“I mean, Jesus, John. It’s only 590 people nationwide, including corporate people this time,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “There’s no need to do a hatchet job on us. This wasn’t an ‘Obama thing,’ not even close.”
I didn’t realize that January 20, 2009 - the day Clear Channel terminated 1,850 employees, which coincided with Barack Obama’s Presidential inauguration, would be formally referenced by that company as the ‘Obama thing,’ but I digress.
The voice on the other end of the line belongs to someone whom I promised would remain nameless. He does, in my opinion, represent Clear Channel Communications. He’s paid by Clear Channel and has a high level management position in a market, which I gave my word, would not identify.
I wasn’t going to explain the math. 1,850 plus 590 equals 2,440. In 99 days Clear Channel eliminated 2,440 jobs from the 900 or so stations it still owns.
The manager called me because, as he put it, “Some of our clients started reading your thing after it the magazines and newspapers picked up on it – and sometimes they give me crap about the stuff you write.”
“I’m just asking for you to put everything into context. I mean, everyone is firing everyone these days. Not just us.”
“I’m going to miss some of those people, for sure,” he added. “Some were good people.” I didn’t ask him whether he was referencing the programming talent or the back office people or both who were unceremoniously let go in the past twenty-four hours. My guess is that he never got too close to any of them. It’s like those kids growing up on the farm faced with the realization that the cute little lamb they used to play with would be tomorrow’s dinner.
“But, I’ll be honest, you and I should be more concerned about General effing Motors closing between 1,000 and 1,200 dealerships by the end of this year,” he continued. “Do you know how many effing radio and TV spots that are going to just disappear? All that effing revenue lost. That’s the real shame and that’s what you ought to be writing about ‘cause it’s going to end up costing jobs at CBS down the street and Emmis and Citadel and the rest of them.”
It’s all about point of view.
True, GM shuttering over a thousand dealerships by year’s end creates a nasty chain of events from even more people than Clear Channel fired on the street looking for work to far less dollars being spent on media in many markets.
My former programming assistant was among those terminated this morning.
She’d already been working at the station when the company I was with bought it. I just had an e-mail conversation with her a couple of weeks back. She was proud to say that she’d been with the station – her first major job – for almost twenty years.
When I read casualty figures of 590 or 1,850 news like this hits harder because we share the same business. Whether it’s a program director, an air personality or one who handles billing – we’re all interconnected.
Remember when Clear Channel radio CEO John Hogan said he was leaving it up to the program directors to decide whether to go with Premium Choice, their fancy name for voice-tracking and syndication – or stay live and local.
We now know the identities of the PDs that wanted to stay live and local. They’re the ones who are no longer under the employ of Clear Channel.
In at least one market, the entire staff was fired in favor of John Hogan’s Premium Choice.
I have a sounder for new e-mails. It’s been making noise all day. I’ve been on and off the phone three to four times more than usual. I’m hearing from those people you never hear from until they either lost a job or know someone who did and want to vouch for them.
Where am I going with this? Not far.
It does make me realize what a shallow company Clear Channel has become. It’s even worse under Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee. Think about it. They tried to orchestrate a positive p.r. fest about Clear Channel in advance of the firings they ordered John “I’m only following orders” Hogan to handle. Too bad they were lousy liars.
These economic times will weed out the weaker chains, stations. Only a quality product will stand the test of time. That doesn’t say much for Clear Channel's future.
The people who were let go today are not those who destroyed this industry. They were the ones trying to save it, preserve it, and make a living from it.