Beasley Edict: One PD Per Station

You want good news?

I’ve got it.

Beasley Broadcasting, a small family-run group of stations publicly traded, has decided that having one program director for each of its stations provides the kind of focus necessary for the station, its people and their audiences.

This is major and is bucking the trend of bean counters who are moving in the opposite direction.

Natalie Conner, VP of Beasley’s Philly operation recently broke the news to her staff and portrayed the move as emanating from corporate.

Conner said, “I wanted to let everyone know about a few corporate changes that have recently occurred in our structure across Beasley—all markets where there had been one PD running multiple stations, corporate now feels the best interest in the greater good for those stations and staff is to have a more focused direction from one PD and one PD only per station”.

Conner runs Beasley's “Wired 96.5” and WXTU in Philadelphia. Now each station there will have its own program director.

What is significant is that Beasley corporate has arrived at the right decision to have one person tending to the content at every station in every market from now on. This will no doubt improve the Beasley group but it also stands in stark contrast to the mistakes being made by many other larger companies.

In fact, the trend as I see it for 2010, is the polar opposite of Beasley’s one station-one PD edict.

Looking ahead you will see:

1. More clusters looking like a ghost town with a skeleton staff of live talent. Everything else will be Repeater Radio imported from out of Dodge or voice tracked to save money.

2. When stations are not local, today’s radio corporation feel they don't need a PD at every station so you can expect one person running several properties. This has been going on since consolidation began back in 1996 and will continue, but it may get worse.

3. A corporate person acting as a “traffic cop” directing programming to different clusters in markets, regions and nationwide without respect to whether that programming is local. Don't confuse this "switcher" with an in-market program director.

4. The demise of the local morning show. With Clear Channel, Cumulus and whatever is left of post-bankruptcy Citadel, mornings will be turned into “more music” marathons with the customary long commercial junk heaps. They like this concept because it plays to the People Meter misconception that more music gains more listeners. What it really does is game PPM’s vulnerabilities and produces hearers not listeners.

5. Lack of localization. 2010 will be the year that did in local radio in most markets. Where an independent operator continues to invest in local personalities, news and community commitment, they will continue to do well. For everyone else, there’s MasterCard. Charge the future to vanilla programming that doesn’t really fit where listeners live.

The other day a school principal was taken hostage in New York state. It made the national news. Coverage was everywhere on the Internet.

Here’s an email that a radio pro in that market sent to me that says it all:

“About 3 hours ago in Dutchess County, NY, a gunman stormed a high school in the next town over. He held a school administrator hostage at gunpoint. As soon as I heard, I started scanning the local radio dial.

Cumulus coverage: F (I'm not sure they even knew).

Clear Channel: C- At least they did a few taped break-in's with luke warm information. They still didn't stop their syndicated programming.

Pamal/K-104/WSPK: A+. Much to my surprise, this 50K watt top 40 station stopped all programming and did nonstop coverage for 2 1/2 hours. They interviewed the town supervisor and continuously broadcast news to scared parents, where to stage, how to communicate with their children and live reports with area residents. I was shocked. The last station in the world I would have ever expected to go live and nonstop was K-104. Yes, they are a corporate group, but they took their responsibility seriously.

Maybe there is hope for some radio stations?

There is always hope for local radio.

Locally run.

Locally programmed.

Locally sold.

That’s why Beasley’s decision to put someone in charge of the product 24/7 for each station is sending the right message.

It would be nice if everyone followed their lead.

Beasley is not usually a trendsetter positively or negatively. Here’s how the group ranks in the current Best & Worst Radio Groups poll -- click here.

But, every time you see radio done well – aimed at the community whether it’s WCBS-FM in the big town or a small station in Oklahoma, it is not surprising that their approach always works.

What hasn’t worked is the cost-cutter version of radio that has driven listeners away and hasn’t even succeeded as a publicly-funded business.

Do you think maybe the real smart people are the ones with their egos in check and not the ones who lined their pockets turning radio into a commodity?

They're the ones headed to bankruptcy.

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