Duplication Is the New Radio Syndication

Radio operators led by frantic consolidators looking to slash expenses have entered into a risky game of duplication.

Most station executives can make a powerful argument for firing local talent and putting on outside programming.

Like keeping their jobs.

Syndication includes entire formats, time periods or shows that can be bartered for commercial inventory. That is, they are basically free to the stations. They most certainly save the local stations the expense of employing local talent – and that seems to increasingly be the lure.

Some are good. Many are just placeholders because the local stations have gotten into the habit of turning off the lights after 7pm. Some even earlier.

Delilah, for example, is one of many shows that could be considered an asset to these stations because of the unique nature of her show. But a radio station airing a lot of syndication seems to be a shortsighted solution to cutting costs at the risk of making radio less local.

Putting Ryan Seacrest on in various time periods in differing markets as Clear Channel and other operators are doing can save money but it is not syndication – it’s duplication. Seacrest's salary is being paid at his home station in LA and even with incentives for airing elsewhere, it's still a pretty sweet financial deal for Clear Channel.

Just give me a dj for free and I’ll schedule him here – that’s the new mentality. This is taking nothing away from Seacrest, a talented personality. It’s just that radio stations would be wiser to grow their own personalities. It isn’t that expensive. Cut costs elsewhere.

Local programming should not be open to such budget cutbacks.

That's the program director in me talking, but there are many who agree that the continuing and extensive ecnomies in radio programming budgets is shooting radio station managers in the foot.

This mindless stripping of duplicated radio programming in localities across the nation is tantamount – in my view – to radio drinking the Kool-Aid. When it’s too late, they will find that their stations will not awaken from the stupor of ill-founded cost cuts.

And, it's increasingly too late.

Some of the best radio shows – in fact, some of the best radio legends – got their start by being willing to pay a local station to be on the air. I’m not suggesting that arrangement. Just saying that there is no shortage of affordable talent across radio cities everywhere.

There really isn't -- programming expenses are not consolidators' main problem -- lack of understanding of what radio is and who is available to listen is.

A doomsday scenario for consolidators for becoming irrelevant is to look at their latest clever idea.


Amortize the cost over many stations. The hell with the fact that it isn't local. I can hear it now. Howard Stern wasn't local. Rush Limbaugh isn't local.

Nice try.

Radio works best as a local medium.

But stations are increasingly duplicating national programming.

They can't resist it but listeners can.

I understand that today’s economics requires drastic cutbacks. Go cut somewhere else -- like the CEOs salary.

Take Farid Suleman.

His excessive $11 million dollar compensation last year would help fund a lot of great local talent in Citadel and he could still earn, say $4 or $5 million. Then, based on thinking like that, maybe he would be worth it.

So, I am calling these operators out on this.

It's all about priorities -- and radio operators have their priorities all wrong when they think duplicate the same show in numerous markets just to save money.

And you wonder why the next generation wants nothing to do with terrestrial radio.

A dose of good judgment is what is needed now.

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