The tale of the bounced check


Eric Boehlert
April 16, 2004 5:12PM (UTC)

So much for bounced checks.

One day after a broadcaster accused the new liberal talk radio network Air America of failing to make payment and forcing him to pull Al Franken and company off his stations in Chicago and Los Angeles, a New York judge ordered Air America back on the air. But only in Chicago. Air America listeners in L.A. remain in the lurch as the company contemplates legal action there as well, or finding a new broadcast partner for that major market.

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Multicultural Radio Broadcasting chief Arthur Liu, who leased airtime to Air America in both Los Angeles and Chicago, kicked the network off the air Tuesday morning, reportedly locking the studio doors and piping in Spanish language programming. He claimed the new network had bounced a check to pay for its February, March and April leased airtime, and owed him $1 million. The accusations set off deep chortles, and a banner Drudge headline, among skeptics who doubt there's a mass market for liberal talk radio. But yesterday, New York state Supreme Court Judge Marylin Diamond found that Air America had fully paid for airtime in Chicago and ordered Multicultural to begin broadcasting Air America's programming again.

As for L.A., Air America's battle with Liu continues. Air America CEO Evan Cohen told reporters the company would either seek legal aide there, or simply find a new home on the dial. According to today's Chicago Tribune , "Air America executives said they were withholding payments for the Los Angeles station because Liu had been 'double-dipping,' or reselling airtime that the network had already bought and paid for, prior to the network's launch a little more than two weeks ago."

The hubbub over the "bounced check," has distracted from the fact of Air America's continued expansion. Since signing on the air just two weeks ago, the network has added new affiliates in San Francisco, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Chapel Hill, N.C., Portland, ME., Colorado Springs, CO., Key West, Fla., and Burlington, VT.


Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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