Thursday, January 21, 2010

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.

Thank you.

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.


At January 21, 2010 at 11:46 PM, Blogger daveawayfromhome said...

Seems to me that, unlike the Authoritarians on the right, liberals dont need media personalities to tell them how to think.

At January 22, 2010 at 2:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops there goes another rubber tree plant.

At January 22, 2010 at 5:43 AM, Blogger Jill said...

Marc Maron of the late, great Morning Sedition has been running his own podcast since having his FOURTH AAR endeavor shut down. He's gone back to his comedy roots, and while the show is often dependent on how funny and interesting his guests are, his opening rants are always worth a listen. You can also hear a 24 x 7 stream archive of Morning Sedition comedy here.

Maron is taping a pilot for Comedy Central on 1/28 at the Hudson Theatre in Santa Monica at 7 PM. It's FREE. Call 323.960.5519 for reservations.

No, this is not comment spam, but Mr. B and I were HUGE Morning Sedition fans and supporters of this tremendous, if difficult, talent who has arguably been screwed over more than anyone else by the successive suits at AAR.

At January 22, 2010 at 7:02 PM, Blogger John said...

The demise of Air America is proof that free markets work

At January 22, 2010 at 7:08 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Stay in school, kid, and try to stay awake this time.

At January 23, 2010 at 2:41 AM, Blogger Beau said...

Actually, Thom Hartman, Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Mike Malloy, and a couple of other pple's shows are syndicated and will are still running on progressive talk shows. I'd hate to not hear Thom Hartman and his 'Brunch with Bernie Sanders' every Friday. Sanders gives the inside independent view on what's happening in the senate.

At January 23, 2010 at 8:48 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Yeah but their voices are diffused, scattered. AAR gave us a rare if not unique national focal point for progressive voices.

With AAR going down for good on the 25th, that focal point will be gone.

At January 23, 2010 at 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pork, I'll match GPA's and CV's with you any time and solidly guarantee that I've had a much more intellectually rigorous program than you ever will. I go to the best university in the world and you live in a flat that looks like something from "The Grapes of Wrath." You ought to do a better job cleaning as your place looks rather....unsanitary.

At January 23, 2010 at 10:07 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Bring it on, pal. Bring it on.

Your mind is unsanitary.

At January 23, 2010 at 10:10 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Btw, college boy, this post got linked on James Wolcott's blog at Vanity Fair's website. And if you've never heard of James Wolcott, then maybe you'd better reexamine that GPA of yours, college boy.

At January 23, 2010 at 10:10 AM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Btw, college boy, this post got linked on James Wolcott's blog at Vanity Fair's website. And if you've never heard of James Wolcott, then maybe you'd better reexamine that GPA of yours, college boy.

At January 23, 2010 at 8:28 PM, Blogger Beau said...

Jeez Anon, you must be 13 years old and have OCD. You just can't stay from this site posting endless juvenile and personal posts. Get a hobby.


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