'They Fold[ed],' Explained Fox's Once-Popular Entertainer, Despite Evidence Suggesting His Radio Show Loses in Ratings to the Still-Operating Radio Network in Several Markets...
By Brad Friedman on 6/11/2008, 7:09pm PT  

During a segment on his radio show this morning, Bill O'Reilly reported from the alternate universe he lives in that the non-conservative radio network, Air America Radio, had "folded." (The audio clip is at the end of this article.)

The news, undoubtedly, came as a bit of a surprise to Thom Hartmann, whose successful live weekday radio program is syndicated by Air America Radio and runs in the same time slot as O'Reilly in many markets.

Contrary to O'Reilly's misinformation, The Thom Hartman Program likely even outpaces the Fox entertainer in listenership, as he told us this afternoon.

In response to our query, Hartmann told The BRAD BLOG that, while he didn't currently have access to O'Reilly's ratings for comparison, in a number of markets his show regularly beats Rush Limbaugh, who also broadcasts during the same hours. Limbaugh, in turn, regularly beats O'Reilly in listener numbers, Hartmann explained via email.

"I beat Limbaugh in Portland in the last [ratings] book," wrote Hartmann, who broadcasts out of Portland's KPOJ, "and in Seattle in the Fall '06 book...Limbaugh almost always beats O'Reilly, and I've beaten Limbaugh in multiple markets (2) over multiple years (3)."

Yesterday, as we reported, O'Reilly featured a segment on his Fox "News" television show declaring that Progressive activists calling for reform of the corporate stranglehold on mainstream media and the public airwaves were "fascists," "loons," "unstable people" and a "threat to the country." One of his guests, rightwing Republicanist Mary Katherine Hamm, charged that proponents of media reform, and those who oppose her and O'Reilly's minority fringe viewpoints, are "a group of people living in an alternative universe."

This morning, while arguing on The Radio Factor that it's a "bad strategy" for the GOP to attack Barack Obama's wife Michelle because it would "turn off independent voters" as needed by John McCain to win the Presidency, O'Reilly responded to a caller who disagreed with him by pointing to Air America as "the best example I can give you." He then proceeded to use wholly inaccurate information, describing Air America in the past tense, as if it no longer existed, in his "best example"...

"There comes a point when you make people you disagree with objects of sympathy. See what I'm talking about? It's overkill. And that's what would happen here," O'Reilly declared, in explaining why attacking Michelle Obama would be a bad idea for Republicans.

"Look. The reason that Air America --- this is the best example I can give you --- remember Air America?" O'Reilly asked the caller before proceeding. "A vile radio network...Stuart Smalley, Al Franken...So they get on, they have all this money behind them, all this press. The press loves 'em. Twenty articles in the New York Times on how great they are, okay? They fold! Nobody listens because they were so hateful. Overkill. Alright? Even the loony left couldn't listen to this stuff. It was just too much."

"So, I'm saying that this is a loser," he continued to explain, "This Michelle Obama tactic is a loser."

While Air America Radio filed for bankruptcy protection some years ago, after facing financial hardship in light of one of their original funders having promised a great deal more start-up money than he ultimately delivered, AAR hasn't folded. The fledgling network has faced a difficult time, due to various questionable programming decisions by management, and a difficult time placing its shows into the few conservative-based corporate media outlets that control most stations in almost every market in the country. They are, however, still very much in business and broadcasting around the clock, despite O'Reilly's inaccurate reporting to the contrary.

Here in Los Angeles, the nation's largest media market, for example, O'Reilly's show is broadcast live at the same time as Hartmann's Air America-syndicated program, and as the latter noted, he most likely beats O'Reilly in listenership in a number of markets in which they directly compete.

It wouldn't be the first time that O'Reilly was heard losing touch with either facts or reality on one of his broadcasts. His erroneous reporting has become legion as painstakingly documented --- with transcripts, audio, and video --- by the watchdog group Media Matters for America. The Fox "no spin" anchor regularly spins the organization by describing them, like Air America, as "vile."

After years of documenting O'Reilly's inaccuracies and rightwing spin, the Fox anchor recently described the organization as an "awful, despicable...outfit" and as "fascists," as he similarly described those who attended the National Media Reform Conference last weekend in Minneapolis on his television show on Monday.

"[T]alk about anti-Americanism," O'Reilly fumed during a segment in March. "I mean, these Media Matters ... these are fascists. They're dishonest people." Unlike Media Matters, however, O'Reilly offered no evidence for his charges against them.

But it's not just the "loony left," as he describes them, who seem to be growing weary of the once-most-powerful name in cable "news." This week, it was reported that, for the first time, MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann edged out The O'Reilly Factor in the coveted 25 to 54 year-old demographic.

"For the first time ever, MSNBC's 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' was the #1 show at 8 p.m., out-drawing Fox News's 'O'Reilly Factor' head-to-head among Adults 25-54. This is the first time since June 2001 that MSNBC has out-rated 'The O'Reilly Factor' at 8 p.m.," MSNBC crowed in a press release, which also pointed out that they bested Fox for the same crucial viewership during primetime programming averages last week.

The complete audio of O'Reilly's exchange with the caller on this morning's Radio Factor, inaccurately reporting that Air America was no longer broadcasting, follows below (just under 3 minutes)...