Air America Radio

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Logo of Air America Radio, a   network and program syndicator with a  point of view.
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Logo of Air America Radio, a U.S. radio network and program syndicator with a liberal point of view.

Air America Radio is a radio network and program syndication service in the United States, launched on March 31, 2004, which features a liberal or left-wing point of view and specializes in presentations and monologues by well known liberal personalities, guest interviews, calls by listeners, and news.

The network's primary station is New York City's WLIB-AM and, as of June 2005, 64 stations in the U.S. offer some or all of the programs produced and distributed by Air America Radio.

In addition, XM Satellite Radio carries the full schedule of programs on channel 167. Air America Radio also makes use of audio streaming on the internet's world wide web, reaching a national and international audience. Some of the personalities who host shows on Air America Radio include Al Franken, Janeane Garofalo, Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, Marc Maron and Jerry Springer.

A complete archive of all Air America programs can be found at the official fansite, AirAmericaPlace.com (http://www.airamericaplace.com/).

Contents

Programming overview

Air America Radio provides news, talk, comedy, interviews, guest editorials, and answers listeners' calls. In various markets there are traffic reports and weather throughout the broadcast day. The talk portions feature some extended host monologues in the classic talk radio format (see early influences below). The comedy routines are live as well as pre-recorded, and many comedians, including Barry Crimmins, are featured.

The interviews feature regulars such as Christy Harvey (http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=3739) of the Center for American Progress, Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, and Joe Conason of Salon.com. Many Government officials, public figures and bloggers are also featured. Markos Moulitsas Z˙niga (of Daily Kos) and Duncan Black (of Atrios, aka Eschaton), the authors of the first and second most visited liberal political blogs, are featured regularly.

News, editorials and public affairs

Air America News and public affairs shows offer headline and short feature news reports, and, in some markets, traffic and weather reports as well. The news is a general purpose offering from standard wire service sources such as AP and UPI, however, the broadcast network puts some accent on labor news unlike other radio networks which tend to focus more on Wall Street reports and daily financial news.

The public affairs shows tend to closely follow the news of the day with monologues and reflections offered by the hosts. Listener calls are worked into these sections along with guest interviews. Air America Radio has a definite political orientation, and many broadcasts could be described as advocacy journalism or editorial and opinion pieces, but, in keeping with many of the principles of journalism ethics and standards, the hosts distinguish their own opinions from the factual reporting. Hosts offer frequent citations to news reports, studies and government documents to provide background information and sources for the views they express.

In general, the hosts, guests and viewpoints of Air America represent the left and center of the Democratic Party, or the Green Party. Communist, socialist, and anarchist viewpoints/ideologies are not heard or discussed on Air America.

Samples of regular guests heard on Air America Radio:

Signed editorials by Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, appear regularly on the network. In addition there are Mother Jones minutes and commentary by Jim Hightower and others.

Comedy on Air America

see main articles at Al Franken, Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, Jerry Springer, Laura Flanders

Air America Radio offers comedy programing. Each host has their own style. For example, on The Al Franken Show, guests are introduced with parody theme songs, based on popular songs. Springer on the Radio and The Randi Rhodes Show have parodies and satires of commercials, humorous songs, sound effects such as buzzers and bells as well as longer skits.

Controversial skit

In April of 2005 one pre-recorded comedy routine broadcast during The Randi Rhodes Show sparked a minor controversy. The United States Secret Service reviewed and set-aside further investigation or action regarding an April 24, 2005 radio feature broadcast from New York City during the show -- Rhodes was in a Florida studio. The skit featured an announcer staying: "A spoiled child (Web site Drudge Report made the allegation that the spoiled child represents George W. Bush) is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: (sound effect of 4 gunshots being fired). Just try it, you little bastard. [sound effect of gun being cocked]. Randi Rhodes has apologized for that skit Wednesday, April 27, 2005, admitting it was "an attempt at humor ... bad joke." Rhodes further stated "It was a bit. It was bad. I apologize a thousand times." Rhodes said the incident should be seen as a call for major networks to pay more attention to what the questionable journalism habits of her right-wing counterparts.

