Radio Jumping the Shark

So, remember all those threats and accusations against Arbitron's People Meter practices made by minority broadcasters, the States of New York and New Jersey?

Now you can forget them.

That's what New York's overly ambitious Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said yesterday when his office announced a settlement in the farcical suit he perpetrated on Arbitron for successfully selling the People Meter to the marketplace there.

Arbitron came away the winner.

Radio the loser.

Some minority groups simply wasted their valuable political capital.

Arbitron stock was up 18% on a day the market lost 245 more points -- that's more than any public radio company could say.

Arbitron got a gratuitous slap on the wrist to save Andrew Cuomo's ego. Fined $260,000 -- and a $130,00 contribution to NABOB and the Spanish Radio Association. How politically correct.

What a disgrace!

Oh, and did I mention that the nearby state of New Jersey also settled yesterday and netted the huge sum of $130,000 to make the whole embarrassing episode go away.

What pandering!

$100,000 isn't going to help minority broadcasters, Mr. Cuomo, any more than you are by jumping the shark.

(Jumping the shark? Jumping the shark is a colloquialism used by TV critics and fans to denote that point in a TV show or movie series' history where the plot veers off into absurd story lines or out-of-the-ordinary characterizations, particularly for a show with falling ratings apparently becoming more desperate to draw viewers in).

And the minority broadcasters who were pissing and moaning about how unfair the People Meter is to them are cry babies. I sure could respect these misguided folks more if they actually fought for minority advancement in the workplace as well as in the boardroom.

If Cuomo, the minority interests or the government really cared about minorities, they could have cut them in to radio consolidation. Actually, they should have fought to prevent consolidation which effectively dealt them out of the game.

This Arbitron debacle is another joke on a radio industry.

A business run by a handful of white men who have no clue what they're doing -- if you want to use their stock price as their own personal ratings barometer.

Where are the women?

Don't tell me there's not lots of smart women in the media business. We all know what's keeping them down -- a handful of white men.

Don't tell me there's not lots of smart minorities to offer solutions to a dying radio industry. We all know what's keeping them down -- the same bunch of men who ruin the radio business.

Look, I have nothing against white men. I am one. But obviously the minorities and two state governments tried to make the People Meter a racial issue. Considering that they had no case against Arbitron, I think they should be called out for what they tried to do. After all, they admitted failure yesterday or else you can bet they would be pursuing Arbitron to the bitter end.

The "Mouth of the South" Bob Neil of Cox, along with his minion Randy Kabrich, have been trashing the People Meter publicly for much of its existence -- although lately have I sensed some restraint on his part. Neil's a nice guy and there's no doubt he raises important questions about the People Meter. But the constant public trashing of a ratings technology he supports with his money is representative of what is wrong with radio today.

Neil signs a contract to buy, use and support the People Meter in some Cox markets and simultaneously wages a public battle disparaging the damn thing.

Same with Andrew Cuomo. He is going to be a replacement for Senator Hillary Clinton or the next governor of New York or something -- anything -- that politics as usual can get him.

Cuomo inflames the race issue with a non-case against a public company and winds up having to turn tail and walk away with expenses and a little booty for his co-conspirators in crime.

Arbitron is offering an improved -- and much more expensive product -- at a time when the radio industry can't afford it and can't afford to be without it. That may be the underlying issue.

But as long as radio companies can afford Fagreed Suleman, Lew Dickey, Bob Neil and the entire eyewitness news team, believe me, they can afford 21st century ratings.

What's more idiotic is that the People Meter admittedly has flaws but it is proving to make up for the under reporting of the current diary system -- a good thing for an industry that is imploding with every decision to cutback on content. (It's kind of ironic to me that some loquacious radio people have fallen in love with the "diary" -- something they've spent a lifetime knocking and manipulating).

The People Meter is something that will give you more listeners -- something they're not going to get without the next generation and by programming cut rate content to radio's remaining and available, older listeners.

Radio should be embracing the People Meter -- then working quietly but forcefully behind the scenes on pricing or reporting or fielding issues. At least if a radio group has so much of a problem with the technology, they shouldn't be supporting it by signing long-term contracts.

Radio should not be spooking its advertisers -- they had 13% less revenue in 2008 (and the tab is still running so the revenue decrease should be even higher). Why demean your medium in front of the very advertisers who want The People Meter.

Well, I could go on and on about the missteps and poor strategic planning of the radio industry, but my point is smart management.

Even as I write this Clear Channel is wrapping up its two-day managers meeting which company employees are looking forward to as much as they would to be eating Satriale's pork sausage (for non-Sopranos fans, Satriale's is where Tony's nephew Christopher was making sausage with human body parts).

The radio industry is eating itself alive.

The good thing is that the People Meter issue is returned to the marketplace where clients can either support it or reject it. Thank you Attorney General Cuomo or Senator Cuomo or Governor Cuomo or whatever small part this helped you achieve.

It was Harry Truman who said, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference."

The not-ready-for-prime-time radio CEOs who are so in over their heads have literally turned their company's worth into penny stocks.

Short of replacing some of these underachievers with new blood -- which isn't going to happen -- this industry we love will continue its needless self-destruction.

President Truman had a sign in the Oval Office that said, "The Buck Stops Here".

In Fagreed's office it would say "The 21 Cents Stops Here" as Citadel/ABC stock hasn't been worth even a buck in a long time.

Of course, what Truman was doing was taking responsibility for any decisions he made.

Have you seen any of the radio CEOs own up to their decisions -- which have had many unfortunate consequences for their employees, their listeners, advertisers and the once proud medium?

Yesterday it was Clear Channel tightening the noose on local programming.

Today it's radio minorities declaring victory against Arbitron and withdrawing from their holy war.


More of this nonsense will hasten the end of an industry that may be outdated in terms of technology but is brimming with talent from managers, programmers, sales people and personalities -- with no way to save their misguided leaders from themselves.

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