How Can You Tell The Hollander Roast From Real Life?

The outstanding John Bayliss Foundation had themselves an American Idol-type roast last night by choosing CBS Radio head Joel Hollander to be the honored as a roastee. Who would have known that Hollander would be the hot topic in New York, in The New York Post, in the radio industry and everywhere on the evening of March 22, 2007.

See, he's apparently on the way out of his job in a high profile firing/resignation that has become quite public. Hollander is supposedly unhappy with his boss, CBS CEO Les Moonves, a television man. It's hard to tell the spin from the sin here. Who leaked to The Post? Who got fed up with whom? The word is Hollander is out before his contract is up by year's end. Ya think?

While CBS radio station managers, salespeople, programmers, talent and staffers dangle in the wind waiting to see who their next leader will be, the jokes were on Hollander at the black tie event.

I am really happy for the Bayliss people. What a great group doing great things in the form of college scholarships. I am really unhappy for the CBS executives -- not because they have been trying to steer their ships while the harbormaster has emptied the harbor -- but because they all couldn't be at Hollander's roast. Hell, what I really mean is that they couldn't be participating in his roast. Who better to burn the boss than the people who know him best.

I wasn't at the event. I've got my responsibilities now teaching the next generation about the music and media business in Southern Cal, but don't think I didn't think about a red-eye back to the greatest city in the world.

My God, some years the poor Bayliss people got stuck with "stiffs" for roastees and the good and kind radio people who support this foundation showed up to yuk it up anyway. This year, they're getting their money's worth.

How can they tell the roast from the real deal?

Do you do jokes about his performance at CBS -- sub-par at best by many accounts? Do you joke about the strained relationship with Moonves when the axe is being prepared? It would be like kidding Mark Mays about all the jobs he's eliminated since consolidation reared its ugly head in 1996. Would anyone dare to laugh? Is surreal really funny when it is pathetic?

For the rest of us not laughing, we'll have to be content to know the following:
  • Hollander was in charge and made the decisions. If he didn't like Moonves he could have left CBS long ago on his terms and probably would have been hailed as a hero -- a man who stands on principle. Instead, he's going out like the Hollywood stars who get caught doing the nasty and then checking in to rehab. Except in radio there is no rehab. Where do you think an ex-radio executive goes for help? To Clear Channel or another competitor. This is rehab?
  • If you're one who is rooting for Hollander's early demise, be careful what you wish for. The man making the decision is Les Moonves, a television executive. A guy who thought radio was a place where you syndicate David Letterman's Top Ten TV List (it failed, by the way). This is the man who will choose your next boss. Scared yet? My decision -- and I know you're going to play the academia card because I have been teaching for the past few years -- is that Moonves should promote the most competent, most respected CBS executive already in the company. Someone who can get along with people, inspire them -- a proven leader. It won't take long to find that person. He or she is not at corporate and their record is clear for everyone to see. But prepare yourself for a blast from the past -- a former leader or a right field choice. Life's not easy for a CBS employee these days.
  • If you're one who thinks CBS Radio has a future in terrestrial radio I am going to be back to tell you "I told you so" when more and more of my students (Gen Y) reject radio and compromise your future. Therefore, it's time to build a company on content and distribute it everywhere -- on the radio, special content for Internet radio and mobile devices, social networks. Go to school on this challenging generation or you will be the one to fail. And, skip HD radio. They don't like it. It's not an iPod. It's not in their world.
  • It's amazing that the man who gave us "Jack", Hollander, wound up not knowing "Jack" about the audience. WCBS-FM was doing between $16-36 million when he blew it up. WNEW would have been a moneymaker as a rock station. I am not a surgeon so I avoid operating on my friends. Hollander is not a programmer and should have avoided doing surgery on his programming. And who was it who said "an old listener is better than no listener"? So, the next CBS Radio head should admit the companies mistakes. Fix the mistakes. Build platforms for listeners of every age. It's a big Internet out there.
So, only the paying customers got to hear what I'm sure was a hilarious roast of Joel Hollander last night. Can we get a bootleg copy on YouTube? Or will Viacom have YouTube pull it? Okay, I'm kidding.

Although we've had some fun with this at Hollander's expense, the issue is not a laughing matter.

The two biggest consolidators -- Clear Channel and CBS have failed in their mission to build shareholder value and in their ability to grow the radio segment for their investors even with a virtual monopoly in place. Forget the audience, it seems like they have.

All the major radio groups are deficient in planning for the digital future. You can't come up with great ideas until you understand the generation you're missing.

Most post-consolidation radio executives have had to put up with budget cuts, slashed staffing, lower standards, less research, antiquated diary ratings, an empty minor league for future talent, failed policies on commercial loads, needless litigiousness, lack of leadership, lack of vision, a bunker mentality -- and I'm just getting warmed up.

And these needless hindrances in an age of unprecedented media competition is no laughing matter.