Friday, January 22, 2010

Air America Ceases Programming, Announces Bankruptcy

Air America Media, the progressive radio network that launched in 2004, shut down live programming on Thurs., Jan. 21, and announced that the company would soon file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Reruns of Air America shows will air until broadcasting ends completely on Mon., Jan. 25.

The company cited the "difficult economic environment" as the reason for its failure, calling the past year a "perfect storm" in the media industry due to falling advertising revenues. Radio-industry ad revenues have declined for 10 consecutive quarters. Other casualties of the economic storm include Citadel Broadcasting and the long-time trade publication Radio and Records, which recently filed for bankruptcy as well.

Air America said, "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." Although Air America saw some hope for increasing revenues through Internet growth, its "expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies."

Well-known Air America hosts included Al Franken and Rachel Maddow. The network began as a liberal alternative to conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, but it struggled financially throughout its history. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2006 and was sold in 2007 to New York real-estate investor Stephen Green and his brother, politician Mark Green.

Air America described itself as instrumental in building, through its approximately 100 radio outlets nationwide, "a new sense of purpose and determination among American progressives" and in inspiring a revival that it said led to the Democratic gains in the 2006 mid-term elections and to the 2008 election of President Barack Obama.