Mock Funeral Procession Mourns Air America

Leaders Say They Will Fight For Liberal Talk Radio

Posted: 7:36 pm CST December 20, 2006Updated: 9:42 pm CST December 20, 2006

Some Air America supporters held a fake funeral procession Wednesday, saying that a Madison radio station pulling the plug on the liberal Air America Radio programming is the "Death of the free speech."

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A small group of supporters of the Mic 92.1 FM put signs that read "The death of free speech" on their backpacks, car dashboards, bumpers and windows for the procession.

The fake funeral procession was also marked with black crepe paper, supporters said to indicate a somber occasion as a local station prepares to shut down liberal talk radio in the area.

One driver in the mock processional, Judy Skog, of Madison, said she is devastated by the news that her favorite station is losing the programming she loves.

"I can't stand right-wing talk radio. Other than public radio, this is the only radio I listen to," Skog said.

"I'm just real sorry to see this station go off the air, or essentially go off the air, change its format," said Jeff Lange, of Madison, who attended the mock procession.

With their car radios tuned to 92.1 FM, about 30 people in 15 cars drove with their lights flashing to the source of their disappointment -- the local version of radio giant Clear Channel Radio.

Supporters rolled into the front office parking lot on Wednesday, car after car, carrying one message: Don't dump The Mic's Air America Radio network, hosted by liberals like Al Franken.

They were greeted by Clear Channel FM Operations Manager Mike Ferris. The group presented him with a petition with over 4,500 signatures asking Clear Channel to keep Madison's only liberal talk radio station and not replace it with an all-sports format from Fox Radio.

Clear Channel managers have said in the past that the decision was based on audience research and a lack of advertisers.

"We are hearing your voices, and your voice has been heard. We appreciate you coming out and supporting this," Ferris said as he accepted the petition.

Ferris was cordial but refused further comment. The doors to the offices were locked and a police officer was visible inside, WISC-TV reported.

Protest leaders said they believe Clear Channel is committed to sticking with its format change but remain hopeful.

That's because AM station WTDY has agreed to take over the Mic's locally produced shows, and organizers said they are working with some investors and a Milwaukee group to possibly buy a radio station.

Lead organizer Valerie Walasek said the efforts to keep liberal talk on local airwaves have only just begun.

"We're going to keep working until we have a permanent community voice on progressive radio in Madison," Walasek said.

The Mic plans to change to sports Jan. 1. Meantime, key Air America Radio investor and local businessman Terry Kelly is working with a new group to try to get the network out of financial crisis.

"I continue to work diligently with the new proposed partner and am optimistic we'll have an announcement shortly after the New Year," Kelly said.

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