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March 31, 2004

Liberal Talk Radio

Oh boy! Don't miss the debut today of the new liberal talk radio network, "Air America Radio." Here's a note on the programming:

As a result the network's 17-hour weekday lineup has as much if not more in common with "Saturday Night Live" than with National Public Radio. For example, its midmorning show, which begins tomorrow at 9, will have as its hosts Lizz Winstead, a comedian and a creator of "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, and Chuck D, the frontman for the rap group Public Enemy.

They will be followed at noon by Mr. Franken, the "Saturday Night Live" alumnus who has evolved into a satirist, and whose co-host is Katherine Lanpher from Minnesota Public Radio. Martin Kaplan, a communications professor at the University of Southern California, will be the host of a one-hour show about the news media in the early evening.

He will be followed, from 8 to 11 p.m., by Ms. Garofalo, whose main experience in radio was playing the role of a talk-show host for pet owners in the 1996 film "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," and by Mr. Seder, who has worked as a comedian, screenwriter and filmmaker.

Personally, I would have preferred Flavor Flave ("Yo Chuck, tell 'em what time it is, boyeeee!") to Chuck D. You can hear Air America Radio initially on the following stations: WLIB-AM (1190), New York; WNTD-AM (950) , Chicago; KBLA-AM (1580) , Los Angeles; KCAA-AM (1050) , Riverside and San Bernadino, Calif.; KPOJ-AM (620), Portland, Ore.; and Channel 167 on XM Satellite Radio.

It looks like it's a full court press from the left, as The New York Observer is reporting that Al Gore and his Dem business partner, Joel Hyatt, are going to acquire a digital cable-TV channel from Vivendi this week for a cool $70 million:

"Fabulous!" Mr. Franken said. "I think it’s a good thing. I think Al Gore’s a good guy." He started laughing with pleasure just thinking about it. "And I think Al Gore is a smart guy who has tremendous curiosity, and I think he’s a person who likes ideas," he continued. "And I think, you know, from all I know from the people I’ve met in media, he’d be a good choice as someone to have a piece of it. I’m much more comfortable in his hands than a lot of people."

As far as the dovetailing between Air America Radio and Mr. Gore’s project, Mr. Franken said, "It’s all part of the same thing. It’s fighting back …. I think that the country—there’s an odd idea that the mainstream media is liberal, and it just isn’t. And I think the mainstream media has become scared of its own shadow. Basically, their testicles have been sucked up into their body cavity with a slurping sound."

Hmmm . . . . And it gets better:

It wasn’t easy for Mr. Gore to get his hands on NWI. According to two sources familiar with the situation, Mr. Gore went so far as to seek the influence of French President Jacques Chirac in buying the channel, hoping that Mr. Chirac would aid him in landing a sweetened deal with Vivendi chief executive Jean-René Fourtou—and quick. That request resulted in a meeting last summer with executives of Universal Television Group and Vivendi’s chief operating officer, Jean-Bernard Levy. At the time, however, Vivendi was preparing to sell its cable properties to NBC, which temporarily stalled Mr. Gore’s media ambitions.

Who would have thunk it? Well, whatever. The former Vice President is just using his contacts in an attempt to level the playing field, right? Indeed:

Mr. Franken agreed that the left had been lax during the techno-revolution while the right "felt a certain urgency, to their credit, and they had a lot of right-wing financiers who saw this as a need. A lot of them were trust-fund babies who inherited a lot of money and wanted to keep it and now have bought their way into the Congress and the Bush administration, and you have a lot of wealth trying to keep a lot of wealth and a very stacked deck in this country right now."

Let me get this straight: People with property trying to keep their property. In America no less. That does sound wildly unfair -- a very stacked deck.

UPDATE: Two right-wing media types offer the following prediction in today's L.A. Times:

Air America requires a mass ideological movement to sustain it, and if a robust liberal movement exists today, it can teach the Air Force something about stealth. Calling its potential audience "progressive" — rather than "liberal" — fools no one. And the network shouldn't confuse the battles between Democrats and Republicans with building a movement. Partisan fervor lasts for four years max; a movement, as we said, requires decades.

The latest news for liberals in this regard is dismal. Hal Malchow, a leading fundraiser for the Democratic Party, told us: "The size of the donor list on the liberal side has been shrinking. A lot. The basic liberal universe that's available to the DNC [Democratic National Committee] right now is probably around a half-million to 600,000 unique names that we don't have yet as donors. Ten years ago it would have been a million, million-and-a-half names." By way of comparison, the Republican Party solicits new donors from conservative lists totaling 5 million or more names.

Fear of black-and-white positions. Short-term myopia. Inadequate capitalization. A shrinking audience. It doesn't look good for Air America. But if Air America fails, liberals shouldn't despair. Rupert Murdoch may come to their rescue.

You read that right. Murdoch is a capitalist, after all, not an ideologue. He will go where the money is, and a recent venture is the Fox News Radio Service. One of its first stars is Alan Colmes, the liberal foil to Sean Hannity on Fox News' "Hannity & Colmes."

Posted by Old Benjamin at 01:28 AM | Permalink


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