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TheBuzz

Erika Engle

Friday, June 11, 2004


Liberal talk radio takes
flight over Hawaii
airwaves


LIBERAL talk radio network Air America Radio and its front man Al Franken debuted yesterday afternoon on KUMU-AM 1500 in Honolulu, KAOI-AM 1110 on Maui and KQNG-AM 570 on Kauai.

KUMU will air two Air America shows on weekdays, running Franken's "The O'Franken Factor" in the morning from 6 to 9 a.m. and repeating it from 5 to 8 p.m., to be followed by Randi Rhodes' show from 8 to 11 p.m.

KUMU will also air other syndicated programs currently carried by sister stations KAOI and KQNG. Those stations will air Franken's show from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The trio of stations won't carry all of Air America's programming, in part because they have contracts with other syndicators. "We have so many other shows in place it's going to take me awhile to unwind contractually," said John Detz, president and chief executive officer of Maui-based Visionary Related Entertainment LLC, which owns the stations.

Other show hosts include Dr. Joy Brown, Tom Martino, Jim Cramer, Larry King and Mitch Albom.

Other Air America shows are streamed around the world via airamericaradio.com, the only way markets without radio affiliates have received the programming.

The KUMU-AM studio needed some rewiring to receive the Air America programming, so the station began simulcasting the programming of sister station KUMU-FM 94.7. Detz and General Manager Jeff Coelho spent two days on the wiring work, a job typically reserved for broadcast engineers.

"No AM staff member was injured in making the format change," chuckled Detz. "In fact we have increased the hours of some staff members and increased their pay to make the programming work."

For at least a couple months, the Air America Radio Web site listed KAOI-AM on its "Coming Soon" list of radio affiliates. From its initial listing and up until recently, Station Manager Greg Everett told TheBuzz no decision had been made about it becoming an affiliate. KAOI, which is listed as a Honolulu station even though it is based in Kihei, later moved to the list of existing affiliates though the network's shows had yet to begin airing.

Numerous inquiries to Air America over several weeks have gone unanswered.

The network has lost about a half-dozen founding executives since its launch, either because they jumped or were pushed.

Employees have gone without pay, including Franken, though the Los Angeles Times reported this week that Franken announced that he had finally received a paycheck.

The network is still looking for a new affiliate in Chicago, the nation's No. 3 radio market, following a monetary dispute with its previous affiliate.

Detz was hesitant to finalize the deal because of the network's much-publicized difficulties, but says, "they've got some stability now and we're gonna go for it," said Detz.




See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: eengle@starbulletin.com


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