Liberal talk radio hits the waves
As an avid talk-radio listener, I was delighted to learn while watching CNN recently that the traditionally conservative talk radio networks are being directly and seriously challenged by the launch of the first ever progressive radio network. Air America began its first broadcast on Wednesday in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles with the three hour show The O'Franken Factor, hosted by political satirist and Bill O'Reilly nemesis Al Franken. Indeed, Air America will adopt a scathingly satirical, and at times zany, programming style with such activist hosts as actress Janeane Garofolo, rapper Chuck D, and Robert Kennedy, Jr. The primary and highly debatable issue surrounding the launch of this liberal radio station is whether it will only appeal to latt‚ sipping, leftist Bush haters in the same way the conservative radio networks exclusively attract a militantly loyal base of working-class conservatives.
I believe that, much like the way Fox News, which appeals to a broad range of audiences despite its transparently rightist analytical perspective, Air America will attract a diverse group of listeners because it will simply be entertaining. Fox News viewers relish the sight of conservative confrontational journalist Bill O'Reilly telling his guests to "shut up" whenever they passionately disagree with him on his primetime show.
Similarly, the universal popularity of reality TV is a clear sign that broadcast programming must not even have a purpose to be enjoyed by millions. For my part, I admit that I like hearing a fiery political debate as much as I enjoy hearing Rush Limbaugh articulate his drug-induced, hallucinogenic beliefs on his conservative talk radio program. I, and millions of other Americans now have Air America to turn to for a different political perspective.
However, Chuck D and Al Franken are entertainers rather than serious, clear-thinking professionals. Thus, Air America will not change the reality that bombastic charlatans still dominate the AM airwaves.
Above all, the progressive community in America wishes to unseat President Bush and thereby restore civil liberties and nearly everyone of America's foreign relationships. As correct and honorable as these intentions are, I believe the best way to achieve them is not through more immature-and-ineffective sensationalistic talk-radio programs. That is what the conservatives do.
Mark Walsh, the network chief of Air America agrees, telling CNN "We're not in regime change radio."
I hope not, because the progressive community should concentrate its efforts and limited resources in more concrete and pragmatic endeavors in their fight to gain more political credibility-such as instituting voter awareness programs in under-represented minority communities. This election year is indeed no time for any group wishing to successfully effect political change to marginalize itself with frivolity. I have no doubt that Air America will be a financial and media success by gaining a large listener base and high ratings. Yet, the question here is if progressives really want to be represented in the AM airwaves by actors and former Saturday Night Live script writers at such a critical time. I know I don't.
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