Liberal radio network Air America to go silent

Network that sought to challenge domination of Rush Limbaugh declares bankruptcy and will go off air

First Massachusetts, now Air America. A leading US liberal radio network, launched six years ago with the comedian Al Franken among its presenters to challenge the dominance of Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives, has declared bankruptcy and will go off air on Monday.

Air America made a name for itself with Franken, who pulled in a sizeable part of its audience on 100 radio stations across the country until he left to win a seat in the Senate. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, hosted a fundraiser to get the station on air.

At times Air America was embroiled in controversy, such as when one of its hosts, Mike Malloy, was sacked in 2006 for referring to then president George Bush and his father as the "Bush crime family" and calling rightwingers "rat bastards". Malloy was also critical of Israel. His dismissal drew criticism from some liberals.

Another presenter, Randi Rhodes, who at one time had the station's highest ratings, was forced out after off-air comments calling Hillary Clinton "a big fucking whore" two years ago.

She made similar remarks about Geraldine Ferraro, the former Democratic party vice presidential candidate. Rhodes later said the fuss over her comments was a pretext to get rid of her because of a contract dispute.

Air America's most popular programme, the Lionel Show, pulled in 1.75 million listeners a week but that was a fraction of those listening to Limbaugh.

It survived bankruptcy in 2006, and was sold for $4.25m a year later to a New York property magnate and his brother.

Fewer than 100 commercial radio stations in the US broadcast liberal talk shows. Limbaugh is carried on about 600.


Chris McGreal in Washington

The GuardianTramp

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