Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Air America Returns to Chicago...sort of

After months of speculation and rumor, it was finally officially announced yesterday that Air America would be returning to Chicago airwaves after over a year absence. As expected, the network will be broadcast on WAIT-AM 850, which will be changing its call letters to WCPT to reflect the station's new identity as "Chicago's Progressive Talk." However, in reality, the station should actually call itself "Crystal Lake's Progressive Talk." So here's the catch...yes, Air America will be back on local airwaves, but it will be on a rather weak signal originating from far northwest suburban Crystal Lake. This wouldn't be much of a problem if the station was a full-power 50,000 watt behemoth like WLS or WGN...but with a paltry 2,500 watts, AM 850 barely reaches into the heart of the city. It is audible on the North Side, but it sounds all distant and scratchy like you're trying to listen to the BBC on an old short-wave radio. Trying to listen downtown or on the South Side? Forget it. Now here's the real kicker...the damn station doesn't even operate 24 hours/day! It's a "daytime-only" station that is licensed to operate only during daylight hours. When the sun goes down, the station shuts off. I'll save you the technical explanation of why this station does this, but basically what this means is that you won't be able to hear any of Air America's night-time offerings like Janeane Garofalo, and in the winter the station will be on the air for barely 10 hours a day. Don't get too attached to their afternoon show, because when December hits the show is going to get chopped off at 4:30! Yes, yes...I can always listen to Air America on-line at their website. But not everyone has access to the Internet, some offices (like mine) don't let employees listen to streaming audio at work and you still can't take it in the car with you. (unless you have the cash to spend on satellite radio) It's great that someone in the area added Air America to their line-up, but for anyone outside of the north burbs, it's really more like a tease. Chicago is what makes Illinois a "blue" state, but for some reason red-state heroes like Rush, Hannity and Savage still dominate the local talk airwaves. It doesn't make any sense to me, but then again, nothing that goes on at commercial radio ever does. WCPT officially debuts tomorrow morning (5/5) at 8am on AM 850...good luck trying to pick it up


Anonymous unclebucky said...

A bit of a delayed action as the reality of WCPT-AM Air America sinks in. Well, it is finally back on the Radio. Great.

But the coverage, the wattage, and the daytime only is kind of a bummer. So, now what? Alternate between the Web feed and broadcast? ;-)

5/13/2005 10:56:00 AM  
Anonymous L.A. Emenari, III said...

Everything you've written is true. I caught it just yesterday while rummaging around on my 'shortwave' radio. Not that its on shortwave. It came in pretty good in the morning hours and scratchy in the evening. And I live on the south side. far south about 111th and King Drive in the Pullman area
When Air America first appeared here I listened day and night. I thought it was great. And while I do have access to the internet i don't sit around with the station on all day.
Yes, so now it is a tease!

5/27/2005 04:04:00 AM  

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