Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Radio: The N.A.rehaB.

I’ll give credit where credit is due.

David “Fumbles” Rehr gets his for hiring grief counselors to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Austin next week.

He’s also stationing counselors at key locations throughout the convention center, nearby restaurants, and at the Driskill and Four Seasons.
Fumbles, even assigned a personal grief counselor to every station broker. How solicitous of him.
Okay, I admit it. I made the whole grief counselor story up .
I still feel that Fumbles still fell short by not turning next week’s NAB Convention into a communal radio industry intervention.
Fumbles, lure everyone in, lock the doors, and don’t allow anyone to leave until they agree to rehab.

We’ve suffered through a dozen years of our industry experiencing numerous behavioral problems that have ruined many eminent broadcast companies and precipitately ended careers. Employees, colleagues, and company executives are trapped in a terminal cycle of despair and lack of growth.
The collective denial of these tribulations and the ambivalence about getting much-needed treatment further blurs the reality of how the industry is viewed by both consumers and clients.

Though the NAB Convo bills itself as featuring top-notch management, programming, and sales sessions – most of those that could effect change and progress won’t be there.

The NAB calls itself a trade organization that advocates on behalf of radio and TV and networks before Congress, the FCC, and the Courts – but, in reality, it doesn’t have much juice with any of them.

The NAB Conventions have become an assembly of the politically correct of broadcasting preaching to the choir.

In NAB-speak the word digital means HD Radio.

Technology means something we need to keep up with but can’t afford.
Research is something we’d like to do - but like technology it's not in the budget.

Innovation is equated with failure. We'd like to innovate but it takes too much time.
The radio industry is locked in denial of radio hemorrhaging listeners- especially younger demos – its future.
If the real estate market is about houses whose owners can’t find buyers, the radio industry is about stations that can’t find listeners.

For that matter, it’s also about radio chains that can’t find buyers for the stations it’s trying to unload. Just ask CBS. When they made their announcement to dump dozens of stations, didn’t you expect the NAB would serve as the backdrop to announce their sale?

Yesterday, CEO Les Moonves insisted, “We’re not desperate to sell. We don’t need the cash.”
In other words, we’re just continuing to downsize and cut budgets because we like doing that kind of stuff, not because we have to. CBS = Cut Budgets Severely.

Fumbles, denying you have a problem doesn’t make it go away. That’s why the NAB has to get into the intervention business – to save radio from itself.

One addiction the NAB can’t kick is keeping company with the same rogues that have fed misinformation to the industry for well over a decade.

Every industry plays some form of follow the leader. That’s a given.

Radio’s quandary is that there are no functioning leaders – just followers –walking in a lethal circle – one penguin following another, and all going nowhere fast.
You see them every year and every year the radio industry slides down a few more notches. Coincidence? I think not.

It’s the same names, the same topics, best acronymed as SOS/DD.
I shouldn’t say there are no radio leaders. There are many with the insight to comprehend and envision its future – but the NAB won’t offer them the dais to really tell it like it is.

Do you seriously believe Fumbles and his cohorts want to change this system?

Of course not. His meal ticket is predicated on the rampant dumbassery that’s permeated this industry. And it’s only the rampant dumbasses that make out at these convos.
No one listens to the keynote address. Fumbles will deliver his well-written, crafted and timed short-sentenced cliché ridden speech using all the right buzzwords in all the right places. The crowd will applaud him unconsciously.

Rehr, who used to shill for the beer industry, is your archetypal middling salesman. He says whatever his audience wants to hear exactly the way they want it delivered. He always agrees with his audience on every issue.

If he headed the Audubon Society, he’d be delivering bird calls like a seasoned ornithologist.

(Free advice: Fumbles, lay off the Radio 2020 hype. No one – not even your most ardent believers – buy into that one.)

When David Pogue, the New York Times’ Personal Technology writer speaks, he’ll hit a nerve, which will quickly be dulled by the wave – no, more like tsunami - of denial that will sweep over the audience and override his message.

