Monday, January 12, 2009

Radio - Clear Channel: Skinned in the game


The Clear Channel managers returned from last week’s Dallas meetings with their procedural dictates for their market as ordered by BainCapital and Thomas H. Lee.

Evidently, Bain and Lee are more skilled at reading the room than the Mark Mays’ slash and burn management contingent and didn’t want their Clear Channel’s radio division to be on the radar when it went into massacre maneuvers.

So leave it to Bain-Lee and their newly acquired fiendish family to jointly tweak the privation.

The firings, which were expected to occur yesterday, will actually come to pass next Tuesday, the 20th.

So not only the employees but the families that depend on them will have to deal with this sadistic countdown to irresolute joblessness for a few more days.

Tom Petty said it well. The waiting is the hardest part.

The drawn out week-and-a-day delay of execution was caused by an inopportune scheduling glitch.

Clear Channel couldn’t do its customary pink slip mass firing Friday because the date, the 16th, falls between Martin Luther King’s actual birthday - the day before - and the official holiday the following Monday.

Martin Luther King may have said “I have a dream” but Mark Mays is best known for “I have a scheme.”

But here’s the godsend for Clear Channel. Tuesday is Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The media coverage of the inaugural ceremony and surrounding events are expected to exceed November 4th’s media blitz of President-elect Obama’s victory. Barring a major contingency – the Obama inauguration will be only news story on Tuesday – and the following day.


So as Barack Obama gets sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, Clear Channel managers will be sacking an estimated one-thousand employees throughout the chain.

The first vision that came to my mind was the baptism scene in The Godfather. You know the one.

Michael Corleone is the Godfather at the christening of his nephew and namesake. The scene continuously crosscuts from the church to the set-up and execution of five murders of gang leaders. While the murders occur, Michael remains solemn at the church while listening to the holy recitations of the priest during the baptism.




Think about it. The only variation is that Clear Channel is using the backdrop of the Obama inauguration as its opportunity to make a clean kill.

Clear Channel used to be called “Cheap Channel.” Now it’s known as the “Characteristically Cruel.”

Remember that scene later on in The Godfather when Sal Tessio realizing that his betrayal of the Corleone family was evident attempts a futile mea culpa and begs for his life to be spared?

He says that memorable line to Coleone family consigliore Tom Hagan, “It was only business.”

That one became the s.o.p. close for Clear Channel managers to use when terminating an employee.

In the old days mobsters would pony up and take care of incidentals for the widows and family of those they whacked so they were never left to want – or squeal to the cops.

Proving that they have a heart, black as it may be, Clear Channel is rumored to be offering its terminated non-contract employees who had worked full-time and steadily for three years or longer nine months of severance provided they sign a don’t squeal to the media non-disclosure form.

John Hogan’s picked up on the buzzword “re-engineering” to describe the Brave - I mean - Bain New World of Clear Channel.

I have to clarify this. The Clear Channel version is less of the “re-engineering” as defined by Edward de Bono and Robert Heller and more like the “re-engineering” of the Soviet Union’s military after World War II.

Clear Channel’s “re-engineering” is a national centralization and dictate of policy, top-to-bottom, for programming and sales. That means national formats, national decisions, and less localism.
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Does this present an opportunity for rival chains to make a move against Clear Channel’s weakened state? Doubtful. Most expect the other major radio chains to fall in line like waddling penguins all-in-a-row, mimicking Clear Channel’s every move.
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Radio isn’t dying as much as it’s disappearing. Instead of finding new ways and means of being essential and engaging, it takes the opposite tack, which will result in further alienation with the declining radio audience.
*
As the great convergence to the Internet moves forward, the modern world will leave terrestrial radio behind. The second decade of the 21st century will hold little promise for terrestrial radio unless there is massive change in leadership, attitude, and direction.

Hints of a massive downsizing at Clear Channel had been circulating since before Thanksgiving – but that didn’t stop Mark Mays from firing off a first-of-year-memo. He said, Beginnings are a gift. They are an opportunity to put past disappointments behind us. They are a chance to tap new resolve. They allow us the prospect for renewal. He predicted a recession that would be broad, deep, and sustained.

He asked for focus, which he defined as the ability to get the job done amidst the uncertainty and distraction that a recession can bring. And ultimately, focus gives us the opportunity to succeed when others fail.

