The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

30 January 2007

Stephen Green, Mark Green, Air America Buyout


When Did It Ever Succeed In The First Place?

As one could have expected, there's an avalanche of mainstream media coverage today on Air America Radio's buyout by "progressive" Manhattan real estate developer Stephen L Green.

And, as the dust settles, it's becoming clear his purchase of the long- suffering liberal radio network is designed to ensure his brother Mark (seen in photo), a perennial local political candidate and occasional fill-in host, is locked into his own talk shift there.

At the same time, much of the media coverage examines how Air America can be "restored" to its supposed former glory. One problem: when did it ever succeed in the first place?

In an example from the New York Daily News, David Hinckley yet again makes no effort to quote the network's real critics, instead focusing on its longtime industry apologists:

To restore Air, say pros, try new formula


The first thing Air America's new owner has to do if he wants to give the progressive talk network a future, say people in radio, is come up with a business model that has a chance to succeed.

Air America went on the air March 31, 2004, and filed for bankruptcy last Oct. 13, saying it had lost $41 million in those 2-1/2 years.

Sheldon Green, who yesterday signed a deal under which he could take control by midFebruary, has made a fortune with SL Green Realty Corp., which controls 27 million square feet of commercial property. His brother, Mark Green, has been a major player in New York Democratic politics for decades, with two terms as public advocate.

"I hope they can make it viable," says Paul Woodhull, president of Washington-based Media Syndication Services, which creates and produces radio shows. "But it won't happen unless Mr. Green listens to people who understand how radio works."

Air America's original network plan, says Woodhull, "was based on the idea they could control programs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on someone else's station. That's just not the way it works."

More often, most of Air America's approximately 100 affiliates pick up some of the network's programs. That's even true on flagship WWRL (1600 AM) in New York, which carries its own morning show and most of its own weekend shows.

That makes Air America less a "network" and more of a syndicator, a company that offers a menu of programs from which individual stations can choose.

The Premiere Network, for instance, syndicates Rush Limbaugh to WABC.

"Many people feel Air America would be much better off going the syndicator route," says Tom Taylor, editor of the trade magazine Inside Radio. "The costs are much lower."

Here's a common industry sentiment that's completely left out of the piece: why attempt to keep this sick horse alive (apologies to Barbaro)?

It's clear by now that only a handful of liberal talk shows have a chance at survival (Stephanie Miller, Ed Schutz and perhaps one or two others) and those are overseen by JonesMediaAmerica.

Worst of all, it is just plain wrong to assert the network has anywhere near 100 affiliates when half that number is much closer to the truth.

Funny enough, a far more honest take on Air America comes directly from the left, by none other than Mother Jones!

Air America Goes Green (& Al Franken Takes the Green and Runs)

The latest chapter in the looooong saga of Air America has evidently been penned, but I must say that even those of us who'd wondered if the network's tortured history had become parody/proof of the right's criticism of the left didn't quite see this one coming.

AA or Ax2 or Asquared will, it seems, be acquired by NYC real estate mogul Stephen Green, brother of perennial NY mayor/senate/attorney general candiate Mark Green. "Speaking only as the brother of the purchaser," Mark Green, who's also played guest host on AA, told the NYT that "no hiring or programming positions had been decided for the network, should the deal go through."

None 'cept one, I'd guess.

And if Brother Green becomes a permanent AA personality, he won't have to live in the shadow of Al Franken. Franken, who'd been paid a truly outrageous $2 million a year—10 times more than "many other syndicated hosts with a similar audience reach"—will host his last show on Valentine's Day.

Franken's outsized salary makes him an easy target for those who mourn AA's passing, but to my mind it's just further proof that the people behind the network (and there have been lots) just had too much money and little idea of the media terrain. Wishing you (and why would you?) had a lefty 24-hour equivalent to Rush/Imus don't make it so people.

Meanwhile, Spinsanity Alert: Green said the sale will, in the words of the NYT, "usher in a new phase for Air America, focused on digital content distribution rather than radio."

“In this digital era, the tech changes by the day and Air America Radio has to become something of a new media company,” Mark Green said. “We look forward to an A.A.R. 2.0 that has sharp smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?”

So does this mean that Stephen is buying his brother a podcast? If so, Senator Chris Dodd has some programming suggestions.

Exactly: perhaps Mother Jones doesn't want to claim Air America any more than conservatives want to be saddled with Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck, Joe Scarborough and the like. Political baggage is a bipartisan concept.

As for Green's "Air America 2.0" silliness, does he really believe the network wasn't already streaming, as well as offering podcasts? Yes, we know AAR had planned to beef up its video content for some time, but in this era of YouTube, that's really not a big deal.

Mark Green image: Wikipedia, Outhouse: David A Lunde

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  • like you said, there are a few liberal shows that could be "successful". and that's the problem. if there is one or two liberal shows on a network, people would listen. but not to an entire network that constantly says the same thing from show to show. in my opinion, if Air America wants to succeed and make money, it would have to bring on conservative talkers. this isn't really a political issue, it is a consumer issue. if people aren't buying, you switch your business model - that's just common sense.

    and since the beginning the problem with Air America (as a business) was that they ran it like Bush has run his presidency - by giving jobs to people who had no idea what they were doing. it was like they had a bunch of Michael Browns or Daniel Troys up there.

    By Blogger hardcore conservative genious, at 31 January, 2007 10:26  

  • Oh, like Clinton really did anything except play with and get Monicas in the 8 years he was in office.

    By Blogger PCD, at 31 January, 2007 13:30  

  • Giving credit where it's due...

    There's not a bloody thing I can find wrong in your reporting in this article, Brian...

    I do find that you rely much too much on copy and paste of the work of others...but considering the usual list of concerns that are raised by your posts, that is a mild one.

    By Blogger TJ, at 31 January, 2007 16:52  

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