Radio's "Believe It Or Not"

The big three bumbling consolidators are screwing up radio even more these days what with high anxiety management, totally irrelevant priorities, potentially illegal recruitment tactics and contradictory policies.

Yes, certified "stoopid" ways to get in your talented employees' way while they are trying to save your bacon.

Incredible stories of death, destruction and self-immolation by or at the hands of the three most dangerous companies owning radio stations -- Clear Channel, Citadel and Cumulus.

And, a programming note -- Cumulus has far surpassed Clear Channel as "Radio's Worst Group" -- virtually impossible before Lew "Tricky" Dickey started competing with Clear Channel to be "worser" than them. See the up-to-the-second voting results from readers like you, here.

Now, let's play Radio's "Believe It Or Not" ...

• Apparent pressure has cause the death of two Cumulus employees

You may remember that a Cumulus business manager died a few months ago in what a reader apparently thought was workplace stress.

Again, most recently Kevin McDonald, account executive at the Cumulus Pensacola, Florida cluster -- 38 years old -- died after he reportedly was fired. Of course, workers predictably say that he was pressured -- their opinion. Nonetheless, some wonder whether the intensity of the Cumulus management approach could be a factor. Here's McDonald's death notice.

My opinion is that Cumulus has tightened the screws over the past year in an attempt to get its many employees to do what a handful of Atlanta executives think is best. There is a great deal of pressure on people. Employees do not have a lot of options -- other than to quit. Some are leaving, however. Most can't afford to be without work in a recession.

It's one thing to poke fun at Cumulus. But far more serious when employees are dying or losing their good health under the Dickey regime.

• Grand Rapid's concert venue sues Clear Channel

That's a swticheroo.

Isn't it usually the Evil Empire that does the suing?

Anyway, the city of Ionia dragged Clear Channel's B-93 country station into court to be reimbursed for $40,703 in extra expenses related to flooding during a recent music festival.

You may remember, there was some confusion over whether B-93 adequately warned 60,000 or more concert goers about one little thing -- that flash floods in the Grand River could leave their cars inaccessible and buried in mud.

That's what happened.

The National Weather Service knew it, but apparently Clear Channel's weather source didn't.

At first Clear Channel indicated it would pick up the tab for towing the 1,400 cars out of the mud and then came to its senses and decided to screw them out of the money instead. Meanwhile, station executives and talent who really care about their listeners and the popular annual event were hamstrung by Hogan's Heroes.

Don't believe it?

Read this account, but wait -- you won't believe the next item.

• No money to tow 1,400 stranded concert cars, but $989,250 to keep a corporate lawyer from leaving Clear Channel

That's right, as incredible as it may seem -- Clear Channel agreed on July 20th to pay almost one million dollars to EVP/Chief Legal office Andy Levin to -- and this is a quote -- "induce" Mr. Levin to remain in these positions through January 8, 2010. He also keeps his eligibility for a bonus under the company's regular incentive plan.

Hey, this guy makes more money by leaving than staying.

I wonder why Clear Channel is so hot to keep him?

They don't make Polaroids anymore, do they?

Levin has magnanimously and unselfishly decided to make a great personal sacrifice and stay on for another 90 days with no additional compensation (other than the million, that is) and then will be available through May 31, 2011 at a rate of $200 an hour for hours in excess of five hours per week -- you read that right -- in excess of five hours a week. He's also agreed to employee non-solicitation covenants until May 31, 2011.

You can't make this stuff up.

This is reality in the unreal world of radio consolidation.

He's got to have pictures!

Those poor suckers called radio listeners/concert goers in Grand Rapids, let them eat mud.

• All Cumulus managers may not attend the Philly NAB, except ...

One of my Repeater Reporters sent me a memo purported to be from Jon Pinch -- dated February 23 of this year reminding Cumulus workers how much their hard work is appreciated and sorry they can't go to the NAB Radio Show in Philly this September.

Okay, I made up the appreciation for hard work part. Here's the real zinger from Pinch to his market managers:

"It should go without saying that given the present economic conditions, no one should be attending the RAB or NAB this year. This means regardless of whether they recruited you as a “speaker” or other participant, your focus is required on improving your market revenue".

First of all, if it should go without saying, why is this guy then saying it?

Maybe what Captain Pinch is saying is, "you shouldn't go without me saying it".

