Radio’s Latest Believe It Or Not!

Ripley's Believe It or Not! is a franchise that deals in bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that readers might question the claims.

What a perfect way to introduce Radio’s latest Believe It Or Not! -- programming, sales or management practices inspired by cutbacks, firing and Repeater Radio so strange and unusual that you, my readers, may be tempted to question the claims.

Just as Ripley’s TV show claims "If you see it on Ripley's, you can bet that it's real", we say if you read it here, it is real -- or unreal if you're wondering how these whacky things could happen to a great industry.

So here we go, Radio's Latest Believe It Or Not!

Cumulus Tracks Employee Access to the Station

You already know that Cumulus is burning up valuable cash to install two-way video conferencing via Skype in their meeting rooms so that Atlanta headquarters can participate, lead or run local sales meetings.

Then Atlanta tells local sales people what they are going to be pitching and when even if their best salespeople have their hands filled taking renewals.

But you may not know that Cumulus employees are increasingly uncomfortable with expanded spying as one reader explains:

“You don't know the half of it at Cumulus. Yes we have cameras in the sales offices and sales training rooms (it's strange that executives have time to punch in and watch a small town sales meeting). We are tracked in everything.

Entry into our buildings is by door code. They run a monthly report to see what time and what people enter the building. They track how many times and for how long each person logs onto the CSOS (Cumulus sales operating system...which we call C-shit). We get reminded if we don't log on at least daily to gather wisdom from fathers Lew and John.

Our management (small case they have not earned caps yet) runs reports on our phone use. How many calls and to whom did you really call during that phone out session? Big Dickey knows. A regional VP inspects our weekly sales plans, planned meetings with clients, and our "greensheets". And, oh yes, they run monthly reports on who printed how many pages at what time on the office printers”

This obsession with top down management has been repudiated in management textbooks for years.

In the 1960’s Rene McPherson took over Dana, a small auto parts company with many divisions. Previously, Dana attempted to run everything from headquarters with no success. McPherson came in and let each business unit make their own plans and talk to their own, direct customers. He cleaned out the corporate office and made each business unit accountable for making and selling what their customers wanted.

Productivity, sales and profits soared.

Lew Dickey is a Harvard grad. Harvard teaches business by utilizing case studies therefore Dickey should know to let each market be charged with being profitable so it can grow its share.

Most Terrestrial At-Work Streaming Gets Blocked

Here's another dirty little secret.

You know all those streaming stations that promote listening at work?

Well, most of their proprietary players get stopped dead by just about any corporate firewall.

Which stations do make it through?

Usually small town stations that use common codexes and keep their bandwidths low -- proving once again that the gods smile down on local radio whether it is delivered via towers and transmitters or via the digital information super highway.

But their firewalls hate corporate radio, too.

Blacklisting Artists Happens

We all know boycotting artists is something that small-minded radio people have done because theirs is bigger than yours, right?

Lew and John Dickey must really be the John Holmes of radio, by that standard, because they ran a radio group that mysteriously, for some reason or another, presided over the disappearance of Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks after they criticized the Dickey’s favorite president, George Bush.

I guess corporate thought the Chicks were un-American for mouthing off about politics.

Of course, their fans can think for themselves and have the ability to separate Dixie Chicks politics from their music. Apparently Dixie Chicks won some Grammy’s a few years later, someone appreciated their music.

We call that – their audience.

Now one of my readers told me:

“Let's have a beef with recording artists, so you don't play their music?
What does that accomplish bedsides driving your audience to a station that WILL play (new) music by artists they (the audience) wants to hear? This is not a new situation…I can remember having a beef with artists/labels in the past when I was Music Director of this station or that. But withhold airplay? Nope. We just didn't report to any trade or promoter that we had added the track.

That way we didn't cut ourselves off at the knees.
I suppose that's the way REAL programmers act(ed) in situations like this, and while the consolidators have once again proven they are not real programmers".

Clear Channel's “National Local Radio” Preempts Real Local Public Service

From another “happy” local Clear Channel employee:

“We now have announcements for local artists to send MP3s to the stations for posting on the websites and "possible" air play...we are installing silence sensors to report to the "Command Center" (CC's name, not mine) in Cincinnati...the first big PSA dictated campaign comes down … (we will have to cut back local PSAs for the national)...and yesterday we got the two weather alert radios that they are sending all stations that will alert the Command Center if there is severe weather in a local area. (We are the primary EAS station).

The Command Center is not even aware of what counties to program into the weather radios they are sending out...consequently, they will go off at every frog fart. Transmitter, audio, and local emergencies will be monitored from The Command Center to let most stations go unattended outside of regular business hours”.

It’s one thing for Clear Channel to say, we’re losing money and can’t afford to offer the same level of local programming we promised in our license renewal, so bear with us.

It’s quite another to call national programming local. To run critical services from places that cannot possible know the local market and threaten to fire anyone who doesn’t readily agree that this travesty isn’t repeater radio, it’s local radio.

Citadel Makes Employees Pay Their Own Disability

Citadel wants its employees to pay a lot more toward their long-term disability coverage.

Add that to Citadel’s decision to stop matching 401 (k) contributions and you realize that this company is not just refusing to reimburse for necessary parking expenses in some markets but they’re going for the real killer cuts that affect take home pay.

Hey, Fagreed thinks you should be happy to have a job so stop complaining!

Fagreed's compensation is below $10 million a year now so you won’t be getting much sympathy from him.

In all seriousness, the reason these failing empires are able to get away with mistreating and under compensating their employees is – may I be blunt here – where are they going to go?

We’re in bad recession.

Radio is declining and not likely to ever become a growth industry again.

And there is virtually no – like in “zero” – market to drive compensation or benefits up.

In other words, Citadel and the others are competing against the unemployment line and that means they don’t have to offer spit.

Some Cumulus survivors tell me their fellow workers are just hanging on and working second jobs in hopes of quitting. But for now, they are making less for more work.

Cintas Uniform Company is the Management Training Company for Cumulus

Tricky Dickey steals another employee with no radio experience away from the Cintas uniform company. Hey, if you wear uniforms maybe you could also sweep the stations.

They've hired another Cintas Uniform person to be GM, this time in Fayetteville, NC. Alan Buffaloe is out of a job now to the Cintas guy. Even the local paper seems incredulous.

As one of my readers put it, "If you can sell uniform rentals/cleaning services you sure as hell can manage a radio cluster...oh wait...Atlanta manages the stations, all this guy has to do is scorch the market with more cold calls".

So, let's see if I get this management strategy.

Fall all over yourself firing seasoned radio pros. Hire inexperienced people. Look outside the industry to non-radio people. Sounds like a winning formula.

So there you have it – another edition of Radio’s Believe It Or Not!

Just as in the original Ripley series, a freak show with commercials.

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