Skip to comments.More of Air America's Dirty Little Secrets
Posted on 04/21/2004 7:09:12 PM PDT by E Rocc
Greetings to the group from the 2004 National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas, Nevada!!
Air America has been quite the talk of the convention floor this week. And yes, the fact that Air America is buying radio time is a big deal and is nothing anywhere akin to Kerry's campaign buying commercials. Here's why:
A commercial is, in fact, an announcement of commerce. Station owners must keep logs of such messages and they must be logged as "Commercial Messages". The law requires them to clearly identify the name of the company paying for the advertisement.
Air America is not presented as a commercial announcement, but as a radio program. It then, inside itself, sells commercials to advertisers. Air America was presented to investors, and to the general public, as a 24-hour a day format that will be so popular and such a ratings grabber that they would be signing "affiliates" to air their program. This connotes, and they wanted it to connote, the impression that Air America was a commercially viable radio format.
Legitimate radio (and television) programs DO NOT, EVER, PAY FOR AIR TIME. The most basic arrangement is that the "network" provides a program in exchange for the local "affiliates" running paid ads within the program, and then the local station keeps a certain number of minutes to sell itself. The most popular programs (and I'd say it's around 2 or 3 percent of the total number of programs out there) CHARGE stations cash PLUS commercial avails.
There are plenty of what we call "24 hour formats" out there where the network supplies all of your programming. ABC radio networks in Dallas has something like two dozen music, news or talk formats that you can run on your station all the time and just sell the 5 minutes per hour or so that the network allows for local sales. Jones radio networks in Denver has at least a dozen. Tom Joyner has a syndicated morning show like Stern or Bob and Tom. But NONE of them pay a station for air time. Not one of them.
Does anyone remember the Chevy Chase show or the Magic Johnson show? Both were produced by syndicators and sold to stations for cash and commercial avails. Never was a television station paid by Paramount Pictures television. Oprah, Dr. Phil, Jerry Springer, Maury, Montel, Rickie, Rosie, Martha Stewart? All of them cost the station cash plus commercials, NOT ONE of them pay the station.
One person who was participating in one of the many conversations dedicated to the revelation of Franken and pals' dirty little secret pointed out the following: Part of the original hype of Air America was that they had $30 million in cash and were going to buy up radio stations. HELLO!! A small, city-based AM station or a low powered suburban FM station in a market like Chicago would cost you $30 million all by itself! A full power FM in a far Northern suburb of Chicago sold three years ago (when prices were lower) for almost $200 million. The only thing that Air America can possibly do is buy air time. And brokers are the scum-nibbling bottom feeders of broadcasting.
Now, an experienced broadcaster could find a few distressed stations with severe technical problems, or some that are not on the air because they couldn't sell enough ads to pay the electric bill and the salaries of the two required employees for $30 million. But they would be in markets so small that the number of liberals they would hit would cost them literally hundreds of bucks per listener.
I can tell you right here and now why Air America will never actually buy a radio station: Many of their investors do NOT want their names known. Right now they don't have to be. But as soon as they buy a radio license, anyone with an "attributable interest" (I think it's either 2 or 5 percent, will have to check on this) must by law be clearly identified. If the owner is a trust or an investment group, the owners and the percentage of interest must be disclosed.
Coming in a few minutes: Let's look at Air America's stations!
WE BROKE THE STORY ON AIR AMERICA BEING ONLY BROKERED RADIO.
Now, we break a new story: Air America can't even get 100% clearance on one of its new "Affiliates"!! In fact, they only air just under 20% of Air America's programming. My take on this? They cannot afford to pay for any more.
Let's examine this:
First, they are NOT acquiring stations. They are simply buying time. And they have some more outlets, but they are NOT full time carriers! AHA!! Air America doesn't tell you that! They want you to think that they have station airing them full time!
Let's take a look at the much-ballyhooed "affiliate" in Chapel Hill, NC: WCHL-AM. 1360, high on the dial. 5,000 watts day, 1,000 watts night. And they only take FOUR HOURS of Air America. The station is also airing Sam Donaldson, Larry Elder, Jim Bohannon, an audio simulcast of the local television station's local news and an audio simulcast of the CBS evening news, Dick Clark's Rock Roll and remember, Dave Ramsey's Money Talk, and even a brokered show by a local jewelry store!
They only run Air America in weekdays, and even at that they only take the first two hours of Al Franken, the last two hours of "Majority Report" and NOTHING on the weekends!
WHY DOES AIR AMERICA NOT MENTION THAT THE CHAPEL HILL STATION ONLY TAKES 4 HOURS A DAY ON WEEKDAYS ONLY??
WHY DOES AIR AMERICA NOT MENTION THAT THIS STATION DOESN'T EVEN AIR THE ENTIRE SHOW OF THE ONES THEY DO AIR??
