Ex-Air American

08 Feb 2006

I’m getting fed up with Air America.

When I worked at Visteon I was testing a Sirius radio, and so wound up listening to Air America on Sirius. In fact, I wound up buying a JVC Sirius radio and paying for a quarter-year’s subscription so I could continue listening to Air America shows after leaving Visteon.

However, I never was able to get my Sirius radio to work at home, because of line-of-sight issues, without running an antenna out the window on to the sidewalk. I tried repeatedly to order a car adapter but they are apparently unavailable; the web site I ordered from neither billed me or ever shipped anything, with no notice or order confirmation and no response to e-mail messages. Apparently I was not the only one to have this problem, since many of the Yahoo store reviews said the same thing about the retailer.

Sirius then dropped Air America without notice. This alone was not enough to convince me to abandon Air America, but Air America was replaced by “Talk Left,” and the vitriol that the hosts of various “Talk Left” shows expressed towards the Air America hosts was disgusting. One loved to mock Al Franken specifically because he actually did research and prepared pages of notes for his show. Imagine! Attempting to inform his audience and bring facts to the table! Of course, the actual effect was to throw in to start relief just how poorly prepared and uninformed the “Talk Left” hosts were by comparison. (Note to radio hosts: cutting off nose to spite face not fun for listeners; may backfire!) I wrote AA a polite letter telling them what I thought of summarily cancelling an entire channel. I did not receive a response; not even a form letter.

I specifically configured my Sirius account to not automatically renew after billing me for one quarter. Sirius did not honor this, and billed me for a second quarter. Their phone rep had the gall to claim that there was no such option available while I was staring at the web page with check box on it. So, it was time to say goodbye to Sirius. The Sirius radio becomes a useless chunk of hardware for the baby to play with.

I was delighted to find that Air America shows were available as podcasts. I’ve been listening to them daily, especially the Rachel Maddow show. Listening to the radio shows without advertising makes them much shorter. For example, Majority Report, a three-hour show, clocks in around 1:52:00 as a podcast. I was also a big fan of Morning Sedition, which is now cancelled. I have downloaded all of the available shows as MP3 files and am slowly listening to 2004’s shows, despite the poor audio quality. Actually, they cheer me up; the news was a little better then!

Now the current free podcasts of Majority Report and the Rachel Maddow Show have been discontinued. They want to charge for access. Here’s a hint to AA: if you want to fund the podcasts, include the ads in the podcast! Advertising funds radio. I might consider paying to download a daily podcast, but the operative word here is “might.”

I have not embraced the value proposition in the same way that I’ve embraced it, and now pay to download, legal music files from the iTunes store. I’m not convinced that they will have much in the way of replay value. I don’t necessarily want to “own” them in the same way I own my downloaded music files.

For the most part I just want to listen to them once, time-shifted; most will get deleted. This seems like a good use for a DRM solution, such as a free expiring license or some such, but I’m a technologist, and I know how this kind of thing always blows up in my face, so I won’t tolerate bullshit like that on my computer. So I guess that means I would have to buy them, they had better be pretty damned cheap; the signal-to-noise ratio of the short Rachel Maddow show was quite high, but it has gotten lower as the show has become two hours, and the call-in shows have a signal-to-noise ratio that approaches, or dips below, unity.

Should I consider buying an XM radio to listen to Air America? What happens when XM drops them? What happens when I can only listen in my car because of line-of-sight and reception issues?

Let’s see… nose, face, spite, twice burned, once bitten, three times shy, or something like that. I will (probably) never use Sirius again. AA cancelled my favorite show and now wants me to charge me for podcasts. For lack of any compelling way to continue, I guess I’m now an ex-Air America listener.

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