We spent quite a bit of time listening to the new liberal radio network, Air America, last week as we happen to own an XM Radio satellite receiver.
And we have some advice for them.
If they want to stay around after they spend their initial investment, they better learn something about radio.
You see, it isn’t a liberal or conservative thing.
Talk radio—all talk radio—must first be entertaining before it can attract the kind of audience you need to sell enough advertising to stay in business.
That’s not the opinion of an amateur.
As most of our readers know, we owned eight AM talk stations in the Southwest and never viewed programming through the liberal or conservative lens.
Air America’s headliner is Al Franken. Second banana (and she truly is) is Janeane Garafolo.
Franken is a comedy writer who should stick to what he knows best and leave radio to pros like his co-host Kathrine Lanpher. It takes about an hour of a Franken show to realize that he’s there for his name and his liberal chops, not his skill as a radio host.
Al’s whole premise is that he’s the anti-Bill O’Reilly.
As funny as some of Al’s old Saturday Night Live sketches may have been, and as well as his books may have sold to the liberal choir, the politically incorrect truth is that Al could not hold Bill’s jockstrap as a radio personality.
The network does have a real pro in Randi Rhodes, but they have her on for four hours and she’s trying too hard.
The problem this network has is three-fold.
First, radio is a business (we’ll get to that aspect in a minute).
Radio station owners really don’t care if the host of a show is a card carrying member of the American Communist Party as long as they attract a big enough audience to sell a lot of advertising and make a lot of money.
Ergo, if any of these hosts had network potential, they would already be on the air on more than the six stations which this network owns or controls.
It’s not like Westwood One which is co-owned with CBS has an aversion to liberal shows. They have an aversion to shows which don’t make money.
Second, the hosts on this new network seem to be broadcasting with a bunker mentality. Rush Limbaugh said this, Roger Hedgecock is a crook, a White House, two Houses of Congress and a Supreme Court controlled by Republicans is fascist (Randi Rhodes), Rush said that… A listener might think we lost WWII.
Folks. If we want to hear what Rush has to say, he’s on over 600 radio stations, 594 more than you are on. What we want to hear is what YOU have to say.
Finally, as we said above, this is a business. Of all the people listed as employees and big shots, you have one person who actually has radio sales experience.
As the people who bought our Las Vegas radio station have painfully discovered, you have to bring in enough money to first pay the bills and then provide a return on the investor’s investment. They’re in Chapter 11. We chair their Creditor’s Committee.
Radio is a fairly simple business. You put things on the air which people want to listen to, you sell advertising to people who want to reach that audience and you put the money in the bank. It’s not rocket science.
Frankly, we hope you succeed. We happen to agree that talk radio has become a little too one sided to be entertaining enough to continue to attract the kind of audiences it has in the past. A good, intelligent, entertaining debate is in the industry’s best interest.
But Al Franken and Janeane Garafolo are not there. They’re not even funny. Just shrill.
We’ll leave you with a quick story about our friend Ollie North.
When he first went on the air, we didn’t think he was ready for prime time. We told him that. A year later he was ready. We put him on our stations. If you guys can stay in business that long, maybe you will be ready as well.
In the meantime, as a gesture of good will, we’ve added you to our XM receiver’s preset buttons. We’ll be out here in flyover country pulling for you. We need all the loyal opposition we can get.