Dining With Liberals
Evidently, My Previous Behavior Did Not Preclude Another Invitation. The Main Topic Of Conversation Was Radio America.
By Perry Hicks
I had driven out of town that day and was not at all sure I could return in time for the 6 o’clock dinner. However, she insisted, “Just come as you are. Mom and Dad will be here along with some of my neighbors, including the gay couple.” So, as the truckers would say, I put the hammer down. I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.
Before I go on I need to make something crystal clear: I like these people. They are good and decent and they mean well. It is just that the algorithm running their head has a few divisions where there should have been sums; for example, the glee to which they thanked God that there was now a liberal radio network, the new Air America!
My first thought was why name it Air America? Then it came to me; “Air America” was the clandestine flight arm of the Vietnam-era CIA. This new network was to be the new clandestine media arm of the Democrat Party. Air America’s web page is quite illuminating.
Air America Radio
Chairman Evan M. Cohen is described as having invested in, owned, and managed advertising, marketing research, and media firms throughout the Pacific Rim region for 15 years. This includes Japan, Taiwan, and China. Cohen is also the vice chairman of Progress Media Inc.
Vice Chairman Rex Sorensen has is said to have acquired and operated radio stations throughout the Pacific for a number of years. Besides being a long time partner with Cohen, the site says that Sorensen is invested in real estate ventures in Hawaii, Philippines, Saipan, and Guam.
CEO Mark Walsh, besides holding positions at HBO and AOL, was also the Chief Technology Advisor at the Democrat National Party and was also the head of internet operations at John Kerry for President.
Executive Producer Carl Ginsburg had been a producer at CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and ABC Prime Time Live.
Then, there is the on-air talent: comedian Al Franken who wrote the best seller, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them; and actress Janeane Garofalo who was much criticized for her vehement opposition to the war with Iraq.
The principle problem I see with the above line-up is that too many of these personalities have been associated with networks or programs that, to be politically correct, are factually challenged.
Under Dan Rather, CBS News became discredited as being nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Democrat Party. Rather cast away any pretense to objectivity when, during an interview with Bill Clinton, he proclaimed, “Mr. President, we are with you.” Rather has also been criticized for being the attraction for at least one of his daughter’s Democrat fundraisers.
In 1992, ABC was fined 5.5 million dollars in punitive damages for the Prime Time Live story about Food Lion. Not only had the ABC plants lied about their qualifications to work in a grocery meat department, they were the ones who filmed themselves putting out-of-date meat on the counter for sale. Food Lion’s attorneys found this damning footage in the show’s 45 hours of out-takes. Furthermore, ABC’s editing was generally called into question where footage was allegedly cut to make it appear that spoiled chicken had been cooked for sale. Yet, ABC contended that Food Lion never challenged the accuracy of the story- only the way that it was gathered.
NBC was embroiled in the GM saddle gas tank fire controversy when Dateline rigged a truck with an incendiary device in order to insure fire-ball footage. The segment did not label the footage as a reenactment but instead let viewers believe it was a factual demonstration.
Finally, there is the irony that while liberals back Democrat presidential candidate John Kerry, who has made much ado about American business exporting jobs overseas, Air America Radio’s principles have, by their own admission, spent years developing and conducting business outside the country.
The Market Place: Winning Hearts And Minds
The real controversy is not over liberal radio’s coming into being but whether it will be able to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of broadcasting. According to media reports, Air America’s roll-out was only four broadcast stations and XM satellite radio. They also stream daily onto the World Wide Web from http://www.airamericaradio.com/ .
Air America Radio now claims nine stations although two (one in Chicago and one in Los Angles) pulled out supposedly over a bounced payment check. A New York judge ordered MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting, owner of the two stations to return the liberal network back on the air. Air America is reported to also have been ordered to post a $156,000 bond.
In comparison, the AM king of talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, airs on over 600 stations and FOX News Bill O’Reilly is reportedly on 420 stations. However, radio stardom (along with substantial profits) can happen if a show is syndicated on as few as 20 stations in the nation’s top metropolitan markets.
However, liberals are not going to be satisfied with just airing in the top 20 U.S. cities. Their real objective is to impact the 2004 presidential election. In order to do that they need reach; the problem is where were they going to get 20 stations much less the 400 or so they really need? Low power AM stations can easily cost $600,000 a piece. Do the math: the cost approaches a quarter billion dollars! According to a USA Today report from March 29th, Air America CEO Mark Walsh plans to spend 30 million over three years before making a profit.
Making a profit assumes Air America will be able to sell advertising. We would be wise to ask if business will advertise on a political network whose positions include bashing business? At least for now, Air America will have to buy air time from station owners such as MultiCultural and Inner City Broadcasting, owner of New York City’s WLIB 1190 AM.
Lets reframe the statement describing how the new network has come into being: Liberal Air America Radio bought their way onto the airwaves by terminating local content that was by and for minority communities. In particular, WLIB programming was an outlet for black activists and was uniquely afro-centric; so much for white liberal sensitivity.
In my view, Air America was not launched with the primary goal of making a profit. As I stated earlier, the real goal is to impact the presidential election of 2004. Democrats learned this lesson from Rush Limbaugh who is credited in good part for the Republican sweep of congressional seats in 1994. Ever since then, liberals have chaffed at the burgeoning success of conservative talk radio stars such as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Glenn Beck just to name a few.
In reaction, efforts were made during the mid-1990s to revive “The Fairness Doctrine” where each broadcaster was required to give equal time to all points of view. The Fairness Doctrine was in effect from 1949 until 1987. Ending the doctrine made possible the talk radio phenomenon. Limbaugh took his previously local Sacramento California show national with his move to New York City in 1988. Attempts to revive the doctrine ultimately failed.
Also failing has been a long list of liberal Rush Limbaugh wanna-bees. This is why media types have some serious doubt aside from the business model. FOX News Bill O’Reilly flatly predicts that the upstart network will fail.
The Talk Radio Listener
Conventional wisdom says that the typical talk radio listener is male, conservative, and successful. He listens for information, “companionship” while working or driving, and validation of his core beliefs. Having said that, plenty of liberals, including my fellow dinner guests, readily admit to regularly listening to Rush Limbaugh.
Air America bills itself as delivering provocatively humorous talk. To my mind, this has some sort of “young, cool, hip” ring to it. If that is the case, the liberals may be in real trouble: Young people don’t vote.
If they admit it, liberals will blame young people’s lack of civic duty to being “too put off by the system”. Too lazy may be more like it. Either way, liberals have their work cut out for them.
In regard to liberal talk radio, I’m going to take a wait and see attitude. If they are factually informative and moderate their message enough to attract advertisers, then they just might survive. If they rant and rail and spew forth a hate-America message, then they will surely fail.
It’s all up to the market place. Let the chips fall where they may.
Perry Hicks is a former Mississippi Coast resident and was a correspondent for the old Gulfport Star Journal. He has appeared on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” Perry has also hosted his own radio talk show on the auto industry with a mix of politics, and is a former Ford Motor Company technical trainer. He currently works as an Associate Professor of Automotive Technology at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, VA.
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