Air America considers asking for donations


Shades of NPR?: The WSJ reports Air America Radio is considering “putting out the begging bowl.” The for-profit liberal-talk radio network, whose financial problems included a 2006 bankruptcy filing, may soon launch a membership program, with top donors getting access to Air America talent and tickets to special events.

“The phenomenon is part of a much broader blurring of the line between the private and public sectors, as banks, car makers and other corporations accept federal bailout money and the associated government oversight. Meanwhile National Public Radio stations have been stepping up recruitment of ad-sales professionals to drum up corporate sponsorships,” said the story.

NPR isn’t pleased about the new competition. “There’s plenty of opportunity for confusion,” spokeswoman Dana Rehm told the paper, who fears the “audience may not discern the differences between public and for-profit operations.”

Air America says it is weighing a fee-based membership program, even though it is on the path to profitability. Charlie Kireker, a Vermont venture capitalist, now heads the company’s board, former Clear Channel execs are running the business, and fresh programming like a show from Montel Williams is filling out its roster. “Air America has a very passionate audience,” says CEO Bennett Zier. “They want to get more involved.” Zier says the company would never represent itself as a nonprofit.

RBR/TVBR observation: Hey, can you blame them? Non-profit, membership-based or not, there are plenty of companies out there that when faced with desperate revenue circumstances, will portray themselves as a non-profit entity as a last-ditch effort and pitch their advertisers with a “write-off” option. Air America, and any other syndicator/broadcaster out there today, should be commended for trying “anything that works!”