Air America: Why liberal radio’s answer to Rush Limbaugh failed and why it matters…


Air America gets grounded: Progressive talk radio network going Chapter 7

David Hinckley

Progressive radio network Air America’s whole life was like the Perils of Pauline, bobbing on a raft at the edge of a massive waterfall.

Monday night at 9, the raft officially goes over the falls. Say goodnight, Pauline.

But while Air America quietly files its Chapter 7 papers, there still are legitimate legacies and lessons from the life and death of a network that was unveiled March 31, 2004, on the bold premise it would be the progressive answer to Rush Limbaugh.

1. As Rush said a few days after that debut, you can’t build a popular radio show, or network, on ideology – and rightly or wrongly, Air America got the image that it was working from a playbook.

“First,” said Limbaugh, “you have to entertain people. You have to make it interesting to listen. I don’t hear any of that.”

Interestingly, Air America’s original executives agreed with Rush about the importance of entertainment, which is why the opening lineup included Al Franken, Janeane Garafalo and other professional entertainers.

Problem is, they weren’t radio people. The best pure radio show on the early Air America was Randi Rhodes, whose background was radio.

It is possible to become good at radio if you have enough time, which most Air America hosts didn’t. Rachel Maddow, agree with her or not, got good at radio and did become a progressive “answer.” She did it so well she was plucked away by MSNBC.

2. If people can’t hear you, what you’re saying doesn’t matter.

Air America’s first bosses, the ones who claimed the company had reams of money that it didn’t, talked about buying their own big stations in major markets.

Within months, they were kicked off mid-sized stations they were leasing in Chicago and Los Angeles because their checks weren’t clearing.

By the end, Air America “affiliates” were mostly part-time tenants on small stations. The network’s nominal flagship, WWRL (1600 AM) here, carried only a couple of AA a day.

In that sense, it’s hard to say Air America’s programming failed, because it never got a chance for a fair fight.

“Why does anyone even write about them?” WABC’s then-program director Phil Boyce asked a couple of years ago. “They don’t matter.”

3. There are wins even in defeat.

Air America arguably made Al Franken a U.S. senator, legitimizing his transition from comedian to serious political figure.

It made Maddow a star in the modest but slowly growing new generation of progressive talkers.

It arguably helped open ears for non-Air America progressive talkers like Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller. At the end it gave a radio voice to good radio professionals like Lionel and Ron Kuby.

CtPatriot… Air America Failed Because if you sit and listen to Liberal/Progressive ideas for more than a few sound clips … they dont add up… just Emotional Pandering not based in reality and BORING…

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