Air America Radio (AAR): A Metaphor For Liberal Disunity

Air America Radio (AAR): A Metaphor For Liberal Disunity
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I appreciate the post yesterday by Brent Budowsky: Saving Air America, and Building Other Media Megaphones and Money Machines That Matter at I have been in contact with him about some of his suggestions and criticisms which I think in some cases are valid. But, two of the comments from that post sum it up for the issues concerning AAR as follows:

"I enjoy Air America immensely because of high quality shows with Al Franken, Sam Seder and especially many of the talented local hosts (like Johnny Wendell in L.A. and Scooter in San Diego). But I am not clear on what this post is asking of Air America. This article seems to wonder all over the place. The only point I did understand is that Air America needs to do external advertising and I totally agree. They don't advertise anywhere - save for a few billboards in hippie neighborhoods. I suspect that the lack of advertising has something to do with the fact that Clear Channel owns (and controls?) many of their stations. I wish the author had addressed the Clear Channel connection, at least."

"This post completely bamboozles me. Is Air America in danger? I've read nothing about that (except that they have lost their affiliate here in Atlanta). And Mr. Budowsky writes as if there is some widely known problem. Where can I read about this?

Further, he seems to confuse talk radio with news radio. The expense of doing the latter is monumental compared to the former. Although I think it's a cool idea to use sources from the blogosphere to break news, stories need to verified independently before broadcast. As it is, the blogosphere suffers no consequences in passing off rumor as news. That won't fly in true investigative reporting on a more regulated medium."

It is the fact that that most of the wealthy liberals will not support it financially that prevents AAR from doing many of the things that would make it very successful. I am not suggesting that AAR is going out of business. We are still shareholders of AAR and have our own disagreements with some management decisions but that is only natural in corporate America. The big problem has always been from the very start that rich liberals refuse to give it financial support and they make excuses for not making an investment in AAR that are disingenuous. The people who are funding AAR now are the same people who funded it originally including our venture fund.

But every big time investor who is a liberal shifts the due diligence process to one of their financial advisors as if this were a "garden variety" investment. It is not. With more financial support and the branding that AAR already has, the network could do all the things necessary to make it enormously successful. The fact that right wing broadcasters control most of the powerful radio stations in the country makes AAR's achievements almost miraculous. AAR is now in almost ninety cities. Unfortunately about 25 of these are Clear Channel under-performing stations and CC refuses to invest any promotional money for their local communities.

That is why my wife Anita and I have founded our own radio acquisition company called Nova M Radio, Inc. You can read about us at http:// We saved AAR in Phoenix with tremendous grass roots support from the community after a right wing Christian Radio Company bought the station and kicked AAR off the air. And that station was doing very well because the station manager did a great job of promoting the content. But, he had a budget to work with and an owner that wanted to make the station successful. He made it so successful that he got a big offer to buy the station that he could not refuse.

Nova M Radio has also started a Little Rock affiliate and we are in negotiations with stations in 6 other cities. We also have signed John Zogby to a 1-hour show called "The Pulse of the Nation" that we plan to syndicate to AAR and other radio and TV affiliates. This show will give the nation information about what the American people think about issues using Zogby's infrastructure and scientific polling methods. We are also working with Bob Parry to start working on investigative journalism that can be exclusive to AAR and other talk radio stations.

But as I said earlier, it takes money to do these things and AAR does not have enough in its budget to take advantage of all of its opportunities and survive. There is a genuine interest by liberals to support liberal talk radio in general and AAR in particular. But, like so many people who complain about things, the complainers rarely do anything. So my advice to all the people who complain about AAR that you should all think about what talk radio was like before AAR. And you should take some action to convince rich liberals, high-level Democrats, and others who genuinely care about the future of media in this country to start reaching out to projects like AAR.

There are so many non-profit organizations and think tanks supported by rich liberals that a small percentage of the money used to support those organizations would make AAR and liberal talk radio a major success. And all this bantering from the left about what AAR is not doing feeds right into the right wing propaganda about how liberals have no real audience. The right wing controls most of the good radio stations and they have focused almost all of their money in media, something many rich liberals ignore. What most of these people are good at is criticizing their own. I suggest that anyone who wants to make a major investment in AAR or Nova M Radio would have a lot to say about improving the business model for liberal talk radio.

So what is holding them back? Do they want to wait until freedom of the press is completely destroyed? Or do they think that the Internet blogs and the think tanks can reach mainstream America in large numbers. No, we all have to work together to cross-pollinate the message throughout the country. I always have wondered why elite liberals have had such a difficult time working as team players. The reason stems from the human qualities that we all have and the egos that influential people have in their belief system. A financially successful person tends to believe that he has a monopoly on ideas. The constituency for liberals is generally the less fortunate and the shrinking middle class. The liberal elites are too busy arguing about whose idea is better to be truly visionary.

Divisions between the left had very disastrous effects in history. All one has to do is review the hostility between the left in Germany in the early 1930s to appreciate that the right wing wins when the left is divided. And I think it is time to set egos aside and go after the real enemy to freedom of the press in this country. And the enemy is not AAR. The fact is that we need to rally around AAR and Nova M Radio with money and grass roots support. The failure of liberal talk radio would be a disaster to our cause and feed the right wing propaganda machine.

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