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Monday | February 17, 2003

Liberal radio in the works

Today's hot topic in the Open Thread (and originally brought to us by Alias), are plans by two liberal VCs to fund a liberal radio network. The network would fill 14 hours of programming, relying on Al Franken and other liberals as a counterbalance to Limbaugh, Savage, and such other wingnuts on the Right.

Ironically enough, it may very well be CFR that spurs creation of such a network. In the past, wealthy Democratic donors might've spent their money directly on the party or candidates. But with the new CFR restrictions, they are looking for other places to dumpt their cash.

There are several big challenges. The biggest may be finding radio stations willing to carry the syndicated content. With corporate consolidation of the broadcast market, it'll be difficult to break through and find stations willing to carry to content.

Analysts said that while the plan might seem difficult to achieve, it is not impossible. "It is going to be trickier in the top-10 markets, easier in the middle markets, but it will be possible," said Jonathan Jacoby, a radio industry analyst for SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. "There is a case that if they have the right product, they will be able to find distribution."
I'm not a radio industry analyst or anything, but I can't imagine the network will have trouble finding stations in San Francisco/San Jose, Chicago, New York or Boston. If this analyst thinks the middle markets will be easier to crack, then this network is a real possibility.

Another challenge is the perception that liberal radio doesn't work. Part of the problem is liberals like to be cerebral (we think), which is clearly not something Limbaugh demands from its audience. Heck, they are proud of the fact they don't think ("dittoheads")! This new network's programming must be entertaining. God bless NPR, but the programming puts me to sleep. In the morning drive-by period, I need something to wake me up. NPR ain't it.

We need commentators who froth at the mouth. God knows there's enough outrage going around to fill 200 hours a day -- let's find people (like Franken) that can effectively communicate this outrage and make us laugh at the same time.

Ultimately, though what excites me about this venture is the vision of its principals:

Mr. Sinton said the new venture would seek to disprove not only those who doubt liberal hosts can make it in radio, but also those who believe that success in radio depends on an alliance with one of the handful of major distributors or station groups.

The group said it was prepared to go it alone, selling its programming to the individual radio stations rather than go through a middleman. It has an initial investment of $10 million, which radio analysts said was enough to start up. Ms. Drobny said the cash would be placed in a fund that she hopes to grow to at least $200 million within the next year, which she hopes to use to finance other media ventures like the acquisition of radio stations and television production.

"The object of the programming is to be progressive and make a statement that counters this din from the right," Mr. Sinton said. "But we have a solid business plan that shows a hole in the market."

So we've got the money to get this thing off the ground. That's great, but it's the $200 million that piques the interest -- this is playing the same game as the Right -- buying up news outlets to air programming that will otherwise be shut out by the conservative-dominated corporations that currently dominate the industry. In other words, we'd get to bypass buffons such as this guy:
Some radio executives said they simply did not believe liberal radio could become good business. Among them was Kraig T. Kitchen, chief executive of Premiere Radio Networks, one of the nation's largest radio syndication arms with the programs of Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Reagan and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, among others. Though Mr. Kitchin said he was a conservative, he also said he would have pursued liberal programs had he thought there was money in them. He ascribes to the popular view in the industry that liberal hosts present issues in too much complexity to be very entertaining while addressing a diffuse audience that has varying views.
Once again, liberals think too much. We're too intelligent ("complex") to have an effective audience... I think Franken, or John Stewart could easily prove this critics wrong. This administration sure is providing plenty of material to work with.

So if there's a time to build an audience for a liberal network, it is now as people start waking up to today's real-life nightmare courtesy of Bush and his cronies.

Posted February 17, 2003 10:10 AM | Comments (80)





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