Monday, April 05, 2004

Been enjoying the new liberal talk radio network so far? Me neither. Of course, in my case, the lack of enjoyment stems primarily from the lack of it being carried in my area. As we reported last week, the project is carried already in about six U.S. markets, which only leaves out 200-something of the rest of the media markets in the nation.

However, a number of media critics have now heard the fledgeling network, and they appear to be enjoying it even less than those of us who haven't. Here's a good summary of the opening week reviews from Ben Williams in the liberal online magazine Slate:
"Rush Limbaugh can sleep soundly. For now," said the Minneapolis Star-Tribune after this liberal talk radio network's debut. Critics agreed that Al Franken, who leads the programming, needs to sharpen up: Howard Kurtz called him "meandering and discursive," the Boston Globe said "he is not a good interviewer," and the New York Times thought his mix of "mockery and mild indignation" proved the difficulty of matching "the fervor and ferocity of right-wing radio." Right-wing radio hosts were happy to agree: Jay Severin claimed "audience demographics" would be "the death knell" for liberal talk, and in the Los Angeles Times, Richard A. Viguerie and David Franke questioned Franken's commitment (he has a one-year contract), reminding that the conservative talk empire "was the result of decades of hard work." Franken did win praise for high-powered guests—but the New Republic noted that it "doesn't bode well" when a show's "most entertaining segment is one featuring Al Gore."
Incidentally, in case you hadn't heard, Franken's show on the network is called "The O'Franken Factor." Get it?

As it turns out, I am familiar with the network's afternoon drive host. The talent-free Randi Rhodes has been a talk show host up in the 39th-ranked West Palm Beach market for a number of years now. About two years ago, her company (Clear Channel) tried to expand the program a few miles further south to the 15th-ranked Ft. Lauderdale/Miami market. It was a dismal flop. It was hysterically bad.

But in all fairness, I'm sure it wasn't Randi's fault. It can be daunting for liberal ideas to gain a hearing here in the conservative bastion that is South Florida, home of Peter Deutsch, Alcee Hastings, Bob Wexler, Janet Reno, Donna Shalala, and Madonna.

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