At Clear Channel, Less Is Finally Less

It's apparently the calm before the storm.

Clear Channel managers who attended last week's corporate meetings are now back at their local stations and waiting to carry out the executions mandated by the company.

Tom Taylor reported in Radio-Info that one of his readers heard that "change" at Clear Channel would come on inauguration day, the same time Barack Obama's change speech will be delivered by the new president.

One of my Clear Channel readers reported that several staffers were in behind closed door meetings to start the week out. Everyone is on edge which is understandable.

Could Clear Channel be tacky enough to conduct their employee bloodbath plan on inauguration day? Really?

Frankly, I'd be surprised if they could wait another week.

The worst kept secret in the world is that employees will be fired -- not laid off (in spite of how they spin it). Fired means there is no chance of getting your job back. And that's exactly what's going to happen as Clear Channel resorts to a repeater radio strategy.

John Slogan Hogan has finally been tutored on his math -- less is no longer more.

That means a skeleton staff at an increasing number of Clear Channel stations.

Programs produced elsewhere other than locally.

Repeater Stations not fulfilling the spirit or perhaps the letter of the law for being granted a radio license.

Everything has been outsourced -- the way some airlines outsource their call centers to Bangalore in India. Believe me, I have nothing against India. This disgrace has to do with us -- the good old U.S.

For all the talk you hear about U.S. jobs being outsourced to foreign countries, Clear Channel is leading the way again and doing the patriotic thing -- employ Americans, but a lot fewer Americans.

It's as American as apple pie and flying private.

Clear Channel in effect will abandon the responsibilities they accepted when they were granted their radio licenses to serve local communities. (Really, how is running a virtual automated radio station from elsewhere serving the city of license?)

If you or I were to operate a company for, say, ten years -- drive its value down so much you had to seek a bailout of private equity -- we'd be fired. In radio, it's the other way around. These non-achievers get pay checks, windfall profits and perks you could only dream about.

Their employees are the ones to get the gate.

Picture radio after less becomes less and Clear Channel outsources everything it can courtesy of San Antonio.

1. Local listeners get Ryan Seacrest, or his seven or eight format specific clones.

2. No morning show in some markets (or lesser morning shows that don't compete with what listeners have come to expect).

3. One local operations manager whose number one responsibility is to stay employed and implement this insane plan.

4. Try to find a live music show after 7pm at night in these "Mere" Channel markets.

5. Combined sales forces (where they are not currently merged) and eventually handled by phone banks. Look, a company that made goo goo eyes at Google's people-less ad selling plan probably hasn't fallen out of love with selling ads with no salespeople.

6. Central Command runs Fargo. So, the next time a railway tanker goes off the tracks and spills toxic fumes there will absolutely be nobody home to serve their local community and tell the residents to get out of Dodge -- I mean, Fargo. Maybe Clear Channel is right and it doesn't matter. Just let the Internet do it. Increasingly the first thing consumers do when there is a crisis is go to the Internet -- and nowadays the Internet is as close as our mobile phones. The idea that one command center runs local radio is one the industry will have to get used to, but listeners don't have to. They have many other choices.

D-Day is coming.

"D" standing for destruction and this being the eve of destruction.

Mark Mays and John Hogan can write all the touchy-feely employee emails they like, but just letting their people in on what's happening would be -- at the very least -- humane. Sometimes I get the feeling they are enjoying this suspense -- why else would they torture their employees and their families by making them guess what is going to happen.

Maybe they've got a plan to spin it -- when they're ready.

Yesterday some of you wrote to me about my suggestion that once Clear Channel rolls out Repeater Radio, then the other jealous group CEOs will follow. How could you not adopt their plan after Clear Channel goes first?

I can see it now.

Citadel's Fagreed Suleman diving in quickly -- after all, he's using hamburger helper on the air now at most of his stations. Fagreed has never met a penny he wasn't willing to pinch -- unless, of course, it helped pay his inflated salary or that of his wife Judy Ellis (by the way, I am watching for the annual reports to come out for radio CEO compensation and willing to bet you my tickets to this Sunday's Eagles game that Fagreed's salary stays over $10 million -- with taxes paid by the company).

Some recession -- at least at corporate.

Lew Dickey will just do it -- no one will notice because it's Cumulus. What does that say?

Entercom's David Field can then follow and rename Repeater Radio something like Quality Radio. This is scaring me now because it's so believable.

CBS will try to stay local for as long as possible because Dan Mason is a programmer and he knows what works best. But still, he may have pressure what with Viacom's tenuous financial situation.

Cox will give in reluctantly but blame their firings on Arbitron. Okay, I made that part up. I'm just kidding -- Bob Neil is a good guy.

Seriously, the tragedy is that Clear Channel adding hamburger helper to local radio is going to make for a pretty unhealthy programming diet. And once they do it, the other clueless lemmings will gladly follow.

Radio is over because its leaders have driven off the next generation.

Radio still has no digital plan in a world consumed with things digital.

Someone told Slogan Hogan the real truth about mathematics -- that Less Is More only when you're a consolidated radio executive.

The radio industry is now a parlor game for a handful of out-of-touch, out of their mind CEOs whose legacy will be that they personally had a hand in killing off the radio industry.

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