Today’s Washington Post takes a revealing look at Air America, the new liberal radio network that will launch soon in four cities: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Spearheaded by Al Franken and funded in the multimillions by people like George Soros and the Hollywood left, they intend on providing another choice in talk radio. Mitch Berg and the guys at Fraters Libertas have written extensively on this topic and have much more familiarity with the personalities involved than I do. In fact, we spent the final hour of our own radio show yesterday discussing the upcoming launch.
I don’t quite see the market for Air America, although we won’t know for sure until they go on the air. After all, no one’s arguing that NPR is fair and balanced, and it has much more intellectual heft than Al Franken, Chuck D, and Janeane Garofalo will provide Air America (or as Mitch loves to refer to it, FrankenNet). While the Washington Post piece refers to the liberals’ mistrust of “mainstream media”, it would be hard for anyone to imagine that the most powerful news organizations in their launch markets — New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and just about every periodical in San Francisco — are somehow overly conservative. (Perhaps in Chicago one could make an argument that the Sun and the Tribune aren’t as left-oriented as the broadsheets in the first three markets, but I don’t think you could describe them as part of any vast right-wing conspiracy, either.) Conservative talk radio in these markets thrive because of that lack of balance in the mainstream media, but generally only occupy one or two stations in a very crowded dial.
However, ratings won’t really be a problem anyway, as the fledgeling netlet has not been able to sell itself to any radio stations, and instead has had to spend its money buying stations rather than leasing time on others. This rather expensive strategy has cost Air America most of its capital and limited its ability to expand, but it also frees the operation from attracting advertising dollars, at least in the short run. Eventually they’ll have to have some cash flow in order to pay salaries, but for now they’re free to operate in any way they see fit — and if they can keep capital flowing in from their wealthy benefactors, that could continue for some time.
For an idea of how the gang at FrankenNet plan to approach their new air time, here’s Lizz Winstead, formerly of Minnesota’s “Lutheran police state”:
“We’re not going to call anybody names,” Lewis says. “I don’t think we’re trying to make people mad. There are a lot of people out there who are already mad.” … “I’m not a crazed ‘I hate all conservatives’ person,” Winstead says in Air America’s 40th-floor office on Park Avenue. “One thing we’re not about is ‘Doesn’t Bush suck?’ That’s boring.” She disdains hosts “who can incite hot-button issues and hot-button answers.”
Limbaugh, she allows, “is highly entertaining. He has emotion, highs, lows, passion. But so did Hitler.”
Glad to hear that name-calling is off the agenda at Air America. Here’s an unbiased opinion from the Washington Post of their chances at building a market:
Marty Kaplan, a former Walter Mondale aide now at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication, says that “the power of radio is extraordinary, and I don’t think it’s ever been tried as a mood button for progressives. There’s an audience for bile. One hopes there is equally an audience for irreverent comedy and smart deconstruction of the foibles of the right, which has become the establishment.”
The Washington Post looks for an expert in radio and marketing, and finds one who coincidentally worked for Walter Mondale — who then dismisses conservative talk radio as “bile” while describing Air America’s programming (which so far doesn’t exist) as “irreverent comedy and smart deconstruction of the foibles of the right, which has become the establishment.”
Yes, I can see why the Air America group thinks that there’s no liberal media bias. Kaplan didn’t get a chance to mention that the right were a bunch of hate-filled bigots. Shame on the WaPo for silencing Kaplan! Thank goodness that Air America will soon fill the airwaves, freeing us from the oppressive conservatism of the Post and the other corporate-greed media barons.