He asked for resilience and to see the glass half full.

He asked for determination, claiming that Clear Channel has always been the company that leads our industries out of the difficulties – and ended his memo by telling his surviving workaholics that they have the best resources in the industry at their disposal and You have the confidence and the support of everyone in this organization.

Now, could you imagine an honestly-written memo that says: We screwed up. We just couldn’t resist all of these greedy opportunities put in front of us. We put ourselves under a convenient cloak of invisibility so we could blame others for our shortcomings. Our only business was monkey business.

You may lose your job because we couldn’t keep ourselves from dropping our draws to keep the clients we had on the air.

There are those that take and those who can’t hold. There are givers and there are takers. We thought we were one thing when we were actually the other.

We refused to acknowledge our mistakes and recognize the facts about our industry. We’ve allowed our blinded greed to metastasize. Now, it’s feeding on itself and we just can’t comprehend why.

And now the Mays family will bequeath its legacy to a band of brigands known as a BainCapital and Thomas H. Lee and laugh all the way to the bank.

39 comments:

74WIXYgrad said...

And now the dilution of local talent continues with more responsibilities for less people. Any boasts of repeated books that some make are hollow because the talent pool is shallow.

And as you have said John, these folks are trying to hang on to a media which is rapidly becoming obsolete in itself, but could become relevant once again if some of these folks realize that it's 2009 and use available technology to their best advantage to reach the audience.

Anonymous said...

G-man, great blog this morning. I am also of the belief that radio could become relevant again under the right owners and operators.

You got it right again on the FCC. When I heard Julius Genachowski looks like Obama's pick for FCC Chairman I remembered and looked up to make sure the first place I heard his name. It was your blog on November 5. I credit you for that one.

Anonymous said...

Radio is fast becoming more-and-more irrelevant, as TSL continues to fall - TSL was down an average of 45 minutes last year. Hopefully, this means that CCU will not have the funds for a wide-spread upgrade to the proposed 10db power increase for FM-HD. Will the new ownership have the smarts to turn off their HD/IBOC jamming machines altogether?

Anonymous said...

How low can they go?

This one has to be the capper and it is wrong in every possible way.

What Obama stands for and what Clear Channel does are direct opposites in every way.

Bain Capital was founded by Mitt Romney. Clear Channel is tight with the Bush administration.

Both are dying breeds and Clear Channel will die with them.

It is not their America anymore.

CC = Cowards! Cowards!

idele p. said...

i read your new column on line this morning before leaving the house. on the way to work read marjorie egan's column in the boston herald. she wrote about how the economic downturn is changing dating habits.

i quote "marriage-minded women are more likely to look for solid qualities “mother” preached about: honesty, integrity, resilience, many different skills. why? because a man of character and versatility can more easily survive disaster".

i am not in the radio industry although i work for an agency that deals with the boston-worcester-providence stations. everyone i know at these stations is unhappy and frightened of the direction they have taken.

these men running the radio groups have no character and will not survive this downturn.

Anonymous said...

Clear Channel may be forced to rethink their Obama day firing plans.

Now that you and Tom Taylor called attention to it Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners may have to go to a plan B.

Thanks for kicking their anthill.

Anonymous said...

I want to say SHAME on Clear Channel but they would take that as a complement.

Anonymous said...

Would Tuesday, January 20 be a good day for Clear Channel employees nationwide to take the day off?

Anonymous said...

Actually, if there's a lot of severance being given out, it probably won't happen. If there are reasonably good size packages at least it's being done somewhat humanely as far as that goes not considering what they're doing to the industry, of course.

Anonymous said...

How long do you give Clear Channel's top-down management approach to survive? Personally, I feel it will be a disaster. There is no upside. Do the San Antonio (CC) and Boston (B-L) folks really believe you can run a business like this? Even McDonalds does regionalism.

We also see how much they look forward to the Obama administration.

Anonymous said...

It will get worse before it gets better on all fronts. Mason, Farid, Smyth, all of them will follow whatever Clear Channel is doing. I almost guarantee that within two or three weeks after the dust settles on CC the other chains will do the same butcher job on their stations. None of these leaders and I say that loosely know what they are doing. They are hanging on to their jobs by a thread. What they dont realize is that they are decreasing their own life expectancy which is spelled r-e-v-e-n-u-e.

