Air America Dies; Is MSNBC Next?
Two media stories have emerged in recent days which have received inversely intense media coverage to their real significance.
The first story is the collapse of Jay Leno’s prime-time career, his return to NBC’s Tonight Show and the cashiering of Conan O’Brien from that show.
This story has received much media focus because it concerns popular culture. The bigger issue, however, is the crisis at NBC itself which is competing poorly in prime-time and late-night television ratings in a world of diverse media choices.
The other less-heralded media story was the closing of the doors on January 21 of Air America, the left-wing radio network established in 2004. After several years of declining ad revenue, AA decided to call it quits citing the bad economic environment. It had 100 affiliate stations nationwide.
The more significant issue here, however, is that Air America was founded on a false premise, the same premise that may come back to haunt NBC itself in the person of its far-left cable offspring MSNBC. In other words, MSNBC could be headed for the same extinction as Air America because the audience for the product of both is shrinking while MSNBC’s parent itself is in such poor financial shape.
Meanwhile “conservative” Fox News continues to thrive and grow.
Air America was established on the thesis that it too could flourish in the environment established by conservative AM talk radio and the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Air America backers assumed that not only could it thrive, but that some of Limbaugh’s 22 million listeners might be up for grabs. What Air America failed to realize was that Limbaugh’s gradual rise to prominence – his show now is affiliated with more than 600 stations nationwide – was fueled by audiences seeking relief from leftist media bias in the first place, and that the void that Air America planned to fill on the radio already was saturated in many other fields of the media.
It was the enduring slant of NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, most of the major print media and most of academia and the entertainment industry that enabled Limbaugh to flourish. Told early on that his 3-hour political show in the middle of the day never would work, Limbaugh went on the air nationally on August 1, 1988, enabled by the suspension of the Fairness Doctrine, a law intended to curb the speech of certain parties deemed overly-controversial in the marketplace of ideas.
Limbaugh’s steady growth and dedicated audiences spawned an entire industry that has been built from the grass roots up. And like Rush or not, he has been a brilliant agent for conservative ideas and is often thanked by his listeners for acting as a lifeline in the sea of media bias.
Air America‘s AM radio plan could not have been more wrong, and today, progressive liberal bias in every part of the media is collapsing. The hallowed New York Times itself is in dire straits. Newsweek magazine has been reduced to a skinny propaganda pamphlet for far-left thought. The Boston Globe is on the brink. And nutty-left MSNBC is being trounced in the ratings by Fox News as prime-time MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann descends into madness. He recently launched a diatribe against newly-minted Republican US senator Scott Brown from Massachusetts, calling him “an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees.”
“I’m sorry,” Olbermann later said. “I left out the word ‘sexist.’”
This type of language really does not draw viewers except fringe lunatic Air America-type audiences that already think like Olbermann. And both Olbermann and his audience are contracting into a fetal ball together.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who just last year said that he had gotten “a thrill up my leg” listening to Obama, called the election of Brown “premeditated murder” of Obama’s health plan and then was called “crazy” by one of his own guests, Vermont governor Howard Dean, in reaction to an indecipherable Matthews rant. MSNBC happy/angry girl Rachel Maddow, one of the founders of Air America, was so tongue-tied at Brown’s victory that she spoke an unpunctuated sentence about the national budget that still is being parsed by CIA English-language specialists.
After Brown’s win, Fox News played in their entirety both the concession speech of Brown’s opponent Martha Coakley, and Brown’s victory speech. Yet CNN and MSNBC played all of Coakley’s speech, and much less than half of Brown’s when in fact Brown was laying out a fiery call for future political action while Coakley was talking about how happy her dog was going to be now that the campaign was over.
To play such a defeatist speech in its entirety is no way to salve a crowd that just has been throttled. But that is the polar way of the left that seems equally fascinated with internalizing big victories like Obama’s but also huge defeats like Coakley’s.
This all indicates the growing cluelessness of the left, once deemed the only savvy media types. But they appeared savvy only when they were a monopoly. What we are seeing today, however, is that in a competitive environment that they are intellectually busted. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama today sound curiously irrelevant.
Meanwhile Limbaugh continues to gain in strength just by being Rush, “one harmless lovable little fuzzball” as he describes himself. When he was admitted to a Hawaii hospital with chest pains in December, the outpouring of love and sympathy came from all over the nation. At the same time, Sean Hannity, speaking rationally and welcoming liberal challenge, has a dedicated following that is as conservative as it is solid. Glenn Beck is shaking up the media world with his 5 o’clock show on Fox. Yet the same doubters who said Limbaugh could never thrive during the day never would have anticipated Beck’s success in that slot. Because they do not see the message, but only the process.
Air America miscalculated big time. It saw the national universe for its ideas expanding at the very time that it was contracting, while increasing numbers of liberals are listening to Limbaugh and watching Fox News. After a dalliance with subliminally threatening Fox, even the White House has backed down. Because they can see the reality, that indeed a nation founded on Constitutional principles is going to find itself thinking more like Scott Brown that like Keith Olbermann.
And that is a very positive development for all of us. And thus we all can breath easier.
Please visit my website at www.nikitas3.com for more. You can print out for free my book, Right Is Right, which explains why only conservatism can maintain our freedom and prosperity.