Air America denied any federal probes and according to president of programming Jon Sinton, "We are not under investigation from the Secret Service." He further stated "We regret that a produced comedy bit that was in bad taste slipped through our normal vetting process. We do acknowledge that it was an internal error and internal discipline will be enforced."

As reported by UPI, The Secret Service initially stated it was investigating to see if the broadcast constituted a threat to Bush, but later issued a statement saying they would be taking no further action.

References:

  • Randi Rhodes broadcast in question may be heard here (http://www.airamericaplace.com/upload/aarr042505.mp3)
  • Report by Drudge (http://drudgereport.com/mattabt.htm)
  • Rhodes's response to Drudge Report allegations (audio) (http://airamericaradio.com/layout.asp?baseurl=RandiRhodes/4-27-05/RandiRhodes.wma)
  • Applicable case law — U.S. Supreme Court Watts v. United States, 394 U.S. 705 (1969)[1] (http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=394&invol=705)

Listener participation

Listeners' calls are taken on most of the programs, but are especially featured on Springer on the Radio, The Randi Rhodes Show, The Laura Flanders Show, The Mike Malloy Show, and Ring of Fire with Bobby Kennedy. The listener calls are sometimes confined to a particular topic or feature, such as being a contestant on "Wait Wait, Don't Lie to Me" on The Al Franken Show or on Morning Sedition's "Liberal Confessional". Other times listeners themselves direct the flow of the conversation.

Listeners are provided with a toll-free number. For most of the shows this number is 1-866-303-2270, but it differs on some programs.

Complementary programming

Stations broadcasting Air America programming often augment or replace parts of the network's lineup with other programming, typically with a progressive or liberal political perspective. Some examples include:

  • The Stephanie Miller Show with Stephanie Miller (three hours: 9AM-12PM EST) (distributed by the Jones Radio Network)
  • The Thom Hartmann Radio Program with Thom Hartmann (three hours: 12PM-3PM EST)
  • The Ed Schultz Show with Ed Schultz (three hours: 3PM-6PM EST) (distributed by the Jones Radio Network)
  • The Lionel Show with Michael LeBron (three hours: 10PM-1AM EST) (distributed by the WOR network)

Early influences in "Talk radio"

see main article at talk radio

Some of the earliest examples of the talk format were on the BBC. In New York City, early talk programs were heard on stations such as WOR-AM, WNEW, WMCA and WBAI. Commentators on these stations and others around the United States established the foundations of how talk radio is done today.

Business plan overview

Air America is a new entrant into a mature format of news, talk, comedy known in the radio industry as "talkers." The network was known as Central Air during its development phase.

Historical context

In formulating its programming decisions and business plan, Air America took into account the history of media and politics. Since the 1964 presidential election, opponents of the New Deal coalition had been building think tanks and media to formulate or contribute to a Republican alternative. Groups with right-wing politics moved to harness the emerging alternative media formats, particularly talk radio, and for many years, the airwaves were dominated by Rush Limbaugh and others espousing various right-wing political views. Writers, including British journalists Jonathan Freedland, John Micklethwait, and Adrian Wooldridge, have credited this Republican alternative with shifting the tone of American public debate, creating an electoral environment where Republican candidates are more able to succeed, and in which Democratic candidates are forced further to the right in order to be "electable". Micklethwait and Wooldridge wrote about this in "The Right Nation," and David Brock wrote about it in The Republican Noise Machine.

Conservative dominance of talk radio played an important role in winning a shift in the balance of the United States House of Representatives in the 1994 midterm elections, though other factors such as the Contract with America also played significant roles. That analysis also credits the media with hampering Clinton's second term by keeping alive stories of scandal in the White House, and contributing to the victory of George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election.

