Accuracy in Media

Liberals are so used to spending your money that when they are faced with spending their own they have problems. Air America, supposedly the liberal’s answer to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Reagan et al, was bumped off the air in Chicago and L.A. because, according to Multicultural radio owner Arthur Liu, they bounced a million dollar check after just two weeks. You see Al Franken and company were, in essence, renting airtime from Arthur Liu’s stations. When they didn’t pay (or I should say when they passed Liu a bad check), he yanked them off the air.

Rush Limbaugh is on more than 600 radio stations, many of them the most powerful in the nation.  He doesn’t pay to get on. Essentially radio stations pay him for airing the show. They take his program because they are convinced that he is going to draw such a big audience that they will be able to sell commercials within the show at a premium price. You see, for each of the three hours of Rush’s show there are x number of commercials that are available for sale. Rush handles some of these “avails.”  This is whence his big bucks have come. Rush makes money if your commercial airs across his national program. If you want Rush to voice and endorse your product – that is a big time extra! Also inside that hour there are a certain number of local “avails.”  Those are the commercials sold by the local station. The larger that station’s audience, the more they can charge for each local commercial. Limbaugh put together his own network. His people do the national sales and he makes the rules regarding the number “avails”  that will be available for sale.

Sean Hannity, on the other hand, though syndicated by ABC Radio Networks, operates on much the same formula. ABC has put together the network where Sean covers politics on the #2 most popular radio talk show in America,  “Three hours everyday, that’s all we ask.”

If Air America is paying Multicultural Radio to get their programming on in two of the biggest markets in the nation, they will quickly have to attract a mighty big audience to get the money from their advertisers to cover that major market bill – and they will have to keep paying until the audience is so large that Mr. Liu will accept a deal similar to what Rush offers. You take the program and in return you have the right sell so much advertising within the program. Rush can do that because from the beginning he could demonstrate a large audience. National sponsors were illusive until he took Snapple from a tiny company to a major producer of tea and soft drinks almost overnight. Rush had so many fans loyal to him that when he said “try this”  they did. No questions asked.

I find it hard to imagine Al Franken ever getting that sort of loyal following. It is hard to imagine that he will ever be able to demonstrate to national advertisers that he can move people to buy products.

I think columnist Jonah Goldberg has it absolutely right. Writing for the website, Goldberg says of Franken,  “He’s schizophrenic; unwilling to decide whether he’s a comedian or political commentator. This is different from being a funny commentator or a political comedian. Franken wants to be both, which often makes him fail at both because he’s too serious to be one and not funny enough to the other.”

My own experience with Franken demonstrates the point Goldberg was making. Franken and I were both on the first TV version of “Politically Incorrect”.  Bill Mahrer was the moderator. Without any provocation from me, Franken went on the attack,  “You conservatives are big on war. You always want a military solution,”  he roared. Then he turned to me and looking directly at me shouted,  “Where were you during the Viet Nam War?”

“Taking care of my children,”  was my truthful reply. The audience cheered. It stunned Franken. Mahrer said it was time to move on. But as soon as we went to a break, Franken lit into Mahrer,  “Why did you let him attack me?”  Franken asked – referring to me.  Mahrer said,  “He didn’t attack you. You attacked him.”

Franken replied,  “Well, you made me look bad by letting his statement stand.” 

Mahrer shot back,  “How you look is not my responsibility.”

I don’t know what he expected me to do when he made the charge that I always wanted war but wouldn’t serve. Was I supposed to break down and cry or beg his forgiveness? He got a truthful reply which he couldn’t take. If you have any confidence in your own views you don’t attack the moderator.

I have since seen Franken on various late night TV shows. He usually is attacking George Bush. I have tried to see the humor in what he says.  I can usually find something funny even when it hurts. 

There are jokes about my political friends which truly make me laugh because there is a grain of exaggerated truth about them. That takes skill. Jay Leno and David Letterman have that skill. Thanks to TIVO I can catch their monologues without having to watch the trash.

Franken is not funny because he attacks with anger and viciousness. That won’t get you many listeners. Limbaugh laughs at the liberals. He has a good time even when they score a point against him. It is little wonder that a large percentage of his enormous audience are liberals. He is fun to listen to regardless.

Until Air America can produce someone with that kind of talent (and until they stop writing bad checks), it is going to be a long, long, long time before liberal talk radio develops any real following.

As Goldberg reminds us,  “Conservative talk radio is the alternative media. It became popular because conservatives lost the battle for the political culture, not because they won it.”

Guest columns do not necessarily reflect the views of Accuracy in Media or its staff.

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