The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

12 March 2006

Al Franken, WLIB, New York City, Air America


Al Franken: Everything's A-OK!

Remember Iraqi Information Minister Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf? Astounding many with unwavering Saddam loyalty, even as allied forces seized control of Baghdad, he set a new standard for detached from reality media relations.

In the spirit of al-Sahaf is his American counterpart, comedian Al Franken, who may actually be generating a few laughs in his defense of Air America Radio.

While this rare bit of real comedy may seem a welcome change from Franken's usual routines, it's unfortunately accidental.

With the softest of softball questioning comes The Nation, wondering about recent "right-wing media" reports of troubles at Air America:

Air America's OK
Sam Graham-Felsen

If you read the New York Sun or the New York Post, you might be under the impression that WLIB, Air America Radio's New York City affiliate, is going under.

Last night, I attended a fundraiser for Al Franken's new political action committee, the Midwest Values Pac (MVP). The goal of MVP is to raise money for progressive candidates in Franken's home state of Minnesota as well as progressive candidates in other states, including Vermont's Bernie Sanders (for more on MVP, check out this BuzzFlash interview).

Franken gave a hilarious speech, but took a serious tone when he discussed the values that define MVP-- universal health care, a living wage, equitable funding for public schools, a just trade policy that protects the interests of working people, and multilateral cooperation, to name a few.

Anyway, towards the end of the night, I asked Al about the rumors regarding Air America. "Look," he told me, "Bill O'Reilly alone has said that Air America was on the verge of collapse thirty-six times. We're not going anywhere."

In just this one short piece, how many distortions and lies can we count?

1) Who said WLIB was going under? Our report suggested station control is about to be taken from Air America Radio and handed to new investors led by former Clear Channel executive Randy Michaels and Alta Communications of Boston.

That means a likely upcoming format change.

2) If Franken really cared about working people, he'd have denounced how his company obtained money to pay their bloated expenses: through shady "loan" transfers made up of taxpayer grants intended for an inner city children's charity.

3) The WLIB report didn't originate with Bill O'Reilly, it began here and was picked up by three daily New York City newspapers.

Only after that did O'Reilly even mention it, in a Tuesday Talking Points Memo segment.

Franken and Air America want to deflect the issue onto their own crusade against O'Reilly.

4) Franken dishonestly sidesteps the issue of where Air America might end up in New York City- if anywhere.

In the future, we don't we call him Al al-Sahaf? For liberal radio's least credible character, it's a good fit.

Chris Christner has his own take on this story, read it here. Additional tip: Pirate's Cove.

Happy second birthday to mAss backwards!

Thanks for your continued and vital Radio Equalizer support, via Amazon orders that begin with clicks here, regardless of what you ultimately order! Because this investigative work is taking an increasing amount of our time, it's needed more than ever.

Minister of Information graphic: Pete at IHillary for the Radio Equalizer


  • Speaking of distortions,

    1.Who said WLIB was going under?
    Good question! It's not in the Nation article, so it can't be a distortion or a lie.

    2. The "Loan" you mention was not taken out by Al Franken. He only became aware of it after the fact. It's my understanding the "loan" has been repaid in full.

    3. The Nation article was not solely or mostly about WLIB. It was about AIR AMERICA RADIO.
    Careful not to hurt your shoulder while patting yourself on your back Brian.

    4. Franken did not "dishonestly sidestep" the issue of Air America in NYC. Apparently that direct question was never asked. It's difficult to sidestep a question that you aren't asked.

    Brian, why don't you stick with the facts, and quit trying to create fictional discrepancies in other people's reporting.

    By Blogger Ezsuds81, at 13 March, 2006 01:50  

  • Brian for you to call Al Franken the Minister of Propaganda is like the pot calling the kettle black.

    I took a few minutes to create my own picture of you.
    Maloney Minister of Propaganda

    By Blogger pbrauer, at 13 March, 2006 02:11  

  • Our report suggested station control is about to be taken from Air America Radio and handed to new investors led by former Clear Channel executive Randy Michaels and Alta Communications of Boston.
    Alta ALREADY owns it. They might install a new CEO, but Alta has owned Inner City Broadcasting (and, by extension WLIB) for two years. There is no news in this.

