Thursday, August 02, 2007

"The Air Americans" to be Grounded in September

A big shake-up is in the works at Air America Radio. Mark Riley, one of the three original AAR hosts still on the air (Randi Rhodes and Rachel Maddow are the other ones) will be gone and so will Riley’s nightly ensemble show The Air Americans to be replaced by a pair of two-hour talk shows. AAR weekend host, Richard Greene will move his show to weeknights – 8-10pm and Bree Walker, who has been hosting a weekend show on KTLK-AM in Los Angeles, will yak from 10pm-midnight.

Greene is new to talk radio, but not to talking and politics. His current AAR show –Clout with Richard Greene, which airs on Saturday Nights from 8-10pm, was launched just a few months ago. Prior to the start of his AAR show, Greene was known as speech coach, author, and political activist. He wrote a book on public speaking called Words That Shook the World and on his website there is a description of a high school public speaking contest.

According to Greene who's weekday show on AAR, which will also be called Clout! will "give Air America listeners ways to get involved, influence the political process and show their 'clout'." The show will include briefings from Majority Leader Harry Reid and Congressman Charlie Rangel, a "Cause of The Week" segment and the regular use of informed and passionate celebrities/VIPs to serve as co-hosts.

Walker on the other hand is broadcast news pro. She has had a 25-year career that started on KGTV, Channel 10 in San Diego in 1980. Walker was both a news reporter and anchor in San Diego, winning several awards and taking the station to number one in the market. She also was an anchor on WCBS, Channel 2 in New York and KCBS, Channel 2 in Los Angeles.

After leaving KCBS five years ago, she focused on disability rights and social activism eventually returning to broadcasting at KTLK where she has hosted a weekly talk show on Saturday’s from 2-4pm.

Walker generated national attention about month ago, when she purchased Camp Casey near the Texas retreat of President Bush, where anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan has conducted a two-year vigil on behalf of her son who killed in action in Iraq.

It is not surprising that AAR has cancelled The Air Americans. The ratings have been low and while Riley’s morning show on the lib talk network had as many as 40 affiliates, The Air Americans have only been picked up by just over a dozen stations. Four contributing hosts on the show – Robert Kennedy Jr., Mike Popantonio, David Bender, and Laura Flanders will continue to appear on weekend AAR programs.

Meanwhile, AAR’s other new weekday show – hosted by Lionel from 9am-noon is also not doing well. While the veteran broadcaster was carried by dozens of stations when he was offered as a late night talker by WOR Syndication, his morning AAR show has only been picked up by 15 stations.

(Talking Radio will be publishing its quarterly ranking of the Top Syndicated Liberal Show Hosts next week. The ranking will gauge the performance all the AAR weekday hosts as well as other syndicated talkers like Ed Schultz, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press and others.)

Meanwhile the staff of the embattled lib talk network, which was rescued from bankruptcy earlier this year by Stephen and Mark Green, continues to shrink.

According to four AAR staffers have been let go and AAR’s current staff has been cut back to 44 people. It was double that size about a year ago.

Mark Green, who is President of AAR said that network is “continuing to cut costs and consolidate functions as we dramatically reduce our expenses and move toward profitability,”

Green also had nice things to say about Riley and his soon to be cancelled talk show.

"I'm especially grateful to Mark Riley, who has been an exemplary and loyal Air American since the very start of the network three years ago,” Green said. “From Mark and his producer Ron Dodd to the four staff members --all are consummate professionals who have done their jobs exceedingly well.”

The two new talk shows will start on September 4th. No other programming changes have been announced at this time.