Air America dies, will cease broadcasting tonight

Air America, which hit the airwaves in 2004 as an answer to conservative talk radio, died today. It was six.

Air America cited declining interest due to new media and a reported revenue drop of 21% in 2009 as factors in the decision to kill the company in a statement posted on their website. The statement indicated there will be “rapid, orderly closure over the next few days” and that employees will be paid through today. A severance package is being offered to full-time employees with tenure longer than six months at the company.

In better times, the Air America was a springboard for hosts like Rachel Maddow, who the site refers to as “then unknown.” Al Franken also hosted a popular midday show on Air America before running for Senate, possibly contributing to his popularity in the state of Minnesota.

Below is a portion of the statement posted on Air America’s now nearly blank website:

It is with the greatest regret, on behalf of our Board, that we must announce that Air America Media is ceasing its live programming operations as of this afternoon, and that the Company will file soon under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code to carry out an orderly winding-down of the business.

The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America’s business. This past year has seen a “perfect storm” in the media industry generally. National and local advertising revenues have fallen drastically, causing many media companies nationwide to fold or seek bankruptcy protection. From large to small, recent bankruptcies like Citadel Broadcasting and closures like that of the industry’s long-time trade publication Radio and Records have signaled that these are very difficult and rapidly changing times.

Those companies that remain are facing audience fragmentation as a result of new media technologies, are often saddled with crushing debt, and have generally found it difficult to obtain operating or investment capital from traditional sources of funding. In this climate, our painstaking search for new investors has come close several times right up into this week, but ultimately fell short of success.

With radio industry ad revenues down for 10 consecutive quarters, and reportedly off 21% in 2009, signs of improvement have consisted of hoping things will be less bad. And though Internet/new media revenues are projected to grow, our expanding online efforts face the same monetization and profitability challenges in the short term confronting the Web operations of most media companies

When Air America Radio launched in April, 2004 with already-known personalities like Al Franken and then-unknown future stars like Rachel Maddow, it was the only full-time progressive voice in the mainstream broadcast media world. At a critical time in our nation’s history — when dissent on issues such as the Iraq war were often denounced as “un-American” — Air America and its talented team helped millions of Americans remember the importance of compelling discussion about the most pivotal events and decisions of our generation.

Through some 100 radio outlets nationwide, Air America helped build a new sense of purpose and determination among American progressives. With this revival, the progressive movement made major gains in the 2006 mid-term elections and, more recently, in the election of President Barack Obama and a strongly Democratic Congress.