Clear Channel's Fake Localism

I guess Clear Channel CEO John Slogan Hogan thinks he's got everyone buffaloed over his companies disingenuous localism initiative.

Hogan somehow thinks if he keeps saying the word localism while doing everything in his power to reduce it at Clear Channel stations that perception will once again trump reality.

It usually does -- as many researchers will tell you.

But this time, I don't think he's going to pull it off. Let me tell you why.

Of course you already know that the main reason Clear Channel is firing local talent is to save money. And that they need to save money because of the recession -- not because senior management screwed up by taking on more debt than they have revenue to pay it down.

Right? (Wink/Wink)

On one hand, it's Ryan Seacrest and company with shows that are being developed not for one local market but as "hamburger helper" for many stations in the chain to reduce operating costs.

How Hogan will get away with championing localism when he represents the biggest threat to it is beyond me.

Thousands of Clear Channel people -- loyal, competent and fully capable of doing local radio -- have been fired. What was their failing?

I guess you've heard that Hogan did a webinar last week for Clear Channel managers on localism. Tom Taylor quoted a Clear Channel employee as saying:

“In January, when my GM returned from the corporate meeting in Dallas and let a few salespeople go, I wasn’t shocked. When one of the victims was our sales manager, I was shocked and surprised, because it made no business sense. After the early April managers meeting (again in Dallas), I learned that I will have to make at least one more cut. But – hey, we’re reinventing radio.”

In the past few weeks Clear Channel launched a public relations blitz that included news releases that were titled:

CC Radio launches unparalleled support for local communities

CC Radio launches plan to improve program quality for all dayparts

It ain't so.

The so-called unparalleled support for local communities is a fail-safe plan that will hopefully prevent another toxic public relations meltdown like the one they had when they missed a toxic freight train derailment in Minot, ND. I know, I know -- the Minot incident wasn't all their fault because the city had liability in their communications set-up with Clear Channel, but hell -- there was no one to look out the station window or listen to the local police scanner to see that something had gone wrong?

And trying to say that they have a plan to improve quality for all dayparts is another insincere way of saying Repeater Radio is better than local. Can you imagine if Hogan actually said "Ryan Seacrest is going to replace that lousy jock we have on wherever? That's why he resorts to fibbing.

It all reminds me of what happens when you see a person wearing a bad hairpiece (only Tony Bennett has a good one).

He thinks everyone else doesn't notice that he is bald -- and most everyone goes along with it. They let the bald guy think they aren't looking at the bad rug and both sides are happy.

John Hogan has a great, full head of hair but it's tantamount to a bad weave job when it comes to localism.

He thinks everyone can't see that he is hiding behind localism to make everyone think that he is not actually in fact firing his local managers, sales managers, program directors, air talent, support personnel and even salespeople in the middle of an economic downturn.

John, we can all see it as plain as day. You can't sweep it under the, well- rug.

The largest consolidator is killing local radio even while it purports to be saving local radio by actually not doing local radio. Does that make sense?

No, it sure as hell doesn't.

And keep in mind that Hogan is not playing this hurtful charade for you and me.

He's running scared because localism is the drumbeat the Obama administration and the new FCC will be sounding off on it in the months and years ahead.

You see, Clear Channel is on the wrong side of the issue.

This is relevant because some speculate that the week ahead or soon thereafter may see yet another round of what Hogan calls -- local radio initiatives -- or as the rest of us would call them -- firings. I've seen speculation than 1,000 more people could be let go.

I hate to see my friends at Clear Channel be abused in this way. They are loyal -- very local. They want to believe in their leader, but he keeps disappointing. The company shows no heart when it comes to employee relations. Yet, day after day, these loyal and talented people go to work to help this offender make his numbers and try to give their audiences the kind of local radio they crave.

More firings in the wake of more lies about localism.

Hogan is simply saying to his employees "Be local and, oh -- you're fired".

But to Congress he's saying quite another thing -- we've got a way to be local without employing local people, airing local programs, fielding a large team of local salespeople or even allowing local managers to make local decisions.

The Hogan conference call last week gave lip service to serving their local communities, but duh -- these local managers already know how to do that.

What they don't know how to do is run syndicated programming and make that the kind of content that will actually help local civic groups and promote good community causes.

Unless, of course, Hogan simply wants them to make localism running 30 or 60-second public service announcements (PSAs) between the syndicated content.

Oh, I get it.

Localism to Clear Channel is more PSAs.

Look, I'm poking fun at all this because it's so stupid. There are lives and careers in the balance here. There is injustice and yes, the fate of the radio industry.

Then, there's the ripple effect upon other underperforming radio groups who look to this giant consolidator and say, "I want what Hogan's having".

A fake localism.

I'm going to just say it.

This localism fraud is the single most deadly blow radio has ever experienced -- even more deadly than consolidation, the lack of innovation, losing the next generation and failure to enter the digital beyond.

I don't have a lot of faith in Congress or the FCC (just look at their records), but somehow I think even they are going to see through Clear Channel on this issue.

And I think Clear Channel knows it -- thus, the major PR effort.

Which is why Hogan's localism will not remain our industry's dirty little secret.

We can all see it even if Clear Channel doesn't want to admit it.

Clear Channel's fake localism is no more than a continuing series of bald face lies.

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