    By Blogger Justin, at 13 March, 2006 07:33  

  • From Brian's post this weekend, I find it very interesting that Springer was taken off in Ohio--Is it a coincidence the timing with Micheals wanting WLIB in NYC?

    Refering to this post,Franken is repeating the AAR corporate script
    --don't address any issues, just say it is all about the right wing propoganda machine going after us--

    You know, The Nation should do a little disclosure telling their readers that they are sponsoring a weekend show on AAR and have sponsored many events with AAR. Their reporting on AAR is simply not reporting, it is PR.

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 13 March, 2006 12:42  

  • hmmm--checking out Chris Christners blog. So, the Malloy's deleted their confession on their blog that they are losing WLIB..with no further explanation..

    boy, AAR is really a big mess.

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 13 March, 2006 12:56  

  • fyifyi - not saying that you aren't telling the truth, but when you say that the nation has sponsored many events for AAR, what kind of events are you talking about? and when were they? i know they sponsor laura flanders' show, but other than that, i don't personally know of any instances where they have sponsored AAR events. if you do know of any then tell us. i'm not saying they haven't, i'm just saying that i've never heard of it.

    By Blogger liberal outlaw, at 13 March, 2006 13:24  

  • fyifyi,

    I doubt that there's any connection between Jerry Springer's departure from WTAM in Cleveland and what may be happening at WLIB in New York (other than the radio business!)

    Regarding the rumored situation at WLIB - I thought it might be interesting to see what the impact would be if AAR went off the air in NYC entirely. It's pretty amazing at how much of AAR's audience is built around its local NYC affiliate.

    By Blogger Ironman, at 13 March, 2006 14:32  

  • By Ironman, at 13 March, 2006 14:32

    wow--You are very talented and your business sense is obviously keen. Very interesting work! I suggest everyone click on Ironman's link.

    Justin-- Brian linked to the nation aar events awhile back. the one i remember is "in the wake of hurrican katrina" in nyc--aar/nation event.

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 13 March, 2006 14:50  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger liberal outlaw, at 13 March, 2006 15:26  

  • Speaking of Lies and Distortions:

    The anatomy of a lie:

    1) Rush Limbaugh, on his Feb 14 radio show, in talking about the Ohio Hackett/Brown Democratic Primary, said:
    a. “And don’t forget, Sherrord Brown is black” – this was not a lie, but a mistake
    b. He then said, “There’s a racial component here, too”
    2) Rush was then informed by listeners via e-mails that Brown was not black, and was, in fact, white. Paul Hackett was white, as well
    3) Therefore, there was no “racial element” to the story at all
    4) Rush “corrected” his mistake that Brown was black, but DID NOT retract or apologize for the “racial element” remark

    He made up the “racial element” angle, obviously. This was Rush’s lie. His next lie:

    1) He said “I’m not gonna apologize, ‘cause I don’t think it’s an insult to be black”
    2) Of course, this is a lie, too, because he should be apologizing for making up the “racial component” of the story (the link on Brian’s page is about to disappear forever)

    Brian Maloney then reported on the story on Feb 20. He related the story as if the only element was the “error” Rush Limbaugh Made about Brown’s race.

    Of course, the real story was the “racial component” that Rush made up and then refused to retract.

    Hence, Brian lied as well.

    The elements of the story as I’ve stated above are incontrovertible fact.

    But don’t believe me, and don’t believe anyone else - Research for yourselves.

    By Blogger TJ, at 13 March, 2006 18:10  

  • A Conservative News Outlet Bites the Dust

    Apparently the market has spoken:

    DCRTV has run rumors for the past few months that Baltimore-based Sinclair Broadcast Group will shutter its Hunt Valley-based News Central. Now, News Blues confirms that the national news operation, which feeds dozens of Sinclair-owned and operated TV stations, will close at the end of March. The employment status of news anchors like former Fox 5er Morris Jones (left), Jennifer Gladstone, and Alison Kosik, and weather forecasters Kristin Emery, Scott Padgett, Tony Pagnotti, Vytas Reid, Susan Schrack, Lisa Teachman, and James Wieland remains unclear. Sinclair launched its $50 million News Central in 2002. Says NB: "Designed to cut costs by eliminating or greatly reducing the size of existing news departments at Sinclair stations, News Central became the focus of much criticism because it shifted control of news content away from the individual stations and into the hands of Baltimore news managers." However, News Central newscasts produced low ratings and have been dropped by many Sinclair stations. NB adds that Sinclair is "scrambling" to maintain local news broadcasts on its major network-affiliated stations like Baltimore's Fox 45, WBFF, which produces a morning and a 10 PM newscast.....

