Joe the Radio Guy

During the final debate between Barack Obama and John McCain, McCain invoked the named of a middle class Ohio worker he called "Joe the Plumber".

In spite of the fact that both McCain and Obama addressed "Joe" directly on camera during the debate and that Joe (whose real name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher) was a bit loose on the facts, it was interesting to see how concerned both candidates are with addressing the needs and concerns of Joe Six Pack or middle class Americans.

I wonder what the leaders running radio would say to Joe the Radio Guy if he could get their attention if only but for one minute in time. Of course, I will be politically correct by mentioning that Joe the Radio Guy could also be Jill -- nonetheless...

Let's imagine that we can get a whole bunch of radio execs in the same room (it's cheaper tham door to door, economies of scale -- we can keep a weekend shift live for one more week if we do) to answer questions from Joe the Radio Guy:

Joe the Radio Guy: "Mr. Suleman, what are you doing to ensure that all Citadel workers will be able to meet their mortgage payments during the current economic crisis?"

Farid Suleman: "We are working tirelessly to see that every able bodied Citadel employee no matter what race, color, creed or level of seniority has a full-time job -- at some other company."

Joe: "Mr. Smulyan, please tell us why we should believe you, as Emmis CEO, when you say over and over again that radio is simply going through some hard times and that we can survive them?"

Jeff Smulyan:
"Our stock price is double that of Citadel"! (48 cents)

Joe: "What is Clear Channel doing to insure that its workers will retain full health insurance benefits?"

John Hogan: "For one, we're not taking on any unnecessary workers to overburden the company wide insurance plan. By aggressively reducing the number of critically ill people in the plan, we can produce a health care product using our less is more policy. With that in mind, we have purchased a full Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy with zero co-pay, 100% prescription coverage and no referral needed to treat any condition. This would apply to 25% of our employees or as we call it, Ryan Seacrest."

Joe: "As a religious broadcaster, isn't there some way you can lead the industry out of its economic doldrums -- perhaps by taking important issues to a higher power?"

Ed Atsinger:
"I did. I called John Hogan, but he wouldn't take my call. So we at Salem have decided to do the one -- and only thing that can save us from a bad economy, loss of the next generation and no Internet strategy -- pray!

Joe: "How do you guys expect to compete with new media when some of you are so opposed to the People Meter that could be the solution to underreporting radio audiences?"

Bob Neil:
"I want to say this publicly, Cox is not against the People Meter, I am not against the People Meter and most importantly Randy Kabrich is not against the People Meter. We're simply against any system that uses an electronic device that you could attach to your person, that reports what people are listening to, that doesn't allow for radio program directors to manipulate the numbers and that starts with an "A" and ends with an "n". Otherwise, we're for it."

"Saga is a small to medium market radio group and my fellow radio guys hear that the best and safest place to work is in a small market. Things are supposed to still be pretty good there -- fewer losses in revenue than, say, New York.

Ed Christian:
"Security, cuff that guy and tazer him."

"Don't Taze me, bro -- don't taze me, bro"

Ed Christian: "Look, I categorically reject that small markets are doing better than big ones. In fact, we're being pounded by a force greater than anything affecting the top 20 markets -- satellite radio."

"Mr. Moonves, sir -- why is CBS trying to sell radio stations when no one apparently wants to buy them?"

Les Moonves:
"CBS is the industry leader in everything including trying to sell its radio stations in a bad market."

"I think the critical question for those of us left working in radio is why hasn't HD Radio attracted more listeners?"

Bob Struble:
"We at iBiquity look at it this way -- if an HD radio showed up in a forest and there is nobody there to hear it, did it make a sound? There, see what I mean? There are millions of HD radios out there but they are all in the forests. So we're planning to spend several million dollars along with the NAB to promote HD radio outside of wooded areas."

Joe: "How do you maintain one of the industry-leading radio stocks at Entercom at $1.69?"

David Field:
"We never do anything that isn't accretive vis-a-vis our stock position. Shareholder value is paramount. We value our most valuable assets -- our people... oh, damn, what's the use -- okay, we just got lucky, alright. I blurted it out."

Joe: "What makes you think that a bunch of old radio guys can reinvent the newspaper business?"

Randy Michaels:
"Because we can do better. The newspaper people helping us turn Tribune Company into the next Jacor (if in no other way than the number of Jacor employees we have hired) know that if they don't adapt to the future -- if they don't start coming up with great new, noisy ideas -- then Sam Zell will have no other choice other than to evict them and their families from the alleys of any strip centers they may be living in. And I personally will start a website call Inside Inside Tribune Company with all the lies that have ever been said about you -- as an inspiration for the new way we want our people to write stories for the Times and Tribune. And, by the way, roll up your old papers and give them to Lee on the way out."

Joe: "Why do you think new media is the future and why should we in radio follow you into it?"

Jerry Del Colliano: "New media is the future because they made me give up Inside Radio and that was all I was allowed to do for four years. Terrestrial radio is over because my USC students think it's over. The answer to all the radio industry's problems is to hire college students to run your stations. No, hire college students from USC who were born and raised in New Jersey to run your stations. No, better yet, hire as many USC students as you can who were born and raised in New Jersey and are hockey fans. And, it wouldn't hurt if they were all Italian.

Well, we've had a little fun here with the industry. God knows, we are facing lots of problems. Let's hope we haven't lost our sense of humor.

The key thought is that the radio industry could do a much better job responding honestly to the concerns of investors as well as employees. It is a business that faces many years of tough times ahead.

We can't have four more years of business as usual.

Maybe some "reform" or a "change" is appropriate for an industry that seems to have lost its way.

Radio was built on the backs of Joe the Radio Guy. If the Joe's of this industry have continued to work hard, stay loyal and outperform other media in terms of talent, don't they deserve to have one thing that has alluded them?

Better leadership. Just sayin'.

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