Anonymous said...

It's been speculated that once CC does the firings the lemmings will follow. We can only hope that the lemmings will go over the cliff as well. G-Man THANKS for getting it said. These people have no conscience whatsoever. Good riddence to CC and their way of screwing...I mean doing business.

Anonymous said...

At the CES Sony CEO Howard Stringer said that in two years 90%of all Sony manufactured devices will have internet connectivity. Internet, not HD radio.

Radio remains lost in the dark about the internet. The stories I read about CBS radio streaming is just b.s. They pay to get rated! The reality is there are far more internet radio/streaming audio sites that choose not to or cannot afford to pay to be included in those surveys. They are very misleading.

Clear Channel also claims huge streaming listening and once again they get paid to be listed and surveyed. It is very misleading especially for advertisers.

Anonymous said...

Love your Godfather baptism scene analogy. Perfect. While Obama will speak about change and moving forward Clear Channel will be firing, rearranging and going backward. I haven't watched the Godfather in a few years. What a chilling scene. Thank you for including it. I do not want to minimize the problems the Clear Channel employees face. It is a genuine shame in the date, the reasons and the manner in which Clear Channel will fire those people. Shame on CC.

Anonymous said...

All you are, Gorman is whine, whine, whine, whine, whine. Everything sucks, everything is bad. Clear Channel sucks, Clear Channel is bad. CBS sucks, CBS is bad. EEEEEEEEEEnough, okay??????

Take it for real that your kind is over, finished - KA-frigging-PUT. Got that, Mister??????

Clear Channel is doing what it has to do. It's 2009. HELLO!!!! Radio does not work the way it did when you were frigging king of the frigging world, Buster.

Radio's problem stems from people like you that influence the listening public and make them believe that something good is bad. You make fun of Clear Channel and call them the Soviet Union while doing your own mind games on trying to convince your readers radio sucks.

Whine, whine, whine, whine. If you and your out of frigging work idiot minions want to moan and cry about lost jobs go right the eff ahead. I am willing to bet that MOST IF NOT ALL of those Clear Channel is letting go DESERVE TO GO!!!! The little gossipers, the whiney wipe your ass jox, salesdung that can't sell.

I'm sick of your frigging blog. I don't have to read it. I don't. The problem is that you INNNNNNNfluence some people with your crap and they begin to believe it and NONE OF IT IS TRUE!!! Gorman, go to HELL!

Anonymous said...

"I'm sick of your frigging blog. I don't have to read it. I don't. The problem is that you INNNNNNNfluence some people with your crap and they begin to believe it and NONE OF IT IS TRUE!!! Gorman, go to HELL!"

Thanks for the joke, and it is at your expense! I'm sure that John is getting a good laugh, too! LMFAO!!! Clear Channel loser!

Anonymous said...

"I'm sick of your frigging blog. I don't have to read it. I don't."

Then, why are you here reading his blog? You do.

Anonymous said...

This could be a great time for other groups to take advantage of lost audience that Clear Channel is likely to experience, especially when a significant part of them start looking around because their familiar moorings are gone. If other groups can just maintain and get out into their markets, community involvement, remotes, etc. it could pay off. Sure it will cost a little more to pay promotion staff, but the station could get 5 or 6 times back in increased revenue. This may be an opportunity for Greater Media, Bonneville, CBS, Citadel, etc.

Anonymous said...

Last poster, I agree. Although I think Gorman may be right about this one. The other guys are penguins and they will follow Clear Channel right into the walrus's mouth. Okay, bad analogy.

It will take a smaller chain or it may take the impending fire sale and new owners entering the field to change the course of doom for radio.

Smuylan and Smyth are nice guys although they are cut from the same cloth. They are easily swayed by the wrong advice. Mason is vacuous. Farid is pure greed.

Anonymous said...

How could you possibly dislike John Gorman?

His genius is obvious. Take a look at the list of successful stations he has programmed in the last 10 years:


SFX: Crickets




SFX: Crickets





SFX:More Crickets


I rest my case, the man is a genius!

Anonymous said...

