Monday, January 29, 2007

How the AAR Sale will Impact Lib Talk

Yesterday, the big news story was the sale of Air America Radio to Stephen L. Green. Today and beyond we will be focusing on that sale and what it means for liberal talk radio, especially with regard to how programs are produced and distributed.

In an article in Monday’s issue of the New York Times, Mark Green, the politically active brother of AAR’s new owner, Stephen Green hinted that the sale would usher in a new phase for Air America, focused on digital content distribution rather than radio.

"In this digital era, the tech changes by the day and Air America Radio has to become something of a new media company," Mark Green told the Times. "We look forward to an A.A.R. 2.0 that has sharp smart content better distributed over a variety of platforms. And what better time to try this than with progressive and democratic values obviously on the rise?"

According to the Times article at least one of individuals that was rumored to be a potential buyer of AAR, will be part on the new management team. The Progressive Radio Group, led by Terence F. Kelly, AAR's former chairman, will own a minority stake in the network. Kelly formed the group of about 20 investors in the fall after the network filed for bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the original owner of AAR, Sheldon Drobny does not share Mark Greens optimistic assessment of the potential at the struggling liberal talk network. In a piece which appears on the Huffington Post, Drobny blasts AAR saying that it "has little or no value."

"The metaphor I used, ‘from search and rescue to search and recover’ is a term used in rescue initiatives of plane crash victims and missing people in other disaster situations, Drobny posts. "After too much time passes, search and rescue becomes search and recover since the presumption is over time that a rescue is unlikely. Too much time has passed for a real rescue of AAR."

Drobny said that "AAR at best will be another content company with a name tarnished by bad management bankruptcy." He says that the only things of value that the venture has are the studio equipment, the hosts, and their affiliation agreements.

"The AAR affiliate agreements are 1 to 2 years and I suspect that most of the former AAR affiliates will not commit to AAR programming," Drobny posted.

Of course, we have to take Drobny’s comments in context. He is bitter, that the AAR management team led by Rob Glaser rejected his offer to buy the assets of the company before they filed for bankruptcy last November and now as the owner of Nova M Radio Network he will be competing with AAR for shelf space on liberal talk radio stations.

Check back to TR later in the day. We will be posting more comments on the AAR sale as they become available.

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