Why Isn’t Arianna Huffington on Terrestrial Radio?


Clearly satellite radio would be the edgier choice for Arianna Huffington were she ever to decide to add her unique voice to the ranks of the radio game. But what about Arianna on terrestrial radio? There are some negatives, yes. There is little in the way of cool with regards to commercial interruptions. Radio watchers note that terrestrial radio is presently in decline. Further, terrestrial radio, post-Janet Jackson nipple-gate, is just not as fun as it used to be. The language and the hijinx have been mightily restrained. The FCC is now trigger-happy with fines, so much so that the once-scrappy Pacifica Radio went against principle and recently caved on the Howl reading. They simply couldn’t win.

Howard Stern, modern terrestrial radio’s pioneer, in retrospect may have made the best-timed exit ever. In the process, Stern inaugurated satellite radio’s libertarian zone as a space to be listened to and observed for the forseeable future. Terrestrial radio, as the analysts never fail to mention, faces increased competition from wireless devices as well as iPods and internet radio. As a result, terrestrial radio, trying to compete with all manner of digital distractions, has turned towards some of the baser instincts of the prized beer-and-babes-loving male demographic.

”Rebel radio” is a hugely influential trend on terrestrial radio. The ascent of rebel radio New York veterans like the newly-returned WABC’s Bob Grant and Rush Linbaugh (And soon: Don Imus), as well as WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton come on the collapse of Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda’s GreenStone Media project. The angry, red meat-eating tone of this phenomenon rankles. Is there a place for a prominent woman on terrestrial radio (and not just as a co-host)?

So why not bring in Arianna Huffington? Arianna Huffington’s dulcet Grecian tones and relentless rhetorical style — she was the first woman President of the Cambridge Union Society — would be a great asset to terrestrial radio. And, best of all, she is not a bore. While Huffington might seem like a better match for the free-wheeling satellite radio, the populism — and price — of terrestrial radio might be a more organic situation for her Progressive-Populist base. Besides, Huffington knows when to pepper her language — on Bill Maher on HBO, for instance — and when to behave. Huffington is not Howard Stern; her style will thus not be too encumbered by the FCC restraints.

Huffington is a natural talk show host. Huffington on her various Air America appearances is — a venue, by the way, too small to contain her enormous charisma — is engaging. Also, Arianna Huffington, as head of the HuffingtonPost blog, knows just about anyone who is anyone on both coasts. Her Rolodex is killer. Finally: back in the day when she was actually a part of the DC social scene, Huffington’s salon dinners — righties, lefties, intellectuals, celebrities and socialites were invited — were the stuff of legend. Huffington is Imus without the stupidity, the sarcasm and locker room mentality. Imagine if Arianna Huffington could recreate the magic of her DC literary salons in the late 80s to this era. Minus the salty language, of course.