The left-wing radio network Air America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday. The network will remain on the air while its finances are reorganized.

Prospects for recovery appear bleak, however. As AP reports, "Court documents show the company lost $9.1 million in 2004, $19.6 million in 2005 and $13.1 million so far in 2006."

The network’s continuing financial problems probably stem from several causes, among them mismanagement and hubris, but the biggest contributor is most likely the sheer superfluity of the project. Given the amount of TV and print news and opinion that reflects precisely the same ideas as are presented on Air America, it should be little wonder that the network never developed a strong following. In addition, as Tom Van Dyke notes at the Reform Club, the network’s overseers did not have sufficient faith in their hosts or their audience to allow any actual debate to arise. Van Dyke writes,

I think it failed because they wouldn’t let any non-leftists on, not guests, not callers. It was a Johnny One-Note thing, and even liberals had to get sick of AA’s 24/7 cant.

That is a very good point indeed, and to elaborate on it a bit, I think that Air America’s biggest failure has been that its refusal to allow any real debate removed all drama and suspense from the shows. On the Rush Limbaugh program, he and his callers can surprise you. On Air America, that can’t happen.

The problem with Air America, then, is not so much that it is liberal talk radio—it is that it is bad talk radio.