Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Why the Liberals Can't Keep Air America From Spiraling In

Air America is one year old. After all the hype, free publicity from the MSM, all the predictions of how Air America would change the political landscape of talk radio, Air America has has as much impact as shovelling sand against the tide. When Air America initiated it's broacasts, a good friend of mine, Casty, predicted it's demise. Now Brian C. Anderson, in his commentary, bears out Casty's early prediction.

Wait a second, you say, didn't I read that Air America has expanded to more than 50 markets? That's true, but let's put things in perspective: Conservative pundit and former Reagan official William J. Bennett's morning talk show, launched at the same time as Air America, reaches nearly 124 markets, including 18 of the top 20, joining the growing ranks of successful right-of-center talk programs (Limbaugh is still the ratings leader, drawing more than 15 million listeners a week).

And look at Air America's ratings: They're pitifully weak, even in places where you would think they'd be strong. WLIB, its flagship in New York City, has sunk to 24th in the metro area Arbitron ratings — worse than the all-Caribbean format it replaced, notes the Radio Blogger. In the liberal meccas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, Air America is doing lousier still.
If Air America cannot get good ratings in those liberal bastions, how can they expect to do so in the rest of the country. Even Lynn Samuels had better ratings in NYC.
So why do liberals fare so poorly on air? Some on the left say it's because liberals are, well, smarter and can't convey their sophisticated ideas to the rubes who listen to talk radio. Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, whose own stint as a talk-show host was a ratings disaster, gave canonical expression to this self-serving view. Conservatives "write their messages with crayons," he maintained. "We use fine-point quills."
Mario is typical of the liberal/leftist arrogant position that it is becasue they are all so much smarter then the rest of the great unwashed masses. What the masses are rejecting is the liberal/left's ideology and of late, their total lack of ideas for dealing with the issues that face the nation.
Successful talk radio is conservative for three reasons:

  • Entertainment value. The top conservative hosts put on snazzy, frequently humorous shows. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication, observes: "The parody, the asides, the self-effacing humor, the bluster are all part of the packaging that makes the political message palatable." Besides, the triumph of political correctness on the left makes it hard for on-air liberals to lighten things up without offending anyone.

  • Fragmentation of the potential audience. Political consultant Dick Morris explains: "Large percentages of liberals are black and Hispanic, and they now have their own specialized entertainment radio outlets, which they aren't likely to leave for liberal talk radio." The potential audience for Air America or similar ventures is thus pretty small — white liberals, basically. And they've already got NPR.

  • Liberal bias in the old media. That's what birthed talk radio in the first place. People turn to it to help right the imbalance. Political scientist William Mayer, writing in the Public Interest, recently observed that liberals don't need talk radio because they've got the big three networks, most national and local daily newspapers and NPR.
Let's face it, the liberal/left has had an almost complete monopoly with the MSM. It was the birth of talk radio that began to chip away at that monopoly on information. People turned to talk radio and now the internet to get away form one source of quite biased information.
Unable to prosper in the medium, liberals have taken to denouncing talk radio as a threat to democracy. Liberal political columnist Hendrik Hertzberg, writing in the New Yorker, is typically venomous. Conservative talk radio represents "vicious, untreated political sewage" and "niche entertainment for the spiritually unattractive," Hertzberg sneers.

If some liberals had their way, Congress would regulate political talk radio out of existence. Their logic is that scrapping Air America would be no loss if it also meant getting Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Bennett off the air.

To accomplish this, New York Democratic Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey has proposed reviving the Fairness Doctrine to protect "diversity of view," and John Kerry recently sent out some signals that he too thought that might be a good idea.
Now you knowhow much of an impact conservative talk radio has had. The liberal/left is whining and gnashing their teeth over it. So much so, to the point of trying to legislate it out of existence. They are trying the same thing with the blogosphere as well. Those "great" champions of human rights, would love nothing better than to muzzle the right of the people to free speech.
Sure, talk radio is partisan, sometimes overheated. But it's also a source of argument and information. Together with Fox News and the blogosphere, it has given the right a chance to break through the liberal monoculture and be heard. For that, anyone who supports spirited public debate should be grateful.
So, take a bow, Casty, you were right on target in your initial analysis that Air America would spiral into the ground. - Sailor

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