Al Franken of Air America

Lovers of liberal talk radio in Chicago and Los Angeles are wondering what happened today now that Air America, the liberal talk-radio network, has been yanked off the air in two of the nation’s top markets.

“Air America Radio is temporarily unable to be heard on WNTD in Chicago and KBLA in Los Angeles,” said Evan Cohen, chairman of Air America Radio, “but Chicago and Los Angeles listeners can still hear our broadcast on the web at and on XM Satellite Radio.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Arthur Liu, owner of Multicultural Radio Broadcasting, which owns the affiliates in question, said Air America bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million.

“They bounced a check today,” Liu told the paper. “It’s a default. They have paid only a very small portion of what they owe us.”

“They’ve been saying, ‘We’re going to get you the money’ for the past two months,” he added.

A Chicago source familiar with the situation told the Tribune “a Multicultural representative showed up at WNTD’s offices this morning, kicked out Air America’s lone staffer overseeing the network’s feed to the station from New York, switched over to a Spanish-language feed, and changed the locks on the doors.”

Cohen called reports of financial trouble “a lie,” and says Air America is already seeking legal recourse to get back on the air in Chicago and Los Angeles.

“MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting’s conduct in this matter has been disgraceful,” he said. “To shut off a broadcast that listeners rely on without warning and in the middle of discussions is the height of irresponsibility and a slap in the face of the media industry. In addition, it is a clear violation of their contractual obligations, and we are seeking legal remedies against them in court.”

Air America features liberal personalities including comic and author Al Franken and actress Janeane Garofalo, and was floated as an alternative to conservative radio talent such as Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Sean Hannity.

Besides Los Angeles and Chicago, it has stations airing its programming in New York City, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., Riverside, Calif., West Palm Beach, Fla., Key West, Fla., and Plattsburgh/Burlington on the New York-Vermont border.

Rush Limbaugh

“[The situation] very accurately illustrates what the Kerry misery index and the Democrats’ complaints about the economy really mean,” said Limbaugh as he read news of the removal during his own nationally syndicated program. “It appears there is a problem with debt and that there is a problem with cash flow in certain sectors of the American economy … this new lib radio net being the stellar example of same. We’ll keep a sharp eye on this story.”

Not all liberals think the Air America programming has been doing the left-wing ideology a service.

“Air America seems like a brilliant idea. Why then, does it suck so badly?” asks Dylan Tanner in a column published in the Vanguard at Portland State University. “Garofalo’s show is painfully unfunny.”

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.