Profit Envy: Bankrupt Air America Draws False Parallel to Fox News
Air America is grasping for straws in some mighty odd places. A mass email from Air America host Thom Hartmann today touts the parallels between the plight of the bankrupt left-wing radio network and, of all things, Fox News Channel [FNC] and the Washington Times.
- "There are times when doing the profitable thing is also doing the right thing. That's certainly what Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch thought when they lost an average of $90 million a year for about five years before the Fox News Channel became profitable."
- "It's what Reverend Moon believes, as his Washington Times newspaper lost hundreds of millions of dollars and, according to some reports, even today continues to lose money. Each of these endeavors hit nail-biting times."
- "There was, however, a happy ending (for Murdoch), which helped fund the money-losing Fox News Network: Today, the studio and the Fox owned-and-operated stations are News Corp.'s cash machines."
- "Brit Hume noted, in a 1999 interview with PBS: 'This operation loses money. It doesn't lose nearly as much as it did at first, and it's -- well, it's hit all its projections in terms of, you know, turning a profit, but it's - it will lose money now, and we expect for a couple more years. I think it's losing about $80 million to $90 million a year.'"
- "This is not, of course, to celebrate losing money. It's just a demonstration of the old truism that sometimes 'it takes money to make money.'"
I can't speak to the Washington Times, but Hartmann ignores a crucial difference between FNC and Air America. The genius of Roger Ailes was to realize that there was a huge, untapped market for 'fair & balanced' news among tens of millions of Americans tired of being fed the same liberal line by the MSM. FNC was not a political movement - it was a for-profit business operation responding to gigantic, previously-unmet, market demand.
In contrast, though Hartmann might speak of spending money to make money, there is no indication that Air America ever had a serious business plan. Its goal wasn't making money, but, as Hartmann himself says, having "a significant effect in awakening people across the United States to positive liberal alternatives." It was a political movement, not a business. Its founders weren't green-eye shaded investors, they were dreamy-eyed liberal donors. And they eventually got tired of forking ever-more millions into Air America's bottomless maw.
Air America is failing is because, in contrast with FNC which met untapped demand, Air America entered a media market that, as NewsBusters documents day in and day out, was already overflowing with liberal outlets. Who needs Randi Rhodes and Al Franken when you already have NPR, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NY Times, Boston Globe, Washington Post, LA Times, Newsweek, Time, etc.?