Can Liberal Talk Radio Last?

With the holiday success of books by liberal pundits like
Michael Moore and Al Franken, it should come as no surprise that
radio is trying to get in on some Bush-bashing. Rush Limbaugh and
other conservative cohorts, like Bill O’Reilly, have long
monopolized the AM airwaves, but as articles from the Washington
Post, New Republic Online, and Common Dreams.org reveal, the tides
may be turning and a long overdue national liberal radio network
should be on its way.

Progress Media is one of the groups that have been formed with
the purpose of developing a national 24-hour liberal talk radio
outlet. The network, newly named Air America, plans to begin
broadcasting sometime in March or April at WNTD (950 AM) in
Chicago, and has already signed on popular comedian and author Al
Franken to host a talk show, reports Washington Post writer,
Jennifer Frey. Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will
also be part of the line-up.

Currently, conservative talk averages at 310 hours of airtime a
week, compared to a mere 5 hours for liberal talk, according to a
report cited in an article from The New Republic Online. Reasons
for the success of conservative radio in the past are varied, but
all seem to point to something that could be called the Rush
Limbaugh effect, whereby it’s not the politics that necessarily
draw people’s attention, but the sheer volume and arrogance of the
assertions. ‘If that’s true,’ says Jason Zengerle of TNR, ‘it means
that conservatives have succeeded not because of their politics,
but because they have a functioning model for how to present their
views in an entertaining fashion.’ Commentators believe liberal
radio could easily imitate the type of comic, angry,
anti-establishment tone that seems to sell the conservative
programs.

The timing for the emergence of liberal talk radio certainly
couldn’t be any more ripe. ‘Considering the state of politics, I
believe that the times might be more fertile in the years ahead for
liberals to be able to do what the conservatives have done, and
that is to develop a core audience for liberal talk radio,’ Michael
Harrison, publisher of the magazine Talkers, was quoted in the
Washington Post as saying.
Erica Wetter

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