Laugh-Wing Radio to Launch

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"We're going to put it to Bush. Bush is going down in November. We are putting it to right wing media." With that, satirist Al Franken and the backers of Air America Radio proclaimed the March 31 launch of their planned "progressive" antidote to conservative talk radio.

The radio network, former working title Central Air, will launch with a definitely left-of-central lean in the top four markets, L.A., New York, Chicago and San Francisco, as well as on satellite and streamed over the Internet. The network will consist of satire, parody, comedy bits, commentary and some news.

Network executives said today they have raised tens of millions of dollars and are in negotiations to buy stations in Boston and Philadelphia to help grow the network.

As much as throwing down the gauntlet to its conservatie counterparts, Evan Cohen, chairman of Air America parent Progress Media, said their business plan "allows us to operate in the red for years, not months. But we do have the company turning profitable in a horizon that is appealing to current shareholders." Those shareholders are all individuals and include Cohen, RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser and former media executive Norman Wain.

Look for Air America Radio to strike a deal for satellite radio carriage on either Sirius or XM, and for satellite audio carriage on either EchoStar or DirecTV, according to Air America executives. Salon.com will provide a story of the day to the net, which will do news at the top of the hour. Theonion.com or moveon.org could participate as well.

Going up against Rush Limbaugh at noon-3 will be Franken's The O'Franken Factor. Franken said Wednesday he "will be baiting [Fox's] Bill O'Reilly as often as possible." Other shows include an 8-11 p.m. stint from comedian/activist Janeane Garofalo, and program offerings from hip-hopper Chuck D, humorist Sam Seder and environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

It will be less call-in intensive than its conservative counterparts, but there will be listener participation for sure, said Franken.

"I've been going to the red states and the blue states and people are not happy with this administration," said Franken. "The right wing has captured talk radio," he said, "and we are going after them and going after them hard."

Sticking with the red and blue theme, Air America executives say they believe it is the first time a radio network has launched with stations in all top four markets since back in the days of the NBC red and blue networks of the 1930's.

At launch, the stations are WLIB(AM) New York, WNTD(AM) Chicago, and KBLA(AM) Los Angeles, plus a station in San Franciso to be named later. That represents about 20% of the country. The network is leasing time in Chicago and L.A. In New York, it is partnering with parent Inner City Broadcasting.

The network will program from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., repurposing the Franken and Garofalo shows overnight, "plus some surprises."

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