Monday, March 19, 2007

Bernstein ready to pilot the new Air America

David Bernstein, who last week was hired by Air America Radio to be their new vice president of programming, already has an idea what he wants the network's new era to be about.

In an interview with David Hinckley of the New York Daily News, he says he doesn't see Air America as a purely political engine, or as some kind of broadcast pep rally geared to 'energize the base.' And if it does, it's merely coincidental.

"I don't think of Air America in those terms," says Bernstein, a 32-year radio veteran best known in New York for programming WOR several years ago. "I want people, after they've heard Air America, to say they learned something - that whether they agreed or not, we gave them honest information they didn't have before." Furthermore, he adds, "We want to talk to everyone and help everyone make the right choice."

Bernstein is optimistic about Air America's new owners, New York real estate magnate Stephen L. Green and his brother Mark. "They have a vision," says Bernstein. "Just as they know it needs to be a successful business to work, I think they wanted a radio guy in programming.

"They're committed. They certainly put their money where their mouths are."

Bernstein isn't ready to make any on-air changes yet, preferring to simply listen and take it all in.

"I'm familiar with Air America the way I'm familiar with most other radio, because I listen," he says. "But as a product, it's too early to say if we're going in the right direction.

"I want to get feedback not only from people around here, but from programmers and listeners around the country, because the real question is what your listeners want and are you giving it to them.

"It may be that in the end, we're already giving people exactly what they want. That's what I'll be looking at." He notes Air America is still young, reaching its third anniversary on March 31. "Like anything in radio, it grows, changes and matures," he says. "It's much different than it was in May of '04, say. But one of the things about Air America is that it's a known brand. People have definite opinions on it, for and against."

Read more about how Bernstein perceives the importance of being a liberal network, competing with conservative radio, how big talk radio will be for the next two years and how happy he is to be back in radio programming at the New York Daily News.


William said...

I suspect that Bernstein will try to focus on ways to make existing shows more successful, and to replace some of the weaker shows. The Greens will likely focus on the ideological end of AAR, while Bernstein should have a lot of input on the programming decisions -- but will not likely be the final decision maker.

gregrocker said...

If the Greens are smart, they will let Bernstein ride herd on programming for now while they direct their urgent attention and action to the loss of 20 affiliates shut down by Clear Channel.

Many of us were suspicious when career-Bush-Sponsor Clear Channel offered to fill out the Air America network with their low performing stations. Could it be a dirty trick to block many markets from having a better signal, or a set-up to pull the rug from under the struggling network at a crucial juncture.

Sure enough, right after the 06 election, when Howard Dean credited a dozen victories largely to the efforts of Air America, Clear Channel starting shutting down AAR affiliates on false pretenses that they weren't viable, when in fact they never even tried to sell ads on most.

All three crucial stations in Ohio were shut down within a month. The GOP chair there had complained that Air America was fanning the scandal flames in Ohio. Even the hugely successful affiliates jammed with ads in Los Angeles is being messed with in suspicious ways (banal celebrity talk instead of Randi Rhodes in drive).

The ONLY solution to this is for the Dem Congress to hold hearings into the whole issue of the right wing juggernaut monopoly on AM talk radio. Experts like Kathleen Hall Jameson of the presitgious Annenberg School at Penn (funded by the conserv. TV Guide fortune) can testify to a dozen years of research into how AM talk radio has created massive "false certainty" in 50 million listeners, swinging 5 of the past 6 elections.

Absent this, the corporations will continue to slant AM radio all the way to the far right, even play dirty tricks on fledgling liberal efforts like AAR. They need to explain why the publicly owned airwaves have become a dirty disinformation operation that would astound Goebbels.

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