Help the Victims of Consolidation

This has been a horrific holiday season for radio people in terms of pink slips, wrecked careers, disappointed hopes and even unemployment while fighting illnesses.

I will not forget the fine people who are the backbone of the radio industry even if the consolidators can dismiss them so easily.

When I attended Temple University in Philadelphia, one of my wonderful professors -- Lew Klein -- the American Bandstand and Philadelphia television executive told my freshman class that if you haven't been fired five times in your career, you're not in broadcasting.

What an eye-opener for a young man getting ready to learn his trade. That was back then before consolidation was a gleam in the eye of the Mays family and the handful of consolidators who rule our industry today. Yes, even then, security in radio was at a premium.

We still got fired from time to time. It was just easier to get a job across the street when two companies didn't own all the stations.

Those of you who read me every day may remember my tale of Andy Luminella, the young man who worked for me when I was program director of a Philly radio station. Andy had cancer. He underwent treatments and then returned to work when he could. He was a newlywed with his life and career before him. But when he died, the parent company, General Cinema, was not able or willing to pay any death benefits to his young widow who didn't even have the money to bury her new husband.

I wish I could say this is the only story of its kind that I can share with you. I know better and many of you do, too. You have shared your stories with me over the years and I have printed them -- in the face of consolidators seemingly without conscience.

For those of you who have inquired about what we can do to help our brethren, there is a way -- a damn good one at that.

The Broadcasters Foundation of America helps radio and television broadcasters in need -- those active or retired broadcasters stricken with illnesses, widows struggling to raise families and broadcasters upended by losing their jobs at a critical time in their families lives.

Last year the Foundation distributed close to $325,000 in monthly grants to colleagues in 36 different states whose plight was confidentially brought to their attention by concerned broadcasters. All were in acute financial need, often due to tragic and unforeseen circumstances.

You might be surprised to see the list of contributors to this outstanding program. Yes, there are some consolidators on the list. Perhaps it assuages whatever guilt they might have, but the list is even more impressive by how many everyday broadcasters from radio and TV give as little as $50 to support this very worthy group.

Ward Quaal, Ed McLaughlin and Phil Lombardo have helped the Broadcasters Foundation of America become a world class charity and Gordon Hastings runs it lean and mean.

Radio people are a family. It matters not whether we have fiercely competed with each other or whether we don't even know the person in need. We are one and not even consolidation has been able to put that sentiment asunder.

Nothing can change that. Not consolidation. Not cold hearts. Not bad business practices.
It's what distinguishes the radio business from other careers.

Today, if you are able and willing, consider helping this fine group that lends a helping hand to the least of us and the rest of us.

Should you like to learn more, email me and I'll put you in touch with people who can put your donation to work right away.

With 2008 likely to be a year of career carnage unlike any we have seen to date, this is a good way to do something positive for yourself if you are fortunate enough to remain fully employed and for others who get caught in the tragedy of what has clearly become the radio industry's greatest failure -- consolidation.

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