The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

17 October 2006

Air America Bankruptcy, Mainstream Media Reaction


Media Continues "Libtalk Is Strong" Campaign

*** Check Here For Updates ***

Five full days after it filed for bankruptcy, the mainstream media continues its push to convince the public that Air America Radio's failure is not a sign liberal talk radio is unable to succeed in a free market environment.

Call it Operation Isolate Air America.

From the Guardian, here's but one example of many:

Almost from its inception, the network has been in turmoil. A central financial mistake, experts say, was the expensive strategy of buying up individual stations, in the belief this was the only way to prevent its programmes being drowned out by their established conservative rivals.

But some stations in important markets turned out to have weak signals and poor coverage, making it even harder for Air America to gain listeners.

Backers of Air America claim its ratings have been no disgrace, pointing to 2.4m weekly listeners, and the 92 stations across the country which carry its programming. They insist that whatever now happens to the network, the liberal talk format is here to stay.

And to make its case that Air America's financial mismanagement was the only issue behind its downfall, the same few "experts" are repeatedly being utilized. Whether commercial, or partisan in nature, could they have ulterior motives? That is absolutely never mentioned.

In several cases, we've seen the assertion that even though it has been a disaster, Air America has somehow blazed a trail as "pioneers" in the "progressive talk" field.

In addition, the network's own inflated audience and affiliate figures are cited as factual. Instead of "92" or "nearly 100" stations that are claimed as part of Air America, we counted 71 in March. Since then, several more have dropped its programming.

And we've never seen hard evidence to back up audience claims of more than two million people.

That ignores the inconvenient fact, however, that many others have come and gone before them, both as individual talkers and even whole networks (such as i.e. America, which employed both Mike Malloy and Thom Hartmann before joining AAR).

Remember past "progressive" talk shows by Jerry Brown, Alan Dershowitz, Jim Hightower, or Mario Cuomo? Didn't think so.

In addition, many current non- Air America talkers are also struggling, in some cases quite substantially.

What's the real problem? In every case, these shows have failed because they simply could not attract a significant audience.

So where's the mainstream media's list of current success stories outside of Air America? Here at the Radio Equalizer, we've acknowledged the gains made by Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller, but even they have a fraction of the stations and audience that most conservative talkers enjoy. In addition, both are fairly ideologically moderate, especially compared to Randi Rhodes or Malloy.

As for the "experts" cited in stories we've seen in recent days, readers should be alerted to their underlying agendas. One is commerical: syndicated liberal talk radio shows have purchased a great deal of advertising in publications such as Talkers Magazine, whose Michael Harrison is featured in almost every story on Air America's bankruptcy.

The other is ideological: like the rest of the entertainment business, talk radio is dominated by liberal executives, who've had to hold their noses over the years while programming Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Each libtalk launch has provided an opportunity to add shows that match their own political views.

No matter how much spin is applied, there's simply no honest way to disguise the fact that liberal talk radio is still an unproven concept, attempted many times over the years, but without any pattern of success.

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  • The following ranks right up there with the goofiest assertions I've ever read in a (presumably) straight-faced mainstream media article, British or otherwise:

    A central financial mistake, experts say, was the expensive strategy of buying up individual stations, in the belief this was the only way to prevent its programmes being drowned out by their established conservative rivals.

    But some stations in important markets turned out to have weak signals and poor coverage, making it even harder for Air America to gain listeners.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    "But some stations in important markets TURNED OUT TO HAVE weak signals and poor coverage"?

    Are you freakin' kidding me??? If that's considered an excuse, it merely gives Air America's owners a choice between admitting they're failures and admitting they're stupid. (Kind of like Dan Rather's plight in 2004: He could either admit he was unethically biased against George Bush, or he could admit that he was naively duped by a set of badly forged memos. Great choice.)

    Yoohoo, Mr. Future Lib Talk Radio Network Owner ... before you make the same mistake as AAR, follow these handy-dandy steps:

    1. Check this FCC Web site:

    2. Look up the station you're considering spending hundreds of thousands (or several millions) of dollars for.

    3. See that column containing the letters "kW"? That stands for an obscure radio term known as "kilowatts." Find your station and check that number just to the left of "kW."

    4. If it's a big number such as 50.0 (they don't get bigger in the U.S.), consider buying it. If it's a little number like 0.024, don't buy it. That's because (stay with me now) stations with smaller "kW" numbers tend to have weak signals and poor coverage, whereas stations with bigger "kW" numbers tend to have strong signals and good coverage.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Ok, I know this is really, really technical stuff, and I apologize if I'm shooting over anybody's head (particularly if you're an Air America owner). But I think it's important to teach this very useful lesson (write it down, class -- there'll be a quiz later):


    By Blogger The4thEstate, at 17 October, 2006 09:11  

  • In other breaking news, an Air America Radio spokesman explained why the network's NASCAR entry has failed to qualify for every race this year.

