Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Air America hires talk radio veteran as new VP/Programming

Green Family Media has made their first major management personnel move at Air America Radio since taking over the network by hiring veteran talk radio programmer David Bernstein for the newly created position of VP/Programming.

Bernstein has extensive experience in the radio industry, particularly talk radio. His 32-year career has included stints at New York's WOR, Boston radio stations WBZ, WRKO and WAAF, WTIC in Hartford, WDBO in Orlando and WPRO in Providence.

Most recently he has been head of his own company, Bernstein Talent, dedicated to the development and training of broadcast media personalities, Bernstein also teaches a course in radio broadcasting at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ. He will continue his current teaching and training work in addition to his new role at Air America.

12 comments:

hashfanatic said...

hmmm.....

then his experience is solely in conservative talk?

will he represent a problem for the hosts?

gregrocker said...

Sounds like a good move. Putting his brother in as President had me wondering about the obvious, but this addresses that.

They need to get behind Congressional hearings to bring balance back to the AM radio dial, which has devolved into a rightist dirty disinformation operation that would make Goebbel's envious.
This will not only educate the public as to why out poltics have gotten so nasty and false, but also open the door to expansion where the corporations are keeping it entirely to the right, to reap the tax cuts and Bush FCC licensing bribes.

More importantly for AAR, it would serve notice on Clear Channel that people are watching as they dump AAR affiliates on the false pretense that they can't sell advertising, when in reality they never tried. Do you realize that they killed all 3 Ohio affiliates, which Howard Dean said helped to mobilize our voters in Nov? It smells like a dirty trick by a career Bush sponsor.

Congress needs to look at all of this because the lack of balance has stolen our poltics.

Emacee said...

Well, they can't hire anyone with talk radio programming experience who hasn't worked in right wing talk because - as people keep pointing out - that's all their is.
But applying the litmus test of political correctness to a potential new hire, rather than looking at his track record, reflects AAR's basic problem.
If talent don't want to work with a PD, fire them.
Here's the bad news, they got this guy from WOR! WOR - your grandmother's talk station. Geriatric talk radio. Some conservative; mostly advice. Home of Lionel, for you political purists out there. But when AAR was on WLIB, WOR barely beat them in the Arbitrons.

Emacee said...

Wait there's more.
Radio-Info spammer Holland Cooke calls Bernstein "a long time pal of mine."
At WPRO, Bernstein carried Rush while Bernstein was PD. In a classic stunt, Bernstein hired Joan Rivers to fill in while el Rushbo was in drug rehab.
Bernstein, Cooke and Al Franken appear at a Talkers Magazine seminar. Franken gets an award and makes a very long-winded acceptance speech. Brian Maloney jumps on this as fodder for yet another shot at AAR. Bernstein helps Maloney with his own blast at Franken, which Maloney includes in his blog.
When Providence rival WHJJ picked up AAR, Berstein told the Providence Journal, "it's a hell of a gamble. Too much of a gamble for me to do." Of course, Bernstein had a job then. A year and half of unemployment can make one more willing to gamble.
(Note: Franken replaced John DiPietro on WHJJ. DiPietro is Holland Cooke's ex brother in law. He got fired from his Boston gig after on-air insults about a Green Party candidate's weight and sexual orientation. It's a small world.)
Bernstein was right wing talker Jay Severin's PD at WBZ and gave him his first shot at national exposure on WOR's network.
Hired Bob Grant at WOR when even WABC found him too right wing.

hashfanatic said...

This is not good news.

ltr said...

I'll go on the record as saying that I think this is a very good move.

Personally, I don't believe that the top criteria to get a job at AAR should be ideological purity. Radio expertise is far more important for this kind of position. Bernstein's job is to put out a strong product. Hell, the program director of KSFO claims to be a liberal! He merely puts out a product that he thinks will get ratings, and to that extent, he's succeeded.

So Bernstein programmed conservotalk. Big deal. He was hired to take a format and made it work on his stations. And it appears he did, judging by all those call letters. Good enough for me.