Invest in talent, creativity, and new technology? Who’d be dumb enough to take a chance on that? And how would that read in an annual report? That’s Silicon Valley geek stuff.
Fumbles will go out of his way to make certain his convention doesn’t confuse anyone with the facts.
Listeners care about radio as radio cares about them, which is to say, not at all. Remember that oily consultant who liked to say, “The masses are asses?” Well, as I like to say, even asses know when they’re getting kicked.

For those few fun years, post-deregulation, the NAB’s theme song was Pink’s “Get this Party Started” which quickly morphed into “Life in the Fast Lane.” The king of the convo was the CEO that acquired the most stations in time for NAB bragging rights. It didn’t matter whether the company could afford it or not. The business plan was buy now and figure out what to do with ‘em later and the finance plan was “buy now, pray later.”

Now you see some of those same people walk around the convo dumbfounded with eyes that look like they’ve been zapped by a lightning bolt and seared of life.

It’s definitely, positively, without a doubt intervention time for the NAB.

Fumbles must have tire tracks up and down his back from the amount of traffic his “Radio Heard Here” blog is generating.

Rehab is for those who believe in wasting money on HD Radio instead of building a lucrative Internet and streaming audio infrastructure and organizing a direct fight against the RIAA’s plans to impose a performance tax on music played on the radio.

So far, the best Fumbles has come up with for the NAB to challenge the RIAA is his duck campaign.

I have a friend who is with one of the four major labels. He’s not part of the New York-L.A. crowd. You won’t see him hanging out with the stars at the trendy joints or the MTV music awards. He’s in the financial end – and assured me that radio will have to pay a performance royalty for music in 2009.

Fumbles, while you were sending your cute little stuffed ducks to decision makers you think are your friends on Capitol Hill last November, the RIAA was up there, in person – and in full force working anyone and everyone on the royalty tax. It'll be your personal Murder Most Fowl.

It’s never going to happen, you say.

You keep telling yourself that hoping that you’ll eventually believe it.
You’re about to pull another defeat out of the jaws of victory.
While radio’s foes have the ducks in a row, you’re stuck with a dead one.

And that’s why you and your believers need rehab.


Anonymous said...

iNiquity = HDRA = CCU = NAB = broke = shitballs = scumbags = pondscum = scammers

Anonymous said...

Three months ago, Gorman began his post with the picture of the dead horse.

After three months, the horse is no longer's decomposed.

Why you guys keep beating this issue is beyond me. Reminds me of the old veterans who still try to fight old battles than have long since been decided.

Can't you guys find ANYTHING else to talk about?

25 year radio vet said...

John...I am with you. This was a great business and a fine place to develop talent. Something went wrong following the telecommunications bill signing. Instead of doing what the then-owners claimed they would with more formats, variety, talent, they went in the opposite direction and milked the system dry. Now it's a burned out shell. I admire your passion to bring it back. I hope it can be done but it will take as you say a combination of real broadcasters and fresh talent combined to make it work for the 21st century and a definite link to all new media.
Thank you for a great article.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gorman, I hope that everyone planning to attend this year's NAB Radio Show in Austin reads your blog this morning. They should print it out and take it with them.

Your definition of the NAB is perfect. They have lost touch. They have become victims of their own cronyism.

Those who bought into the business ten, tweleve years ago are paying the price and now want out.

I believe that radio started believeing the lies and exaggerations it was peddling to Wall Street and delivered a self inflicted wound to their properties.

Radio probably thought that as it was falling deeper into the debt hole that the government would bail it out since stations are federally licensed.

Whatever the case, I am pleased to hear that these mega-groups are forced to sell of stations. I, like you hope the next round of buyers are broadcasters and innovators.

