The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

23 June 2006

Randi Rhodes, Air America, Contract Renegotiation


While Air America Struggles, Rhodes Grabs What Remains

*** Exclusive To The Radio Equalizer - Part One ***
*** Updated With Breaking News Below ***

It has long been reasonable to characterize Air America Radio as having an every man- for- himself work environment, where the name of the game is to see who grab the most cash before the whole mess finally comes crashing down.

Add to the mix a nearly- constant stream of financial support from Real Networks honcho Rob Glaser and billionaire currency raider George Soros and the greedy temptation to push for obscene salaries, perks and benefits simply becomes too great to resist.

Central to this rampant mentality among staffers and managers is the idea that somebody else is unfairly being paid more. Instead of viewing that as a reason for obvious cutbacks that could help to sustain this floundering operation, it has become an egotistical battle of the wits, to see what it will take to match the next guy's bloated salary.

Never mind the unpleasant fact that other, non- Air America syndicated talk hosts might be paid a fraction of their salaries while producing substantially more revenue and higher ratings, it's all about a short-term money grab: get it while you can!

Yet when it comes to giving something back to the network, such as spending time networking with corporate executives who might consider actually carrying Air America's shows, Randi can't be bothered to help out. Nor did she care in the slightest how distracting and emotionally- draining her crazy demands have become, at a crucial make- or- break time for the network.

Missing from the internal compensation debate has been a consideration of what Randi is actually bringing to the network. How are the ratings and revenue for her show? Is she worth this kind of money?

Amazingly, as Randi's 2004 contract wasn't even due to expire until March 15, 2007, all of this energy expended on a new, four-year contract was simply to put an end to her tantrums.

Nothing demonstrates Air America's internal greed- game more than the antics of Al Franken and Randi Rhodes, who have continually pushed for more, without regard to the damage they might be doing to the overall operation.

Indeed, even as acting CEO Jim Wiggett has been forced into the nearly- impossible task of cutting 20% from the network's budget, Franken and Rhodes are moving the "progressive" talk network in the wrong direction, with more spending.

These multi-year talent contracts are the precise reason why Air America is having so much trouble making needed cuts: most of the expenses are locked in long- term.

For the Bush- bashing (and sometimes incoherent) Rhodes, learning about Franken's amazing compensation escalation strategy surely must have been too much for her to bear.

In part two of this series, the Radio Equalizer will examine more of the astounding (and previously untold) circumstances that have brought Al, Randi and the network to this unsustainable point. In many ways, the background details are even more interesting than the final, bloated result.

For this initial overview, we can say this: even while Air America has long been willing to give Randi a virtual blank check in terms of salary, benefits and staff, she chose to tie up negotiations for many months, with a bizarre series of highly unusual demands.

Even when these often- petty issues seemed to be resolved, they were again resurrected by Rhodes and her agent / attorney Robert V Gaulin.

Moreover, Air America repeatedly adjusted to her requirements on the fly, months before she actually signed a final version of the contract. This means that even as negotiations continued, the company implemented Randi's mandated upgrades, pre-deal.

As we reported in May, for example, Rhodes has insisted that Air America's programming run on WLIB-AM in New York City. To the company, of course, that's simply impossible to guarantee, as its deal to broadcast on the network flagship runs out at the end of August. For now, there's no indication that Air America has found a new home in the nation's biggest market.

In addition, Rhodes and Gaulin pushed for a truly twisted indemnification clause, which would protect Randi from damages caused by Randi's own weird behavior!

One of the biggest fights has been over her huge program budget, which has escalated to $900,000 annually and is exclusive of her own salary. Many syndicated hosts with shows of her size are lucky to have a staff budget of one-tenth that amount, but this didn't stop Randi & Co. from pushing to have many of her program's basic expenses excluded from that cap.

For some crazy reason, Air America has always believed that its talk hosts need "writers" and how many each personality is assigned seems to indicate how "important" they are to the company. Even though non-AAR shows generally don't use them, here, they've long insisted upon this expensive option.

That's why to Rhodes, fighting to maintain the budget was just as important as the newly- trebled salary she has been able to secure (more on this in part two).

Adding to her exercise in egotism: a successful insistance on a new car- and- driver service to shuttle this limousine- liberal around Manhattan in style. You won't find Randi on the subway anytime soon!

Not stopping there, Air America has now been compelled to spring for personal image- oriented services, including both a stylist and makeup person. For radio, that may seem odd, but Randi's recently been working hard to beef up her television appearances.

*** To Be Continued ***

NOTE: Information used for this series has been provided by a longtime and reliable internal source who has supplied documented evidence to support the claims.

BREAKING: Air America President Gary Krantz has just exited the network. Details to come, including our own bizarre and previously unreported recent experiences with him.

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How To Lose NY: David A Lunde, Driving Miss Randi, RandiHummer, SugarDaddy: Pete at IHillary for the Radio Equalizer


  • Interesting article dude, keep us updated, also looking foward to you report on the guy that just exited

    By Blogger Godisgood, at 23 June, 2006 19:33  

  • >>While Air America Struggles

    Latest ratings out from Boston ( You won't find WKOX or WKXS, Air America stations.
    No show. An asterisk. Nobody listens.
    Nobody cares, in the land of the Kennedys and the Boston Globe.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 23 June, 2006 20:40  

  • Brian,

    Any idea what will happen to Randi's contract if AAR folds?

    By Blogger Brett, at 23 June, 2006 23:41  

  • Brett, if it folds, there won't be any money to pay Randi, so it will effectively be worthless.

    That's why Rhodes and Franken demand up-front salary advances, as partial protection from any sudden shutdown.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 24 June, 2006 16:01  

  • i'm sure Randi's show cost a lot less than Franken overall. If A.A was smart and wanted to save $$$, can Franken, nice guy, awful radio. Randi Rhodes is worth every penny spent, so does GOOD RADIO

    By Blogger rightwingwhiner, at 25 June, 2006 21:02  

  • Brian,

    Air America has claimed they will remain on the air in New York City, even though they seem to be leaving WLIB. Other than the going on the sports station in New Jersey or starting up their own low power station, at first it would seem that they are bluffing.

    I got thinking about digital radio, usually called HD radio because of the ability to transmit in high definition. As far as I know, they also can broadcast additional signals with any definition, including extremely low.

    My question:

    Can Air America's ace in the hole be that they have an agreement to broadcast in NYC in the future in mono as a low tier channel on an existing NYC FM station's digital signal? I am thinking of phone quality here, so little bandwidth as to not inhibit the station's main channel.

    By Blogger Sanity Clause, at 26 June, 2006 16:26  

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