The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

27 May 2005

Rev. Sharpton Launches National Radio Show

Here Comes Another One

Al Sharpton Thinks He Can Pull It Off

Isn't it amazing to watch one liberal after another, lining up to take on conservative talk radio, even as the latest "progressive" offerings are busy falling apart?

There's something about a mindset that can really believe, despite any experience hosting talk shows, they can do what all the other liberals couldn't.

Reverend Al Sharpton's the latest to take the plunge, with immediate questions about his viability, or real future prospects.

When will one of these programs be launched due to market demand, rather than the host's major-league ego trip?

Sharpton, notorious New York liberal with a dubious background, now provides insight into the real reason for that otherwise pointless presidential campaign last year: publicity for this project.

Agence-France Presse Photo
Via New York Times

First, let's look at what led up to this launch, then to the show's potential:

As far back as February, 2004, Sharpton retained the services of the William Morris superagency, to fish around for media-related opportunities on television or radio. This move came almost immediately after the end of his candidacy.

Reality shows, movies, television dramas, radio, it didn't matter to Sharpton or the Morris agency, anything and everything would be well-received, according to the New York Daily News in March, 2004:

"I want to do TV and radio as long as it doesn't interfere with my charitable work," Sharpton said, calling in yesterday from L.A. where he was on the set of his Spike TV show "I Hate My Job."

But the Sharpton company marks the next big step for the former presidential candidate who earlier this year hired William Morris to field TV and radio offers. Sharpton's also being guided by his longtime spokeswoman Rachel Nordlinger and entertainment manager Bruce Charet.

William Morris has been holding talks with leading radio syndicators, including ABC Radio Networks, Premiere Radio networks and Westwood One as well as satellite radio company Sirius. The goal is to turn Sharpton into the Rush Limbaugh of the left.

When asked about the prospects of making serious money at this stage in his career, Sharpton said, "I certainly haven't made money before."

So what happened in the year to come? It appears that not much came of this exceptionally high profile effort, with New York's best talent agency in charge of the marketing effort.

If industry demand was high, he would have been scooped up by a syndicator straight away. One problem: the first thing these companies will tell you, is that for a show to go national, it needs to already be well-established on a flagship station.

It's not typical or considered smart to launch a national show from scratch, which has proven to be a big problem for Air America's programming: it wasn't road-tested.

Listener demand should be there first, then you launch the talk show. With lib talk, it's been ego-diving-in-head-first, then hoping for an audience later.

Sharpton has had to settle for little-known Matrix Media of Chicago, which has announced the program's launch without a single affiliate to start. It appears Sharpton will be hosting it from a studio location in New York City and could start out talking to the walls.

Matrix, in a statement, said they "hoped" to have a Chicago station soon. This is truly the cart before the horse. Also, they've given only a vague idea when it would start, being no more specific than later this summer.

If Sharpton could get stations, where would they be? Air America's lineup looks pretty much set for the time being. The afternoon drive timeslot chosen for Sharpton is especially crowded already.

Liberal talk stations are increasingly running shows from other networks, such as Jones Radio, but those schedules are filled up as well. Worse, we're no longer seeing many stations converting to the "progressive" format, after recent poor ratings results.

The best alternative then, would be ethnic, urban stations. Some run talk, music or a combination of both. But there aren't very many of these, with any substantial audience, outside of major cities. This won't give Sharpton much to work with.

How about Sharpton's own abilities? He feels he's been a guest enough times to have microphone exposure, but that's a whole different ballgame from hosting.

You're in the driver's seat and must employ not only rhetorical skills, but entertainment value, an ability to bond with listeners and energy every single day.

I've often watched celebrity talk shows fail, partly because the host has a million other things going on, that cause him or her to miss an excessive amount of time. That takes away momentum, even if you are finding an audience.

Sharpton is an engaging speaker, that will help him, but so was Mario Cuomo, who bombed in talk radio. That's just one element of many that are necessary to win at this game.

He sure isn't following what's going on in talk radio. Get a load of this Sharpton quote from John Mainelli's Post article:

Sharpton, who traveled to Mexico this week to lecture President Vicente Fox for saying Mexicans take jobs in the United States that "not even" blacks will do, says talk radio needs fresh blood.

"Talk radio is dominated by right-wingers," he said, "and we need someone on the other side who is balanced and can give a forum for everybody."

Al, did you hear about Air America, or any of the other liberal hosts who've been at this over a year? You are late to the party, pal.

The fact he was interested in doing any kind of TV or radio projects offered, tells me he doesn't have the particular passion for talk hosting needed, to pull this off. It needs to be in your blood.

