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Franken vows to bash Bush as host on new talk-radio network

After months of media buzz, the so-called liberal talk-radio network -- officially known as Air America Radio -- announced yesterday it will launch on March 31 in four cities with comedy-oriented programming headlined by comedians Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo.

In a telephone press conference yesterday, the network's principals made it clear they are taking aim at conservative dominance of the airwaves and looking to play a role in campaign 2004.

"We'll bring a new series of fresh voices to America's ear . . . in plenty of time to be a rational place for those looking for information about the election," said CEO Mark Walsh.

Franken, who will host a show called "The O'Franken Factor" -- the name is an attempt to bait his nemesis, Fox News Channel host Bill O'Reilly, who hosts "The O'Reilly Factor" -- was less subtle. "We're going to put it to Bush," he vowed. "We're not ceding this territory anymore. The right wing has captured radio, and we're going to go after them hard."

The network will debut on stations in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Executives indicated that they are pursuing stations in other markets. "We are in negotiations to purchase a radio station in Boston," said Air America chairman Evan Cohen.

The daily lineup announced yesterday will feature a 6-9 a.m. show hosted by comedian Marc Maron; a 9 a.m.-noon program cohosted by former "Daily Show" cocreator Lizz Winstead and hip-hop star Chuck D; Franken's show from noon to 3 p.m.; a 3-7 p.m. program with Florida talk-host Randi Rhodes; an hourlong evening show on media, politics, and pop culture featuring Marty Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School; and Garofalo hosting a show called "The Majority Report" from 8 to 11 p.m.

Aside from acquiring air time on more radio stations, Air America plans to make its programming available through the Internet and via satellite services to the home and car, Walsh said. But he also stated that, at least initially, "our business plan does call for some losses."

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