Airless America

Airless America

: It’s too damned bad that Air America came out in the hands of such incompetents. We do need a liberal voice on radio, for the only way to have a conversation is to hear both sides of it.

But from a programming perspective, the network set off to do nothing but recreate the shrill voice of conservative talk radio from the other side — and be just as one-sided about it. I had hoped that Air America would be an intelligent network: NPR with opinions, NPR with personality, NPR without fear. But instead, we get the bizarro Rush, Randi Rhodes, shrieking at me every afternoon.

From a business perspective, they screwed it up royally, not getting enough funding and not lining up enough advertisers before doing on the air, so this smelled like a business failure from the start (which I said from the start).

The network gets pulled off the air in a major market. Executives keep leaving. And bad news keeps piling up.

The latest: Rhodes made a “joke” about assassinating George Bush but especially these days, when madmen plot to fly jets into our White House, that’s just not funny. But that’s Rhodes. Even on her own forum, some fans are critical.

Here’s what Michael Goodwin, NY Daily News columnist, said yesterday:

Color me confused. If Franken & Co. hate the pill-popping Limbaugh so much, why imitate his tarpit tone? Sounds like Limbaugh has simply driven them nuts.

Missing was the tension that comes from honest debate. Only Franken had guests voicing even slight distance from the party line, which is that John Kerry is perfect except he should attack Bush more.

The queen of venom, Randi Rhodes, followed Franken in the host slot. Her imitation of a cracker military type telling a soldier to “insert this fluorescent light bulb into that man’s buttocks” was revolting. She compared U.S. prisons in Iraq to the “Nazi gulag” and said, “The day I say thank you to Rumsfeld is the same day I’ll say thank you to the 12 people who raped me.”

Rock bottom came when she compared Bush and his family to the Corleones in the “Godfather” saga. “Like Fredo, somebody ought to take him out fishing and phuw,” she said, imitating the sound of gunfire.

During a day of torture by radio, I heard ads for Hewlett-Packard, Greyhound and, especially, General Motors. I asked GM why it appeared in such shows.

Ryndee Carney, GM’s manager of marketing communications, said the ads were wrongly picked up from an earlier deal with WLIB. She said the station was ordered to “cease and desist” yesterday, and added: “GM will not advertise on any Air America affiliates.”

Now I don’t like turning advertisers into programmers (any more than I like turning FCC commissioners, congressmen, or lawyers into programmers) but I have to think that GM was looking for an easy way out of a bad network.

I doubt that Air America will last to the election.