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Liberal Radio Network Readies for Launch

BY Admin  January 14, 2004 at 12:48 PM EST

When the New York-based network — designed to challenge the dominant conservative talk radio programs — goes live later this year, Franken’s show is slated to run from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, going head-to-head in many markets with leading right-wing radio commentator Rush Limbaugh. 

Franken, 52, is the author of two best-selling nonfiction books: his most recent, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” and the 1996 book, “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot.”

Franken, who has for months expressed interest in doing a radio talk show, spoke to the NewsHour in October about his vision for his own show, and his hopes to take on conservative radio talk powerhouses, like Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who is syndicated by ABC Radio.

Franken told the Associated Press his contract with Progress Media would last just one year, after which time both sides would assess how things were going.

Franken also said he looked forward to doing the show during a presidential election year: “I’m interested in doing what I can to affect this election.”

The movement toward launching the network comes about two months after an investment group — led by Mark Walsh, a former America Online executive and adviser to the Democratic National Committee — bought the majority interest in the proposed network from Sheldon and Anita Drobny, two major Democratic donors who had formed AnShell Media early last year. Jon Sinton, who had served as chief executive of AnShell Media, discussed the initial concept and goal of the radio network on the NewsHour in October.

Walsh, the CEO of Progress Media, also announced this week that the company had signed environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to co-host a radio show called “Champions of Justice.” Its time slot has not been announced.

Additionally, Martin Kaplan, former chief speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale, will reportedly host a show on the media, according to Minnesota’s Star Tribune. 

Progress Media completed its first distribution deal for 24-hour air time at WNTD (950 AM) in Chicago. More deals are expected to follow over the next two weeks, most likely in the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco markets, Walsh told The Washington Post.

Despite such progress, Walsh acknowledged Tuesday that much work remains to be done on the network before it becomes a viable business. Walsh told the Associated Press that about 65 percent of the network’s programming has been decided, but he declined to provide further information about the network’s planned line-up.

The radio network — whose name has yet to be chosen — plans to go live by March or April, in time to cover the presidential election, Walsh said.

Last month, the company had indicated the radio network would be called Central Air, but this week Walsh said the company was no longer certain it would use that name.