Franken Launches Liberals’ Air America Radio
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Liberals added their voice to talk radio on Wednesday as comedian Al Franken launched the Air America Radio Network with "The O’Franken Factor" show, offering a sharp contrast to conservative hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who dominate the U.S. airwaves.
Franken brought the network to life with his opening: "Broadcasting from a bunker 3,500 feet below the bunker that (Vice President) Dick Cheney (news – web sites) is in, this is Air America Radio."
That was the opening salvo, according to network chief executive Mark Walsh. He added he got "chills up my spine" listening to the start up of the network that can be initially heard in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Bernadino, California, Portland, Oregon, XM Satellite Radio and over the Internet at <a href="http://www.airamericaradio.com">www.airamericaradio.com</a>.
Franken’s three-hour program featured interviews with former Sen. Bob Kerry of Nebraska on the Sept. 11 commission and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (news), a satirical piece on airport security in London and call-ins from listeners, including former Vice President Al Gore (news – web sites).
Walsh said the goal was to provide a liberal voice that has been missing on the airwaves and to present it in such as way as "to make you laugh. You will giggle when you listen although we will be tackling serious subjects."
He said the aim of the network was not simply to derail the reelection bid of President Bush (news – web sites).
"We’re not regime change radio," Walsh said. "We do want to make a buck. We expect to go profitable in year three."
The "O’Franken Factor" title sends up conservative broadcasting rival Bill O’Reilly’s program on Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor.
Walsh said other stations would be added soon, with San Francisco joining on April 15.
"We clearly have a political tilt," Walsh said. "It’s obvious we are in direct philosophical conflict with virtually every other talk show host today.
Air America is armed with $30 million in investor cash and a $30 million credit line is being used to lease AM stations.
"I think what you’ll see in a short time, is that we will close deals with traditional consumer goods companies," said Walsh. "Liberals buy beer, they drive trucks, they take vacations, they have arthritis. We’re also consumers."