Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bernstein gets the boot

Updated 11/16/07

Jay Marvin, morning personality at KKZN (760AM) in Denver, dropped a bombshell yesterday morning on his blog when he claimed that Air America Radio VP/Programming David Bernstein's position has been eliminated.

Furthermore, Marvin claims that the privately-owned network is having financial issues as well.

Of course, given that as a private company Air America doesn't have to tell anyone anything, and usually doesn't, they are officially mum about current goings-on. Not surprisingly, no reason has been given as to Bernstein's departure.

Recently, Bernstein, who was hired in March, created a stir when he was quoted as saying that the network has "been far too extremist… It's not our job to get a Democrat elected to Congress. We need to be funny, we need to be enjoyable, and I don't think that existed at this company three years ago."

To be honest, I thought he was right. I also felt Air America was suffering an identity crisis. He was gutsy, and quite frankly, Air America had been bogged down by too many yes-men. But Air America's listeners do not like to hear stuff like that. The comments, coupled with the controversial hiring of Lionel for the network's midday slot, did not go further in endearing himself to fans. Whether this was what ultimately did him in is unknown.

Following his hiring, Bernstein was not shy in voicing where he saw Air America going. "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."

Was Bernstein forced out due to ideological clashes with Mark Green? Was it a financial issue? Thinning of the front office? Rumors of Green's unhappiness with the lack of success of some of the network's newer shows have been rampant, with him even taking charge of the entire relaunch in May. Apparently, the current management of Air America are as tight-lipped as the old one.

UPDATE: Tom Taylor, a columnist for Radio-Info, spoke with Air America chief operating officer Scott Elberg, who claimed the VP/Programming position “isn’t going away.” However, “It may be a little different,” as the network moves to take advantage of its online growth potential. One avenue toward growth would be to target people via their web presence and internet audio streaming, to reach people who aren't within earshot of an over-the-air affiliate. Bernstein's successor will likely have a different title and will likely have experience in web-based content.

Elberg also said “I’ve known David for 20 years” and he convinced him to put aside his consulting business to join Air America when it changed ownership. Now, “David can go back to that, and he certainly did a lot of good, good things for us” in his seven month stint at Air America.

As for the rumors about the network's solvency, Elberg paraphrased the Mark Twain line about “the rumors of our demise” and says they’re still very much alive. Air America’s become the company that some people love to hate, and they’ve been predicting its crash-and-burn since before it launched with Al Franken pledging an antidote to right-wing talk radio. Elberg also brushed off industry rumors that the network will fold soon and send some of the more successful shows to WOR Radio Network for syndication. "No truth to that at all," he said.


Brady Bonk said...

How did Rachel Maddow put it? Air America is an "inadvertently non-profit" organization?

jonath said...

And people accuse the Democrats of using circular firing squads.


Jill said...

Perhaps if they actually listened to the fan base they would know what their audience wants.

AAR is never, ever, ever going to poach listeners from wingnut talk radio. It just isn't going to happen. The tragedy is that Green let Bernstein stab Sam Seder in the back and bring on his old buddy who is a very, very bad fit.

I am telling you -- if Mark Green were to give Sam Seder a daily show again and somehow bring back Marc Maron (though with Mark Riley on the NY affiliate, a revival of Morning Sedition as it was is impossible) -- perhaps with Greg Proops -- AAR would earn a ton of goodwill from the fans who supported the network from the beginning.

musicmars said...

While I don't like Lionel, it appears that he is picking up some affiliates so I don't think that he is going anywhere for the moment. They do need some more entertaining hosts in the line-up though. They need to get Maron back and jill made a great point that he and Greg Proops would be a great team. They seem to have alot of chemistry, share the comedy and political insight. AAR also needs more of Sam Seder and his acerbic wit. I'm hoping and betting that the Young Turks are the next show to get the axe. That should free up some air time.

Joseph said...

Wait a minute -- isn't Jay Marvin a sometimes guest host for Ed Schultz? And isn't Ed Schultz' employer AAR's main competition?

I'm not sayin' ... I'm just sayin'.

will in chicago said...

This is not surprising, as AAR announced plans for some new shows and the one with Bree Walker never materialized.

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