Sunday, October 10, 2004

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the uselessness of mounting any boycott against Limbaugh's show and promised to write about the possibility of starting liberal radio programming in this area. I'm more than a day late, and, metaphorically speaking, I'm also a dollar short--meaning that I don't have a lot to offer. Unfortunately, the current outlook for liberal radio isn't all that promising. I'll cite the bad news first, but please don't stop reading before you get to the good news.
Okay, so bad news: Air America is floundering. In May, it had trouble meeting its payroll and because of a dispute with Multicultural Broadcasting, it has lost its New York and Chicago markets and is down to fourteen carriers, mostly satellite and internet. Advertising agency gurus know that its advertising spots are practically free. The reason is that advertisers don't want to invest in something that they fear will lose its audience once the election is over. Air America is attempting to reinvent itself. Who knows whether they stand a chance of succeeding?
The good news is that Al Franken's show is now airing several times a day on the Sundance Channel (a cable channel) and that Jesse Jackson just signed a contract with Clear Channel to air his weekly radio show. Of course, those of you willing to invest in satellite radio can get all the liberal programming you want, but the fact that you're reading this blog means you're already getting an alternative point of view. We don't need to reach you with radio. What we want is a way to reach folks in the middle and even on the right. Actually, the satellite radio is accomplishing that in a limited way. My brother-in-law, Fred, is a trucker. He tells me that until the last couple of years, most truckers just spouted Rush's nonsense. But satellite radio is the sensible way for long distance travellers to listen to radio because they don't have to switch stations. They can tune in and drive from New York to California without touching the dial. Most of the truck drivers do that and many have ended up listening to liberal radio talk on and XM. The situation has made a huge difference in the political attitudes of truckers, at least according to Fred. What that tells me is that lots of liberal radio is CRUCIAL to changing the political dialogue in this country. To my mind, it's one of the top priorities for Democrats after November second, no matter what the outcome of the election.
Perhaps satellite radio will be our new direction. An article in the Sunday Post-Dispatch pointed out that Howard Stern's move to Sirius might be a sign that satellite radio has arrived. Even before he announced his move, a study by a leading industry group predicted that Sirius and XM would attract 5.3 million new subscribers in the next year. The arrival of Stern on that scene couldn't hurt their prospects any. It costs about $150 for the basic satellite equipment plus $10 a month for XM; $13 a month for Sirius. If listeners decide the cost of the move is worth it, they may find plenty of liberal radio talk shows waiting for them when they arrive.
As for AM and FM, the prospects of progressive radio programming in St. Louis don't look promising at the present, but we shouldn't give up on it. Some of you may have seen information on the internet about a documentary that explains how to start low frequency local stations. That program isn't going to be aired in St. Louis, at least not now, but perhaps it will become available.
Perhaps. This blog is riddled with "perhaps," "if" and hope. Right now I don't know which direction "our side" will take in the next few years, but I believe Democrats MUST find a way to challenge Radio Right Wing.


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