Anonymous said...

gorman, hitting the nail on the head is your style & ya didnt let anyone down w/your latest.

amen, brother. you tell it like it is. ive been going to nabs for 20 years. i remember when they were good (before dereg), when they got ugly (early days of dereg) & now a funeral where lies & myths are dispensed in an effort to keep us radio folk interested in the biz.

since your blog radio-info had a piece this morning about moonves paraphrasing what you said earlier. everything is for sale for the right price. the problem is no one is meeting it.

we were told weeks back by the nab that this was the 'turn around radio show' & that cbs would be making a major announcement regarding the sale of its stations & how that would jump start the trading again.

now we know that is not going to happen & what we do know is that the credit crunch is far worse than expected & lending institutions look at radio as too risky of an investment right now.

that means your prediction of a fire sale is imminent.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points, John. But David Rehr is not the problem. And the intervention needn't happen in Austin. It could happen at any NAB board meeting. The board, after all, directs David Rehr. And they also run the industry, which is where the problem lies.

The NAB has more than $100 million in the bank, and the balance grows every year. It can spread enough money around DC to get any politician's attention. Money is only half the equation in Washington, despite what the cynics believe. It is the carrot, but where's the stick?

At one point NAB had both carrots and sticks. If a congressman or senator rebuffed the NAB, he felt it at home. Station owners were active in their community. Their managers were prosperous and well-established community leaders. They were vocal and respected. In addition, controlled the focus on the media's attention. They were powerful people.

Today, what clout does your typical station have? No meaningful community involvement. No prosperous employees (outside Wall Street) serving as respected voices in the community, just underpaid disgruntled employees who hate their owners. And, add to the mix, foolish, corporate-driven programming.

A station that airs Rush or O'Reilly or canned music isn't a force politicians need to worry about. The powerful mix of money and influence that made broadcasters formidable political players in Washington is gone. And it's not the money that's missing. The NAB rakes in as much money as ever. It's broadcaster's influence in their hometowns that disappeared.

And unless broadcasters address that, they shouldn't expect any assistance from Washington. You could have David Rehr or Daffy Duck working for you and it wouldn't make a nickel's worth of difference.

Anonymous said...

To last anonymous: You and Gorman are both right. You two should be on the NAB board. Localism is part of the problem. Radio is no longer a local political influence. With exception to NPR local programming how many radio stations cover local politics and interview the players?

I do have to agree with Gorman on David Rehr though. He is not a "radio guy". It is not in his blood. He does not care about the issues. He is a read whatever is put in front of him guy. When Gorman said he could do bird calls and pull it off he is right. What was the board thinking when it hired Rehr or was that a favor called in to the NAB by the GOP?

That the NAB has that kind of war chest and misspends it so badly is obscene.

I have to add this. My company is a member of the NAB. Yet I did not know about the "duck" promotion against the RIAA until I read it here. How did the board let that one go? It says nothing. It does not address the issue.

If radio gets hit with the royalty tax all it will do is further devalue properties. It becomes another expense. All radio can't go all talk.

paul vincent zecchino said...

90s connivers grabbed radio and gutted it out. Well done.

Fire talent, line pockets, stuff pie-holes, top off the G-5's.

Use HD to jam competitors and make listeners buy HD radios.

Brilliant? Nah. Tedious.

A merchant friend said his son has an iPhone. Loves it. He's considering buying one. He loves radio, especially Satellite. Couldn't fathom what delayed the XM/Sirius merger.

As do I, he likes nautical stuff. Showed him the chart. Now he understands. BigRadio wanted to steer Satellite onto HD's rocks. Asked he, 'isn't that like forcing appliance makers to include HD in toasters?' Yes, it is.

My friend was prominent in a major industry. He appreciates businesses big and small. Yet, as do those who love radio he doesn't truck with crony capitalists who 'jacked it.

BigRadio got what it asked for. Not content with sixty percent of something, it demanded one-hundred-eight per cent of everything.

As inevitably occurs, BigRadio now has two-hundred-fifty percent of nothing.

Paul Vincent Zecchino
Manasota Key, Florida
11 September, 2008

"Everybody wants money. That's
why they call it money."
- Mickey Bergman,
"HEIST", c. 2001
David Mamet

Anonymous said...

