On Friday, January 28th, Al Franken began his Air America radio program by announcing that the fledgling liberal talk franchise had expanded into Memphis. There were obligatory hat-tips to Elvis and Sun Studio, and the politically motivated comedian even took some time to make fun of Piggly Wiggly. When WJCE-AM 680 became WTTQ, Entercom Memphis -- which includes 104.5 WRVR and 94.1 The Buzz -- brought left-leaning programs into a market dominated by such notable conservative talkers as Rush, Michael Savage, and Memphis' own Mike Fleming.
We asked Mike Ginsberg, the station's general manager, how he expected Air America to play in the Mid-South.
Flyer: Air America is new and still struggling to find a niche. Is this a risk for Entercom?
Ginsberg: It's a calculated risk, but anything new is. FedEx was a calculated risk. Post-It notes were a calculated risk. But we don't see a product like [Air America] as a risk so much as we see it as a good business decision. We've looked deep into the marketplace to make sure we are serving the community, to make sure we are serving the advertisers, and to make sure we're serving the listeners. This format does that in a way that's never been done here before.
What makes you so confident that Air America can deliver?
Sixty-seven percent of Shelby County voted Democratic in the last election. But Tennessee is definitely a Republican state. So we looked at that and decided that there was probably a bigger demand for this product in this market than there is for a conservative talk program.
And there will be a backlash from conservative talkers who are already entrenched. That will boost ratings.
You can never predict what another person or organization will do. But before we were even on the air we got what I guess you would have to call conservative hate mail. We expect controversy. But we believe Memphis has a need to hear a variety of opinions.
Do you plan on offering local programming from a progressive perspective?
Definitely. As fast as we can move with fiscal responsibility.
Do you expect to see conservative advertisers pulling advertising from your other stations?
I expect that the Memphis business community is sharp and astute. I'm convinced that they will do what is good for their business. n