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Airwaves: January 29, 2010

Air America Folds

Liberal talk network Air America abruptly shut down last week, taking its final breath but having essentially spent all of its life on life-support.

Designed to be the liberal answer to conservative talkers such as Rush Limbaugh, the venture suffered from poor research and worse judgment and has been floundering since its debut in 2004. That they made it six years is a testament to the belief system and deep pockets of its supporters ... though not a reflection of its popularity.

In reality, the venture was doomed from the start.

As I have stated for years, conservative talk radio is not the juggernaut that Air America supporters think it is. At the time of the network’s launch, there was exactly one popular, high-rated syndicated conservaive talk host: Rush Limbaugh. Six years later, there is still one: Rush Limbaugh. Certainly there are others who have limited success -- Glenn Beck comes to mind -- but the great downward spiral of KABC (790 AM), the perennially poor ratings of KRLA (870 AM), and the failure of talk on KGIL (1260 AM) -- all of which relied on those supposedly popular syndicated conservative talk shows -- are proof of this point.

Truly, there was never any reason for Air America to exist. Certainly Limbaugh is popular primarily because he is entertaining. But his claim to fame is that he is the conservative alternative view to such outlets as National Public Radio, and cable television’s CNN and MSNBC, all of which lean, if only slightly, to the left. In other words, Air America is at best duplicative while Limbaugh -- like him or not -- has no real comparison.

It created an interesting situation for Air America, which failed miserably in areas where it was expected to do well, such as San Francisco, while marginally successful in areas it was expected to flounder, such as San Diego. Why? San Francisco has lots of liberal talk. San Diego tends to run more conservative. People flock to that which they cannot normally get.

Alas, it was too much to overcome, and Air America went into Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidation last week, and ceased providing programs to former affiliates. Locally, KTLK (1150 AM), which had already moved away from Air America programming for the most part, has had to make few changes.


The demise of Air America has caused a slight shifting of programs on KTLK. Financial guru Clark Howard finally gets a daily show again, airing 3 to 7 PM. Mike Malloy comes in at 7 PM, and Phil Hendrie finally airs live rather than on tape delay 10 PM to 1 AM weekdays.


I may have mentioned this previously, but it deserves the publicity anyway: Little Steven’s Underground Garage, which was without a local outlet for far too long, has found a new home.

Hosted by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band guitarist
Steven Van Zandt, the program features “garage rock” old and new, as well as songs and bands that were influenced by other garage bands. Hear it on The Sound (100.3 FM) Saturday nights/Sunday mornings from 12 midnight to 2 AM.


Copyright © 2010 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

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