AirAmerica Not Aired

AirAmerica, thanks, perhaps, to Matt Drudge, is already involved in its first flap. Taken off the air in Chicago and LA yesterday Drudge said it was because they bounced a check to Multicultural Broadcasting, which owns the stations.

The CHICAGO TRIBUNE is developing a story, insiders tell DRUDGE, on how the network was pulled off the air this morning in Chicago and Los Angeles, the network’s second- and third-largest markets, because, the owner of both stations said, the network bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million! A charge the network strongly denies.A Chicago source familiar with the situation said a Multicultural representative showed up at WNTD’s offices Wednesday morning, kicked out Air America’s lone staffer overseeing the network’s feed to the station from New York, switched over to a Spanish-language feed, and changed the locks on the doors…

AirAmerica General Counsel David Goodfriend said on the Randi Rhodes Show yesterday that Arthur Liu, Chairman of Multicultural, had “stolen” money from AirAmerica and that AAR, which had in fact written the checks, stopped payment on them until the dispute could be settled. Liu’s response was to shut down the two stations.

According to the suit filed in NY (available at The Smoking Gun), the dispute involved irregularities in the account connected with the Santa Monica station, and that “[r]ather than attempt to resolve the matter by arbitration as required by [their] agreement”, MRA had taken “this drastic action”, forcing AAR off the air in two of its six markets.

Goodfriend said that Liu had sold the same broadcast time both to AAR and to another company, and was attempting to “piggyback” the signal. This was a violation of both MRA’s agreement with AAR–and the law. If these allegations are true, AAR had every right, even an obligation, to with-hold payment until the matter was settled. Liu’s over-reaction and Drudge’s rush to judgment were both ill-advised–SOP for Drudge–and now the rumors are flying that AAR is broke.

I don’t think this was a set-up but the right-wing has jumped all over this in an attempt to exploit the opportunity it gives them to hype their “liberal radio can’t succeed” meme. That alone tells me they’re afraid of its potential. Robert Denton Jr, conservative Prof of Communications at Virginia Tech, explains the right-wing view.

“But if you take NPR, some would argue also ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, the liberal voice is already dominant. The thirst is already being quenched. So, if you’re not unique and you don’t fill a niche, then it does say there may not be at this point a large enough market for a more slanted kind of perspective.”

I don’t think I have to explain why the idea that ABC, NBC, CBS(!), and CNN are “liberal” is laughable and that NPR is debatable at the least, and I’m not going to bother pointing out how “slanted” most of these networks are to the right, or that the right has consistently defined anything to the left of Genghis Khan as “loony, liberal, lalaland”. The meme is nonsense, but perception is everything.

Don’t pay any attention to them. This is a business dispute badly handled by Mr Liu, nothing more. AAR will get its TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) and the argument will get resolved in arbitration as it should have been in the first place. But in the meantime, Liu’s fit of pique (a lock-out, for chrissake!) after getting caught trying to pull a fast one is unconscionable and indefensible. And it may hurt AAR very badly.

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