Clear Channel's Audacity of Localism

One of my "Repeater Reporters" pointed out that Clear Channel's recent job posting for a Chicago/Cleveland producer for the syndicated Valentine in the Morning Show read like a repudiation of President John Slogan Hogan's much-proclaimed Audacity of Localism.

That's what Hogan thinks is his bold initiative to embrace local programming while simultaneously deconstructing local radio one market at a time.

I realize that this job description is for network producer of a Clear Channel syndicated show, but let's look at the language in the posting to get a feel for what their audacity really is.

Audacity is defined as "the willingness to take bold risks".

It has another definition, "rude or disrespectful behavior; impudence".

You be the judge.

The Clear Channel position was described as "HOT AC Network Producer based in LA, reporting to Executive Producer of Valentine in the Morning".

"Core Responsibility: Producing a daily (M-F) HOT AC morning show to Chicago WLIT & Cleveland WMVX including station & local day specific material for station programming & sales client content".

Here are excerpts from the job description:

• Build and distribute complete show and update accordingly with day current material recorded morning of for remote stations.

Sounds harmless enough, right?

Monitor local LA show and isolate all relevant material for repurpose into remote stations.

Clear Channel gets bent out of shape if anyone accuses them of repurposing content and there it is in their own words -- in their own job description. If that doesn't sound like the formula for "Repeater Radio" what is? Here comes a corporate memo banning the word "repurpose".

• Prepare additional scripts for talent to complement audio, individualized for each market.

That sounds real local, doesn't it?

• Produce totally localized show for each remote station each day.

Wait a minute -- let's get this right, is Clear Channel saying produce a totally localized show from Los Angeles for each local station? That's not local radio. That's national radio trying to foist itself on the audience as local.

• Contribute to brainstorming of show content for all markets with topics, current events from a national and market specific level.

Brainstorming is good but I guess it can't be done on a local basis -- maybe Clear Channel thinks individual market talent can't think straight without a top down approach or, on the alternative, maybe it's just cheaper. That's it. One person doing all the thinking.

• Provide local affiliate/national information/audio for use on syndicated show.

Why are we not running a local show again? I just want to hear you say it.

• Manage/edit/supply local liners for affiliate use.

And you wonder why listeners are turning away from radio.

• Maintain station integrity, knowing limits for content and keeping within those.

Guess that can't be done locally either.

• This role will be the Central point of contact for all day to day communication with Chicago & Cleveland.

Notice how they capitalized Central not me. Clear Channel is the biggest national repeater radio company disguised as a mild mannered local broadcaster.

Applications for that job closed September 8th in case you were tempted to apply.

The fact is that Clear Channel "Repeater Radio" is failing.

Oh, don't get me wrong. It succeeded at helping the debt laden consolidator cut costs, but "Repeater Radio" is laying an egg with local listeners.

Take Detroit.

John Slogan Hogan was apparently repudiated (perhaps with his own permission) when sports radio WDFN (1130) "The Fan" decided to rehire local hosts. You may remember they fired competent local talent on that station (and others as well) to revert to syndication.

I guess if it worked, they'd still be doing it.

Well, now "The Fan" hired local talker Sean Baligian for mornings but in true Clear Channel fashion he will continue to do a non-local show for Grand Rapids Clear Channel station “ESPN 96.1” WMAX. After all, Clear Channel has some pride.

Another midday morning host is local Detroit TV sports reporter Ryan Ermanni.

While Clear Channel keeps ESPN from noon to 2 pm.

Matt Shepard's show moves to another time -- he outlasted the mass extermination of local talent about six months ago and now he has the pleasure of replacing yet another syndicated show -- Jim Rome.

Another local print sports columnist Drew Sharp gets to go on-the-air live.

What must Clear Channel be thinking?

Oh, I get it, Clear Channel handed the victory to CBS' all-sports "Ticket" (WXYT AM/FM) when it went off and tried this foolish move to cut local talent and save money. Now I guess you'd have to say that even Clear Channel knows you can't win against a local competitor when you're running "Repeater Radio".

You and I know this.

Hogan probably does, too, but he's being paid to follow orders from investment bank Lee & Bain.

If "Repeater Radio" turns out to be the biggest industry story of 2009, then the predicted failure of "Repeater Radio" has to be a candidate for top news in 2010.

It's one thing for Slogan Hogan to sanctimoniously go around preaching localism while he is dismantling his local stations.

That's rhetoric.

But when he presides over a company that is starting to eat "his" words -- as is now happening in Detroit -- then you can appreciate the wisdom of the old adage "actions speak louder than words".

"Repeater Radio" will fail in an industry where local radio, local management and local talent are the keys to remaining competitive in an expanded world of new media.

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