I don't think these guys are worth rehabilitating. Let them rot. Let them go down with their sinking ships. Those that should be saved are the ones waiting in the wings and the leaders the NAB censors for disagreeing with them. I assume you are one of them.

If you want to see who destroyed radio just go to the NAB Radio Show this year and check out who is on the panels and who is dispensing advice.

SOS/DD - says it well.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree about the NAB Radio Show. Those years immediately following deregulation brought out the greed and corruption. It was all ego and no substance. Those who were on the receiving end will never forget how we were treated by mssrs. Karmazin, Michaels, Hogan, Dickey, Smuylan and the rest. The promises broken, the deals undone. When they thought they had it all, they had their great fall and like Humpty Dumpty they will never put the pieces back together again. I await your fire sales, gentlemen.

Fed up said...

Fumbles sent toy ducks to Washington? Did they quack when you squeezed them? Is that how the NAB is fighting the RIAA's proposed royalty tax? We have a REAL issue here and that is the best he can do. His ad sucks, too. Why is this Fumbles guy in charge? Domestic beer sales fell during his reign there. Doesn't that tell you something?

paul vincent zecchino said...

Today's features long front page article about the latest scheme to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Now all AM's must move to the old Lo-Band TV channels where they'll become FM's.

Who will buy new radios to hear them? You? Me? The chap behind the tree?

It gets better. Almost all AM's must move, but a few chosen ones will remain. Will they be hometown stations which serve their audience?

No. They'll be a hundred or so clear channel - Clear Channel? - AMs. This will now, 'clear the way' for total digital on AM. Analog go bye bye.

Yeah. Right. And we'll all fall for it, too, won't we?

It ripens. The 'engineer' who proposes this 'framework' upon which the FCC will hang a a digital outhouse claims there'll be no more skywaves.

You heard right. He claims the few AM's remaining on AM band will be digital-only, and no more skywaves. Ever.

No more skywaves? Haven't they a gift for vanity? By what lunatic legerdemain will they eliminate skywaves at night?

Who created skywaves in the first place? iNiquity?

Not to worry, with skywaves gone, you'll enjoy better 'nightime reception', sez he - until they outlaw nighttime perhaps?

Is it really true that long term exposure to RF affects cognition?

How else to explain this latest trick to frame more HD mischief by decree?

Paul Vincent Zecchino
Manasota Key, Florida
11 September, 2008

"You weren't supposed to find out.
You weren't supposed to find out."
- Marty Brown,
'Redbelt', c. 2008,
David Mamet

Anonymous said...

Just after the telecommunications bill was signed into law I went to a Billboard magazine convention in New York. They had a panel about radio post-deregulation and it was well attended by both radio and record folk because both sides had questions about fewer companies owning more stations.

I don't remember everyone at the panel. Jimmy DeCastro was one, John Gehron was another. All spoke about how fewer owners would mean more formats, more chances, more opportunities for program directors and jocks.

What happened? We may never know whether these people believed what they were saying or were they just spewing the radio industry line of the time. What we do know is that what was promised by them and what was delivered were exact opposites.

Anonymous said...

This ought to be fun. I have a free ticket/flight to the NAB. I believe in it as much as you do and probably less. I can't wait to see all the new media a-holes stepping all over one another to pitch how the internet can save their radio station and many of them will buy it. Meanwhile, not one word will be discussed about content. What a joke.

Anonymous said...

Whether Dan Mason providing him dated information or Les Moonves' comments were shot from the hip, he did the radio industry some serious damage today with his comments repeated in When the CEO says everything is for sale at the right price you can read between the lines. No serious offer refused. It sure smells like a fire sale.

Anonymous said...

Any other industry or product manufacturer would panic if its consumers reacted the way listeners react to radio today. The younger the demo the more they dislike radio. Radio uses the excuse that the younger demos found other things to do. If that is the case they have already but an expiration date on the radio industry. Don't they get it?

