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Posted by on Sep 14, 2006 in At TMV | 27 comments

Is Air America About To Declare Bankruptcy?


Is Air America, the talk radio network designed to counter and capitalize on the popularity of the conservative talk show genre that has swept the AM dial during the late part of the 20th century, about to declare bankruptcy?

It depends which report you read.

But given the history of Air America, at the very least it would appear that the young network is in trouble.

Think Progress:

Air America Radio will announce a major restructuring on Friday, which is expected to include a bankruptcy filing, three independent sources have told ThinkProgress.

Air America could remain on the air under the deal, but significant personnel changes are already in the works. Sources say five Air America employees were laid off yesterday and were told there would be no severance without capital infusion or bankruptcy. Also, Air America has ended its relationship with host Jerry Springer.

But Think Progress also has a statement from Air America denying the report. News Max.Com also has info on the denial:

But just before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Air America spokesperson Jamie Horn told Eric Deggans, media critic for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, in an e-mail: “If Air America had filed for bankruptcy every time someone rumored it to be doing so, we would have ceased to exist long ago. It may be frustrating to some that this hasn’t happened. No decision has been taken to make any filing of any kind. We are not sure of the source of these rumors.â€?

[Air America’s most famous host comedian Al] Franken, however, confirmed that the network, which debuted in March 2004, is suffering from cash-flow problems. He told Radar Online about the bankruptcy claim: “I don’t know if that’s true or not. We do know that there have been cash-flow problems. I haven’t been paid in a while. Like, there’s no cash flowing to me.”

There are really two issues at play here.

(1)The future of Air America as a network.

(2)The future of non-conservative talk, which could be progressive talk or even mean more progressive/center-left talk.

Air America has had a troubled history and has struggled since it was launched. Talk radio to succeed needs a strong point of view plus broadcasts that can do a good, compelling radio that can increase market share. Many of the Air America programs are not great radio but seem to be attempts to offer a counterforce the left ideologically to what what Rush Limbaugh has ideologically offered on the right.

This writer knows several people who are not conservatives who will not listen to Air America because they feel the programs are simply too negative and not entertaining. (One of them who agrees politically with one top Air America host yesterday told me that person was a “total jerk” and that she wouldn’t listen to him anymore because he was so negative and sounded “just like Rush.”)

So Air America could survive in the short term but to increase its market share it will need to broaden its appeal beyond being anti-conservative talk radio.

There are two progressive talkers who aren’t associated with Air America who offer shows that succeed as entertaining broadcasts and have the potential of reeling in listeners who might not even agree with their viewpoints. (NOTE: We know we will the usual people in comments who don’t like their points of view and will lambaste them. We are talking now about these talkers as broadcast professionals.).

One is Ed Schultz (see photo), who we interviewed and covered last year in his move to get on Armed Force Radio. Schultz offers more then just political and ideological talk but is clear about where he stands. The other is Stephanie Miller (see photo), who offers what is almost a radio political humor show, zany and packed with laugh lines (that will not get big yucks from conservatives).

Talk radio has now become so polarized that people on the right have been waiting for Air America to die, declaring it dead from day one. Some on the left have declared how great its shows are and dismiss the talk on the right as politically motivated blather.

In reality, Air America has been struggling and even if it survives it reportedly has a way to go before it stabilizes. And its programs need to go beyond offering ideology to people who already agree with its hosts to offering programs that increasingly appeal to people who may not totally agree with them, without losing its ideological anchor and alternative viewpoint appeal.

If you listen to most Air America programs (even local ones) then listen to Schultz and Miller you’ll notice a difference: Schultz and Miller are far more entertaining as radio broadcasts. If you click on the links to their names you can sample some of their work yourself on their websites. (You can read TMV’s exclusive interview with Ed Schultz that we did last year HERE.)

Some Other Views On This Story:

Citizen Smash:

I’ve been expecting this for some time. I tuned in to Air America on occasion, but I just couldn’t listen for long.

The problem? No talent. Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo aren’t even remotely funny anymore, and the rest of the bunch are far too shrill. Rhandi Rhodes made my head hurt. Not much substance, and no real humor.

