Air America radio files for bankruptcy, allegedly due to advertiser blackout

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Monday, November 6, 2006

Air America Radio filed for bankruptcy on October 13th, with close to $20 million in liabilities. A recent memo from ABC has suggested that Air America's financial problems are partially the result of the loss of revenue from 90 corporate advertisers who requested their ads not be run on stations who carry Air America.

It is common for U.S. advertisers to avoid the time slots of controversial shows, such as Rush Limbaugh. However, the practice of blacking out the entire affiliated station is relatively unusual, raising the question of whether the move was politically motivated to favor right wing syndicated news programming over the liberal leanings of Air America reports.

In a news report published by The Huffington Post, author Josh Silver claims that the difference is not political per se, as several of the companies that withdrew advertising support were companies that made major contributions to the Democratic parties. Instead, he suggests the difference is that Air America journalism occasionally focuses on corporate malfeasance.

Other political programming, such as Rush Limbaugh or the Daily Show, rarely cover corporate behavior.

The bankruptcy filing by Air America underscores the dilemma faced by news media outlets that depend on advertising revenues from business and government to survive. The exact reasons for the blackballing of Air America are unclear, but if unflattering editorial programming can be held hostage to protect the interests of a news organization's sponsors, chances for a vibrant press are reduced.

Air America Radio was known best for its flagship program, Al Franken show. Franken himself is owed $360,750 by Air America.