The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

04 February 2009

Rachel Maddow's Stealth Exit From Air America Radio


How To Host A Radio Talk Show Without Really Trying

When conservatives give
up their radio talk shows, it's called "quitting", "termination" or "cancellation". Faced with the same circumstances, however, their liberal counterparts are simply "rechanneling energy".

That's exactly what's occurred at Air America Radio, where absolutely nobody seems willing to admit that Rachel Maddow has effectively left the liberal radio network. Though we've seen some epic spinmeistering from their end in the past, particularly during the funding scandal era, this one may take the cake.

Our story begins in January, when Air America announced it had "reached a new agreement" with Maddow to move her show into morning drive from her previous three-hour evening time slot:


“The Rachel Maddow Show” To Be Offered in Morning Drive Starting February 2

“The Ron Reagan Show” Expands, Airing Weekdays from 6pm-9pm ET

NEW YORK – Rachel Maddow has reached a new agreement with Air America Media ( to extend her tenure with the company’s Radio Network and Interactive Division. “The Rachel Maddow Show” will air as a one-hour program to be presented in morning drive time on the network’s affiliates and streamed on

“Rachel is a unique talent with an unlimited future,” said Air America CEO Bennett Zier. “We are delighted that Air America remains her radio home.”

“We’re elated with Rachel’s continued commitment to Air America,” added SVP/Programming Bill Hess. “As millions of Americans now know, Rachel has become a breakout star and our affiliates and listeners will continue to benefit from her wit, intelligence and insight.”

Simultaneously, “The Ron Reagan Program” will expand to three hours, airing weekdays from 6-9pm EST, also beginning February 2. After co-anchoring for Air America during the 2008 Republican National Convention, appearing as a regular panelist on Air America’s “7 Days in America” and guest-hosting “American Afternoon” in 2008, Reagan joined the company as a permanent host in September.

Not mentioned was that Maddow effectively ended her Air America program right then and there. She hasn't hosted a live (or taped), original program since and what did finally make its way into morning drive this week is merely an audio-only rebroadcast of the previous night's MSNBC show.

Apparently, there is also no disclaimer running to indicate it is a canned TV rerun on the radio.

Especially interesting is where it landed- at 5am, an hour outside of Arbitron's 6am-midnight broadcast day. For ratings purposes, whatever audience it does generate won't count.

But rather than admit outright she's left talk radio, Maddow has danced around the issue, aided by her mainstream media friends. In yesterday's New York Daily News, for example, her departure was reconfigured as merely "rechanneling energy":

Maddow rechannels energy at Air America



Tuesday, February 3rd 2009, 4:00 AM

Even as her television star rises, Rachel Maddow is keeping a toe in her radio roots at the progressive network Air America.

During the election last year, Maddow established herself as one of the big three at MSNBC, which had its best run ever, with her show following Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann.

But she was a charter host on Air America in March 2004, so she and the radio network have now figured out a way to give her an ongoing presence there.

She has dropped her daily evening show on Air America, but will "provide content" for an hour-long morning program, largely built on her MSNBC show of the previous evening.

The problem, says Maddow, is that something had to give.

"I just couldn't keep doing both," she says. "It was a quality control issue - the quality of the program and my own quality of life. I need time to, say, eat and sleep, which I understand most people do every day. I wasn't. I needed not to be grabbing food off a cart at 2 in the morning."

So this arrangement lets Air America keep one of its most prominent alumni - not forgetting possible Sen.-elect Al Franken - while letting Maddow keep a prime-time TV show where she has pretty much complete control of the content.

But so far, there's no evidence of unique or original content in the new "show". And the candid admission that she "just couldn't keep doing both" has never been acknowledged by Air America Radio.

If it's the end of Maddow's radio career, as it does appear, she will have managed to avoid many fundamental aspects of talk hosting, including taking live calls on the air.

Meanwhile, remember the election-season MSM hype regarding her MSNBC ratings? The Obamist era sure hasn't been kind, as she's now usually ranked far behind a newly-resurgent Sean Hannity and even trails CNN fossil Larry King.

On Monday, for example, Hannity doubled her 25-54 figures and fared even better overall, while Tuesday's ratings brought similar results. Maddow's only consolation: she's beating mentor Keith Olbermann, whose program airs just before hers.

If Maddow intends to create original content for Air America in the future, that's one thing, but to pretend she's still in its lineup without an actual show strains the limits of credulity.

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  • What a great line up at MSNBC from Joe to Hoe and smo’s in between.

    By Blogger pf1, at 05 February, 2009 09:33  

  • I see it coming:


    (However, some are now rechanneling energy...)

    By Blogger Chromium, at 05 February, 2009 13:23  

  • You're mostly right on target with how they haven't been open about this, but you got two things wrong:

    1. The first hour of Rachel's radio show right up until Friday, January 30th was exactly the same kind of content it had always been. (You can check the podcast version here if you doubt it. Her headlines, interviews, and "Ask Dr. Maddow" are all there, and that last segment has always been original to the radio.)

    2. The second hour of Rachel's show has been a rebroadcast of her TV show pretty much since she started the TV show, and that wasn't a secret (check out the announcement near the top of her official, if out-of-date, website here).

    By Blogger Unknown, at 05 February, 2009 16:33  

  • You don't quite have all your facts straight. When you say, "...She hasn't hosted a live (or taped), original program since..." That's not true. She did her last original AAR program on January 30.

    By Blogger Ashley, at 05 February, 2009 23:20  

  • You may be right about her final broadcasts- were they live or reruns?

    On several days during that period, however, there was an expanded version of the Ron Reagan Show in there instead.

    Still trying to piece this together completely.

    By Blogger Brian Maloney, at 06 February, 2009 14:37  

  • The final broadcasts were original content, though she has pre-recorded a lot of her shows in the morning rather than doing them strictly live since starting on TV because of the way the timing worked. You may be thinking of the days right around the Inauguration, because she did miss several days then due to the blanket TV coverage.

    By Blogger Unknown, at 06 February, 2009 14:56  

  • YOu know the fairness doctrine is coming when they can't make it in a liberal market like DC!

    Liberal talk radio dies in DC today

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 09 February, 2009 10:21  

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