Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Tale of Two Radio Networks

Brian Maloney, the Radio Equalizer does incredible investigative reporting on the financial shenanigans of Air America. In response, to his latest report that George Soros and Peter B. Lewis have decided to throw good money after bad, and bailout the left-wing radio network, the network released a statement riddled with inaccuracies which Maloney thoroughly fisks here. One glaring misstatement is the claim Voice of America syndicates Air America. You can see V.O.A.’s schedule, don’t see Al Franken anywhere, do you?

It was nice to see there is still jazz programming on the weekends. During the Cold War, the most popular V.O.A. show was Willis Conover’s Music USA, which featured jazz of all styles, and American popular song (Irving Berlin, the Gershwins). At the height of V.O.A.’s reach, it was estimated Conover had between 10 and 20 million listeners. Reportedly, his show was so popular, a bustling black market trade for tapes of his show developed. Conover worked in the cramped V.O.A. office in Washington D.C., and though he mc’ed concerts, like the Newport Jazz Festivals which were simulcast on V.O.A., he was nearly completely unknown in America. Due to Congressional mandate, V.O.A. programming may not be broadcast domestically.

In a 1959 trip Poland, the normally reserved Conover was received like a rock star and conquering hero, and was nearly moved to tears by the experience. When Conover did travel abroad with government sponsored jazz tours, he was always amazed by similar outpourings of emotion directed towards him specifically and jazz in general.

Conover’s success was in large measure due to his willingness to let the music speak for itself. Jazz is part and parcel the music of freedom. It’s no coincidence the Communists, National Socialists, and Apartheid-era South Africa all prohibited jazz at one time or another. Although V.O.A. is nowhere near the operation it was during it's Cold War heyday, it is still a far cry from Air America, where host Randi Rhodes harangues include jokes about assassinating the President. Perhaps if Air America emulated V.O.A. and produced an entertaining show, they wouldn’t need a Soros financed bailout.