Bil Browning

The death of Air America

Filed By Bil Browning | January 22, 2010 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Air America, Al Franken, online advertising, progressive advertising, progressive groups, Rachel Maddow, supporting progressives

Air America Radio went dark unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. The struggling media enterprise announced it was filing for bankruptcy and letting go their entire workforce.

The progressive radio network launched the career of lesbian MSNBC host Rachel Maddow and also featured now-Senator-then-political-comic Al Franken. Other hosts have included former head of the DNC, Howard Dean.

The group has had money problems from the beginning. I remember the "Air America is going under" rumors started shortly after they launched. Sadly, they never got much support from Democrats; Republicans have long ruled talk radio while progressive practically ignored the AIR+AMERICA+LOGO_Detail.jpgcheapest mass media out there. Sadly, we've lost one of the smartest political outlets available to progressives - and all because of a lack of support.

Online progressive advertising is in the same boat - while conservatives aren't shy about advertising their causes and agendas, getting a progressive group to buy a cheap blog ad is like pulling teeth. As an LGBT blog, we especially get overlooked by the progressive orgs if the issue isn't queer specific. We're part of the Advertise Liberally blog ads network and while plenty of ads have been purchased through the network, we've never had an ad placement from the group - only requests for free advertising space.

Air America abruptly yanked their website yesterday afternoon and put up a statement about the company's bankruptcy proceedings instead. It's after the jump.

It is with the greatest regret, on behalf of our Board, that we must announce that Air America Media is ceasing its live programming operations as of this afternoon, and that the Company will file soon under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code to carry out an orderly winding-down of the business.

The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America's business. This past year has seen a "perfect storm" in the media industry generally. National and local advertising revenues have fallen drastically, causing many media companies nationwide to fold or seek bankruptcy protection. From large to small, recent bankruptcies like Citadel Broadcasting and closures like that of the industry's long-time trade publication Radio and Records have signaled that these are very difficult and rapidly changing times.

Those companies that remain are facing audience fragmentation as a result of new media technologies, are often saddled with crushing debt, and have generally found it difficult to obtain operating or investment capital from traditional sources of funding. In this climate, our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week, but ultimately fell short of success.

With radio industry ad revenues down for 10 consecutive quarters, and reportedly off 21% in 2009, signs of improvement have consisted of hoping things will be less bad. And though Internet/new media revenues are projected to grow, our expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies

When Air America Radio launched in April, 2004 with already-known personalities like Al Franken and then-unknown future stars like Rachel Maddow, it was the only full-time progressive voice in the mainstream broadcast media world. At a critical time in our nation's history -- when dissent on issues such as the Iraq war were often denounced as "un-American" -- Air America and its talented team helped millions of Americans remember the importance of compelling discussion about the most pivotal events and decisions of our generation.

Through some 100 radio outlets nationwide, Air America helped build a new sense of purpose and determination among American progressives. With this revival, the progressive movement made major gains in the 2006 mid-term elections and, more recently, in the election of President Barack Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress.

Laws have changed for the better thanks to this revival.....but all the same our company cannot escape the laws of economics. So we intend a rapid, orderly closure over the next few days. All current employees will be paid through today, January 21. A severance package will be offered tomorrow to full-time current employees with more than six months of tenure.

We will strive to assist affiliates and partners in achieving a smooth transition. Starting at 6 pm EST today, we will provide our affiliates, listeners and users a selection of encore programming until 9 pm EST on Monday, January 25, at which time Air America programming will end.

We are proud that Air America's mission lives on through the words and actions of so many former radio hosts who are active today in progressive causes and media nationwide. In the years ahead, as we look back, we should all be proud of our passionate determination to assure that our nation's progressive voice would be heard loud and clear. Through the hard work and dedication of current staff, and those who preceded you, a lasting legacy was forged which will now continue through other voices and venues.

Thank you.

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Conservative radio doesn't flourish because of grants from orgs - they have more than enough real advertising to pay Rush his millions. Liberals prefer reading - that's why they have bigger readerships on their blogs.

But, yeah, liberal orgs are usually most stingy with the money. Then again, that's why they're on the left - they're supposed to be fighting for the poor.

I am not sure it is that progressive or liberals are stingy. It is they tend to be more likely to give to things like relief for Haiti and such. To be very honest about it, and some may find this offensive but it take a certain degree of hardness of heart to be a true conservative. To throw down the edict from the ivory towers telling the masses to get off their dead asses and get a job without perhaps walking the walk themselves or if they have forgetting how rough that road was for them.

One thing I will say and give credit to, the Conservatives have managed to get their message out, perhaps too well. While I can go along with balanced budgets in government, after all we all have to balance ours sooner or later, what I cannot go along with is when most of these same people would tell everyone how they should live their lives. Working actively to shape the laws in this country to reflect their narrow point of view.

Air America leaving the air was a loss indeed but it also should serve as a bit of an example to us all that those who would place some real limits on what the word freedom means are working overtime and we are not matching that effort.