WHY DOES AIR AMERICA NOT MENTION THAT THEY ARE NOT ON AT ALL ON THE WEEKEND??
WHY DOESN'T AL FRANKEN MENTION THAT NINE PERCENT OF HIS "AFFILIATES" DROP HIS LAST HOUR??
More to follow...
WMNN, AM 1330, Minneapolis, MN. Some things that they don't want you to know:
The only program carried is Franken, and it's only going to be for a couple of months. The station has already been sold and the new buyer is an all catholic radio network. Franken is only in the air until June when the sale closes, according to an article in the Minneapolis STAR-TRIBUNE.
We're down to nine "affiliates", let's see how many more aren't carrying the whole magilla. Or half the magilla. Or a quarter of the magilla. WMNN carries just over 7 percent, and nothing on the weekends.
Down the affiliate list we go...
WKIZ-AM 1500 (Does the AM band go that high?), Key West, Florida.
A three tower directional AM running....get this...TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY CONSTANTLY COOKIN' WATTS! WOO-HOO!!
The most clearance of any of the "new" "Affiliates", they run HALF of the Air America programming...7AM to 7PM. Then again, buying radio time is cheap in a market SO SMALL that it IS NOT RATED! That's right, Arbitron does not rate Key West, so the radio time is cheap enough for Air America to buy 12 whole hours a day!
Of course, I'm not sure how many people they hit with a flea-powered directional AM so high on the dial that English is a second language.
I'm not kidding, the other 12 hours a day they air the "Almavision Hispanic Network"
Ron Popiel reaches more people with his ads for the turkey-jerky maker.
WTWK, Plattsburgh, NY. A blowtorch signal for them, five thousand watts!
Right now they are airing about half the Air America programming. This fall, they will air way less than half. They will only air programming from sunup to sundown, once the sun goes down, Air America disappears.
That's becuase the station only has a license to broadcast during daylight hours.
On the bright side, they ARE carrying literally all they can.
when you look on the web site and listen to all of their on air bluster and all of their press releases, they clearly imply that these are full time "affiliates". They are desperately trying to make people believe that they are a legitimate, nationwide radio "network" when they are just BROKERS!!
Now I understand that people not in the industry cannot possibly understand this because you really have to be steeped inthe business for a while to appreciate it, but it is impossible to understate now much utter contempt brokered stations and brokered programs are held in. They are the radio equivalent of durty homeless guys walking down the street.
Air America is exactly the same, they just have a nicer shelter to sleep in at night and they shower way more often.
I wouldn't be so sure about that.
That's called a sunrise to sunset station....usually at the appropriate hour a 50,000 watt station turns up it's juice.
A good example of this is the old WADB station...now WOBM AM in Lakewood NJ. At sunset WWVA Wheeling West Virginia, takes over.
Also S2S Staions are almost always tuned antennas which limit their geographic broadcast range.
That might be true for radio. For the big three television networks, -with some exceptions- they DO pay local stations compensation for broadcasting their programs.
When O'Reilly went to radio, Drudge revealed that O'Reilly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get onto certain stations in certain markets (DC was one). This was framed as very unusual or almost unheard of at the time. O'Reilly bashed Drudge but never denied his central claim about paying to get on the air.
If AirAmerica is doing the same thing to a greater degree, it's obviously a reflection of their difficulty in getting on the air, and does not bode well for their future. But they're not doing something that has NEVER been done.
It also indicates that whoever their "investors" are might be more interested in getting the liberal message out and losing money ad infinitum than they are in ever becoming viable. By contrast, O'Reilly in most cases didn't have to pay to get on the air and is most likely making money.
If they weren't so unimportant in the grand scheme of things, it would be interesting to challenge their entire business approach on the basis that it is simply a "clever" way to get around campaign-finance laws. After all, if they're simply a paid vehicle to promote leftist views and (more importantly) to defeat Bush (i.e., influence an election), how can they be exempt from the law? BUT...they are so unimportant that any attempt to enforce this would give them more publicity and notoriety than they could ever get on their own, and might be used as a pretext for reopening the Fairness Doctrine issue that Renaldus Magnus so wisely swept away in the late 80s.
It's probably not worth pursuing, because they probably won't be around long, or if they hang around they'll never have meaningful influence (just like Salon). Also, any money being burned on Air America is money that could have otherwise been used more productively to promote leftist causes. So I say let 'em be stupid.
Wake up Franken and Garafolo--no one is listening.
Some glee should be taken when it is proven once again that any time it tries to compete in a free market for ideas (as a opposed to the entrenched shops of the mainstream networks and NPR), liberalism loses, and loses big.
Not an original thought-credit the lovely and gracious Ann Coulter.
Hamster on a treadmill.
Geez, no wonder I haven't heard them...
A three tower directional AM running....get this...TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY CONSTANTLY COOKIN' WATTS! WOO-HOO!!
I have light bulbs that powerful!! HAHAHAHAHAHA
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