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December 19, 2006

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Al Franken Pondering Senate Run

After Bankruptcy Filing, Recriminations Fly at Air America

In its search for a new chief executive this past summer, Air America Radio interviewed seasoned media executives in an effort to revive the faltering network. One interview took a bizarre turn, however, when the executive got into a political argument with Randi Rhodes, one of the network’s on-air hosts.

“I laughed and said, ‘You sound like Republican talking points,’ ” Ms. Rhodes recalled.

At Air America, business and politics always mixed, and that was the problem, critics contend. Begun with an onslaught of publicity in spring 2004 as an alternative to right-wing talk radio, the network is given some of the credit by its supporters for having helped achieve the Democrats’ Congressional election victory in November.

Detractors label the liberal network’s programming as combative, one-note and emotional. At least its business dealings seem to fit that last description. Even before Air America and its corporate parent, Piquant L.L.C., sought bankruptcy protection on Oct. 13, its management was engulfed in a series of financial crises. The search for new investors and managers has been marred by infighting among those who want the network to succeed, according to people in the organization.

In recent weeks, Air America, which has its headquarters in New York and reaches about 2.4 million listeners weekly, has suffered the defection of a handful of its more than 80 affiliated stations and soon faces the likely departure of its most visible host, Al Franken, even as it cobbles together a plan to emerge from Chapter 11.

A possible solution surfaced on Friday. Douglas Kreeger, an initial investor and former chief executive who stabilized the network in its early months, said in a telephone interview that there is “a signed letter of intent” for a new group to take over the network and that he is “likely” to be a part. The lead equity position would be taken by Terence F. Kelly, of Madison, Wis., also an Air America investor from the beginning and a former board chairman.

Mr. Kelly said in a separate interview that the investor group included a new strategic media partner he declined to name, and both men would not predict when a deal might come to fruition.

“Any number of things can happen,” Mr. Kreeger said.

This is only the latest twist in the short but contentious history of Air America. At the root of its problems, some critics and competitors say, has been an inability to negotiate a middle path between its political mission and its business.

“It’s my feeling that they really put this together without broadcasters,” said Stuart Krane, a former ABC Radio executive who is the president of Product First, which owns the program of a liberal talk-show host, Ed Schultz. “If you have a healthy business, then your agenda will be put forth.”

Air America ran into financial trouble within days of its appearance on March 31, 2004, when it turned out that its original chairman, Evan Cohen, did not have the backing he said he did. Weeks later, Mr. Kelly, a former owner of Midwest radio and television stations, stepped in to take charge of the board. At the end of 2004, he ceded the chairmanship to a new investor, Rob Glaser, chief executive of RealNetworks.

Some people at Air America assert that, under Mr. Glaser and the team he put in place, the network was top-heavy with management, inept at selling ads, unwilling to make program compromises that veered from the liberal message and overstaffed with more than 100 employees when two dozen would have sufficed.

“What they did for $45 million they could have done for $10 million,” said Sheldon Drobny, an investor with a contentious relationship with the network. Mr. Drobny and his wife, Anita, longtime Democratic activists, are credited with the idea for Air America.

The network has run through a stream of operational executives. Danny Goldberg, a music executive who served as chief for about a year before leaving in April 2006, said the problem was “a big gap between the ambitions of the company and the funding available to accomplish those ambitions.”

“There was no way to manage around that gap,” he said. “Either lower your expectations or raise more money. No one wanted to change the ambitions.”

Faced with constant money woes, the board considered a takeover by the Democracy Alliance, a loose group of moneyed progressives, including George Soros, who had pooled resources to support projects they considered worthy. But the group ultimately rejected the appeal, because “Air America needed to do certain things to make it a more attractive business,” Mr. Kreeger said.

Mr. Kelly said he was disappointed that rich Democrats did not step up to support the network’s political goals. On fund-raising calls, he said, he was often turned down because the business plan was too risky.

He agreed that the network over-spent, “out of enthusiasm for what we were doing.” But he said it also “inherited so many difficulties not of our own making.”

Saying that Air America reaches millions of listeners and “clearly had an impact on the 2006 elections,” Mr Kelly added, “I think with a relatively small amount of money, we have succeeded wildly.”

Story Here


Blogger LJG aka Pennsylvania Independent said...

I am guilty of listening to Air America myself, occasionally, just to see what they say, just the same way I occasionally lisen to Conservative hosts like Rush and Hannity. I only listen to hear what their opinions are. Air America is making money somewhere, probably by George Sorors or by satellite broadcasting because it is expensive to broadcast on the radio. I just don't understand how they can continue to go broke and keep on going. I am not too much on political talk radio because neither have the solutions or the right answers that are facing America. Both sides of the political spectrum are on the wrong track, only recycling old ideas and plans that have failed in the past, or switching political positions from one party to another. It just seems it is a viscious cycle.

December 19, 2006 1:58 PM  
Blogger TrekMedic251 said...

Surely,..he jests. I know,..don't call him "Shirley!"

December 19, 2006 7:33 PM  
Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...


How could you? lol

George Soros used to fund them until even he found out they were sinking and didnt even throw them a liferaft! But then again that's Soros for you.

Sometimes when It's a vicious cycle you have to throw in with who is going to do more good for you and the Country whether you like them or not.

Kind of like the lesser of two evils. For instance in a few weeks Charlie Rangel will be pushing for the draft, Pelosi will be pushing for tax increases, and Conyers will be pushing to Impeach our President tieing up Congress for the next two friggen years!

Coining a phrase similar to John Kerry's " If you dont stay educated, and dont go vote you get stuck with Liberals"

December 19, 2006 8:03 PM  
Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...


Surely,..he jests. I know,..don't call him "Shirley!"
LMAO! Oh heavens I forgot about that!

December 19, 2006 8:04 PM  
Blogger J_G said...

Al Franken is about as ill informed as any other liberal. I wonder if he wears those pointy jester shoes? George Sorros still funds Air America at a huge loss. They even cheated some charity in Brooklyn out money to keep that station on the sir. Just goes to show, "You can't always just throw money at a problem" The solution with Franken and Air america is ti pull the plug, no one is listening.

Run Al run (to the sound of run Forest run)! That has to be the reason God gave us liberals. God has a sense of humor too.

December 20, 2006 6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps by running for the Senate, Mr. Franken will get the big laughs that continue to elude him on Air America.
Or not.

December 20, 2006 7:57 AM  
Blogger Mike's America said...

Senator Frankenstein?

We already have John "I'm reporting for duty" Skerry in the Senate.

How many creepy socialist losers can get into the Senate?

Oh, at least 50 anyway.

December 20, 2006 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Seth said...

Air America's biggest mistake was running their business like the Democrats run the government when they have the opportunity to do so, only without having any taxes to raise to offset their squanderings.

December 21, 2006 1:22 PM  
Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...


I will pee myself if Franken tries a Senate run LMAO! Didnt he try that crap before? He's like Ralph Nader, the guy who ALWAY'S runs and just screw's things up for everyone else!

Uncle P,

I know I will be Laughing so hard I wont be able to contain myself!!


LOL Senator Frankenstein haha


Oh well then Franken should be a shoe in LMAO!

December 24, 2006 9:19 AM  

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