- The Washington Times - Monday, March 29, 2004

Conservatives, plug your ears: Liberal talk radio is finally here.

Al Franken and a host of garrulous progressives ease onto the airwaves tomorrow morning on America Left, broadcasting live from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays via XM Satellite Radio and three AM radio stations — in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Mr. Franken will debut at noon with “The O’Franken Factor,” a three-hour daily show airing opposite conservative host Rush Limbaugh, who has 20 million listeners. Mr. Franken once wrote a book titled “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot” and has named his show as a parody of “The O’Reilly Factor,” hosted by Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.

Mr. Franken, who has scuffled with conservatives for years, is primed for a fight.

“My first priority is to get sued by a right-wing jerk in order to generate interest in my new show,” Mr. Franken said in a statement earlier this year.

The daylong lineup also includes comedian Janeane Garofalo, an outspoken critic of the Iraq war; environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.; and Alan Colmes, co-host of Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes.”

XM Radio offers the new shows a built-in potential audience of 3 million.

For a $10 monthly charge, the company offers 120 digital music, talk and entertainment channels for home, car or computer. “America Left” — produced by New York-based Air America Radio — joins an XM stable that already includes talk-radio fare from Fox News, CNN and ABC, among others.

“We’re excited to provide a national audience to progressive superstar Al Franken and his spirited cohorts at Air America. Challenging our listeners and giving them the best and broadest choices possible is our daily mission,” Hugo Panero, XM’s District-based president, said yesterday.

But XM is not necessarily a liberal bastion. They already feature 79 talk-radio hosts of every political stripe — including Fox News’ Mr. O’Reilly, ABC’s Sean Hannity and independents Matt Drudge, Michael Savage and Laura Ingraham.

Air America has its own political agenda in store, however.

“There is a great underserved market of Americans who want to hear compelling and funny talk voices expressing viewpoints long absent from the radio airwaves,” said Mark Walsh, president of Progress Media, the parent company of Air America.

He added, “Air America on XM will go a long way to correcting this imbalance at a particularly opportune time.”

That opportune time, of course, is an election year that has become a showcase for political sniping in the news media.

As Hollywood actors-turned-pundits, Mr. Franken and Miss Garofalo have criticized the Bush administration, the war in Iraq and conservative ideology in no uncertain terms.

“I’m interested in doing what I can to affect this election. I’m thinking about what’s the best use of my energies. I hope this is it,” Mr. Franken told the Associated Press in January when he announced his intention to become a radio personality.

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