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 13 March, 2006 18:17  

  • WBAL Radio "Cancels" Limbaugh

    Baltimore news talker WBAL (1090 AM) is losing Rush Limbaugh (left) at the end of May. To be more precise, it's not just losing him, it's canning his ass. "Our cancelling Rush was all about WBAL being local, local, local," a top BALer tells DCRTV. So, where's the Florida-based conservative going to end up on the Charm City radio dial? At locally-owned talker WCBM (680 AM)? At CBS talker WHFS (105.7 FM)? At a new talk outlet? No announcement has been made, according to a press release issued by Premiere, the Clear Channel-owned firm that syndicates Limbaugh. Starting 6/1, Hearst's WBAL will extend Chip Franklin's current late morning show from 9:30 AM to 2 PM, and start afternoon driver Ron Smith at 2 PM instead of at 3 PM. "Our research shows that Marylanders desire even more information and discussion about the events and issues impacting them, and the communities where they live," says a statement at Limbaugh's noon to 3 PM show remains on DC's WMAL (630 AM), Frederick's WFMD (930 AM), and Fredericksburg's WFVA (1230 AM).....

    By Blogger Dick Tuck, at 13 March, 2006 18:19  

  • hmmm, why did AAR last week terminate listing their affiliates on their website?

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 13 March, 2006 18:53  

  • Air America is a J O K E, and I'm sure even the talent is surprised that they've managed to milk the Soros teat for this long with such piss poor ratings. Sooner or later they will run out of deep pocketed left wing ideologues.

    By Blogger Lidsville, at 13 March, 2006 19:19  

  • FYIFYI said...
    "hmmm, why did AAR last week terminate listing their affiliates on their website?"

    that, apparently, was last week:

    By Blogger TJ, at 13 March, 2006 19:49  

  • By TJ, at 13 March, 2006 19:49

    actually I never dug that deep on the site to get their affiliates. They always posted the final count on their home page, which I was refering too.

    I guess that means they are so secure in their marketing now that they don't feel they need to boast about how many stations carry maybe at best a couple of hours of AAR?

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 13 March, 2006 20:00  


    how about some investigative reporting on THAT, Brian?

    "Mr. Cohen told The New York Sun on Tuesday that other than himself, no one at Air America knew about the four separate transfers while they occurred, in late 2003 and early 2004. He said, however, that at least one other official from Gloria Wise knew "exactly where the money was going" and authorized the payments."

    Hrmm...Cohen told the New York Sun that NOBODY at AAR knew where the money was going when it was transfered.

    Funny, Brian - I've never seen you mention that....

    By Blogger TJ, at 13 March, 2006 20:52  


    Oops - there's the whole link

    By Blogger TJ, at 13 March, 2006 20:53  


    the above +


    paste em all together, and you have a link...

    By Blogger TJ, at 13 March, 2006 20:53  

  • I love it! you guys trust what evan cohen says, above what signed docs state as a fact that al franken knew...

    PS: franken is a business man, if he reviewed the docs, or his multimillion lawyers did--none the less, they saw what they were signing.

    guys, give it up!

    By Blogger FYIFYI, at 13 March, 2006 21:00  

  • RE: Limbaugh canned on 'BAL:

    This is I think the first really big station to dump Hush Bimbo as Savage calls him.

    Now of course, the options are open including WCBM, a CBS-owned FM talker, or a new player in the game.

    WBAL is a 50,000 watt blowtorch, whose 1090 signal hits the East Coast at night, including CT. And they are taking a HUGE risk by going local and dumping Limbaugh. Of course if people can get WMAL out of DC that would help.

    I remember hearing that WLAD in Danbury carried him, but found him too expensive for ad rev. Airing from noon-3:00 is a one-hour newscast "Greater Danbury at Noon", and Dr. Laura, which takes things up to a local show at 4:00--and get this, WLAD, at 800 on the dial, also plays music--AC just to work its way around things.

