RIP Air America
Air America performed a great service to both liberal broadcasters in particular and to the talk radio industry as a whole. Its demise is, sadly, not a shock, but will certainly be misinterpreted and overstated by conservatives who love to pontificate about how liberals can’t make it in broadcasting and who will dance on Air America’s grave.
I look at radio as a broadcaster, not as a liberal. At its inception, Air America had a mission, and the mission sometimes superseded programming decisions. Their business model in larger markets was pay-for-play, an expensive proposition often without financial return. Because conservatives were so entrenched on heritage stations, the progressives on Air America were relegated to smaller, less powerful, under-performing signals that could not compete with their more established counterparts; certainly not without lots of promotion and time to develop, both of which were denied in most cases. The company went through a series of management and programming changes and suffered further because of accusations of financial shenanigans.
But Air America also spawned some great talent. Alumni Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, and Randi Rhodes are major progressive voices who continue to populate the airwaves. Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz are still doing successful shows. Stations like Green960 in San Francisco, KPOJ in Portland, and WWRL in New York have innovative programmers who cherry-pick the best shows available and have led the way in showing how progressive radio can be a potent force. The end of Air America will be linked to reports of the death of progressive radio by its detractors. Its impact, will, no doubt, be greatly exaggerated by those whose interest it is to promote the conservative point of view and diminish those with whom they disagree. Talkers magazine publisher Michael Harrison, whose analysis has historically been prescient, put it succinctly: “It would be a shame if the world sees the failure of Air America as representing the failure of progressive talk radio.”Click here for reuse options!
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