Air America has just announced that they're declaring bankruptcy and will cease operations.
Air America Radio ( AAR) announced today that it was ceasing operations and declaring bankruptcy. The station's chairman, Charlie Kierker, said that AAR was ending live programing this afternoon, Thursday, January 21st. He said that the station wasn't able to secure the financing it needed. "In this climate, our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week, but ultimately fell short of success," Kirker wrote.
Kierker tried hard to keep the station afloat. Recently, AAR launched a highly visual web site, somewhat along Huffington Post lines, to buttress the radio operation. But for a long time progressive media experts had been scratching their heads about the AAR strategy. The Network had begun with great promise and excitement, and had many high points to be sure, but never had the ability to sustain itself, while being distracted by nagging crises, the loss of channel space (even in NYC) and constant funding woes.
AAR claimed it was progressive, but seemed to be pursuing an altogether different course in terms of who they put on the air, including strange bedfellows like Montel Williams and Lionel. There was speculation that the station was aiming for a younger male demographic -- seemingly desperately seeking an audience for "talk radio "-- that didn't have much to do with progressive politics, or probably didn't even exist. Furthermore, there was almost always a sense of the network grasping at straws as large large amounts of money seemed to have been invested in a steady stream of costly hires, frequently on the business side, but for on air talent as well, a number of whom seemed to last for only short periods before moving on.
AAR will be most remembered for being the spawning ground of Rachel Maddow, who was catapulted into TV stardom, on MSNBC, from her radio perch at AAR. Air America was also the home, for a time, of writer and comedian AL Franken, who went on to be elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in a squeaker, after being tied up in court for six months.
Kierker's full memo follows:
From: Charlie Kireker
Date: January 21, 2010 4:36:59 PM EST
Subject: Air America Operations
It is with the greatest regret, on behalf of our Board, that we must announce that Air America Media is ceasing its live programming operations as of this afternoon, and that the Company will file soon under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code to carry out an orderly winding-down of the business.
The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America's business. This past year has seen a "perfect storm" in the media industry generally.
National and local advertising revenues have fallen drastically, causing many media companies nationwide to fold or seek bankruptcy protection. From large to small,recent bankruptcies like Citadel Broadcasting and closures like that of the industry's long-time trade publication Radio and Records have signaled that these are very difficult and rapidly changing times.
Those companies that remain are facing audience fragmentation as a result of new media technologies, are often saddled with crushing debt, and have generally found it difficult to obtain operating or investment capital from traditional sources of funding. In this climate, our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week, but ultimately fell short of success.
With radio industry ad revenues down for 10 consecutive quarters, and reportedly off 21% in 2009, signs of improvement have consisted of hoping things will be less bad.
And though Internet/new media revenues are projected to grow, our expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies.
When Air America Radio launched in April, 2004 with already-known personalities like Al Franken and then-unknown future stars like Rachel Maddow, it was the only full-time progressive voice in the mainstream broadcast media world. At a critical time in our nation’s history -- when dissent on issues such as the Iraq war were often denounced as “un-American”— Air America and its talented team helped millions of Americans remember the importance of compelling discussion about the most pivotal events and decisions of our generation.
Through some 100 radio outlets nationwide, Air America helped build a new sense of purpose and determination among American progressives. With this revival, the progressive movement made major gains in the 2006 mid-term elections and, more recently, in the election of President Barack Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress.
Laws have changed for the better thanks to this revival.....but all the same our company cannot escape the laws of economics. So we intend a rapid, orderly closure over the next few days. All current employees will be paid through today, January 21. A severance package will be offered tomorrow to full-time current employees with more than six months of tenure.
We will strive to assist affiliates and partners in achieving a smooth transition. Starting at 6 pm EST today, we will provide our affiliates, listeners and users a selection of encore programming until 9 pm EST on Monday, January 25, at which time Air America programming will end.
We are proud that Air America’s mission lives on through the words and actions of so many former radio hosts who are active today in progressive causes and media nationwide. In the years ahead, as we look back, we should all be proud of our passionate determination to assure that our nation’s progressive voice would be heard loud and clear. Through the hard work and dedication of current staff, and those who preceded you, a lasting legacy was forged which will now continue through other voices and venues.
Tagged as: air america, bankruptcy
Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.
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