22 January 2010

Air America Leaves Radio, Goes Bankrupt

Talk radio is a radio genre dominated by urber-conservatives. The most notable exception, by far, was Air America, a liberal slanted talk show. It failed. The company is going bankrupt and the show is being pulled from radio air waves. A non-live podcast site may persist on the web, but the world of commercial talk radio has been ceded back to conservatives.

Honestly, I hate the talk radio format with a passion, and squirm even when forced to listen to extended DQ chatter on commercial radio stations. I hate call in shows, and dislike National Public Radio's call in shows, "Talk of the Nation" and "Car Talk" which are the only other significant non-conservative talk radio programs on the airwaves. Talk forums on television are almost equally baneful to watch.

Conservative talk radio is even worse, because it features hate and whoppers of untruths as part of its genre's very DNA.

I've actually been a recurring talk radio guest for a local financial oriented talk show, and spent longer than that working in a radio news department and as a substitute DJ in college. An old yellowed DJ's license from the FCC still sits in a box somewhere in my basement. I've also taught classes that include question and answer periods or discussion formats, taken far more, and run countless meetings that involve discussion of somewhat similar issues. And, of course, I am an avid participant in the liberal answer to talk radio, which is blogging.

But, I prefer my radio and television to be scripted, and can't stand witnessing the extent to which callers make fools of themselves or spread ignorance. Audience questions belong in classrooms, caucuses, small meetings and private information hotlines, not on the air for everyone to see or hear. Sometimes audience questions are a necessary evil so that everyone present can learn what they need to know. But, that process does not benefit from being opened up to the general public.

Just about the only think I dislike more than talk radio is professional wrestling, although it's a closs call. There are plenty of people, a whole demographic really, who like both. And, while I can dimly understand the appeal intellectually, emotionally, I am baffled at what in a person can draw them to this stuff.


Michael Malak said...

Where would Dr. Laura fit on your list?

That entire show makes me cringe because it's non-stop Dr. Laura chastising the callers.

And that aspect the only part of political talk radio I don't like -- when the radio host bashes the callers. Otherwise, radio host opinions don't bother me regardless of viewpoint -- I see them as food for thought and it's good company while commuting to/from the tech center.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Never listened to Dr. Laura. Kim Iverson (sort of a girl to girl personal issues show on 105.9 FM in early evenings) and even call ins on the Disney channel are annoying too.

I'm not against news, and can tolerate interviews (although they're much better when edited) but call in formats and living room argument formats are both pretty distasteful.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog, Andrew, but your analysis here suffers from a few serious factual inaccuracies.

First of all, Air America was a liberal radio network, not a liberal radio talk show. In its early days, it had a vareity of shows featuring talkers like Al Franken, Rachel Maddow, Sam Seder, Phil Donohue, and Randi Rhodes.

Second, I'd have to take some issue with your statement that Air America's Chapter 7 filing means the airwaves have been ceded back to the right wing. Rather than represent the death of liberal radio, Air America's demise really just signifies the death of liberal radio syndicated by Air America.

AM 760, Denver's liberal/progressive radio station, is owned by Clear Channel. It runs relatively little Air America programming, with locally-produced shows running during the morning and afternoon drive-times (David Sirota and Mario Solis) and nationally-syndicated, non-Air America shows in between (Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann). At this point, AM 760 is telling people the Air America fiasco will not affect their programming.

I'm inclined to believe Clear Channel on this, simply because they've figured out they can make money on liberal/progressive talk. Apparently not all talk-radio listeners are raving right-wing nutters, despite the best efforts of Rush et al to convince us otherwise. For the foreseeable future (which, granted, isn't as long as it used to be these days), I think you'll continue to see liberal/progressive talk stations and programs in most major markets and a lot of secondary markets too.

Just one reporter's opinion.

Michael Malak said...

I find 760's David Sirota to be more independent and centrist than liberal. It puts his closer to my own views (which are libertarian and completely off the spectrum), but I believe that it's due to ClearChannel's neocon agenda to pull even the liberals to the right, and that worries me. I like being able to listen to Randi Rhodes in order to hear the liberal perspective, and I'm worried that's going away now.

I like Mario Solis' show a lot, but I don't pretend it's political. It's basically a cleaned up Howard Stern -- he and his sidekick struggle to fill the time with banalities, which actually works well with me after a long day at work.

Talk radio was a major coup on the part of the neocons. They put the laws in place in the 1990's to allow consolidation of ownership and then after 9-11 exploited that structure to push their pro-war anti-immigration hate agenda. Don't be lulled into thinking 760 is on the side of the people. Of course there will be snippets of truth coming from any station, but the ClearChannel corporate control means certain things will never be heard -- John Lennon's "Imagine" being a well-known concrete example.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Show v. Network, fair enough.

Re death of liberal talk radio: obviously, not every last outpost is gone, but the liquidation of the biggest for profit player has to be a blow. What percentage of talk radio is liberal? It was pretty small to start with and I'm sure that this tips the balance to reduce market share.

I suppose that the other alternative explanation which ties into the network v. show distinction is the "all talk is local" idea. But, if so, why do so many other talk shows manage to work nationally.

Re 9-11 as a cause of talk radio. I don't think that timing is right. I think of the 80s as the time that talk radio came into prominence in concert with other movement politics gains like the Federalist society and the resurgence of the political side of evangelical Christianity. The Warrent court and stock market booms make more sense as drivers than 9-11.