RADIO: CBS Putting On A Clinic

Not long ago I was critical of how CBS was running its radio group -- or should I say running it into the ground.

Today, I think CBS is beginning to set an example for other consolidators and independent owners on how to get their terrestrial radio house in order.

The big difference for CBS was Les Moonves' hiring of former CBS Radio President Dan Mason.

Mason, a good man and solid radio programmer in just a few short weeks has rolled up his sleeves and not only shown Moonves that he is going to restore CBS Radio to its former glory but pioneer the digital future as well.

How so?

The day Mason arrived for his second stint at CBS, the Don Imus controversy was raging out of control. I suspect Imus' fate was decided by higher-ups, but I have no doubt Mason would not have allowed his star WFAN, New York morning jock to get this far off course -- if he and not Joel Hollander had been in charge of the group.

Mason was as anxious to get his hands on some of the under-performing CBS stations as Moonves was but then Opie & Anthony put their feet into their mouths (again). Of course, that's their act. But as Howard Stern seems to know -- it's how far into your mouth you insert your foot that matters in radio these days.

CBS Radio started fixing the music stations.

KFRC in San Francisco returned to classic rock and embraced the heritage of its top 40 days. Mason blew up "Free FM", the flawed talk concept installed by his predecessor Joel Hollander to make the change.

Then, he blew up "Free FM" in New York returning K-Rock and a pretty solid mix of rock music. The station has never sounded better and all he has in place is a morning show. Jocks will be hired and I'll bet they will be solid.

And that morning show on K-Rock in New York? Opie & Anthony. This reminds me of when K-Rock had Howard Stern in the morning and rock all day. Watch Opie & Anthony be good little boys. I'll bet they will stay out of trouble.

How do I know?

Because they will be supervised, coached and managed and if I am wrong and O&A slip up again, watch Mason fire them.

This is how radio is supposed to work. Instead of turning your talent loose with no parameters, you give them your expectations and watch them stay gainfully employed while they produce for you.

Mason is not finished.

CBS will likely dump the rest of the CBS "Free FM" stations -- a mercy killing, if you ask me.

He's going to show that FM radio can do music and do it competively.

I don't agree with everything Dan's done -- or shall I say not done -- so far. I'd still like to see him return "The Greatest Hits of All Time" to WCBS-FM 101.1 in New York especially after seeing how huge their sister classic rock station WOGL, Philadelphia is doing in Arbitron People Meter ratings. Out of nowhere, WOGL is fourth in listeners and a major force under PPM. Imagine what WCBS-FM would have been in the Big Town Hollander put Jack on one of their other non-performing stations. Instead turning away from that huge radio station and relegating it to HD-2 status is useless.

All together now -- no one listeners to HD.

And, I disagree with Mason about the future of HD radio. He likes it. It's a nonstarter as far as I'm concerned.

But that's my opinion and he's the boss. I've known him a long time and he's the answer for CBS radio. I'd trust his judgment.

Clear Channel and the others take note. Moonves is not a radio guy, but he made the right move to put a radio guy who knows what he is doing back in charge of his radio group. Dan Mason is working with surgical precision to fix the broken CBS radio stations.

CBS hired a smart guy -- not an empty suit. In other words CBS is making a statement: more is more. Not less is more.

Dan Mason is showing all of us what needs to be done to make a medium that has lost the next generation to its own incompetence, the Internet and mobile devices competitive again with its core users -- Generation X and baby boomers.

I haven't written CBS off in the digital area. Once their terrestrial house is in order, we'll see if they will be the one consolidator who gets it.

What is "it"?

The next generation hates listening to radio and if you want them to be your audience, you're going to have to put programming where they live -- online and on their mobile phones.

That's it.

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