While I agree with most of John's observations, the earlier ranter raises a valid point. Radio has changed and will never again be able to attract the audience it once had. Radio is dying, and no amount of improved content can help it. If you accept that listeners are leaving and will not return, the path Clear Channel and other radio groups are on is logical. Reduce costs (and by necessity quality), serve the customers that remain and take whatever money you can from the business while it winds down. It happens to many industries that are replaced by newer technologies or fall victim to changing customer habits. It's just business. What makes it so painful is that so many radio employees loved the old way the industry worked. But it's time to let go.

BB said...

Anonymous said...

All you are, Gorman is whine, whine, whine, whine, whine. Everything sucks, everything is bad. Clear Channel sucks, Clear Channel is bad. CBS sucks, CBS is bad. EEEEEEEEEEnough, okay??????

Take it for real that your kind is over, finished - KA-frigging-PUT. Got that, Mister??????

Clear Channel is doing what it has to do. It's 2009. HELLO!!!! Radio does not work the way it did when you were frigging king of the frigging world, Buster.

Radio's problem stems from people like you that influence the listening public and make them believe that something good is bad. You make fun of Clear Channel and call them the Soviet Union while doing your own mind games on trying to convince your readers radio sucks.

Whine, whine, whine, whine. If you and your out of frigging work idiot minions want to moan and cry about lost jobs go right the eff ahead. I am willing to bet that MOST IF NOT ALL of those Clear Channel is letting go DESERVE TO GO!!!! The little gossipers, the whiney wipe your ass jox, salesdung that can't sell.

I'm sick of your frigging blog. I don't have to read it. I don't. The problem is that you INNNNNNNfluence some people with your crap and they begin to believe it and NONE OF IT IS TRUE!!! Gorman, go to HELL!


This is exactly why the terrestrial radio industry is DEAD! Hey, Mr. Anonymous, please go away and DO NOT COME BACK. Thank you!

jonathan goolsby said...

wow, did you really just bust out a defense think-tank paper?

and, well, doesn't that same paper indicate that the USSR's inter-war re-engineering was capably done?

maybe it would be apt, using this historical model, to compare CC's re-engineering to the US Army Air Corps' inter-war experiments and procurements? loading up on advanced, heavily-armed, long-range bombers, but neglecting the need for long-range fighter support?

the paper you cited indicated the Soviet Union was well-prepared for a lengthy war of attrition, which any student of history knows was epitomized by the Stalingrad stand. horrific casualties, but the Soviets had more cannon fodder to feed. and interchangeable tank parts.

unfortunately, so does CC, I fear.

i'm just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on now...do you really think "the media" would cover the CC firings even if it happened on the slowest news day of the year?

You guys have an exaggerated sense of your own worth.

Anonymous said...

Comments on the last two posters. I am guessing here. Reading between the lines of Gorman's including that Rand Corp. report, is his point that we (as a country) overestimated the USSR? Only a guess. The long range could also mean long range planning on the part of Clear Channel which up until now has lived from quarter to quarter as a public company. I am only guessing on this.

My complaint about Gorman's blogs is that they get too intellectual and it comes across like he is showing off and that may work against his causes.

To the last poster. We can all agree than Martha in Peroia could not care less about who gets fired at Clear Channel. How many real personalities are left at that station other than a handful of aging AM drivers anyway? Clear Channel would still get coverage in all media related sites and magazines just as Tribune, Hearst, Saga and other media companies have been reported on. Clear Channel is the biggest radio company so of course they are going to get prime coverage in media circles. Picking inauguration day is like the bad little kid hiding behind his mother's dress.

Anonymous said...

This blog should be retitled the Liberal Leanings of Gorman. Stop with the Obama lovefest. Not all of us are in love with the guy. Clear Channel is not the Evil Empire while Obama is Luke Skywalker.

ex-saga/sargrave said...

DelColliano's blog mentioned some other firings including some pretty dirty moves on the part of Saga. You know what they say about Ed Christian. Birds follow him wherever he goes, singing "Cheap Cheap Cheap Cheap"

Anonymous said...

Regardless of your pro or con opinion of Gorman, what he writes here is something that everyone in radio should take heed to. We cannot argue these facts. Every radio CEO should take to heart. Gorman "gets it":

>>>Radio isn’t dying as much as it’s disappearing. Instead of finding new ways and means of being essential and engaging, it takes the opposite tack, which will result in further alienation with the declining radio audience.

