Air America Radio
Air America Radio is a liberal radio network and program syndication service in the United States, launched on March 31, 2004, which features a liberal, left-wing or progressive point of view and specializes in hosts' presentations and monologues, guest interviews, listeners' calls and news.
The network's primary station is New York City's WLIB-AM and, as of April 2005, fifty five stations in the U.S. offer some or all of the programs produced and distributed by Air America Radio; in addition, the XM satellite service offers a partial selection of the network's programs on its America Left channel 167 and Sirius Satellite Radio's channel 144 carries the full schedule of programs. 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 more well-known personalities who host shows on Air America Radio are 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.
Table of contents
Air America Radio provides news, talk, comedy, interviews, guest editorials, and answers listeners' calls. In various markets there are traffic reports and weather thoughout the broadcast day. The talk portions feature some extended host monlogues 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 Crimons are featured.
The interviews feature regulars such as Christy Harvey of the Center for American Progress, Katrina Van DenHeuvel of The Nation, and Joe Conason of Salon.com. Many goverment officials, public figures and bloggers are also featured. Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (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 server 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. All programs, however, are rooted in the basic principles of ethical journalism. Hosts offer frequent citations to news reports, studies and government documents to provide background information and sources for the views they express.
Samples of regular guests hear on Air America Radio
- Joe Conason – Journalist with Salon.com on line magazine.
- Center for American Progress public interest group
- Media Matters for America, David Brock's media watchdog organization.
Comedy on Air America
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. Jerry Springer and Randi Rhodes have parodies and satires of commercials, humorous songs, sound effects such as buzzers and bells as well as longer skits.
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 critical of George W. Bush broadcast from New York City during the Randi Rhodes 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 President Bush, but later issued a statement saying they would be taking no further action.
- Randi Rhodes broadcast in question may be heard here
- Report by Drudge
- Rhodes's response to Drudge Report allegations (audio)
- Applicable case law — U.S. Supreme Court WATTS v. UNITED STATES, 394 U.S. 705 (1969)
Listeners calls are taken on most of the programs, but are especially featured on 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. Other times listeners themselves direct the flow of the conversation.
Listeners are provided with a toll-free number.
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 Ed Schultz Show with Ed Schultz (three hours: 3PM-6PM EST) (distributed by the Jones Radio Network)
- The Stephanie Miller Show with Stephanie Miller (three hours: 9AM-12PM 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 was 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.
- Early influences in talk radio: Margo Adler, Alistair Cooke, Barry Farber, Bob Fass, Barry Grey, Larry Josephson, Larry King, Leon Lewis, Long John Nebel, Steve Post, Jean Shepherd, and Larry Benskey.
Business plan overview
Air American is a new entrant into a mature format of news, talk, comedy. Known in the radio industry as "talkers." Air American was know Central Air. during its development phase.
In formulating its programing decisions and business plan, Air American reviewed the historical context. 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.  Cohen had an unusal 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.  Cohen dismissed concerns by saying he was a committed "progressive" and Republicans in Guam "are left of Paul Wellstone." It was reported that Cohen had unpaid business debts in Guam, although Cohen denies this.  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.
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. Mr. Goldberg has stated he plans to increase the network's visibility in the media and wants the network to be on in 90% of the country as soon as possible. He mentioned on a recent Air America show that Chicago will be on board soon. Austin, Texas gained an affiliate on March 14th, 2005, and Air America started in Dallas, Texas on March 22nd, 2005. Several other Texas cities are soon to follow and a Chicago affilate is to be launched following the network's one-year anniversary in April 2005.
A documentary on the network's rocky start and ultimate resurgence, "Left of the Dial", premiered March 31, 2005 on HBO.
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.  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.
Air America sponsors
Commercial sponsors have included:
- Consumer Products and Services
- Financial/Professional Services
- Business Services
- U.S. Goverment office of National Drug Control Policy, ONDCP
Local advertising placment and availability may vary in different markets.
In addition to commerical sponsors, Air American 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."
- 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 does this in an unselfish non-partisan way.
- 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
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 include outdoor advertising in New York City. Billboards, transit shelters feature promotion for Randi Rhodes with the slogan, "The only talk radio left"
Air America produces seventeen hours of weekday programming, including news summaries at the top of each hour.
- The Rachel Maddow Show with Rachel Maddow (one hour: 5AM-6AM EST), as of April 14, 2005.
- Morning Sedition with Marc Maron and Mark Riley (three hours: 6AM-9AM EST)
- Springer on the Radio with Jerry Springer (three hours: 9AM-12PM EST), since April 1, 2005.
- The Al Franken Show (initially known as The O'Franken Factor) with Al Franken and Katherine Lanpher (three hours: 12PM-3PM EST)
- The Randi Rhodes Show with Randi Rhodes (four hours: 3PM-7PM EST)
- The Majority Report with Janeane Garofalo and Sam Seder (three hours: 7PM-10PM EST)
- The Mike Malloy Show with Mike Malloy (three hours: 10PM-1AM EST), since August 2, 2004.