The growing realization that liberal groups were becoming ineffective in terms of getting their viewpoint across in the media was the reason the concept of creating a liberal talk radio network emerged as a serious idea.

Early start-up difficulties

Air America was started as part of Progress Media, which said it had amassed $30 million in venture capital prior to its debut, a claim which later turned out to be untrue (only $6 million was initially collected). Two individuals from Guam, Rex Sorensen and Evan Montvel Cohen, were involved in raising the capital but denied any wrongdoing. [2] (http://www.kuam.com/news/10010.aspx) Cohen had an unusual history for his position in a progressive-left radio network since he was a Republican political operative in Guam and former chief of staff for Republican Governor Tommy Tanaka. [3] (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-0404270148apr27,1,4508151,print.story?coll=chi-business-hed&ctrack=3&cset=true) Cohen dismissed concerns by saying he was a committed "progressive" and that Republicans in Guam "are left of Paul Wellstone." It was reported that Cohen had unpaid business debts in Guam, although Cohen denies this. [4] (http://www.makethemaccountable.com/articles/Radio_Daze.htm) Tommy Tanaka pleaded guilty to corruption charges in 2003.

Two weeks after their debut, Air America Radio was pulled off the air by the owners of two stations the network had licensed in Chicago and Santa Monica, California (near Los Angeles). This was due to a contract dispute between Air America and the station's owner, Multicultural Radio Broadcasting. Air America alleges Multicultural Radio may have sold time on their Los Angeles station to them and another party, and stopped payment on checks to them while they investigated. Multicultural Radio alleges that Air America bounced a check and owes $1 million. Air America Radio filed a complaint in New York Supreme Court, charging breach of contract and was granted an injunction to restore the network on WNTD-AM in Chicago. On April 20, the network announced the dispute had been settled, and Air America's last day of broadcast on WNTD was April 30.

Four weeks after Air America's debut, the CEO, Mark Walsh, and Dave Logan, its executive vice president for programming, left the network. One week after those departures, the chairman and vice chairman, Evan Cohen and his investment partner Rex Sorensen, also left. Some attributed Cohen's departure to investor unhappiness with how he handled the dispute with Multicultural Radio Broadcasting.

Columnist Michael Goodwin of the New York Daily News quoted a marketing communications manager from General Motors, declaring "GM will not advertise on any Air America affiliates."

As part of a reorganization, investors in Progress Media bought the assets of that company, creating its current owner, Piquant LLC. An important change which accompanied the reorganization was a decision to stop trying to buy radio stations, lease air time, or insist that stations carry all of the network's programming.

On February 28, 2005, a new CEO, Danny Goldberg, was named. Goldberg set a goal of getting the network in 90% of the country as soon as possible. Expansions early in his tenure included Austin, Texas and Dallas, Texas in March 2005, and a return to Chicago in May 2005.

A documentary on the network's rocky start and ultimate resurgence, "Left of the Dial", premiered March 31, 2005 on HBO.

In April 2005, the stuio of an AAR affiliate in Warren, Ohio, WANR-AM, was briefly occupied by a group that changed the locks and began broadcasting Christian programming until the police forced them to leave. [5] (http://www.ominous-valve.com/blog/2005/04/air-america-under-further-righty.html) A few weeks later, the group seeking to switch the station's format to Christian programming was able to purchase the station, and the Air America programming was discontinued. [6] (http://www.therandirhodesshow.com/randirhodes/messageboards/index.php?showtopic=51116&pid=427706&st=0&#entry427706)

Ratings

Template:Sectfact Air America stays on the air in spite of ranking 24th in the New York metro area Arbitron ratings, as reported in the New York Sun on April 20, 2005. [7] (http://daily.nysun.com/Repository/getmailfiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:ArticleToMail&Type=text/html&Path=NYS/2005/04/20&ID=Ar01100) They may, though, gain support from New York Democratic Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey's proposed revival of the Fairness Doctrine, by which they would be granted equal time regardless of public interest.