    "Our central financial mistake was buying that 1986 Yugo off eBay. The car turned out to have a weak engine and poor horsepower, making it even harder for us to win races."

    By Blogger The4thEstate, at 17 October, 2006 09:18  

  • all i can say about the AAR thing is - oh well.

    but for another story that i'm sure will be posted on here shortly is deeply disturbing -

    As Talk Radio Wavers, Bush Moves to Firm Up Support

    By Blogger liberal outlaw, at 17 October, 2006 09:29  

  • Zogby is making a HUGE mistake in having a show. He's openly siding with the left. How can his polls be taken as objective with his personal bias so exposed?

    By Blogger PCD, at 17 October, 2006 10:13  

  • i actually agree with PCD on that one. i thought the same thing, and i'm on the same side. this means that his polls will have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    By Blogger liberal outlaw, at 17 October, 2006 10:28  

  • Nothing terrifies the right more than a well-informed public, with access to the truth.

    Media suppression is the neocon's stock in trade. Take that away, and only empty ideology, failed policies, and the results of a police state remain.

    They HATE that we are on to them.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 17 October, 2006 13:30  

  • Drudge just posted individual host ratings from NYC (peak hour). Rush is obviously up top, but I was surprised to see Franken in a virtual tie w/ Laura Ingram, and not too far behind O'Reilly (who had a two-year head start and a daily TV show to pimp his radio show). Certainly not great #s for Franken, but certainly competitive.

    AGES 12+

    LIMBAUGH 342,000
    HANNITY 322,900
    CURTS/KUBY 318,600
    IMUS 279,600
    GAMBLING 257,100
    LEVIN 245,700
    OPIE/ANTHONY 197,100
    SAVAGE 175,600
    O'REILLY 157,800
    INGRAHAM 127,600
    AL FRANKEN 122,300
    RANDI RHOADS 115,300
    LIONEL 86,700

    By Blogger Justin, at 17 October, 2006 14:24  

  • Glad to see IMUS doing pretty well still - an independent thinker who Maloney despises.

    Never heard of Gambling. Is he a freak as well?

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 17 October, 2006 15:25  

  • So franken And rhodes, on a crappy station (WLIB was Crap too as is WWRL), with little exposiure, have roughly half the listeners of a big name like Limbaugh and Hannity and almost the same amount as Oriley. Imagine Franken on a clear radio signal and Randi on a clear signal with a known radio position on the dial, everybody knows 77ABC and 710WOR, nobody ever heard of WLIB and WWRL, forget it! They would easily tie Limbaugh and Hannity, bank on it. Gambling is a lousy Bush sheep, on in the middle of the morning 9-12 I believe. He has the 70+ audience! If WOR took on say Rhodes, you can bet the house she would have 300,000 listeners in a few books. Those numbers are good for the poor dial position and non-heritage radio stations they are both on.

    Levin is a horror. Those 200,000 people are the most degenerate scum bags alive. If you listen to Levin, you are the type of person that cuts everyone off on the highway, and you are plain annoying. Levin has the annoying "geek" crowd. Chickenhawk sissy-cons!! I would rather Listen to Limbaugh than Levin, and I despise the drug addled freak. Levin is TRASH

    4th estate: it that con-sheep humor?? Liberals drive Yugos?? hooooo how hysterical, I know exactly why cons drive big trucks, they are insecure of their penis! Simple as that As a Lib, I'm happy with the Honda, it's good on the gas, and rarely have any problems. I would drive a 8 cylinder Chevy (I used to) if gas was not over $2 a gallon, but I have nothing to prove to anyone. I'm an adult.

    By Blogger Minister of Propaganda, at 17 October, 2006 15:51  

  • MOP, you have the WABC radio whores pegged, very well.

    Elmonica, Gambling relies heavily on home-spun family anecdotes about his family life, and frequently features hawks, bizarros, and criminals such as James Kallstrom, Jeannine Pirro, and Peter King to reinforce his hardcore anti-Muslim, homophobic positions.

    He also entertains Bloomberg on his program each week-a frightening breach of ethics (media sources frequently quote Bloomberg THROUGH Gambling's program and filter).

    Never has (or would) a liberal politician been extended such journalistic largesse. Whether it has been good for Bloomberg or not is largely a matter of public conjecture.

    I'm also not crazy about the Sliwa show's commentary and influence regarding ongoing high-profile court cases, as well as Sliwa's personal involvement in them.

    It's really terrifying to watch corporate media's involvement in the justice system, especially since liberal voices are largely shut out of the process (and it results in total disaster when the different factions' intertwined interests clash (as in the Sliwa/Kuby feud during the Gotti trial).

