Radio Consolidators Gone Wild

You have no doubt been following the Einsteins of radio from the time they got their hands onto their mini-monopolies until the time that they realized their stock was worth $1 or less.

So how have the massive firings – including the dramatic 1,850 Clear Channel job exterminations from a few weeks ago -- actually done?

Did they work? Are they working? Is someone other than the CEO still left working?

As feared, the see-no-evil and hear-no-evil smaller radio groups have begun imitating the Evil Empire, Clear Channel, now that they have realized the radio industry is not salvageable. Of course, it could have been – but these CEOs decided to listen to a bunch of desperadoes from San Antonio rather than their own talented managers, sales and marketing people, programmers and air talent.

So, I thought you'd like to see this PG version of Radio Consolidators Gone Wild – Pre-Spring Break edition.

• Mark Mays has seen his shadow on Radio Hog Day and so Clear Channel isn’t going to wait to see how their recent massive firings have worked. They apparently have scheduled a second of three feared mass firings possibly before the end of this month and perhaps another in April. No one is safe.

• I told you the little “Marks” and “Big Johns” would come out of the woodwork once Clear Channel increased their firings and now companies as small as Beasley are clearing the payroll. The GSM and National Manager were just handed their walking papers in Philly. Even Salem, inspired by “him” (John Hogan – small “h”) is saying if you can do it, we can, too. And Greater Media. All of them.

• As one of my legions of Repeater Reporters wrote, “Seems a bit odd, based on the usual radio timetable of assembling your budget in late Fall, with tweaks in December and perhaps January. But Clear Channel’s new private ownership (Bain Capital, Thomas H. Lee Partners) is re-writing lots of old procedures. The information that managers got on those infamous thumb drives, two weeks before the January 20 layoffs, is what they’re apparently processing through now. I still think there’s at least one more wave of cuts coming, and this time it could be aimed more at programming, and particularly PDs. Look for more long-distance sharing of duties. Also more sharing of programming assets, from Ryan Seacrest to regionally-based programs that can replace local salaries. Remember - it’s all about the numbers, as put together by Bain Consulting. Right now, those numbers are the ones the CC market managers are conjuring with, behind their closed doors”.

• Clear Channel traffic managers are being told to change log avails. The clocks are being changed daily causing great upset when they have to put in new orders, bump others and try to keep everyone happy. No overtime. Some say this new avails system is worse than Less Is More.

• Even new hires have been fired. One eyewitness account: “We were forced to get rid of some of the new sales people we just hired. Never mind that given the proper training and some time these could of been our next sales stars.The politics of business are still in full affect despite what you hear about orders coming in from San Antonio. There is still a way to manipulate who stays and who goes. In my opinion they are getting rid of way too many good people and keeping the teacher's pet or the low-dough employees.Too many edicts coming in from San Antonio on a too consistent basis. Can't they just leave us alone?”

• Wilks, the small warm and fuzzy group that just stole three Denver stations from CBS for only six times cash flow, came of age and started firing people while they are still in their LMA phase. When you get to the big time I guess you start firing.

• It is now feared that Clear Channel markets that are close in proximity will likely be operated under the supreme guidance of just one market manager. More opportunities to fire people and save their salaries.

• Salaries for existing talent – who actually survive – will be discounted. Emmis is said to be considering offering its WLUP, Chicago personality Jonathan Brandmeier a substantial pay cut from his current $1.2 million annual salary. Salary cuts will be the next most popular tactic after “layoffs” (code word for “firing”).

• Citadel continues to fire people with a 5% mandatory reduction reportedly in place for company stations. Unlike Clear Channel, Citadel apparently likes to do its firing the slow and steady way.

• Consultants are now paid on a month-to-month basis at Regent. Trend? That assumes consultants will still be used. The big consolidators swore that off a while back after all – between John Hogan and Mark Mays, they know what to do.

• Some smaller stations are faxing out "Dollar a Holler" deals. 80 spots for $80 and deals like that. The revenues are going in the toilet. The larger ones aren’t exactly keeping their trousers up, either. Longtime radio owner Bob "Doc" Fuller tells me "In my early days I thought that less people would then give them the opportunity to make more money, but then the incentive to call on new and more clients is gone. I learned that the hard way. Has the world really changed that much in this particular area? I also believe you treat your people with dignity".

• More Fox sports programming as Clear Channel local talent is being wiped out on their sports stations.

• Entercom announced a “wage freeze” – let’s see if it applies to David Field and family when the public records are released on their compensation.

There are some rays of hope that not all radio CEOs have done wild:

• KDKA, Pittsburgh has sold naming rights to a local Lexus dealer – they get a mention in the legal station ID at the top of each hour. You’re going to see more of this. Is it good or bad? Well, if it brings back jobs maybe it’s good. KDKA re-signed talker Fred Honsberger to a long-term agreement. CBS’ WCCO in Minneapolis also sold the top of the hour ID to Buick and Bonneville’s WTOP roped in a pizza company. At least they are trying something new.

• Rona Danziger, a survivor of the Clear Channel massacre at WDFN in Detroit a few weeks ago, decided to resign her program directors job anyway. She asked that her salary be used to save someone else’s job. The idea was rejected, but at least the thought counts.

• Some Clear Channel managers when forced to participate in the company's mass firings did so with grace and dignity in sharp contrast to others who were insensitive, rude and just jerks as they escorted longtime employees to the front door without their belongings. The good managers no doubt remembered the Biblical phrase: "There but for the grace of God (go I)" meaning that something bad that can happen to someone else can also happen to you.

• CBS Radio President Dan Mason has stepped up to admit some mistakes lately – very unusual in radio. He relieved Roy Laughlin of his co-market managing duties in LA. Laughlin may have been more of a Jacor-type than CBS manager. Whatever – it turned out to be a short-term gig. Mason also owned up to rehiring his live local talent on WBZ, Boston after letting him go for a money-saving duplication of the KMOX all-night show. Listeners complained. Over 1,000 emails. Boston papers said CBS caved to public pressure but what it really did was one of the few smart things I can report – they reversed an incorrect decision by listening to their listeners.

Radio is now about cutting losses and looking for a way to sell the properties.


As I have said in previous pieces, station values are worth less and less every day – public and corporate owners know they can’t make radio a growth business again.

People’s careers are being ruined. Families are being upset. Shareholders are being robbed. Listeners are being disappointed and nothing can be done to stop these radio consolidators gone wild.

Does someone want to tell them that their consistent and massive firings and unreasonable budget cutbacks are failing their listeners, their sponsors, their employees and themselves?

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