And don’t even get me started on the bizarre conspiracy theories I’ve heard forwarded by hosts and callers alike…

The only reasonably intelligent show on KLSD (you may laugh now), the San Diego affiliate, was Ed Schultz. And it turns out his show is syndicated; he isn’t even an Air America property.

Hoffmania:

For certain,[Al] Franken,[Randi] Rhodes and (hopefully) Maddow will be picked up by one of the players who knows how to market and clear shows to radio stations. The other shows should also find their way in the marketplace.

It was a grand experiment, but was doomed by its baggage. Their feeble attempt at syndication showed they were not prepared to provide what the business demands: flexibility.

But it finally did give a national voice to our side – a voice which is indeed commercially viable as well as much-needed in the horrific political climate we have today. When all we had were authors and wonk experts, many of AAR’s hosts stepped up to the plate and brought fire to our side of the discussion on cable news. Air America opened the door for Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Stephanie Miller, Jon Elliott and other non-AAR folks to jump into the liberal radio pool and grow their careers.

And the fire will continue to burn. Good luck (seriously, not the Fox News kind) to all the folks who kept this thing going for this long. Their work won’t be in vain, and will continue under new ownership and better conditions.

Michelle Malkin:

So, Air America leaks word of its bankruptcy to liberal blog Think Progress in an attempt to avoid complete humiliation by all those evil right-wingers who were spreading such vicious rumors about its financial chaos.

May I just say: Bwahahahahahaha.

First question: Will the New York Times fiiiiinally get around to covering this story? Hmmm?

Liberal Values:

I’m not terribly surprised that Air America is having financial problems. Liberals don’t have the people with deep pockets willing to subsidize them as conservatives do. Liberals are also much less likely to listen to one-sided talk radio, while conservatives appear to thrive on having their thoughts fed to them.

While I wish Air America well, I rarely listen to them. I’m far more likely to spend the time reading a variety of news sources, including both liberal and conservative. When I am listening to the radio I more typically listen to NPR which provides a balance of liberal and conservative views, while definitely more liberal-friendly than the corporate-run media. Of course if I could pick up Air America in my car, as opposed to being limited to streaming over the internet, I’d probably spend more time listening to it.

Tom Maguire:

One might have thought that the same tsuanmi of voter anger that is going to sweep away the Republican Perty and all its works this fall might have prompted a few people to tune in. But perhaps the problems were more technical – reception is difficult in some areas, apparently, and not everyone looked good in the required reception-enhancement device.

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

Schmoopdawg at Daily Kos:

Even with Air America, the radio waves are soooo overwhelmingly rightwing … at least here in Minnesota. The rightwing political shows and wacked-out religious right radio is, I think, a daunting challenge.

While I might agree with the poster at Think Progress who says that liberals don’t listen to the radio, I also REALLY agree with the poster who points out that part of the challenge is to preach to the unsaved heathens!

Big Ed Schultz spent the first part of his show distancing himself from Air America, yet, dear Ed, um … the VAST majority of your coverage in Minnesota comes from Air America … and Air America doesn’t cover NEARLY enough of the state to compete.

–Powerline:

I don’t know whether Air America will file this week, but it seems pretty inevitable some time soon. I’d like to think this reflects Americans’ lack of interest in left-wing radio, and to some extent I think that’s true. But part of the problem was undoubtedly the sheer incompetence of the Air America radio personalities. Talk radio, contrary, apparently, to popular belief, isn’t easy, and Al Franken, Randi Rhodes et al. didn’t begin to measure up.

Wonkette:

We’ve always thought that people who go around calling themselves liberals or conservatives were equally brainwashed, but shocking new developments today suggest that the lefties may be slightly less susceptible to jackasses screaming on the AM radio.

Air America is declaring bankruptcy today. ThinkProgress.org reports layoffs, firings, all sorts of chaos. Jerry Springer got fired, too. (That’s who they got for a “liberal talk-show host�? No wonder nobody listened.)

Wizbang:

For those who have not been following Air America’s very slow and painful decline, its declaring bankruptcy is not a surprise. Michelle Malkin has documented for some time now Air America’s financial woes beginning with her June 2005 post that Air America was being investigated for funneling money meant for kids and seniors into its own bank accounts.






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