Friday, December 28, 2007

Radio’s Rogues Gallery of 2007

In no particular order - and by no means complete:

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Boy Kevin Martin: He transformed the FCC into a hackapalooza where all deals are done under the table. Want to buy in? Boy will direct you to his preferred lobbyists. Just ask Sam Zell. He can get anything he wants at Kevin Martin’s restaurant.

Sure there’s no shortage of those wanting to put a stake through the heart of this grotesquely corrupt system – but it’s not going to happen.

The General Accounting Office ratted him out for leaking confidential material to preferred lobbyists and companies and he still has a job and hasn’t been brought up on charges thanks to his wife’s employer and Bush string-puller. He’s got him covered so well that you can’t even see the yellow streak running down his back.

Mitch Bainwol, CEO of the RIAA: The RIAA has engaged in everything from the Patriot Act to breaking every invasion of privacy law without reprimand to search and destroy illegal downloaders.
Its SoundExchange division encouraged Internet-only radio stations to set up payola deals with labels to reduce the cost of royalty payments for airplay.
Now, they’re closing in on radio like hyenas surrounding a wounded animal with its MusicFirst Coalition’s latest extortion in disguise: charging terrestrial radio a tariff for streaming music.
The RIAA is the lobby wing of the major labels, mostly foreign owned and infamous for not paying its artists the royalties they’re owed.
Don’t believe it? Check the track record of the RIAA with the few that had enough money to audit their labels.

Who says crime doesn’t pay? Not Bainwol.

David Rehr a.k.a. Fumbles, President and CEO of the NAB: Here’s a paper tiger’s paper tiger. The six words he hears from everyone: “Go away, kid. You bother me.”

Royalties? Unrealistic censorship? Satellite merger? He's boxing with the big boys now. I guess Pater never taught him how to defend himself. The only box he knows is the one he can’t get out of. He had an opportunity to threaten Mitch Bainwol that he’d expose the RIAA for the thugs they are but his lips were trembling too much to form the words. He can write one hell of a letter, though. Actually, hundreds of them. Too bad none of them were effective – or even read for that matter.

We always thought that what made Milwaukee famous would make a fool out of him.

Former CBS Radio Chairman and CEO Joel Hollander: Lost in translation. Jack, Free-FM, the Zone – enough already.
We knew it was only a matter of time when CBS Broadcasting Chairman and CEO Les Moonves and Hollander would take that ride in the country where only one of them would return.

Peter Ferrara a.k.a. Sgt. Bilk-o, President and CEO of the HD Radio Alliance: We know it’s a dead horse but we enjoy beating it anyway. The HD Radio Alliance is a sheltered workshop for the otherwise unemployable radio executive.
It’s a place where a dollar chases a dime.

How many HD Radios did its tent revivalist Sgt. Bilk-o legitimately (real figures, not his) sell this Christmas? Do you know anyone who’s bought one? Even on QVC?

Even his former disciple, the Coot, is rallying against Bilk-o’s latest creative. More proof that when the ship is sinking the rats are the first to leave.
When the house of cards finally collapses will Bilk-o say the following words before a live audience, “Your Honor, I believed everything in the radio industry was on the level?”
Bet on it. He'll squeal like a pig.
Designer consultants (names need not be mentioned – yet): The Coot is a cheap knock-off. You can always ID the knock-offs. They’re the ones telling you that everything they told you to do for the past ten years was wrong but it’s your fault for following their advice. Start with the Coot’s Chicago stations and go from there.

True, there’s that oily designer consultant who’s even worse – but I’ll wait until his dossier is complete. You’ve heard of double dippers? This one’s gone quad. The net has been thrown over people for less than what this rogue and his associates have done to this business.

The Mays Family, BainCapital and Thomas H. Lee a.k.a. Fiddle and Faddle: – Here’s the problem with being a member of the Mays family’s Lucky Sperm Club. Eventually, the luck part runs out.
Sure there are those that’ll say Randy Michaels left Clear Channel radio in a lurch – but how many years has it been since they ousted him and they still can’t turn it around?

What can you say about a company that fires its best – from account executives to air talent – and replaces them with those that’ll work the cheapest? You get what you pay for.

Instead of trying to embrace new technology that could’ve bought them time, this troglodytic company beat it to death. Their radio home pages look like porn sites. Bad ones.

