

As for the new studios, since when does spending money point to a strong financial condition? Anybody can blow money these days, it's not very impressive.)

As for the handouts,

The Air America Associates Program was created in response to our listeners requests to support our programming financially and is modeled after the Nation’s Magazine program, “The Nation’s Associates,” which is also a for-profit company.

(Do Nation readers expect a small magazine to have much in the way of funds? If AAR's in such great shape, as they constantly insist, why do they need to go this route? Because they're obviously broke.)

And hey look:

Rush Limbaugh’s Web site offers his fans the “Limbaugh Letter” for $34.95 a year and a totally separate service called Rush 24/7 which includes access to archived programs at the cost of $49.95 a year. The Limbaugh site also features the “EIB Store” which sells such items as $19.95 polo shirt which amusingly says, “My Mullah went to G’itmo and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

The Sean Hannity Web-site features a “subscription” to something called, “The Hannity Insider” for $5.95 a month.

But no one tops the self proclaimed non-spinner Bill O’Reilly. Bill O’ offers a “premium membership” for either $4.95 a month or $49.95 a year. He also offers a “Gift certificate” for $14.95.

(Also really obvious: these hosts actually offer something of value for the money. Giving away three cheap-looking bumper stickers for a $50 contribution looks too much like NPR and PBS fund drives.)

It's Alterman and his mainstream media friends that seem truly worried, not conservatives. Are they afraid we're really on to something, that maybe the criticism is a bit too effective?

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  • Goldberg: " Last week we started broadcasting from our new multi-million dollar studios."

    That bogus claim is starting to drive me nuts. When, exactly did the Suttons give Air Idiot the deed to those studios at 3 Park Avenue? Any refurbishing done in those studios was done by their landlord, not by these clowns renting the space.

    By Blogger TC, at 26 October, 2005 06:43  

  • Are you sure about the Ted Turner/Charlotte bit?

    Because Ted Turner got his start in Atlanta with a UHF station that he eventually built into TBS by leveraging it onto cable.

    I recall watching gawdawful horror movies at night with Bill Tush hosting-

    and the writers included Bonnie and Terry Turner, who went on to bigger and better things.

    By Blogger Yanni Znaio, at 26 October, 2005 12:53  

  • R E (Ted) Turner's career got started I believe in Charlotte at channel 36. In 1968, the station, then called WCTU-TV, was at one point the home of Jim Bakker--before Jessica Hahn of course!.

    In 1973, Turner bought the station and renamed it WRET-TV meaning his actual name Robert Edward Turner. Channel 36 was an independent station trying to get ratings from CBS affil WBTV 3, NBC's WSOC-TV 9 and ABC's WCCB 18. The campaign did work for a time as the indie became a player in Charlotte.

    In 1979 came the big affiliation switch. WRET became an NBC station, while ABC went to WSOC and WCCB became the indie and was just about a shadow of WRET--taking some of the syndie reruns, movies and cartoons 36 sent to them as NBC was giving them programming. Of course, 18's now a Fox station

    In 1980, Westinghouse bought the station from Turner as he was starting CNN. Group W, which at the time owned powerful VHF stations in Philly, Boston, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, now had a UHF station which they renamed WPCQ-TV.

    Five years later, Renassiance Broadcasting (aka Odessy Partners, who owned independent Channel 20 WTXX-TV in Waterbury, CT) bought the station and renamed it WCNC. At the end of the 1980's, it would be sold to current owner Belo.

    The station's news operations began in the early 1980's and has not made any major dents between WBTV and WSOC--but it's a competitor nonetheless, vastly improved today.

    Most of the info I got from Wikipedia's page on WCNC. By the way, WCCB itself was named for a businessman--Cy Bahakel, founder of Bahakel Communications, which has owned the station since signing on in 1964. Bahakel also owns radion stations like Waterloo, Iowa's KXEL.

    Now here comes a shocker, Bahakel ran for Congress in 1970 as a Democrat, but lost. Now it seems he has had some ties to right-wing groups.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 28 October, 2005 21:25  

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