July 08, 2004

Invisible Airwaves Crackle with Dreck...

I've had a bit of time to listen to FrankenNet lately, now that they've moved to new digs at AM1530 and AM740.

My mission this last few days was to listen to enough of it to be able to have an opinion.

Listen, folks - I've taken a few for the team before. But after this, you can't say I'm not dedicated to my readers. Oy, what bilge.

The Fraters took a swipe at them earlier today, noting their big advertising constituency:

Unions, hemp t-shirts, lawyers, sex, gambling, I think they've got all their core constituencies already covered. No wonder they've had such a hard time expanding their ad revenues.
Indeed - look at their website - their listed sponsors are unions and tribal casinos.

Most interestingly - as someone noted in a comment to an earlier post on the subject - they're pimping for contributions.

You greedy right-wingers: You've had a monopoly on lying right-wing hate radio on at least 3 stations in the Twin Cities. Now its time to for one lefty station. And no, its not going off the air. Plenty of us are contributing $50 or $100 to keep it on the air ( to contribute) in case it doesn't make it commerically, or just to expand its programming.
Note to readers who might share this belief: Donations will not keep these two stations on the air if the ad market won't support it. If you knew the money that went into advertising at even a small local station, your nose hair would curl. Considering that all their major advertisers are basically soft money groups that are pimping for candidates before an election, I think it's a safe bet that donations aren't going to cut it.

Their CEO is Janet Robert, who two years ago used her boundlessly deep pockets to run an incredibly nasty campaign for Congress against Mark Kennedy; for a woman whose station bills itself as an alternative to conservative nastiness, she ran a campaign that would have fit in on Jerry Springer. It would be a cheap shot for me to call it a metaphor for liberal talk radio as a whole - so I'll let you do it. As it happens, Robert has some background in bad radio. She was the mind pocketbook behind the original 'Higher Ground Radio" - which aired last year and earlier this year on the old WMNN, until it was replaced by Al Franken (for about two months, until the station's sale was final and its change to an all-Catholic format was finalized). The show's host was local comedienne Colleen Kruse - but she wasn't the first choice - and the show had other problems as well:

Jeff Gerbino, a comedian who hosted “High Ground” on Minneapolis’ WMNN for the first two days of the show’s existence said the former Democratic candidate who created the show was forcing him to make it a “shameless plug for the DFL,” according to the Star Tribune newspaper.
But wait! It was really centrist!
, Janet Robert, a wealthy attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House last year, warned not to judge the show by the first two days. She told the paper the program was designed to be centrist and independent, and that “Jeff was the one that was trying to push us too far to the left...Gerbino, however, claims Robert was scheduling only Democrats on the show. Indeed, on the show’s second day, Nov. 25, one hour’s guests included: Sen. Mark Dayton, U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, Attorney General Mike Hatch, a professor discussing the Democratic presidential field, state Rep. Tom Rukavina and author Al Franken – all Democrats, the paper reported. Gerbino described the hour as a “donkey telethon” and said Robert criticized him for not “gushing” enough over Dayton and Oberstar.
Well, I think that's pretty dang centrist.

Liberal talk radio could succeed. In fact, it does - it's called NPR, and it does quite well, and could conceivably survive even if they didn't get government funding.

And there was a time when most talk radio was liberal, if not overtly so. National "middle of the road" hosts like Larry King and Michael Jackson were obviously, if not blatantly, left of center - and for every overt, "out" conservative like a Joe Pyne or Morton Downey Jr., there was a Tom Leykis or Geoff Charles.

Today, though, Air America is marketed entirely in the context of being the anti-Limbaugh. Read their website - they are fairly articulate (or try to be) about what they're not. But what are they, beyond the vaguest possible idea?

I listened to the Fast Eddie Schultz yesterday for a few minutes. In between unintentially ironic statements like "we liberals just have more fun than they do!" (delivered between rants about this or that incipient, conservative-based disaster - and I thought "if conservative talk radio unilaterally went silent for a week, and George Bush stayed in the White House and didn't say a public word, these people would have nothing to talk about. No real agenda. No material. Nothing". It's radio that seems, at the moment, to be entirely based on responding to conservative initiatives, from the now-seemingly-quaint (they're still in a knot about the Starr investigation) to the life-or-death (they're trying to exhume the sixties in re Iraq).

If the really great conservative hosts - the Limbaughs and the Lewises - have a great advantage, it's that they drive the discussion. Lesser talents - Franken, Rhodes, Schultz - and non-talents like Maron, Winstead and Wendy Wild basically pick up and natter over the crumbs they leave behind.

And it's that nattering that makes so much liberal talk radio so unlistenable - even if you leave ideology and politics completely out of the story, it's just badly done. If Al Franken and Wendy Wild were conservatives, they'd be just as bad.

And neither of them would have a radio job anywhere.

Posted by Mitch at July 8, 2004 09:38 AM | TrackBack

The "Janet Roberts" link points back to this page.

Is this the same Janet Robert who ran a nasty campaign against (IIRC) Mark Kennedy? Her ads made me want to move into whatever district she was running in just so I could vote for the other guy.

Posted by: Kris at July 8, 2004 10:00 AM

I haven't heard any AA and haven't tried to.
But, I saw Marc Maron on Conan O'Brien last night (7/7) talking about Cheney as the AntiChrist and Prince of Darkness.

I guess that's why he's such a popular host.

Posted by: steep at July 8, 2004 11:42 AM

Yes, that's the same Janet Robert. And she went on KSTP and pretended to be conservative. We I live in Stillwater) successfully beat her back last time, and Kennedy is still in Congress. But this time the DFL is throwing Patty Wetterling at him, so we'll see if she succombs to the DFL penchant for nastiness.

Posted by: Silver at July 8, 2004 01:26 PM