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And, on April 1, Air America will start carrying Jerry Springer’s syndicated talk-radio program. Yes, thatJerry Springer.
“As soon as I found out it was available to us, I jumped at the chance to get it,” Goldberg tells the L.A.Weekly.“I’m sure there will be some people who say that we shouldn’t run his radio show, because they don’t like his TV show. But the two shows are totally different, and I feel that Springer can reach an audience that we otherwise could not easily reach. He is a genuine celebrity in Middle America — including the so-called ‘red states’ — and has a gift for speaking in the cultural language of a wide piece of America. He is, in other words, a practitioner of exactly the kind of mass communications that I have long wished for in progressive politics. And his politics are truly progressive, on every conceivable issue. Of course, on a business level,” adds Goldberg, “it significantly strengthens us in our relations with affiliates and advertisers.”
But inside Air America, morale has been weakened by what is perceived to be a diversity problem on air and off. Even if the radio network’s management doesn’t practice what it preaches (Goldberg promises more airtime for people of color and women beyond what is currently scheduled), the fact that its programming is preaching at all is a godsend to progressives and their blood pressure. There’s something so soothing about switching from dittohead-targeted rants about “feminazis” and “godless atheists” and “the homosexual agenda” to hearing smart people make fun of all that. For the fair-minded who think National Public Radio has gone too far down the slippery slope and fallen on the side of right-wing bias, the antidote is Air America’s MorningSedition.
And, for cable-TV-news watchers who’ve forgotten what a Democratic politician looks like, many of the network’s shows deliberately broadcast long and thoughtful excerpts (not just short soundbites that made her seem shrewish) from California Senator Barbara Boxer’s poking and prodding of Condoleezza Rice at the recent confirmation hearings. (Says Goldberg: “As someone who’s supported Boxer and her campaigns, I’ve yearned for her to play this role. I was just so moved by the way she handled herself and really stepped into a national role at a time when we really needed her.”)
But perhaps Air America’s finest moment to date came during last week’s legal wrangling over Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. That’s because the radio network repeatedly played for listeners that audiotape of closed-door addresses by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to the culturally conservative Family Research Council on March 17 and 18. Released by the nonsectarian and nonpartisan group Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the tape shows both politicians shamelessly exploiting the Schiavo tragedy to politically suck up to the religious right.
All of this speaks very personally to Goldberg and his own progressive views.
“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime chance to run a business that’s really affecting the conversation of the country. So, for me, it’s like a no-brainer. It’s definitely something that, if they didn’t pay me for it, I would probably do it for free. But as a matter of fact, they arepaying me for it. I actually think it’s a fantastic business, and those of us who are shareholders, and I’m among them now, are going to make a lot of money.
“You can do well by doing good.”
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