Second of all, why is CEO Lew Tricky Dickey pulling a slight of hand move to appear on a panel in Philadelphia while his managers are toiling back at their sweat shops?

Does the fact that Dickey is defying Captain Pinch mean that Dickey can't focus on improving Cumulus market revenue?

Just asking.

• Citadel violating EEO laws by asking for applicant's pictures

Remember that cockamamie contest Citadel is having in Providence to find salespeople? I think the phrase they used was that they were "teaming up to give away the ultimate prize to one lucky Southern New Englander… a job in radio!"

They're kidding, I hope.

Do these poor suckers know who they are auditioning to work for?

The problem with the “Can You Sell” contest was that it solicited pictures of the applicants -- not kosher in the world of equal opportunity. But hey, who is watching anyway?

Here were the rules as they explained them:

"On Thursday, August 6th from 9am-4pm we’ll host an open job interview at Aqua at The Providence Marriott for the Account Executive position. Interested applicants are encouraged to come down throughout the day with their resume and selling spirit to “wow” us!

From this group, we’ll pick twelve semi-finalist’s who will compete in a series of four weekly tasks to determine who will be the next account executive at Citadel Broadcasting! The tasks will be based around the fast paced work environment in radio and feature things like writing and producing a commercial for Newport Creamery.

Listeners will get to keep up with the contestants through blogs and webisodes online at and A popular vote online by the listeners will give feedback to a panel of executives from Citadel and Newport Creamery".

Maybe Citadel thinks this is Survivor?

Well, they missed the deadline for finding their new sales superstars.

Citadel calls itself an equal opportunity employer.

As one of my alert readers points out:

"In the contest promo is: 'don't forget to include a photo and/or video to get your foot in the door.'

Jerry, I haven't done hiring in a few years but all the places I hired for, plus my own companies, would never have stood for requiring pictures with an application.

Am I so out of touch that screening under EEO but here are some comments I found to be related:

1) 'In the USA it is NOT a good idea to include a photo or video or picture because Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations put the employer (not the candidate) between a rock and a hard place when photos, videos, or pictures of the applicant are included with or on a resume.'

2) The Texas Workforce Commission said hiring decisions cannot be based in any way upon race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability. 'Requiring a photo would likely be considered a clear example of discriminatory hiring practices, according to our attorneys,' a TWC representative wrote."

Oh, one more thing -- isn't Citadel one of the consolidators that fired a heap of sales people in the past year? I think the term they used at the time was "layoffs".

Then, why do they need to do a silly, possibly illegal contest to find salespeople when they could recall good ones who were doing the job for them and were fired to save money?

Guess that firing salespeople to make money thing isn't working out too well, right Punchin' Judy Ellis?

I call it Ethics Cleansing -- fire people under the guise of tough economic times and then come back and rehire cheaper, less experienced employees months later.

I know radio groups are bankrupt financially but are they also bankrupt of good ideas? I mean there is a recession and Citadel is playing "Sales Survivor" with stations while they are five months away from breaching their loan covenants.

Believe it or not, these things are really happening in the radio business. Radio was never a joke like it is now. And the solid business execs have been replaced by jokers.

A talented diverse group of people always kept it relevant and made the industry so profitable that even Wall Street eventually came a calling.

About ten years ago or so, I hired Peter Drucker, the management genius, to address one of my Inside Radio Management Conferences.

Drucker, who has been right about almost every business issue he has addressed, said flat out that very few consolidations had ever worked in American history.

And the few that did work have seven things in common but one of them was that when they spent hundreds of millions or billions to buy companies, they really wanted to buy its management and then support them because only these managers could come up with the innovations that could guarantee future growth.

By contrast, radio consolidation saw the opposite happen.

Management, sales and talent were systematically fired over the 13 years since consolidation began -- and I note that it had nothing to do with their most recent excuse -- the recession.

Creativity and innovation rarely comes from the top down but in radio's case, the innovators were fired and retired. You probably know a lot of good radio execs who were expendable once this group of management trainees got their hands on these companies.

That leaves you with the likes of John Slogan Hogan, Dickey Doo and Fagreed Suleman.

And that explains the almost unbelievable screw ups you've just read about.

When the Three Blind Mice are at work, see how they run the radio industry into the ground.

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