    But for the most part it's news/talk and sports--LOTS of football from Westwood One as well as UCONN hoops, NY Giants football and Yankees baseball.

    By Blogger The Real Bob Anthony, at 13 March, 2006 22:10  

  • " no one at Air America knew about the four separate transfers while they occurred"

    Obvious selective reading on FYI's surprises, there...

    By Blogger TJ, at 13 March, 2006 22:14  

  • FYIFYI said:

    I love it! you guys trust what evan cohen says, above what signed docs state as a fact that al franken knew...

    That so called document is not a single document. Just because all the pages appear in a single pdf file means nothing. If you look at page 29 (the page on which Al Franken's signature appears), you will notice that this page had been faxed from Latham & Watkins LLP. This is the only page in which these fax markings appear, so to say they are the same document is ludicrous on its face.

    More than likely what Franken signed was an agreement that he wouldn't paid for a period of time. He has always stated that during the time of difficulty he became an involuntary in the company.

    By Blogger pbrauer, at 14 March, 2006 00:35  

  • Alot of chatter, but the fact is that, in its flagship station, WLIB, AAR is completely flat, pulling no better than a 1.4 for the umpteenth time (it was 1.2 when it played Caribean music). And there's not much good news for AAR elsewhere. Where is AAR going if it can't get ratings? Who pays big bucks for ad revenues when there are so few listeners, and this in the blue states New York City metro area?

    This would all be a non-issue - just another in a long line of failed attempts at liberal talk radio, if it hadn't been for the claims made about the network both at startup and afterword. Or to put it another way - had the roles been reversed, and a startup conservative network had pulled the numbers AAR is getting now there would have been nationwide headlines, blaring newscasts, and breathless columns and editorials about the "failure" of conservative talk radio. Instead, what we hear is the totally irrrational statements about the "success" of AAR's progressive radio. Hunh?

    But really, who cares if its a success or not - that doesn't change what has been the unarguable success of conservative talk radio - which has had some hand in the fact that the Congress and Presidency, as well as most State governments are controlled by Republicans. But, it's just so frustrating that there is one standard in the pro-Democratic mainstream press that applies to conservatives, and a totally different standard that applies to Democrats/progressives (not much difference anymore). And, of course, that's why conservative talk radio has been so successful, because the pro-Democratic mainstream media had the lid on conservatives for so long.

    So what you don't hear, at least that much, are excuses - why
    AAR hasn't caught on even in places where you would expect progressive radio to do well, and why conservative radio, despite a typical post election dip, is still doing so well. It appears to be a combination of things, up to and including that fact that progressive radio is and has been alive and running in stations in the Pacifica network and NPR. Pacifica and NPR, which don't have commercials, have never been big players in the ratings, so why would anyone expect that AAR, which in many ways is duplicative of what's been out there for years, would do any better with commercials?

    By Blogger BSDAVIS, at 15 March, 2006 15:15  

  • bsdavis,

    You make a number of good points. What you're describing is how businesses can be successful by segmenting into serving different market niches. The thing with market niches, regardless of business, is that the key to success is to find where your customers and draw them to your shop.

    The radio business is maybe the best example of this. Where else can you find one business that's so clearly segmented into so many different niches for the sake of targeting different types of customers and attracting them to businesses that cater to people just like them?

    AAR has been somewhat successful at doing this - the problem is that roughly half of their national audience is found in just five cities, and their largest local market is at risk given the situation Brian has reported.

    Even with an average rating of 1.25 over the past year in New York City, that's a little over one-fifth of AAR's national audience (I estimate AAR's audience through WLIB represents around 224,000 listeners per average quarter hour).

    Still, when you see the latest on what they're hyping as their "growth" plan over the remainder of this year, and looking at how they're doing where they broadcast today, you gotta wonder "are there really enough customers to support their product?"

    And when it appears that they are struggling to support the cost of making their product with the revenue they bring in today, you really have to wonder how are they going to convince anyone they seek to do business with that they'll be around long enough to be worth taking the risk of going into business with them?

    Not pretty.

    By Blogger Ironman, at 16 March, 2006 15:03  

  • As a fellow progressive you might want to check out the Working Families Party of New York's Fair Share for Health Care campaign. Sign the petition here.

    By Blogger mymble05, at 17 March, 2006 16:11  

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