Wednesday, September 13, 2006

ThinkProgress: Air America To Declare Bankruptcy?

Air America Radio will announce a major restructuring on Friday, which is expected to include a bankruptcy filing, three independent sources have told ThinkProgress.

Air America could remain on the air under the deal, but significant personnel changes are already in the works. Sources say five Air America employees were laid off yesterday and were told there would be no severance without capital infusion or bankruptcy. Also, Air America has ended its relationship with host
Jerry Springer.

The right wing is sure to seize on Air America’s financial woes as a sign that progressive talk radio is unpopular. In fact, Air America succeeded at creating something that didn’t exist: the progressive talk radio format. That format is now established and strong and will continue with or without Air America. Indeed, many of the country’s most successful and widely-syndicated progressive talk hosts —
Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller, for instance — aren’t even associated with Air America.

Radio giant Clear Channel is so committed to progressive talk radio that, this week, it will announce a partnership with the Center for American Progress, Jones Radio, and MSS Inc., to conduct a nationwide search for the next Progressive Talk Radio Star.

UPDATE 9/14: Asked for comment on the ThinkProgress reports, Air America Radio spokeswoman Jaime Horn told Radio & Records, "If Air America had filed for bankruptcy every time someone rumored it to be doing so, we would have ceased to exist long ago. It may be frustrating to some that this hasn’t happened. No decision has been taken to make any filing of any kind. We are not sure of the source of these rumors and frankly cannot respond to every rumor in the marketplace."

And Cenk Uygur, member of "The Young Turks", who just signed with Air America for mornings, dismisses the story:

A lot of you have seen the rumors put out by Air America's competitors about the financial well being of the network. I am here to say the rumors of our demise are greatly exaggerated.
The Young Turks will be on the air on Monday, Sept. 18th 6-9AM. And we are loaded for bear.

Air America's Sam Seder also weighs in:

ThinkProgress is reporting that AAR is entering chapter 11 on Friday. I don't know if this is true and am looking for new info. So far I've heard conflicting reports. If air america does enter into chap. 11, I expect things will continue more or less in the present fashion during re-organization.

In the final analysis, air america is not the last word in progressive talk but only the beginning of a new genre of talk radio.

AAR has been plagued by poor upper management and an ill defined business strategy. However, what is clear from our ratings is that there is a market out there for left talk and undoubtedly someone will capitalize on it.

NOTE: What will be the outcome of all of this? This certainly does not mean the end of Air America Radio. Many companies go through bankruptcy or restructuring and resurface stronger than before. Air America will likely continue for some time, since they are too established an entity to completely fold. Believe it or not, Air America's brand name is pretty strong, and thanks to extensive promotion by lunatic fringe right-wing bloggers that somehow feel threatened by them, they get massive amounts of promotion. However, I would not be surprised if Air America were sold to an outside party. This would probably be the best case scenario for the long run.

On his show yesterday, Thom Hartmann stated that he has been doing his show for four years now, first with the defunct I.E. America Radio Network, then self-syndicated (borrowing Jones Radio Networks (JRN) satellites), and currently with Air America. Hartmann owns his show, and vowed that he is not going anywhere. He also hosts a local morning show on KPOJ in Portland, OR, and gets very good ratings in West Coast markets such as Seattle.

It should be noted that is part of the Center for American Progress, which is cited as teaming with other groups listed above to develop new talk talent, and also helps syndicate Bill Press' weekday show (with JRN), though I don't see it helping their cause by reporting wrong information on Air America.

Keep checking back for more on this.


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