    Republicans ALWAYS behave in a criminal manner, when given such "authority" to do so.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 17 October, 2006 16:33  

  • >>Imagine Franken on a clear radio signal

    If big radio stations felt he could draw a bigger audience, you'd have
    Air America 770, WABC New York. But if they were to dump Rush, Hannity, etc.,
    their ratings would plummet. (on a smaller scale, that happened to stations that went from Right to Left
    like WHJJ in R.I.)

    AAR has some fair-to-middlin' signals and at one time was on
    AM 1530 out of Cincy, which reached
    a lot of listeners day and night.
    But the ratings were too low so
    they went to sports instead.

    If they thought libtalk would work,
    the likes of WRKO in Boston would have switched to it.

    By Blogger raccoonradio, at 17 October, 2006 16:40  

  • Uh, Limpbowel's little empire wasn't built in a day either. Rather, it was allowed to organically grow (or fester, depending on one's perspective).

    AAR was never given such a chance.

    Could it even be imagined if Spanish-language radio and its personality had been attacked and persecuted in its nascent phase, the same way AAR was by the right?

    Ha, ha. We won't be seeing that anytime soon, either...

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 17 October, 2006 17:06  

  • hash, Limbaugh was #1 and clearing 400 stations in less than 2 years after going national. Franken & Co. have been on just as long and ... came in a close second in Portland. To say they were "never given a chance" is a flat-out untruth.

    By Blogger BF, at 17 October, 2006 20:44  

  • You're comparing Limbaugh's network's power and control to Franken's?

    With a straight face?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 17 October, 2006 21:30  

  • I say let AAR die, and see where Maloney pins his hopes next...

    The main thrust of his existence was the Gloria-Wise scandal, which, in the end, had little to nothing to do with AAR specifically, but was a story about bad people in Gloria-Wise and Evan Cohen, who's nowhere to be found...

    What it was NOT was a story that had anything to do with Al Franken to any note at all, though Brian did his very best to smear Franken throughout, even when he "reminded" us loony lib readers that he never tried to pin blame on Franken.

    So - AAR will die, Franken will move on and run for Senate...

    Then, oh then, against what windmill will Maloney tilt???

    By Blogger TJ, at 17 October, 2006 21:38  

  • I can see it now....

    Al Franken, standing in front of a dusty mirror...mumbling to himself:

    "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. "

    By Blogger Lokki, at 17 October, 2006 22:12  

  • "AAR was never given such a chance."

    Bull-fargin-shyte, hash.

    AAR was given tons of slobbery kiss free pub courtesy of the legacy print media when it launched. (NYT, Time/Warner, industry mags, etc., etc.)

    AAR received cash bail-out after cash bail-out during its 'formative' years.

    In its final incarnation, its network now exists almost 40% on ClearChannel Network stations. ClearChannel and its progenitors, AM/FM and EFM, were the same folks who helped launch Rush to the position he enjoys at this moment.

    From the beginning, AAR lacked two things:
    1) Audience.
    2) Talent.

    Without a demonstrable audience, some folks will be willing to give 'Talent' a chance to find its audience. But without 'Talent', it's difficult to attract, or keep, a demonstrable 'Audience.'

    AAR was doomed from the beginning, because they thought they could just drop in and say "we're here!" and the listeners would pour in. They did not realize that obtaining and retaining an audience takes work, the kind of work that no one on-air or off-air at AAR was willing to do. Putting AAR programming on WABC or WGST or KMOX or any of the other legacy powerhouse stations would still have resulted in failure, because the product itself was just, plain bad.

    And no amount of spin or shoulda-woulda-coulda will alter that fact.

    By Blogger JD, at 17 October, 2006 22:29  

  • I strongly believe that, without neocon corporate interference, and solid progressive management, AAR as its original business entity would be thriving today.

    Must I again remind folks, Chapter 11 is not the end of the world, and it won't necessarily be the end of Air America, or the Air America name?

    Franken is picked on relentlessly here, because, frankly, Franken is the weakest link. He's a DLC Democratic type, and neocons do dislike him intensely (in fact, I do dislike him as a person), and his skill as a radio personality is AAR's weak link. I do not limit the highlighting of Franken just to the rightist infiltrators...indeed, the first proper incarnation of AAR management did that all by themselves, appointing him "star" (this is also true to a much lesser extent to the marvelous, insightful and creative Janeane Garofalo, who nevertheless suffered from many of the same growing pains Franken did).
    This is reflected in the ever-crooked ratings where Franken is placed over the real powerhouses of the progressive radio format pioneered by AAR-Randi Rhodes and Mike Malloy. These hosts waste no time being conciliatory to the right-wing extremist element that governs this land....they take them apart and hand them, fraudulence in hand, right back to them. They were the industry heavyweights, and both do their research, and are always on point (the far younger Seder trailing them, for all his lack of experience, by only a slight margin).

