Dr. McMeany Set To Amputate Clear Channel

Clear Channel is holding that much-dreaded managers meeting in Dallas tomorrow and Wednesday.

It promises to be the most non-productive, morale busting gathering ever.

Only the GMs are invited this year (yeah, yeah -- to save money). No Sales Managers. Those buyout buddies who bought the company at Lee & Bain (also known as Lee Insane) have decided that sales isn't that important.

How do I know this?

Well, if it were, you'd think they would invite the sales managers to participate with the huge recession year looming. Of course, we already know what Clear Channel thinks of program directors.

An expensive luxury.

You don't need PDs at a management meeting -- not in this company. PDs used to handle the content -- you know the part that made listeners listen and advertisers buy commercials -- but looking ahead to 2009 the new Clear Channel is giving you a glimpse of where they are headed.



All the ideas in Clear Channel come from the top and are forced down the chain on their surviving employees -- talented people who have forgotten more good ideas than John Hogan (their boss) and Lee & Bain have ever had about radio.

Why is it that almost everyone can see how wrong Clear Channel is in performing this next amputation of its radio group?

I say amputation because the "doctors" at Lee & Bain have already cut into the company's bone and they can't go any deeper without now performing an amputation. And they will do it with surgical precision probably without anesthesia as far as their employees feelings, families and careers are concerned.

Clear Channel, formerly called Cheap Channel derisively by its own employees, is now looking to become the radio version of the ABC TV series Greys Anatomy. Except Radio President John Hogan is not cast as Dr. McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) or Dr. McSteamy (Eric Dane).

Hogan is more like Dr. McMeany.

The poor GMs that are gathering to attend this debacle in Dallas will get to stay one night only -- you know, to save the shareholders some money. Guess it's not all the executive private jet travel that's killing Clear Channel's share price, it's these damn management meetings, right?


Motel 6.

Okay, not Motel 6 but you get the idea. The only people who travel well and live well even when they are not doing business (but charged to the company anyway) is the top brass -- the people who have decided to do all the thinking in their company.

That's what consolidation has turned out to be -- all those talented people acquired through generous Wall Street funding only to consolidate all their thinking down to a few loyal soldiers.

One of them is John "Slogan" Hogan ("less is more").

To put it mildly, is this the guy most qualified to run the largest radio company in the world?

So here's what's likely to take place at the Cheap Channel Management Meetings.

1. Corporate will give local management their instructions, budgets and expectations. On the face this concept is not bad business except when you tie, bind, gag and prevent the people you're demanding production from so they can't do their jobs.

2. The numbers will come from San Antonio. The money will be budgeted according to corporate strategy not based on which individual markets are producing.

3. Talent as well as talented managers will likely come under tight scrutiny while corporate is crunching the budget. As Tom Taylor so acutely summed it up in his Taylor On Radio-Info column recently "The local managers may even be handed a list ranking all their employees in terms of effectiveness – and that may be a prelude to having corporate determine who’s staying for 2009 and who’s going". This is some scary s--- stuff.

4. All decisions will be handed down from corporate to the local markets. Not that this is anything new to consolidated radio, but this time exceptions will be harder to find even at stations that are pulling their weight.

5. The Ryan Seacrest model is in -- and local radio is out. If a station has Seacrest on already, they are playing nice with San Antonio. Now, this year - look for clones of Ryan Seacrest so that the idea is to do one show, pay one talent, and run it for free on as many stations as possible. If this weren't so damn sad, it would be hilarious. They just can't win with re-purposed talent that is aired on so many of their stations unless they are looking at the bottom line for their ratings (and they are).

6. No money for Internet, podcasting, development of mobile content or utilization of social networking. They should be budgeting 20% of their operating expenses to new media. I might as well just shut my website down. They won't listen! Anyway, Hogan and his heroes -- Lee & Bain -- know better. Actually, there is no future for terrestrial radio. You know that if you read me regularly. There cannot be without the next generation and you know what the next generation likes to listen to. By now, you know that nothing radio can do on a terrestrial signal is going to get them back. So Lee & Bain are acting like they don't care about the future -- which I believe because they are buyout artists who hope to sell for a higher price or liquidate the assets at a profit. Have we forgotten, these people are not radio people.

7. Long-term firing. By year's end a steady decline in employees will have been accomplished rendering the Clear Channel station of the future as a repeater (and I mean that word exactly) of cheap programming to local markets that -- I predict -- will eventually reject it.

Wouldn't it be great if someone could record the Clear Channel Management Meeting and put it up on YouTube. Hell, you don't need more than ten minutes of it anyway -- it's all about losing.

Losing great, talented and very loyal employees.

Losing local programming.

Losing listeners who matter less than the bottom line to these owners.

Losing local sales.

Losing sight of the future -- which is digital, any idiot knows that and I'm happy to put myself into that group of "idiots" with pleasure.

Losing money -- because I guarantee you -- this dog and pony show that is kicking into full gear at Clear Channel tomorrow (and which will be emulated by the other scared to death CEOs in some way, shape or form later) will fail.



You bought a great asset and turned it into pennies on the dollar.

You're going to eat this investment (To the Wall Street analysts who follow my writings every day, consider this a prediction).

I know it because you turned a bonanza of goodwill, good programming and good cash flow into damaged goods by mistaking Main Street for Wall Street.

From now on it's your loss -- right on the bottom line.

Well, at least you can write Clear Channel off as a bad investment.

P.S. -- the only people who could have saved your bacon are the ones you refuse to listen to at your management meetings -- or even neglected to invite.

Radio works best when it's local -- and that includes local management making all the important decisions -- not the other way around.

By the end of the year, this painful surgery will be over.

And the patient will die.

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