Skip to comments.Liberal Radio Is Planned by Rich Group of Democrats
Posted on 02/17/2003 6:53:01 AM PST by nypokerface
A group of wealthy Democratic donors is planning to start a liberal radio network to counterbalance the conservative tenor of radio programs like "The Rush Limbaugh Show."
The group, led by Sheldon and Anita Drobny, venture capitalists from Chicago who have been major campaign donors for Bill Clinton and Al Gore, is in talks with Al Franken, the comedian and author of "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot." It hopes to enlist other well-known entertainers with a liberal point of view for a 14-hour, daily slate of commercial programs that would heavily rely on comedy and political satire.
The plan faces several business and content challenges, from finding a network of radio stations to buy the program to overcoming the poor track record of liberal radio shows. But it is the most ambitious undertaking yet to come from liberal Democrats who believe they are overshadowed in the political propaganda wars by conservative radio and television personalities.
The concern has been around for years: Hillary Rodham Clinton first mentioned a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" in 1998. But the sentiment has taken on new urgency with the rise to the top of the cable news ratings of the Fox News Channel, considered by many to have a conservative slant, and the Republicans' gaining control of the Senate in November. Such events have spurred many wealthy Democrats to explore investments in possible, liberal-skewing media ventures. New campaign finance rules that restrict giving opportunities also gave them further incentive.
The new liberal radio network is initially being financed by the Paradigm Group, of which the Drobnys are the principal partners. Ms. Drobny is the chairwoman of the venture, which is being called AnShell Media L.L.C. Jon Sinton, a longtime, Atlanta-based radio executive, will be its chief executive. He helped start the nationally syndicated radio program of Jim Hightower, the former Texas agriculture commissioner. Liberals had hoped that would be their answer to Mr. Limbaugh, but it was canceled shortly after its start in the mid-1990's.
The failure of Mr. Hightower's show supported the notion of many in radio that liberal hosts do not have what it takes to become successful and entertaining hosts: the fire-and-brimstone manner and a ready-made audience alienated by the mainstream news media it perceives to be full of liberal bias.
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."
Many conservatives who assert the news media in general is infused with liberal bias say the premise of a liberal radio network is silly to begin with. But liberal Democrats say even if a liberal bias does exist, the mainstream news media strives for balance and fair play. They say their concern is that there are far fewer successful, outright partisan voices on the left than there are on the right.
"I feel like there's a monologue out there," Ms. Drobny said. "I just had this tremendous feeling with great passion that we had to make sure we're heard and make sure having a dialogue in this country of ours."
The list of successful conservative radio hosts is, in fact, fairly long Rush Limbaugh; Sean Hannity; Michael Savage; Michael Reagan. And there is no equivalent list of liberals. Past attempts, such as the programs of Mr. Hightower and Mario Cuomo, have failed.
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.
"Individuals who are liberal in their viewpoints can be all-encompassing," he said. "It's very hard to define liberalism, unlike how easy it is to define conservatism. So, as a result, it doesn't evoke the same kind of passion as conservative ideologies do."
Mr. Sinton said he thought past attempts failed because they were not properly executed. He said he believed a big problem for Mr. Hightower was that his program was sandwiched into a schedule crammed with conservatives. "It is very hard to succeed when you throw liberal programming between bookends of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity," he said. "That violates expectations of the listener."
This is why he said he was proposing a full slate of liberally skewing programming with morning, afternoon and early evening shows featuring hosts with as many big names in entertainment as possible.
"This side has failed by going at Rush, and trying to be Rush you're not going to beat him at his game," Mr. Sinton said. "What really makes this work is tapping into Hollywood and New York and having a huge entertainment component, where political sarcasm is every bit as effective as Rush Limbaugh is at bashing you over the head."
Mr. Sinton acknowledged that his biggest challenge was in getting national distribution for the network. He said he would seek to strike deals with underperforming radio stations in major markets.
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."
Talent, of course, will be key, Mr. Sinton acknowledged. A deal with Mr. Franken, the comedian, would help greatly in luring other big names, as well as in gaining distribution. He said he envisioned a daily program featuring Mr. Franken perhaps in the early afternoons (around the same time as "The Rush Limbaugh Show").
A representative for Mr. Franken, Henry Reisch of the William Morris Agency, said Mr. Franken was seriously considering the offer, and was mostly focusing on whether he could handle the commitment of a daily radio program. Judging from his comments as a guest last month on Phil Donahue's program on MSNBC, Mr. Franken would probably take a far different approach from that of Mr. Limbaugh. "I think the audience isn't there for a liberal Rush," he said. "Because I think liberals don't want to hear that kind of demagoguery."
February 17, 2003, 12:07 AM
LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- U.S. Sen Debbie Stabenow has married former campaign aide Tom Athans at a private ceremony here, a spokesman says.
The small family ceremony was held Sunday in Lansing, said Stabenow spokesman Dave Lemmon.
The Michigan Democrat is retaining her home in Lansing, Lemmon told The State News, the Michigan State University student newspaper.
Athans served on Stabenow's 2000 Senate campaign, in which she beat then-Republican U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham, now secretary of energy. Athans has lived in Oakland County.
Stabenow, 52, has been married once before. She and Dennis Stabenow divorced in 1990 and have two adult children, Todd and Michelle.
Athans has been dating Stabenow since the fall. He is a native of Michigan who served in the U.S. Air Force for 13 years. He is a former staffer for Democratic U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Flint.
Athans is now executive director of Democracy Radio, a Washington, D.C.-based group that develops talk radio programs.
Coming from the guy who called Rush "a big fat idiot."
No demagoguery there. Nope. Nosireee...
Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin, Babs Streisand, talent on loan from Lucifer.
Regarding your story about liberal donors working to find a liberal Rush Limbaugh....I believe it will fail for several reasons.
Firstl, nobody is as articulate and entertaining as Rush Limbaugh. Second, the mainstream media is overwhelmingly liberal right now. If I want liberal opinion, I can get it instantly at 98% of the Broadcast media, newspapers and magazines right now. It is there already...so your liberal radio network is the classic solution without a problem.
As you pointed out, conservatives are alienated by the liberal agenda of the media. When clear-thinking conservatives on talk radio came along, we all felt FINALLY...someone can articulate the conservative views held by most of the people. There was a tremendous vacuum that was filled.
Liberal radio has tried before and failed every time. The bottom line: America does not support the liberal beliefs of large, bureaucratic government, higher taxes, massive social spending, etc....we want freedom, we prize individual achievement and want govt. only to clear the hurdles to our success...rather than blocking our success as they increasingly do.
Liberals are well-known for p**s**g away money on hopeless causes.
I'm betting an Al Franken radio show will bomb in weeks.
There many things wrong with this statement. 1. The lib host assumes his audience is not smart enough to entertain the actual definitions. 2. Only clintonistas would have the stones to "make the numbers whatever they want." 3. It does not enlighten, but rather, imparts prejudice.
That's just what we need...more liberal talk shows that, since they lose on real facts, redefine everything to be "what they want it to be."
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