As the great convergence to the Internet moves forward, the modern world will leave terrestrial radio behind. The second decade of the 21st century will hold little promise for terrestrial radio unless there is massive change in leadership, attitude, and direction.<<<

I do not see how anyone in the media can disagree with that. This can apply to all "old" media struggling to stay afloat in this new century.

vanillacokehead said...

good stuff, John. Just shared this on Twitter. Thanks for the post...

HD Radio Farce said...

"Microsoft sticks with analog"

"The company's MSN Direct was developing a new traffic and local information service using HD Radio signals. But after two years of investigating how HD Radio could be tapped, Microsoft decides to stick with its current analog system instead of converting to an HD Radio data service."

http://tinyurl.com/8unwdu

"MSN Direct Goes High Def with Clear Channel"
1/8/2007

"Microsoft Corp. and Clear Channel Radio today announced at the 2007 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that they have executed a collaborative agreement to build a nationwide data delivery service using HD Radio technology, providing personalized and localized content to a variety of HD Radio receivers."

http://tinyurl.com/99wd9x

Yup, less is finally less - LMFAO!

Anonymous said...

JOHN, Thank you for thinking of us. This absolutely sucks. No one has been told anything. Not even a hint. As a result rumors run wild. This company deserves to die. What Clear Channel has done to its employees is unconsiounable. Mark Mays memo is an insult to the people who have worked long hours to keep him and his family in private jets. We don't mind the hard work. We do mind when no one seems to care.

Anonymous said...

JOHN, Thank you for thinking of us. This absolutely sucks. No one has been told anything. Not even a hint. As a result rumors run wild. This company deserves to die. What Clear Channel has done to its employees is unconsiounable. Mark Mays memo is an insult to the people who have worked long hours to keep him and his family in private jets. We don't mind the hard work. We do mind when no one seems to care.

Anonymous said...

There's opportunity for competitors when Clear Channel starts the move to the repeater concept. Even if the concept holds its own overall, there will still be some markets where it will do poorly, but they're committed to running it. Competitors can capitalize on this vulnerability.

Anonymous said...

I used to work for Clear Channel for many years. Eventually, I left because they really didn't pay well or appreciate their talent. (When I mention "talent," I don't just mean "on-air personalities." I mean, hard-working, skilled individuals who give their best for the best outcome - in favor of Clear Channel executives.) I now make more money and work half the hours in a different career.

Although I learned very much in my tenor at CC, I will add this: It is all about the bottom line with these folks. Employees are rarely praised. Instead, they receive constant criticism. Employee Moral is very low with HIGH turn-over. I witnessed MUCH unnecessary ridicule of "skillful and successful" employees in the office by management.

Most managers are miserable at the company. I have several friends that still work for CC. None of them are happy. Maybe this layoff is a blessing in disguise? They get their severance, then move on to a career where they are appreciated and love what they do - LIKE ME! That would be awesome!

Thank GOD I am no longer working for the company. They are laying off MANAGEMENT? Management, ABOVE ALL, is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of a company - and the Mays are too tight to invest in training and leading their staff, yet later on wonder why they aren't bringing in the ratings or ad dollars (which, of course, will lead to more criticism of staff.)

They should be ashamed of themselves.

Kirk Jusko said...

First, the Plain Dealer fires a bunch of people, and now Clear Channel.

Media monopolies aren't what they used to be.

HD Radio Farce said...

"The latest to cut staff: iBiquity"
1/16/09

"The technology developer behind HD Radio has trimmed its payroll in a move iBiquity says will conserve resources. CEO Bob Struble says despite the downsizing, the company is continuing its strong forward movement. It's iBiquity's first layoff since August 2003."

http://tinyurl.com/6tjqbd

Adios, Boobles!

Anonymous said...

The exploitation of the repeater format weakness is their non-localism. They may argue and whine that it doesn't matter but in fact, they're frightened of people using this weakness to compete against them. It CAN matter if other stations capitalize on it by just getting out and pressing flesh, getting involved with the community, working with local advertisers, etc. Being non-local is their Achilles heel and they know it.

Anonymous said...

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