Little left: Air America seeks Chapter 11

Janet Babin Oct 13, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: There’s some static today on liberal talk radio. Air America’s still on the air but its finances have gone belly-up. The company filed for bankruptcy this morning. Named a new CEO, too. The network’s troubles don’t come as a surprise. It’s been in the red since the day they turned the mics on. From North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin reports:

JANET BABIN: Air America says it filed for Chapter 11 protection because it can’t pay its bills.

According to court documents, the network lost about $40 million in the last two-and-a-half years. Its long list of creditors includes one of its most famous voices. Comedian Al Franken is owed more than $350,000.

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said today on his show that he wasn’t surprised. He says the network only went into business to affect elections. But David Wasserman with the University of Virginia Center for Politics says progressives just don’t listen to the radio as much:

DAVID WASSERMAN:“Conservatives have the advantage on talk radio, liberals have an advantage on the Internet.”

Wasserman says conservatives listen more because their commute is longer. Progressives get their political fix from the blogosphere.

But Matthew Felling with the Center for Media and Public Affairs says liberal radio needs to retool its communication skills. He says Air America sounds like a lecture hall, while conservative radio sounds like a locker room:

MATTHEW FELLING:“The conservatives use anecdotes and examples and say, here’s why we’re right. Whereas the liberals are more vague in terms of their self-righteousness.”

Felling says the progressive network has to appeal to listeners outside its blue, urban base if it wants to grow its audience and back up its bottom line.

The network is expected to remain on the air through the restructuring.

In Durham, North Carolina, I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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