The Radio Equalizer assessment is that the big players took a pass on Sharpton, even with William Morris involved, but that Al went ahead anyway. That's a sign the big guys didn't see the potential for the program to be successful.

I don't think he's going to like the result, because even if he turns out to be good, the effort appears doomed from the start.


  • not even one station yet. why? because Sharpton is not to be taken seriously. he is a negative force, not a positive. i live in the Hudson river valley and clearly remember the Brawley case, wherein Sharpton and his gang made a mockery of the legal system, slandered good men to the point where one committed suicide, and
    rode a disturbed girl to national exposure purely for his own benefit. He is a craven opportunist
    who cares little for his "oppressed" base. in essence "the emperor isn't wearing any clothes".

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 May, 2005 06:58  

  • Look at the difficulty Tony Snow has had in getting into every major market, and getting a consistent time slot. And that's with Fox's backing. It will only be that much harder for Sharpton.

    As to the actual content, Sharpton may surprise everyone . . . by turning out to be a radio personality instead of a liberal radio talk show host. He may be a complete charlatan, but he has the ability to be very engaging, witty and funny when he wants to. I wonder how long it will take him to figure out that he should be selling his personality instead of his politics?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 May, 2005 15:16  

  • I agree wholeheartedly with tom c's above post and I'm a little disgusted when FoxNews gives him so much face time. What's with that, anyway? If their purpose is to make the left look ludicrous, it's working for me, but I doubt if that's Fox's motive. Surely he's not an audience draw.

    By Blogger rich glasgow, at 28 May, 2005 20:44  

  • Maybe anon is correct, the game show hosting path may be better for Sharpton.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 28 May, 2005 20:49  

  • Why don't all these socialists pool their failed efforts into one great malaisial polyglot of a network: Call it Excrements In Broadcasting network, since the freaking amateurs all wannabe Rush anyway.
    It'd be moron-est, at least.

    By Blogger Galt-in-Da-Box, at 28 May, 2005 23:33  

  • i say, let him have a go at it. you can't deny that it would be interesting - even if for just a moment. plus if he doesn't succeed, it'll sure be funny to laugh at - even if just for a moment. blip on the screen. uh... again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 May, 2005 03:34  

  • Portions of two previous posts stand out in my mind, that being, "craven opportunist" (tom c.) and "complete charlatan" (anon).

    Sharpton is just that, a con man pure and simple.

    When Sharpton is involved, invariably, the process behind the scene, if you listen closely, is a sucking sound, that of $$$ being siphoned off from his base.

    Usually the location from where that sound is coming, is black churches in urban areas, where he is scheduled to speak on the topic of the day, ratchet the emotions into a frenzy and then bring up his latest endeavor (usually advertised for free by the MSM) as a way that they, the base, can "invest" in the cause. The music is playing, the speaker is charismaticly eloquent, the congregation in a fever pitch; all while their wallets and purses are being picked via the ruse of an offering, "giving to the Lord's work."

    In short, whenever I see the "Rev. Al" in the media, I know he is marketing to keep the cash flow coming. That which you see Sharpton marketing (presidential candidate, Vincente Fox, lib talk show host), is merely a ruse, a front, sometimes planned and others opportunistic, to siphon more $$$ from the base as well as raise his profile for the next marketing campaign.

    Profile the "Rev. Al" in any manner you like, but that of being "stupid" for attempting talk radio isn't an accurate assessment. Once you know the "Rev. Al" by his real name, the name of his true nature, then you'll no longer wonder as to his true intent. Oh yeah, the name of his nature?


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 29 May, 2005 09:15  

  • I'm guessing that the reason the bigger producers passed on Sharpton is his rumored anti-Semitism. I question Sharpton's ability to speak for a couple of hours every day without saying something derogatory toward Jews; it probably won't take long for him to slip, and when he does, any station crazy enough to carry his show will drop it like third period French.

    By Blogger Nucular Nate, at 31 May, 2005 15:19  

  • This is the United States of America, the greatest nation on earth. Let's give this man a chance to really see what he can contribute to the greatness of this nation. Al Sharpton is recognized all over the world. Even if you disagree with Mr. Sharpton, remember he is an American doing what so many American have died to give us the right to do; the right to speak our minds out. If Al Sharpton has offended his country, then we shall see if he, as well as our selves, have the kind of contrition that should characterize a Godly nation.
    We must stop hating and trivializing one another, whether we are on the left or right, or whether we are black or white. Let's honor ourselves and stand together as Americans no matter what.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 22 June, 2005 19:36  

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