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Right-Wing Media Gets Desperate

Business is booming at Air America; so Limbaugh and O'Reilly have started spreading lies about the network's looming bellyflop.
 
 
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Recently, Air America Radio came under attack from the same cast of right-wing media characters who have attacked the network for ideological reasons from day one.

A recent piece in the New York Post by John Mainelli states that, "Air America is in ... bad financial shape." On Sept. 20, Bill O'Reilly on Fox News which, like the New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation said that Air America "could be on its last legs."

This is untrue. Air America is in strong financial shape. Last week we started broadcasting from our new multi-million dollar studios.

Several weeks earlier the Board of Directors of Air America's parent company accelerated re-payment of a loan from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club of $875,000 two years in advance of a previously agreed upon repayment plan. In the last several months, Air America has expanded its executive team to augment our efforts on the internet and in affiliate relations.

The pretext for the latest smears is an initiative I launched last week called Air America Associates, in which I asked our listeners to support our programming financially and at various levels offer bumper stickers, tote bags, etc. as a way of thanking them. (We received thousands of responses, far beyond what we projected for the first few days).

Many of our listeners also listen to NPR stations and Pacifica and are used to supporting radio programming they like. I got the idea from the Nation Magazine 's program, "The Nation Associates," which helps them fund investigative journalism. Like Air America Radio, The Nation is a for-profit company.

But the conservative propagandists have tried to make it seem like there is something unseemly because Air America Radio is both commercial-and a radio network, as O'Reilly said last night, "I have never seen a commercial enterprise ask their listeners for money-ever." This is also false. The modern model of the broadcasting business involves numerous revenue streams. If anything, Air America has been late in fully building such an infrastructure which the "Associates" is a part of.

For example, Rush Limbaugh's website offers his fans the "Limbaugh Letter" for $34.95 a year and a totally separate service called Rush 24/7 which includes access to archived programs at the cost of $49.95 a year. The Limbaugh site also features the "EIB Store" which sells such items as $19.95 polo shirt which amusingly says, "My Mullah went to G'itmo and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

The Sean Hannity Web-site features a "subscription" to something called, "The Hannity Insider" for $5.95 a month.

But no one tops the self proclaimed non-spinner Bill O'Reilly. Bill O'Reilly.com offers a "premium membership" for either $4.95 a month or $49.95 a year. He also offers a "Gift certificate" for $14.95. Products for sale on the Web site include:

  • Radio Factor diner coffee mug available in white or navy blue for $14.95
  • O'Reilly Factor keychain for $7.95 "while supplies last."
  • Three different "No Spin" tote bags at $14.95 apiece
  • Ten different hats at a cost of $16.95 each
  • The "no spin" jacket for $79.95
  • The " Unisex Black Fleece" embroidered with "The Spin Stops Here" for $39.95
  • Several bumper stickers including one that reads "Boycott France" for $2.50
  • License plate frame for $18.95
  • Three different "No Spin" tote bags at $14.95 each
  • An O'Reilly Factor Gear Bag at $64.95
  • "Mens Garment Bag" for $64.95 (sorry ladies!)
  • A "Spin Stops Here" organizer briefcase
  • A "Spin Stops Here" pen and pad bundle for $19.95
  • Two different designs of "Spin Stops Here" doormats for $49.95 and
  • Two different "Rain Stops Here" umbrellas at $24.95("Show everyone who protects you from the rain")

Mainelli's article also repeated another falsehood about Air America saying "More recently the 70 station left network has been suffering lower ratings." His corporate cousin O'Reilly wishfully stated on August 17 said "Air America-nobody is listening to it," On Aug 3rd O'Reilly claimed that "Air America cannot support itself because of low ratings," and on July 26 O'Reilly said "The Air America radio network continues to fail with catastrophic ratings here in New York City. "

In fact, the ratings for the Bill O'Reilly radio show in New York were worse than those on Air America that he described as "catastrophic" In the key 25 to 54 year demographic which talk radio offers to advertisers, the Spring, 2005 Arbitron ratings showed that Monday to Friday from 2 to 4 PM when O'Reilly is on WOR-AM and which at Air America's 1190 WLIB-AM contains the last hour of " The Al Franken Show " and the first hour of " The Randi Rhodes Show ," that O'Reilly had a .3 share and Air America a .4 share. O'Reilly had a cumulative audience of 75,400 and Air America had a cumulative audience of 89,300.

Inevitably ratings go up and down and vary from time slot to time slot and from market to market. Right wing bloggers have had fun cherry picking isolated pieces of ratings reports to distort the enormous enthusiasm Air America's growing audience has demonstrated. At the vast majority of our affiliates Air America ratings are up. On a nation-wide basis the most recent Arbitron ratings Spring 2005 book showed that our affiliates reach over three million people per week each of whom listens for an average of several hours a week. This is more than triple the amount of people who were listening when measured one year earlier in the Spring, 2004 book.

I do not intend to write something every time something like this happens. In the almost six months during which I have been CEO of Air America Radio, I have refrained, for the most part, from responding to the litany of attacks, lies, half-truths and smears from various members of the right-wing media. In general, it seems to me that paying too much attention to these people only encourages them and that we, at Air America, need to get used to the fact that the spirited progressive opinions of our on-air talent and of our audience will attract the kind of mean-spirited smears that are endemic to contemporary political conversation.

After having a near monopoly on talk radio for so many years, some conservative media types are literally freaked out at confronting robust, persistent and passionate opposition. On Sept. 26, O'Reilly desperately claimed that "Air America's basic flaw is that "Americans do not want to hear that their country sucks 24 hours a day." Of course the talent and management of Air America have a love of our country which is what animates all passionate debate on political issues form the left, right and center.

It is an obsession with stifling debate --even at the cost of using lies and distortions, which is un-American.

Danny Goldberg is the CEO of Air America Radio.