Happy Holidays, Fagreed!

Local radio revenue was off 21% in November.

National down 24%.

And that's with political advertising from a presidential election campaign.

It was the worst month for radio since these tallies were first kept over 20 years ago. And January business is as cold as a New England winter.

Of course, radio executives blame the recession not themselves. The slumping economy is part of the problem, but radio's decline has been in progress longer than the economic downturn.

Unfortunately, the radio industry is not likely to return to break even numbers for years -- if ever -- according to analysts. And the reason for that is not just the recession.

Hundreds, if not thousands of employees have been fired this past year. All types of great radio people -- program directors, managers, sales managers, account execs, operations people, air talent -- the list goes on.

Their day is coming -- when radio CEOs can make no more cuts and when no options are left to return radio to a compelling, addictive medium. Cutting talent. Airing cheap (or bartered) national programming. Cutting resources. Forcing managers to handle two or three jobs. This doesn't make for good radio.

It's going to be a great holiday season for the CEOs of the radio and record industries because they are insulated from accountability.

Their deals are golden (to match their parachutes). They still fly private. Some have their taxes paid by the radio companies they work for even while they are firing people to cut costs. It's true that they own a lot of stock that is worthless and it's not likely to amount to anything valuable going forward, but their compensation alone makes them merry this Christmas season.

CBS was firing people as recently as last week -- a week before Christmas.

My heart goes out to the people who love the radio business. They work until they're fired. Remain loyal to the end. Their reward: unemployment. Jobs are hard to find. Careers in radio -- impossible.

Next year is going to be a tough one -- again. The economy will force the hands of CEOs who are plum out of ideas. I wouldn't be surprised to find one or two of them file for bankruptcy if things get tough enough. I've heard rumors. Believe me, a lot of radio CEOs would like to unload some of their radio stations and, if they do, they'll be giving them away.

And anyone who buys these expendable stations will be purchasing distressed merchandise.

Farid Suleman, a man who I call "Fagreed" because of his arrogant "let them eat tape" mentality is the poster boy for what's wrong with radio. He's not alone by any means. Just read down the short list of radio consolidators who run most of the stations worth owning and you're likely to find a selfish, arrogant dictator running the show.

They feel no pain.

They believe their own corporate b.s. that begins with "we're bleeding red ink" and ends with "thanks for your service" (maybe).

I have little respect for these managerial despots who think they know what is good for a proud and very successful industry. It took over 75 years to build today's radio business and less than ten for a handful of overpaid and under qualified CEOs to ruin it.

I'm told by Citadel employees that Fagreed blocks these pieces that I write so his employees can't read them, but it is for naught because his people have lost faith in their "leader". Same with Bob Neil who apparently has Cox-blocked any criticism from his people.

Radio is acting like a third-world nation.

I hope the folks who are hanging onto their tenuous radio jobs and those who have already had their careers thrown into turmoil by misguided radio CEOs take heart.

Video didn't kill radio.

CB radios (remember when we thought they would be a radio competitor, laughable now).

Cell phones (not killing radio -- maybe other people distracted by drivers who are texting).

Satellite radio (not one day).

The Internet (not yet).

So in the year ahead you can expect several things to happen based on some of the genius moves we've seen in the past.

1. More stations for sale (at even lower prices). But few takers.

2. More stations going silent -- returning their licenses to the FCC.

3. The radio station will become a couple of people running programming acquired elsewhere thus killing off the local advantage. Cheap 104.5. No wonder radio CEOs wanted to do a deal with Google's automated ad sales division. No people. No benefits. No kidding.

4. Commercial fire sales as stations panic (most can't even stand to look at the books for January). Double-digit declines in local revenue every month.

Now, will they listen?

Radio needs new streams of revenue.


New Internet streams.

Mobile content for sale.

Businesses based on social network surrounding their brands.

New media is also hurt by the recession, but it will rebound. Radio will not.

For my friends in this business that we love, the sincerest hope that you will find health and happiness this holiday season and the ability to sustain yourselves and your families in hard times.

And that you will find your way into the world of new media in the years ahead if you so desire. Radio people are best equipped for creating and marketing professional content in new forms. You are not forgotten here or by thousands of people who know how radio worked best when you were allowed to do your thing.

A few weeks back my radio friends I call "The Scottsdale Study Group" had a Christmas party together.

During the evening I was reminded yet again of what talented, dedicated and special people radio folks really are. It hurts us to watch this industry self-destruct. In many other industries perhaps no one would care.

But the demise of radio -- which is following closely and in lock step with the ruination of the record business -- is well into its second generation.

So Fagreed and all your buddies, perhaps next year when you're faced with no way out, you'll acquire the character trait of humility.

In the meantime, radio people who know how to program good local radio and are anxious to take their expertise to the great digital beyond -- hold your heads high.

I wish for you that which you wish for yourself -- and a chance to find a future in new media as it develops and gathers momentum.

If the old adage "in giving you receive" means anything, then you've done all you can do to help these myopic CEOs save the radio business.

Happy Holidays to you and yours from a fellow radio lover, an admirer, advocate and supporter.

For Fagreed and his ilk, as my mother-in-law used to joke: "eat up -- it's all you're getting".

(See you after the holidays -- or on Twitter and Facebook in the meantime)

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