April 18, 2005


Why the Liberals Can't Keep Air America From Spiraling In (Brian C. Anderson, April 18, 2005, LA Times)

The liberal Air America Radio, just past its first birthday, has probably enjoyed more free publicity than any enterprise in recent history. But don't believe the hype: Air America's left-wing answer to conservative talk radio is failing, just as previous efforts to find liberal Rush Limbaughs have failed. [...]

Successful talk radio is conservative for three reasons:

• Entertainment value. The top conservative hosts put on snazzy, frequently humorous shows. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, observes: "The parody, the asides, the self-effacing humor, the bluster are all part of the packaging that makes the political message palatable." Besides, the triumph of political correctness on the left makes it hard for on-air liberals to lighten things up without offending anyone.

• Fragmentation of the potential audience. Political consultant Dick Morris explains: "Large percentages of liberals are black and Hispanic, and they now have their own specialized entertainment radio outlets, which they aren't likely to leave for liberal talk radio." The potential audience for Air America or similar ventures is thus pretty small — white liberals, basically. And they've already got NPR.

• Liberal bias in the old media. That's what birthed talk radio in the first place. People turn to it to help right the imbalance. Political scientist William Mayer, writing in the Public Interest, recently observed that liberals don't need talk radio because they've got the big three networks, most national and local daily newspapers and NPR.

Unable to prosper in the medium, liberals have taken to denouncing talk radio as a threat to democracy.

For more, check out Mr. Anderson's very fine book.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 18, 2005 3:56 PM

The fact that Clear Channel Communications has a lt of urban, but low-wattage AM stations right now in search of some sort of viable format seems to be Air America's biggest asset, since George W. Bush pal Lowery Mays is willing to give liberal talk a go on those stations, whose ratings were abysmal to begin with.

The fact that Clear Channel has yet to even think about putting Air America on any of its 50,000 watt AM radio stations -- or that companies like Disney, with liberal Democrats running things haven't made any moves to change over their 50,000 watt AM talkers to the liberal side -- shows how much success in attracting listeners Air America is actually having, happy-ending HBO documentaries to the contrary.

Posted by: John at April 18, 2005 4:22 PM

There's no bigger threat to democracy than allowing the hoi polloi to start discussing issues, and (gasp!)thinking for themselves.

Posted by: bart at April 18, 2005 6:12 PM

I just stumbled upon Air America for the first time this morning...in Miami, there's no reason to ever hit the "AM" button, but I did by accident. If the show I heard is any indication, the network will fail because it's just not entertaining. The segment I heard had Robert Reich as a guest with 2 people who were egging him on to be even more inane than he usually is. There was no insight, no humor, nothing thought provoking...just a bunch of whining: about how George Bush and his corporate cronies are screwing everyone over; about how John Kerry's health plan wasn't bold enough; about how Senate Democrats are too beholden to corporate donors to ever do what's truly best for the country. The clear (though unstated) implication was "if smart people like us could just run everything...not that we'd want to have to actually stand for election or anything...all would be well."

I'm a registered Democrat and found it disgusting. As I always tell OJ: I don't need him to lure me to the "dark side"...folks like the Air America crew will push me there...

Posted by: Foos at April 18, 2005 7:24 PM

Please! We shouldn't be discouraging them from spending their money and time on such endeavors.

Posted by: Genecis at April 18, 2005 8:13 PM


I once wrote a paper on the radical lefty historian Howard Zinn and I came across an interview of him conducted by Air America. Janeane Garofalo and her co-host simply slobbered all over Zinn, telling him how great he was and urging everybody to go read his People's History of the U.S..

At that moment, I realized that this was Air America's problem in a nutshell: They'll invite a viciously anti-American professor onto their show and praise him to high heaven while simultaneously believing that any sizable number of people care to listen to this?

Any liberal network will, in the current atmosphere, veer to the hard left, and that's death if they're looking for market share. Quite simply, people don't want to listen to their whining. Which is why they're now talking about reinstuting the Fairness Doctrine. They can't win on a level playing field.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at April 18, 2005 9:07 PM

Just make sure that the New and Improved Fairness Doctrine applies to NPR, too.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 18, 2005 10:33 PM