Sponsors

Commercial sponsors have included:

  • Consumer Products and Services
  • Automotive
  • Insurance
  • Financial/Professional Services
  • Business Services
  • U.S. Government office of National Drug Control Policy, ONDCP

Local advertising placment and availability may vary in different markets.

In addition to commercial sponsors, Air America also devotes time to public service announcements or PSAs. Some of the groups AAR has included are Operation Truth and the Willie Nelson endorsed group NORML and PSAs from the Center for American Progress.

Support from Clear Channel

Clear Channel tested the format at KPOJ-AM in Portland, Oregon, the first station to join Air America as an affiliate broadcasting Air America shows combined with other programming. As a result, the station increased its ages 12 and up market share by nearly an order of magnitude. KPOJ's spring 2004 Arbitron ratings grew from a 0.4 to a 3.7.

The success in Portland led Clear Channel to switch more of its stations to the format, so that as of September 2004 over a third of Air America's affiliates are owned by Clear Channel. This includes stations in swing states such as Florida (West Palm Beach and Miami (12th largest radio market)), Colorado, Ohio, and New Mexico, as well as major markets such as San Diego (17th largest) and Boston (9th largest).

Infinity Broadcasting is also testing Air America on its stations. On October 22, 2004, Infinity announced that it was switching one of its country stations in Seattle (1090 AM) to Air America.

The senior vice president of Infinity Radio Seattle said of the switch, "We believe this is distinctive programming. There are those in the radio business who believe that shows with a liberal perspective won't get an audience. Air America in recent months has shattered that myth."[8] (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/artsentertainment/2002069848_airamerica22.html)

Community relations

  • Al Franken has taken his talents overseas for the USO carrying in the long tradition of U.S. entertainers of all backgrounds going to entertain military personnel overseas. Franken has done so in a non-partisan manner.
  • The Al Franken Show has gone on several road trips giving new audiences an opportunity to meet the hosts in person.
  • On the air, one show will have promotional spots in the other show.
  • Each program on Air America also has its own website in the blog format. These various blogs provide a text and graphics link between hosts and the audience. The blogs foster a feeling of feeling of community.
  • Public Service Announcements are featured from a diverse number of groups from the ONDCP to Willie Nelson endorsed NORML.
  • In addition to these, several of the hosts have independent name blogs. see: External links
  • Main Air America website with links to show blogs (http://www.airamericaradio.com/)

Promotion

Air America Radio's early promotions humorously describe the network as further to the left than a number of well-known right-wing groups, such as the NRA and the John Birch Society, as well as the fictional and apolitical character Betty Crocker.

Current campaigns (as of 2005) include outdoor advertising in New York City. Billboards and transit shelters feature pictures of Rhodes, Springer, and other hosts with the slogan, "The only talk radio left."

Weekday programs

Air America produces seventeen hours of weekday programming, including news summaries at the top of each hour.

Weekend programs (varies)

For those stations for which Air America has full control, weekends feature repeats and highlights from their weekday shows, combined with new original programming and some syndicated shows produced independently.

New network programming for weekends includes:

Archives

Air America Place is the official audio archive of all Air America Radio programs. The website also houses a blog and a message board for fans of Air America to post on. Air America Place is located at http://www.airamericaplace.com.

White Rose Society also has archives for Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes, and numerous other liberal programs, some of which are on Air America affiliates. White Rose Society is located at http://www.whiterosesociety.org/

Affiliates

The network's programs are streamed on the Internet. A list of internet streams that carry Air America can be found here (http://www.geocities.com/liberalprogressivetalk/airamericaradio.html). Air America is also carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 167. The network has announced a pending deal with Dish Network.

East

Alaska / Hawaii

Central

West


External links and references

Official websites

Air America fans

Air America critics

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