Now that Air America is under new management and no longer owned by Brooklyn Bridge Real Estate, here are some thoughts on how to do it right this time.
First off, hire RADIO people, not actresses or stand-up comedians. Three hours a day is a lot more time to fill than you think. I substituted for Stephanie Miller a few mornings and it damn near killed me. There are a number of fabulously entertaining broadcasters - folks like Stephanie, Ronn Owens, Phil Hendrie, and Gary Burbank. And our own Elayne Boosler now has enough broadcast experience that she's a future star in the making. But in general, remember: Bakersfield radio is a good training ground, not THE LAUGH FACTORY.
Do not just preach to the choir in the new Air America. It's not a big enough choir. Find talent compelling enough to draw new listeners, even those that don't agree with the cause. That was one of Rush Limbaugh's secrets back in the days before he went nuts. Hell, I still listen to Paul Harvey. The man has as much chance of selling me Bush as he does Amway products but he's still great theater.
Make noise this time around! Demand heads! Ruffle feathers! Challenge guests! Get Hillary pissed.
Back in the late 60's an LA radio station, KRLA had a very innovative feature called "The Credibility Gap". It was a satirical comedy team featuring Harry Shearer, Richard Beebe, Lew Irwin, John Gilliland, Thom Beck, Len Chandler, and Lenny & Squiggy. They did daily fifteen minute bitingly funny newscasts. It would be great if Air America added features like this. Anything unique to separate them from other talk networks.
But none of this will mean a damn thing unless...
YOU GET BETTER STATIONS!!!
You could have the greatest programming in the world but if your signal strength is the range of a Mr. Microphone transmitter no one will hear you. Right wing radio comes blasting out of 50,000 clear channel flame throwers like WLW Cincinnati and KFI Los Angeles. There's a reason these stations get callers from Alberta, Canada and Mars. Contrast that to most Air America affiliates. Usually they're Class 4, eight watt coffee pots at 1590 and 1600 on the dial up around the police calls and airport traffic updates. And then at night it's worse. In New York I think they have to reduce power to protect a carrier current station in a C.W. Post dorm.
I very much want Air America to succeed. It's a voice that needs to be heard. And I hope it's around so long that Al Franken returns after his second term in the senate.
You can read more from Ken at kenlevine.blogspot.com