Air America Closes Down
Satellite radio killed the radio star, apparently.
Just a few minutes ago, I clicked on a link in my daily Air America email and got this, instead:
It is with the greatest regret, on behalf of our Board, that we must announce that Air America Media is ceasing its live programming operations as of this afternoon, and that the Company will file soon under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code to carry out an orderly winding-down of the business.
The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America's business. This past year has seen a "perfect storm" in the media industry generally. National and local advertising revenues have fallen drastically, causing many media companies nationwide to fold or seek bankruptcy protection. From large to small, recent bankruptcies like Citadel Broadcasting and closures like that of the industry's long-time trade publication Radio and Records have signaled that these are very difficult and rapidly changing times.
Those companies that remain are facing audience fragmentation as a result of new media technologies, are often saddled with crushing debt, and have generally found it difficult to obtain operating or investment capital from traditional sources of funding. In this climate, our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week, but ultimately fell short of success.
With radio industry ad revenues down for 10 consecutive quarters, and reportedly off 21% in 2009, signs of improvement have consisted of hoping things will be less bad. And though Internet/new media revenues are projected to grow, our expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies
When Air America Radio launched in April, 2004 with already-known personalities like Al Franken and then-unknown future stars like Rachel Maddow, it was the only full-time progressive voice in the mainstream broadcast media world. At a critical time in our nation's history — when dissent on issues such as the Iraq war were often denounced as "un-American" — Air America and its talented team helped millions of Americans remember the importance of compelling discussion about the most pivotal events and decisions of our generation.
Through some 100 radio outlets nationwide, Air America helped build a new sense of purpose and determination among American progressives. With this revival, the progressive movement made major gains in the 2006 mid-term elections and, more recently, in the election of President Barack Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress.
Laws have changed for the better thanks to this revival.....but all the same our company cannot escape the laws of economics. So we intend a rapid, orderly closure over the next few days. All current employees will be paid through today, January 21. A severance package will be offered tomorrow to full-time current employees with more than six months of tenure.
We will strive to assist affiliates and partners in achieving a smooth transition. Starting at 6 pm EST today, we will provide our affiliates, listeners and users a selection of encore programming until 9 pm EST on Monday, January 25, at which time Air America programming will end.
We are proud that Air America's mission lives on through the words and actions of so many former radio hosts who are active today in progressive causes and media nationwide. In the years ahead, as we look back, we should all be proud of our passionate determination to assure that our nation's progressive voice would be heard loud and clear. Through the hard work and dedication of current staff, and those who preceded you, a lasting legacy was forged which will now continue through other voices and venues.
No more Ron Reagan, Jr., no more Montel, no more Jack Rice, no more Megan Carpentier. They went kaput as of this afternoon and I didn't even get to hear the last moments of their last broadcast. If you got Air America's emails, you'll note that clicking on any link just takes you back to that single, bleak, black and white message on their index page.
Shit. Just... shit.
Something about that isn't right. By that, I don't mean there's a conspiracy at work. I'm speaking of the economics of the business, the lopsided apportioning of advertising revenue and Arbitron ratings. Even once-mighty Disney-merged Citadel, the third largest radio conglomerate in America, was delisted by the NYSE almost a year ago and is now selling basically penny stock on pink sheets.
Rush Limbaugh's employers over at Clear Channel saw fit to give him a $400 million dollar contract at the exact same time they scrambled to find $400 million to balance their books.
And that's the problem: How can a guy like Rush Limbaugh make $35 million a year, which enables him to live in a mansion the size of a fucking Wal-Mart, spew hatred, bigotry and outright lies, seditiously hoping our President (and, by logical extension, us) to fail? Why does Clear Channel keep him on?
The answer's simple: There's always a greater demand for comfortable and uncomfortable lies than there is for the truth.
We're a nation that's made vapid shows like American Idol and Big Brother huge hits year after year, we've created through our demands monsters like Howard Stern, Jon and Kate and, on the internet, Perez Hilton. The truth isn't sexy, executives say, never was, never will be. That's why today's news is glorified infotainment.
Despite the fact that the truth, while it will also set you free, will often knock off your socks as if you're having a threesome with the Williams sisters while on Ecstasy. Like Harry Truman said, the only thing that's new is the history that we've forgotten. The same could go for the truth.
Air America gave us this and perhaps it's fitting that they decided to cease original programming two days after Martha Coakley's loss in the special run-off Senate election, the Democrats already running to Republicans for health care compromise and our growing cynicism with a year-old presidency is reaching a crescendo.
Air America was about keeping everyone honest, not just the Republicans. There's nothing left now but the here today, gone tomorrow liberalism and common sense of MSNBC. Air America gave us a United States senator who looks like the real deal, a TV luminary in Rachel Maddow and radio personalities Randi Rhodes and Mike Malloy. Guys like that come once in a generation and then, like shooting stars, they burn up in the stratosphere as if they were never there.
But we know they were there and that they're still out there. And as this talent disperses and, hopefully, find new homes out there, we'll keep listening, watching, as if waiting for the fireflies to come again in June.