The Anti-Clear Channel Factor

That's Saul Levine, the owner of "K-Mozart" in LA who has resisted (apparently easily) the fat cat money of large radio consolidators. He refuses to sell his station because he loves classical music and wants to keep it on the air. Now Levine has a deal to operate KKJZ (88.1) for licensee Cal State Long Beach and "nervous nellies" think he's going to water down the classic jazz format with smooth jazz. He says not. And what more do you need from an anti-consolidation hero but his word. The likes of these owners who really, really love radio is rarer than an uncooked steak at a Texas barbecue. Jee Lee, owner of WBEB-FM, Philadelphia is another example of a rich man who could have easily been over $100 million richer if he decided to take "conglomerate retirement" and sell his baby. He didn't, and won't and isn't going to ever unless he drops dead on the job (which I hope he doesn't). So much about radio these days is embarrassing. Etched in my mind is when I first hit the airwaves as a young announcer (for Jerry Lee, by the way). He and Dave Kurtz, the now deceased co-owner of the station, loved radio like I don't see the suits of Wall Street love it. And that's why radio was exciting. Why it was hip. Why it was a growth business and why those high compliments are hard to say about most of today's radio owners. At a memorable dinner at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia before I moved west and gave up cheese steaks and soft pretzels, Jerry Lee told me something I will never forget. He said, I look for ways to spend money on my station. On research. And he does. And he wins. Heroes of radio are hard to find. The villain is not the iPod. Not the Internet. Not Gen Y. It's radio owners who sold their soul to Wall Street and now are getting ready for the screwing of their life.