Air America Anniversary, Sacramento, New York City, Al Franken, Bill O'Reilly
After Two Years, How Else To Describe Air America?
As certain as the presence of a dozen Dunkin' Donuts outlets in every New England town, today's second Air America Radio on-air anniversary is sure to bring mainstream media accolades from every corner of the country.
When looking at the network honestly, however, how can we conclude it's been anything other than a debacle?
--- Ratings are in the toilet (another update soon on the way).
--- Just to stay afloat, it requires constant cash infusions from Rob Glaser and George Soros.
--- To sustain a bloated management and staff structure, company spending remains outrageous, with lavish salaries, perks and other benefits. Franken and some of its other hosts are compensated at rates up to ten times industry norms.
--- Does the firm ever intend to make money, or is it merely a political operation?
--- From skits advocating violence against President Bush, to the Gloria Wise taxpayer funds transfer scandal, Air America has had a nearly endless knack for generating bad publicity.
Getting a head start on the fresh round of praise was the ultraliberal and ever-shrinking New York Daily News:
After 2 years, Air America grows progressively upbeat
By DAVID HINCKLEY
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
It was two years ago tomorrow that the progressive network Air America took to the radio, like a band of pioneers seeking a foothold in territory long dominated by hostile conservatives.
The ride has been as rocky as any 19th-century wagon train, and it's still not clear where the network is ultimately headed.
But count Randi Rhodes, the 3-7 p.m. host, among those who think a lot of turf has been claimed, with more to come.
"For a long time, there was a big hole," said Rhodes, "and it's not there anymore. Now there's another side on the radio. People who think our government has been going in the wrong direction don't feel like they're alone anymore.
"I'm much more optimistic today than I was two years ago. Much more hopeful."
Air America launched amid considerable optimism of its own - heady talk of buying its own network of stations while derailing the re-election of President Bush.
--- Given the huge number of liberal talk shows that have failed in the past, how are Air America's hosts "pioneers"?
--- How are conservatives "hostile"?
--- Given the company's inner turmoil, ongoing questions about the future of its flagship New York City station and ratings troubles, why is Randi so hopeful?
Perhaps the real hope is that her salary will yet overcome that of Al Franken's executive producer Billy Kimball, who clears over $600,000 a year.
From the story, more Air America spin:
Affiliates, ratings and revenue are rising, he said, challenging critics, like Bill O'Reilly, who have regularly declared the network close to dead.
One of the major arguments by O'Reilly and other critics is that Air America will never succeed as long as it sounds like a Democratic Party mouthpiece.
Network hosts maintain they often chastize Democrats - over not opposing the war more strongly, for instance - and Rhodes says Air America's critics wouldn't be so persistent if the network wasn't making a difference.
"It's a sign of fear and loathing," she said. "They see where we've gotten with zero promotion, and they're terrified."
Zero promotion? From the New York Times to the Washington Post, when has any upstart media operation ever had more fawning free publicity heaped upon it?
As for O'Reilly's point, he's right. Conservative talk radio never directly ties itself to the Republican Party, because that's a huge mistake. Nor does it usually call attention to its right-leaning nature (with a few West Coast exceptions).
To recognize the programming as conservative, it's up to the listener.
Air America, however, isn't just tied to the Democrats, it's directly promoting their candidacies and participating in partisan events. From the Sacramento Bee:
Democrats' delight: Candidates get airtime as Franken brings radio show to Sacramento
By Peter Hecht -- Bee Capitol Bureau
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Democratic gubernatorial contender Phil Angelides turned to Harvard classmate Al Franken - author, liberal satirist and foil to conservatives - to burnish his progressive political credentials.
Franken is touring California this week for broadcasts of his 9 a.m.-noon radio show. And Angelides was among several Democratic politicians to bask in the road show by the author of "The Truth (With Jokes)," "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot" and "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right."
Also interviewed on the Franken show Wednesday was former Sacramento Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg, who is running for the state Senate, and Bill Durston, a Democrat who is challenging Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, in California's 3rd District.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, who is running for lieutenant governor, told Franken of her fight against steroids and dietary supplements for high school students.
Other than an in-kind campaign contribution for these candidates, we can't imagine what else to call Franken's Sacramento visit. No doubt Al neglected to mention Angelides' past as a decidedly un-PC land developer.
While Air America may have reached its second on-air anniversary, the company's situation has never looked more precarious. Don't expect to read much about that in the next round of upbeat press reports.
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Silence: David A Lunde for the Radio Equalizer, Fluff images: Pete at IHillary, Franken with Sen. Speier: KCRA-TV