The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

31 March 2006

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


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


  • Brian's very, very odd obsession with AAR's business model aside, the ratings and funding aspects are valid stories...

    Why he feels the need to champion poo-pooh'ing how someone else decides to spend their money...who cares?

    Interestingly absent from today's article, though, are the disingenuous all franken robbing from kids cartoons and accusations of illegal campaign financing.

    Whatever one's assessment of brian's odd obsessions, that, at least, is a step forward.

    By Blogger TJ, at 31 March, 2006 13:15  

  • Now I feel better... it was so lonely....

    By Blogger Lokki, at 31 March, 2006 13:16  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Justin, at 31 March, 2006 13:23  

  • How are conservatives "hostile"?
    Ummm Brian, have you read your own coverage? Or watched O'Reilly?

    By Blogger Justin, at 31 March, 2006 13:24  

  • >>AAR never goes out business.

    AAR is a business? How many businesses have billionaires bankrolling them?
    Rush, Hannity, etc. all succeed and bring in money. AAR just spends money.
    And gets crap for ratings. But the Left isn't big on capitalism
    anyway, is it, Comrade?

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 31 March, 2006 14:54  

  • rightwingwhiner: Actually I wish I could have been a mama's boy. She died of cancer when I was only 12 so I barely got to know her.

    The conservatalkers do well in the 25-54 demos, much more so than the libtalkers. If Franken, etc. had a product the people wanted, you'd have the big stations running AAR. But it would be economic suicide for them to
    do so. So libs just have to fall back on getting their message out through newspapers, magazines,
    the MSM, music, Hollywood, et al.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 31 March, 2006 15:12  

  • >>with some of the worst hosts, worst production values, worst imaging and blind idiotic programming sense in the history of the medium.

    yup. by the way I wonder if they'd
    consider a kind of point-counterpoint
    show, with a liberal and a conservative...? Make way for
    Coulter and Franken! Ingraham
    and Stephie Miller!

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 01 April, 2006 15:41  

  • I guess it's "progressive" to steal from charity to keep your network going. I'm super glad these people are in denial. I hope Soros keeps pumping money into scAir America until he's broke.

    Otto - all these "progressives" ever do is post little comments online whenever they're not marching around with signs (and btw look at all of the "reviews" they give conservative authors on - it's freaking hilarious!) It beats working - but I guess since the government (i.e. our taxes) owes them a living, "working" is against their principles. You know, not working keeps them out of touch with reality- something they are proud of, apparantly.

    By Blogger RR, at 02 April, 2006 13:33  

  • Reading about the travails of Air America, and its still hopeful believers in Bukharin, seems more an exercise of kicking at the carcass of a dead enterprise. Each time the boot is placed Air America's true believers shout out "See! It's not dead, it just moved again"

    By Blogger Pat Patterson, at 02 April, 2006 14:21  

  • You're joking, right? "Conservative radio never directly ties itself to the Republican Party???" The listener has to "guess" that it's conservative? You've got to be off your meds! I listen to a lot of talk radio, from Glenn Beck to Ed Schultz, and I can assure you, conservative radio consistently 1) derides the Democratic party, 2) lavishes praise on George Bush (particularly Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, whom I'm convinced do their programs on their knees from the Oval Office,) 3) advocates listeners to vote Republican (last year, Fla host Glenn Beck literally warned his listeners down here that if they voted for Kerry, they were essentially asking for another terrorist attack, 4) liken Democrats to communists (Savage does this almost daily, though he is one of the few who does criticize the GOP) and on and on.

    Michael McConnell says point blank that he's a Republican, as does Glenn Beck and Neil Boortz and Michael Medved (who goes even further, likening Republicans to virtually the party of God...) on and on and on... and they not only state their preference, they deride the Dems and pushing their listeners to support the GOP.

    You're as delusional as those who claim that Fox News is neither GOP-friendly nor conservative. I think it stems from a need to believe that your side is right, and only the other side is partisan. The truth is, both left and right wing radio are partisan. Like one and hate the other if you want to, but at least be honest about that fact.

    I'm not defending Air America -- I don't even listen to much of it because though I'm a Democrat, I don't really enjoy many of the shows (except for Randi Rhodes, and Schultz is on Jones, not AA, so he doesn't count, though he is doing well ratings-wise, disproving your theory that it can't be done). I'm just saying that you're being intellectually dishonest in pretending that "right wing radio" is neither right wing nor blatantly Republican.


    By Blogger JReid, at 02 April, 2006 15:42  

  • Correction: by "last year" I meant 2004 re the election. Man, time flies when George Bush is f---ing up the country...!

    By Blogger JReid, at 02 April, 2006 15:44  

  • When has Neal Boortz ever claimed to be a Republican? Have you ever listened to his show?

    By Blogger Ben, at 02 April, 2006 16:27  

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