An Appreciation of Radio People

I never liked media consolidation and I said so over and over again when I published Inside Radio. I remember doing an Inside Radio convention in Scottsdale one year and the usually fun-loving and social event had a pall over it. After all, consolidators were at the time forcing managers, programmers and sales managers to take on more jobs, more responsibility, more stations without a lot more money. I paid the price personally by taking on the evil of consolidation but it all worked out for me in the end. I see everything coming full circle now as the biggest consolidator of all, Clear Channel, is on the eve of selling off its empire for a lot less than the aggregate was worth during the good years. Yet the people who run these consolidated stations are my heroes. They love this business. I know it for sure because they stayed. They could have gotten out, but most didn't. They watched a handful of arrogant consolidators cut, slice, bully and neglect their future. They had families. Kids, college, but they stayed. If they owned stock and held it during this time, they likely took it on the chin financially. My dear friend, the legitimate legend, John Rook, whom I admire very much, was pillaged and tortured by the industry he helped build and although worse off financially today, he is still kicking. Still caring for his brothers and sisters who love this medium. And maybe that's why it makes me so mad when I see what is happening now in the end -- we are a brotherhood, a sisterhood -- we love this business and stand together. My long time friend John Parikhal who is more accurate than a heat seeking missile when he predicts the future, called the shots all along and never missed a beat. John predicted the ending share price of a major consolidator and I printed it in Inside Radio. It wasn't good news for them. Then John paid the price by losing this consolidator's business. John isn't selling assets. He is the asset. It's the consolidators who are starting to sell. They are leaving radio like the U.S. left Vietnam. In this case, the last helicopter -- so to speak -- is coming to rescue the fat cats from the embassy roof. Only now there are billions of dollars waiting to reward them for -- well, let's say it -- incompetence. If driving down the share price and leaving the industry worse off than they found it are indicators, consolidation failed. I am always proud of the people who cared enough about radio to stay with it in spite of all the odds against them. If some of Clear Channel's stations (the one's the Mays family doesn't keep) don't all wind up in the hands of other large consolidators, the smaller regional groups could lead a radio renaissance. Consolidators: you blew it. Radio people: job well done under awful conditions.