Adios, Air America
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Air America Radio ( AAR) announced today that it was ceasing operations and declaring bankruptcy. The station's chairman, Charlie Kierker, said that AAR was ending live programing this afternoon, Thursday, January 21st. He said that the station wasn't able to secure the financing it needed. "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," Kirker wrote.
Kierker tried hard to keep the station afloat. Recently, AAR launched a highly visual web site, somewhat along Huffington Post lines, to buttress the radio operation. But for a long time progressive media experts had been scratching their heads about the AAR strategy. The Network had begun with great promise and excitement, and had many high points to be sure, but never had the ability to sustain itself, while being distracted by nagging crises, the loss of channel space (even in NYC) and constant funding woes.
AAR claimed it was progressive, but seemed to be pursuing an altogether different course in terms of who they put on the air, including strange bedfellows like Montel Williams and Lionel. There was speculation that the station was aiming for a younger male demographic -- seemingly desperately seeking an audience for "talk radio "-- that didn't have much to do with progressive politics, or probably didn't even exist. Furthermore, there was almost always a sense of the network grasping at straws as large large amounts of money seemed to have been invested in a steady stream of costly hires, frequently on the business side, but for on air talent as well, a number of whom seemed to last for only short periods before moving on.
AAR will be most remembered for being the spawning ground of Rachel Maddow, who was catapulted into TV stardom, on MSNBC, from her radio perch at AAR. Air America was also the home, for a time, of writer and comedian AL Franken, who went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in a squeaker, after being tied up in court for six months.
Kierker's full memo follows:
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.