Anonymous said...

did any of those RIAA ducks that the NAB sent to congress and other washington heavy weights ever end up on ebay? i would buy one to display as 'fumbles folly'.

he should have been a doctor. such a quack.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised you didn't mention the Coot & Fumbles coming up with that dumb Presidents of Radio idea. How many times the Coot say 'starpower' to Fumbles until he began repeating it. More preaching to the converted with a couple of rebels thrown in for color. Same old you know what, different day is so so so true.

Old Grouch said...

Wall Street Journal, Friday:
"Underwriters sold $228 million of Clear Channel Communications Inc.'s bonds, less than a quarter of the amount the banks hoped to offload...

The debt sold at 70 cents on the dollar... The bonds were trading below the price, at around 68 cents on the dollar, after the sale...

"It's sort of surprising in this marketplace that people weren't attracted to an 18% yield," said King Penniman, president of KDP Investment Advisors.

In addition to the remaining $752 million of these 10.75% bonds, underwriters also are left holding $1.33 billion of even riskier pay-in-kind toggle notes...

Anonymous said...

Fumbles Rehr holds his convention the week after its revealed that no one wants to buy stations that are on the block by the "C" companies, all of them and Clear Channel bonds are in the toilet.

Sounds like a fun NAB. Enjoy the denial, boys./

Anonymous said...

All you guys are so focused on attacking radio that you're missing the fact that it's part of a much bigger picture. Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and now Lehman Brothers. The financial structure of this country is in collapse, and it has nothing to do with radio.

I was reading how the government is looking to find a buyer for Lehman Brothers. How much you want to bet that the buyer will be a foreign company? Perhaps someone from China.

Do any of the posters on this board own their own house? Have you tried to sell it? Could we call the housing situation a fire sale? Who do you blame for that? The NAB?

Anonymous said...

The word few at the NAB Radio Show will understand: CONTENT!

If you don't have a product what do you sell?

The bass ackwards radio leaders need to be replaced.

Gorman, great blog.

Anonymous said...

How can an industry do so many things wrong or should I put it this way: Can't they do anything right?

Emphasis HD Radio, no attention to detail/content, not developing new talent, fighting Arbitron, ignoring the RIAA perf. tax threat, not understanding the internet, viewing Sirius XM as competition.

Guys and gals, grow up. Look at the calendar. Look at the world around you. It's changed. It's a content driven world. THE BEST CONTENT WINS! Start there.

Anonymous said...

"It's a content driven world. THE BEST CONTENT WINS! Start there."

Really? Not exactly true.

Is American Idol the best TV show? Was David Cook the best singer?

Best does not always win.

Then the next question is win WHAT?


No question that news sites like and are popular news sites. Do they make a lot of money?

Let's talk about the Washington Post. Their print edition lost $60 million last year. Their online edition, one of the most visited internet sites in the world, made $6 million.

I'll agree it's a content driven world. But that's part of the problem. Content is everywhere, and that drives the value of it down. If content was more limited, and there was only a limited number of places to get it (which was the case before the internet), then it would have greater value. Now everyone is in the content business. So what?

So when you say "The best content wins," we need to recognize that it's probably not true. It doesn't always win. The best content doesn't win in terms of popularity or in terms of profits. In fact, who is to judge that it's the "best content" at all?

Anonymous said...

Is American Idol the best TV show?

There are probably millions and millions of Americans who believe that American Idol is the best show on TV.

Anonymous said...

Was David Cook the best singer?

One key appealing feature of American Idol is the rags-to-riches dreams it invokes in viewers. One day David Cook is an unknown and the next day he's almost a household word. This evoking of a dream in the viewer is part of the show's content.

Anonymous said...

Quote from Fumbles speech at NAB:

“Radio needs people who believe.”

Can I believe in BOTH terrestrial radio and the tooth fairy?

Anonymous said...

People who "believe" usually need a reason to. I just can't seem to come up with one.