As for WHJJ, I thought they made a mistake picking up AAR several years ago. They were a long-established local talk station, and I'm sure listeners were going to be angered by the invasion of all that syndicated talk. Nothing against AAR here, but such a dramatic shakeup in the schedule rarely goes over well in talk radio. I thought AAR would be more appropriate for lesser-known stations with less heritage looking to make a name for themselves. AAR would have had a better chance on a different station in Providence.

Talk radio is much more than ideology. First and foremost, in my opinion, it's entertainment. And radio veterans like Bernstein realize this. It doesn't sound to me like Bernstein really needed the AAR job, as he's doing well on his own with his consulting and teaching work. And his resume could likely get him in the door anywhere. But it's very likely that he was attracted to the job by the sheer challenge of it. And I doubt you could find more of a challenge than AAR.

Is he looking to turn AAR into a right-wing blowtorch? I highly doubt it, especially with several layers of management above him. He's looking to make it work. And if he can do that, he'll be branded a genius. I'm sure that's a pretty big motivator.

All in all, this looks like a very good hire by AAR.

Emacee said...

LT, I agree.
But is this the right guy?
He was at WOR for 10 years and they ended up badly trailing WABC.
Then from market number one to market 38 for two years - and out. This while WHJJ kept trying to get their act together with a hodge podge of part AAR - part IMUS - part whatnot.
It's not enough to hire a radio guy. They need to hire a good one.
This move also suggest the Greenies are going to try to hold onto the failed turnkey network business model, while all but the flea bite stations are out shopping a la carte.

ltr said...

News/Talk radio in New York is tough. WABC has been on top for two decades, thanks to bringing up big guns like Limbaugh, Hannity, etc.

CBS owns two big all-news stations in WINS and WCBS.

That leaves WOR. And I'm pretty sure that station exists mostly for their syndicated network, most of who's shows air on that station. Consider too that Buckley is a pretty small-time outfit compared to ABC and CBS.

As for moving around northeastern radio markets, well, it's pretty tough to get any bigger than NYC, right? Working in Providence certainly keeps him closer to home, right? This is common in the business. I've seen some pretty big radio people go to sub-100 markets just to stay in the area. And market #38 is not bad. I wouldn't hold this against him, especially since he worked at WPRO, not WHJJ.

The fact that the guy has been in the business for 32 years says quite a bit. Pretty rare for this business.

And I'm sure the people at AAR realize that some stations do ala carte shopping. Still, it certainly doesn't hurt to have a full schedule. AAR is currently one of the most-listened to webstreams around (that is, if they can sort out their recent streaming issues). And lesser-syndicated guys like Sam Seder and Jon Elliott certainly can't be that heavy a burden on the bottom line. Add to that shows like Politically Direct, EcoTalk and Radio Nation that bring their own sponsors to the table.

I don't see how carrying a full slate of programming can hurt them. In the long run, I think it's helped them build their brand. AAR's problems stem from many, many other issues, removed from whether they have a full roster or scattered shows. I believe the full roster strategy actually helped them get affiliates. ESPN, FOX Sports, FOX News Talk and quite a few others use the same approach, knowing full well that they're not going to get full clearances in all markets.

Emacee said...

ESPN and Fox get brand identity from TV (and movies).
Talk shows get brand identity from the host. Few listeners know - or care - who distributes Rush or Hannity or Savage. Few realize or care that none of these people work for the same company.
People listen to hosts, not networks.
And at the local - audience level, the brand is the station (what people write in their diaries).
A full schedule hurts AAR if it keeps them in red. They could concentrate on Hartmann and Randi and maybe show a profit. The rest of the schedule is DOA.

ltr said...

If you know so much about how to run radio networks, why aren't you running one instead of bitching about them on radio blogs?

Emacee said...

Since you weren't able to come back with a meaningful argument, I guess that means I'm right.
I might ask how come you don't get paid for promoting AAR? The Greens can afford to pay for PR now.
Sorry, I don't have money like the Drobnys, Glaser or the Greens. Do you? Of course, as we have seen, being able to buy a network is not the same as being able to run one.

ltr said...

Well, if you don't like my blog, why the blazes do you read it?

Just wondering.


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