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Atlanta-based former 'Air America' operator now running 'Progressive Voices'



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Atlanta resident Jon Sinton is an unabashed progressive voice who ran Air America in the mid-2000s and is now providing a similar venue in app form called "Progressive Voices."

"Many people look at AM talk radio and we never have had the beachfront property," Sinton said. "We had these crummy little signals. Now we have a more even playing field on the Web. And as the automobile industry creates a truly connected car, Progressive Voices can be easily accessible through that venue."

For a year, he did it more as a hobby.

Then TuneIn in January gave Sinton's operation much great exposure by placing Progressive Voices on its app. You can listen here.

"They gave us the momentum and the promotion we needed," Sinton said. At any given moment, Progressive Voices has about 5,000 listeners at a time and about 140,000 in a given week. "That's a pretty good start," he said.

He and Reed Haggard, who ran sales at 99X, Air America and 90.1/WABE, spent $17,000 to create the app two years ago.  The app features liberal voices, including Atanta talk show host Mike Malloy, Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann.

Sinton created a second non-profit company called the Progressive Voices Institute.Its goal: bring new young people into the progressive movement.  It's supported by grants and individual donors such as the Douglas Foundation, operated by actor Kirk Douglas and his wife.

"We have this dual structure," Sinton said. "We can run commercials or we can run original programming during breaks."

He said Rush Limbaugh last year after his Sandra Fluke comments hurt the entire talk radio business (which is ironic because Limbaugh essentially created talk radio as we know it more than 20 years ago.) "Advertisers are avoiding any controversy," Sinton said. The ripple effect has hurt progressive talk radio as well, he noted.

“We've had a tough go of it this last year,” Atlanta-based Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey said in a press conference in May, which operates many of the largest news/talk radio stations in the country. “The facts are indisputable regarding the impact certain things have had on ad dollars."

Dickey said in the first quarter there were $2.4 million in losses attributed to declines in the “syndicated-talk segment.” With Bloomberg TV at the time, Dickey noted that ad dollars are moving from political talk to sports talk.

Sinton lives in Atlanta despite the fact his ideology would fit better in New York or Los Angeles. "It'd be very easy for me to live in those cities and have these values,' he said. "The fact is, your values aren't tested until they're inconvenient."

The 59-year-old Sinton recalled his dad as a Nebraska Republican, his mom a JFK liberal. The Vietnam War, he said, changed his dad's viewpoints.

But relatively speaking, he said, if his values were placed in the world of 1959, "you'd call me an Eisenhower Republican. That's how far right the Republican party has gone."

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