Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Deflating of Air America Radio

This is an interesting time for Liberal talk radio. Let’s look at what has happened in the past month. It all started with announcement that Air America Radio was filing for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy filing, which was published on the Smoking Gun website, listed debts of over $20 million and assets of under $5 million. The ink had yet to dry on the bankruptcy story when other cards started to fall.

Two new syndication companies were formed. Nova M, a entity created by AAR founder Sheldon Drobny and Phoenix talk show host Dr. Mike Newcomb started with an LMA in Phoenix, KPHX and an O & O in Little Rock KDXE. They made a bold move by signing Mike Malloy, who was unceremoniously canned by AAR last month. Democracy Radio founder, Tom Athans, heads up another venture –Talk USA Radio --. Not much is known about this venture, but remember it was DR that actually recruited and launched Ed Schultz, who is the number one liberal talk host.

Speaking of Ed Schultz, in anticipation of the demise of AAR, he announced earlier this week that he is moving is show from the 3pm-6pm to the coveted Noon-3pm slot. Rumors are swirling that despite what happens to AAR, Al Franken is going to give up his show in order to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota. Apparently, Schultz figures he should get first dibs on Franken’s spot.

As I write this piece on Monday, December 4, I get the feeling that I am covering an event that is unfolding all around me. I know that more will be revealed tomorrow and still more by end of the week. I have no doubt that the liberal talk radio landscape will be very different in 2007 – and that’s only three weeks away!

Meanwhile, back to the story. Stations that carry AAR programming are starting to get nervous. Yes, they have Schultz, Miller, and Press, but AAR talkers still fill most of time on these stations. Four lib talk stations have either dropped the format or intend to do so in the coming weeks. They are WXXM in Madison, WSMB in New Orleans, WYOS, in Binghamton and WKBF in Quad Cities. None of these stations have indicated that their programming change was motivated by AAR’s problems, but one can read the writing on the wall.

More significantly, several lib talk stations are already revamping their program schedules, WCPT has moved Stephanie Miller into Franken’s slot and moved Franken to late afternoon when this daytimer’s signal starts to fade. KQKE in San Francisco, WXKS/WKOX in Boston, and WARF in Akron have dropped Franken, At least Franken will be carried on many stations when he does his farewell broadcast in few in a weeks. Jerry Springer announced today that his show will end on Friday. Jerry has been losing affiliates on regular basis since Stephanie Miller moved in on his time spot and AAR put him on the Taxi Squad. As of his sayonara announcement, he was carried on two major stations WCPT in Chicago and WSAI in Cincinnati.

So with Springer out and Franken probably out what is left at AAR. There’s Randi Rhodes, who is isn’t the personification of a team player. My hunch is that she will survive the demise the AAR and reemerge with one of new syndication outfits or possibly with Jones where she would teamed up her nemesis Ed Schultz.. The rest of the AAR talkers are probably headed for the unemployment office.

AAR critics like Brian Maloney, the Radio Equalizer and Michelle Malkin are ecstatic that the liberal network is coming undone. That might be true, but liberal talk radio is far from dead. With a handful of syndicators vying to provide talent for current and prospective liberal talk stations the lib talk format is alive and well. Remember before NBC, CBS, and ABC there was the Dumont Network.

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