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:
- The Laura Flanders Show with Laura Flanders (three hours)
- Ring of Fire with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Mike Papantonio (two hours)
- EcoTalk with Betsy Rosenberg (one hour)
- The Kyle Jason Show with Kyle Jason (two hours)
- The Revolution Starts Now with Steve Earle (one hour)
- Politically Direct with David Bender (one hour)
- On The Reel with Chuck D (one hour) (Launch date to be determined)
The network's programs are streamed on the Internet and carried on XM Satellite Radio's America Left (channel 167, which replaces some Air America programming with unaffiliated shows) and Sirius Satellite Radio's Stream 144 (which carries the full Air America schedule). Beginning in May, 2005, it will switch its satellite radio syndication from Sirius to XM, with Sirius' rebroadcasts ending sometime in June. The network has announced a pending deal with Dish Network.
- WPEK 880 AM in Fairview, North Carolina near Asheville
- WWAA 1690 AM in Atlanta, Georgia
- WKOX 1200 AM and WXKS 1430 AM in Boston, Massachusetts
- WKVT 1490 AM in Brattleboro, Vermont
- WCHL 1360 AM in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
- WLTQ 730 AM in Charleston, South Carolina
- WOIC 1230 AM in Columbia, South Carolina
- WKIZ 1500 AM in Key West, Florida
- WWTQ 680 AM in Memphis, Tennessee
- WINZ 940 AM in Miami, Florida
- WAVZ 1300 AM in New Haven, Connecticut
- WLIB 1190 AM in New York City
- WHMP 1400 AM in Northampton, Massachusetts
- WHAT 1340 AM in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- WTWK 1070 AM in Plattsburgh, New York and Burlington, Vermont
- WLVP 870 AM in Gorham, Maine near Portland
- WMAS 94.7 FM in Springfield, Massachusetts
- WHJJ 920 AM in Providence, Rhode Island
- WROC 950 AM in Rochester, New York
- WWRC 1260 AM in Washington, D.C.
- WJNO 1290 AM in West Palm Beach, Florida (Randi Rhodes)
Alaska / Hawaii
- WJMP 1520 AM in Akron, Ohio
- KOKE 1600 AM in Austin, Texas
- KABQ 1350 AM in Albuquerque, New Mexico
- WLBY 1290 AM in Saline, Michigan near Ann Arbor
- WCPT 850 AM in Chicago, Illinois
- WCKY 1530 AM in Cincinnati, Ohio
- WTPG 1230 AM in Columbus, Ohio
- KCCT 1150 AM in Corpus Christi, Texas
- KXEB 910 AM in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
- WKBF 1270 AM in Davenport, Iowa
- KKZN 760 AM in Denver, Colorado
- WDTW 1310 AM in Detroit, Michigan
- WXXM 92.1 FM in Madison, Wisconsin
- KTNF 950 AM in St. Louis Park, Minnesota (near Minneapolis)
- WWKK 750 AM in Petoskey, Michigan (Al Franken, Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes)
- KTRC 1260 AM in Santa Fe, New Mexico
- WANR 1570 AM in Youngstown, Ohio
- KTHH 990 AM in Albany, Oregon
- KOPT 1450 AM in Eugene, Oregon
- KTLK 1150 AM in Los Angeles, California
- KXXT 1010 AM in Tolleson, Arizona, ten miles from Phoenix
- KPOJ 620 AM in Portland, Oregon, (the first affiliate)
- KJFK 1230 AM in Reno, Nevada
- KCAA 1050 AM in the Southern Californian Inland Empire (Al Franken)
- KSQR 1240 AM in Sacramento, California
- KTLK 1340 AM in Santa Barbara, California
- KLSD 1360 AM in San Diego, California
- KYNS 1340 AM in San Luis Obispo, California
- KQKE 960 AM in San Francisco, California
- KPTK 1090 AM in Seattle, Washington
- KTHO 590 AM in South Lake Tahoe, California
- KAQQ 1280 AM in Spokane, Washington
External links and references
- NYT: Al Franken, Seriously
- Liberal radio set for launch at month's end
- Legal document about dispute with Multicultural Radio Broadcasting
- NYT: Two Senior Executives Leave Air America Radio
- Air America Radio Top Executives resign
- WSJ: Al Franken's Kitchen Surprise (subscription req'd)
- Sundance Channel to Launch Television Version of 'Al Franken Show' in September
- Soros Might Bail Out Air America
- Air America debuts in San Diego County, California
- Left of the Dial documentary, from the HBO website
- Drudge Report on "Left of the Dial"HBO Air America Radio Documentary
- Official Air America Radio site
- The Rachel Maddow Show
- Morning Sedition
- Springer on the Radio
- The Al Franken Show
- The Randi Rhodes Show
- The Majority Report
- The Mike Malloy Show
- Laura Flanders
Air America fans
- Unoffical Air America Message Board
- Unofficial fan site
- Air America Links Unofficial link and streaming site
- White Rose Society, The Mike Malloy Show and The Randi Rhodes Show archives in MP3 format
- The Randi Rhodes Show, archives in MP3 format
- Archived Radio shows in Ogg Vorbis format
- Independent Air America Radio IRC Chat channel (chat room) on Undernet