Chapter 7: Air America demise leaves WVAX in lurch
Air America, launched by the likes of former funnyman Al Franken, was supposed to be a progressive counterpoint to conservative talkmeisters like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Instead, the radio network abruptly pulled the plug January 21, leaving a lot of dead air including a big weekend hole at Charlottesville station 1450 WVAX.
"Our weekday line-up–- Monday through Friday 6am to 1am–- is not going to be affected at all," says WVAX boss Jim Principi, "with the exception of 9pm to 10pm, Hollywood Clout."
Principi, the general manager of the Charlottesville Radio Group, which also includes WINA, 106.1 The Corner, Z95.1, and 3WV, says the hole can be plugged with an additional hour of progressive talker Ed Schultz.
"What's primarily affected is our weekend line-up," concedes Principi. Charlottesville listeners are losing The Lionel Show, Montel Across America, and the program from a conservative president's none-too-conservative son, the Ron Reagan Show.
"We're looking at options," says Principi. "We've got a slew of things that we have at our disposal. We need to check clearance and technical capability." By Monday, he says, he'll have a better idea.
Air America launched in 2004 with Franken, now the U.S. senator from Minnesota, to carry liberal voices across the land. In a statement on its website, the company says it will pursue Chapter 7 bankruptcy and blames the economy, crushing debt, and "audience fragmentation as a result of new media technologies."
Yet those factors haven't slowed Limbaugh, Beck, or locally, conservative host Rob Schilling.
Could the election of Barack Obama have been a factor in Air America's demise? "In the talk radio game," says the New York Daily News' David Hinckley, "it's bad when your guy wins."