UAW to pull the plug on liberal talk-radio network

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by John Smyntek, Detroit Free Press

I. E. America Radio,the United Auto Workers-owned national radio network that was a multimillion-dollar attempt to offer liberal talk in a broadcast world dominated by conservatives, is going out of business early next year.

The Free Press learned Tuesday that the Detroit-based network notified show hosts, other personnel and affiliates that operations would cease Feb. 27 -- or sooner. Up to 20 full- and part-time workers will lose jobs.

Several experts who were familiar with operations but asked for anonymity because they had business relations with I. E. said the operation's operating losses were believed to be at least $75,000 a month. New, better-funded efforts to launch liberal talk radio are on the horizon, further imperiling its existence.

Suzanne Gougherty, the network general manager, declined to discuss any facet of the closing; UAW public relations did not return a phone call. The network is in a state-of-the-art studio in Detroit near the Michigan State Fairgrounds.

According to various broadcast industry reference sources, the network maxed out at perhaps 100 affiliates nationwide but they were mostly AM stations with low ratings. It can be heard in Detroit via the Internet (www.ieamericaradio.com ) or via Sirius Satellite Radio Inc.

Broadcast fare, distributed via satellite, included weekday current event talk shows, weekend entertainment and how-to programs. The closing ends a UAW effort that began in 1996, when United Broadcasting Network (UBN) -- later renamed: I.E. stands for Information, Entertainment -- was bought in part by the union for a $5-million investment. Its partners included media entrepreneurs led by economist, author and minor-party U.S. vice-presidential candidate Pat Choate. The alliance dissolved in a bitter breach-of-contract lawsuit in 1997 that drained union coffers but ended with the network in the union's full control.

The UAW president at the time, the late Stephen P. Yokich, advocated the project as a way to push the union's liberal agenda in a world where conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly ruled. But it is believed current UAW President Ron Gettelfinger put ending the operation high on his priority list because of its operating losses.

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