    They killed off Maron-big mistake. Comedic genius (although not to my taste). Winstead was jettisoned, a huge faux-pas at a time when they needed to reassess their programming and needed a mule). With Lanpher went the NPR crowd, the centrists, the lovers of dry wit, and the elitists. Maddow was kept on but not really worked with or developed, but shunted around. Papantonio and Kennedy is once a week, late Sunday, when progressives are busy with their families-and the two personalities don't complement one another. Young Turks-the epitome of snotty college kids, to the the morning! Armstrong Williams and Sam Greenfield-affirmative action hires.

    In other words, the best thing that could happen to AAR is if Franken WAS indeed elected to something, so they could ditch his contract! His programming is geared strictly toward disenchanted Rethug "conversion jobs", fence-sitters, apologetically pro-Zionist liberal big-city academics. Unfortunately, that's not America. Rhodes and Malloy are.

    That's why Franken is focused on. It's not Franken the enemy is frightened of!

    So, as far as talent, there you go.

    Audience? Well, perhaps the half of America you believe doesn't need to hear what's going on. Still half of America, and well more than half strongly antiwar, more than ever before.

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 17 October, 2006 23:29  

  • Maloney,
    Aren't you going to post something about these losers getting together?

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 18 October, 2006 00:17  

  • As for Zogby, here is the description of this show

    ""The Pulse of the Nation" where John polls particular hot button issues from politics and pop culture to the War in Iraq and stem cell research. Each program will include expert guests and audience participation. At the end of each show John will reveal the secret results of the poll and each listener will then know whether or not they have their finger on "The Pulse of the Nation"!

    He won't be engaging in hackery .

    By Blogger Elmonica, at 18 October, 2006 00:23  

  • Oh, my Lord...

    Look at that filth. All together in one room.

    Oh, my Lord, how could this happen to our land?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 18 October, 2006 00:56  

  • He won't be engaging in hackery .

    Well that would certainly be a refreshing change for Zogby. /sarcasm.

    By Blogger Seriouslyunserious, at 18 October, 2006 00:57  

  • Why, seriously? Because he is an Arab-American?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 18 October, 2006 01:09  

  • Elmonica, how can that picture fill any decent person with anything other than revulsion?

    That filth, that scum, in OUR room?

    By Blogger hashfanatic, at 18 October, 2006 01:10  

  • According to AAR's_BK_filing, they owe Talker'sMagazine $3600. Maybe Harrison is just trying to become first in line.


    By Blogger LonewackoDotCom, at 18 October, 2006 02:18  

  • You've earned a good gloat, Brian. AA looks like a goner.

    I never cared too much for you on KIRO. You seemed too geared toward being a Republican soldier with today's faxed talking points, never breaking ranks, never acknowledging mitigating facts.

    It gave the impression of a lack of integrity, though you may be very honorable in your personal life, for all I know.

    Anyway, good blog. You certainly stay on top of things.

    By Blogger Emphyrio, at 18 October, 2006 03:46  

  • Minister of Propaganda said ...
    4th estate: it that con-sheep humor?? Liberals drive Yugos?? hooooo how hysterical, I know exactly why cons drive big trucks, they are insecure of their penis! Simple as that As a Lib, I'm happy with the Honda, it's good on the gas, and rarely have any problems. I would drive a 8 cylinder Chevy (I used to) if gas was not over $2 a gallon, but I have nothing to prove to anyone. I'm an adult.

    In answer to your question:

    1. I'm not sure what con-sheep humor is, since I'm not a con-sheep, so I can't address that.

    2. I don't drive a big truck, so I can't address that either. (However, you're welcome to test your theory by walking up to men who drive big trucks, checking whether they're conservatives, then asking whether they'll help with your research by unzipping their pants for you. Good luck with your academic study.)

    3. I wasn't implying that liberals drive Yugos (ride in limousines, yes ... drive Yugos, no).

    I was implying that any liberal businessman (and I use the term loosely) who was stupid enough to buy a bunch of 500- and 1,000-watt radio stations, then complain that "Hey, these turned out to have weak signals and poor coverage," would probably be stupid enough to buy a 1986 Yugo for a NASCAR race, then complain that, "Hey, this car turned out to have a weak engine and poor horsepower."

    In other words, anybody who buys a radio station without understanding which ones have powerful signals and which ones don't ... should never own a radio station. Or, for that matter, a lemonade stand.

    If a non-businessman like me can understand the difference between powerful stations and weak stations (and find the information on an FCC Web site, for crying out loud), what does that say about the collective industry savvy of Air America's (former?) owners? More to the point, with that kind of leadership, why should anybody be surprised that the network crashed and burned?

    By Blogger The4thEstate, at 18 October, 2006 17:31  

  • Smoke on, hashfanatic. Maybe if you toke enough, AAR will look like it wasn't doomed from the start.

    By Blogger L.N. Smithee, at 18 October, 2006 18:33  

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