Friday, December 08, 2006

Air America, Franken rumors keep a comin'

With all the rumors that have been floating about regarding Al Franken's committment to his radio show and his unannounced future plans, one wishes he would just make up his damned mind already and be done with it, so that we can all go about our lives.

The rumors have been floating for months. Sean Hannity even jumped into the frey yesterday, but does anyone believe anything he says? Today, gossip site Radar Online is keeping the rumors fresh in our minds, as they weigh in on what Franken plans to do. The information comes from who they call a "knowledgeable radio source" that tells them that Franken plans to depart Air America Radio "before the end of the year."

We do know that Franken is indeed leaving. For the war-torn Middle East. He is set to leave on a USO tour of Iraq and Afghanistan next week, from which he will return on Christmas Eve. Asked if he has made a decision to give up on the network he helped launch in 2003, Franken played coy. "I don't know what's happening," he told Radar. "It's not set in stone — I need to see what they're talking about."

"They", of course, would be Air America's current management, currently in negotiations to sell the network out of bankruptcy. Today marks the deadline, set by the bankruptcy court, for Air America to either arrange a sale or be considered in default on the $2.6 million loan that has kept it afloat since it filed for bankruptcy in October. The deadline has been extended twice before as AAR has been readying a prospective buyer. Franken is one of the creditors listed.

According to two sources familiar with the negotiations, Air America is in the final stages of arranging a sale to a small media company , which they declined to name (some rumors claim it's a small group headed by former board member Doug Kreeger). "My understanding is that everything is done except for the final touches," says one former Air America staffer. "It's a media company—a very small one. I had never heard of it."

Both sources expressed doubt that the new owner could afford to employ Air America's two biggest names—Franken and Randi Rhodes. "There's the question of whether this little company has the money to keep it going," says one source.

"There's no way that their current contracts will continue," says the former staffer. "And the question is, will Franken and Rhodes compromise in order to stay?"

Franken insists he's not paying attention to the turmoil—"I'm Zen-ing it," he says—and he's focused on his upcoming USO tour. And what will he do when he returns? "Fall asleep on the couch." And after that? "I don't know."

Some stations aren't wating around. San Francisco's KQKE dropped his show altogether, in favor of Thom Hartmann. New progressive talker WCMI in Huntington, WV/Ashland, KY and WARF in Akron/Cleveland followed suit. And following Ed Schultz' announcement that he will move his show to the same time slot as Franken starting next Monday, WINZ, WCPT, WWRC, and Franken's hometown affiliate KTNF will carry Schultz live and bump Franken to the later afternoon slot.


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