Take Fiddle and Faddle, otherwise known as the BainCapital/Thomas H. Lee privatization deal. The Mays family conned them into the deal that they can’t get out of without a heavy payoff.
Their aborted plan to divvy up what was left of the morally bankrupt company is in stasis and they may be forced to call the Mays’ bluff, cut their losses and back out of that deal.
And Wall Street’s gotten wise to the Mays father, son, and holy roast family con: heads I win, tails you lose. This time it may be closer to no one getting the gold and everyone getting the shaft.

Don Imus: How can we miss you if you don’t go away? A lot of good you’ll do Citadel. Imus is little more than a reoccurring presence, like herpes.

Mel Karmazin, Gary Parsons and the XM-Sirius satellite radio merger: Here’s the logic. Fewer stations mean more variety? I guess that’s true when competition gets in the way of good programming. Will it really matter five years from now? Doubtful.

Mel and Gary aren’t really rogues. They’re the sharpest people in the room. Mel has never forgotten where all the bodies are buried and which sepulchers await their permanent guests.

Arbitron President and CEO Steve Morris and the Portable people meter: Another one who’s not a rogue but has to deal with his share of them. The diary served its purpose in its day just as horses did before automobiles. It’s time to join the 21st century and those in radio opposing the PPM should realize that it will do far more to help their cause than hurt.

True, there are still a few bugs. It’s a new product. So far, though, it’s confirming what we already knew. Few listeners have a favorite radio station anymore. Those that listen, listen less. And commercial radio morning drive numbers aren’t what they used to be.

The bad news for those still doing radio the old fashioned way? Fill in the blanks.
The following rogues aren’t really radio anymore though there are those that hope and pray that they return to the medium.

The Tribune Toxic Twins – Sam Zell and Randy Michaels: Who cares? Sam Zell and his wingman Randy Michaels are going to do what they want to do whether or not you like it, have an opinion about it, or just want to be an armchair quarterback.
Do you really believe Zell and Randy Michaels would want to get back into radio - a business they’ve already destroyed? That cow’s been milked dry and put out to slaughter.

Michaels doesn’t need revenge. He’s already gotten even with Clear Channel while they’re getting odd. He left them in the lurch with a product that is worth significantly less than what they paid for it.

To those few past and present Clear Channel and Jacor staffers that Randy did take care of who are on tenterhooks that he’ll return to radio, here’s a fact. He’s not spending as much time thinking about you as you are thinking about him.

Now, if you find yourself under the employ of Tribune, here are some fitting words from your former employers, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Weapons of Mass Zellstruction

Are you really all that surprised?

Did you expect anything less from Sam Zell?

He positioned Boy Kevin Martin’s FCC hackarama to give him what he wanted – and one day later word comes down that soon-to-be-Chairman of the Tribune Corp. Zell is taking out Dennis FitzSimons and making the socially maladjusted Randy Michaels the new Chief Executive Officer of the Tribune Company.

(Don’t cry for Fitz. He jumps with a $38 million golden parachute.)

The Trib should rename the position for the CEO formerly known as Bennie Homel. How about Chief Executive Butcher? Prince of Darkness? The Executioner?

It’s obvious that Zell bringing Michaels in was premeditated. Some would say premeditated murder considering what the company will look like once Zell finishes parting out the joint.

How about that? These poor souls at the Trib Corp. will now be working for a CEO with the social skills of a loan shark.

It’s hard to say who’ll be worse off – those that get downsized or those that don’t.

You thought I was joking on November 30th when I said the layoff and buyout lists were being prepared?

In fact, Zell and Michaels are already one step ahead. They’ve even wrapped up the invites to their next golden parachute club jump.

They’ll build it on paper, they’ll profit from it, and you’ll eat it. Money is always more fun to spend when it belongs to someone else.

Why should Zell worry about that cool $10 billion in debt? Follow this scenario. For starters, the Trib will unload the Cubbies for a cool billion - at least.

Don’t believe Zell is bringing back the AM-FM-TV-newspaper ownership era. He did this deal to sell off as many papers as he can. They’ll market their L.A.Times, Newsday, and a few others for far more than they're worth to some suckers. That’s a few more billion there.

Zell knows that there are those concerned about the future of newspapers. They’re the ones working for them.

You have to hand it to Zell. He’s trapped four banks: JPMorgan, Merrill, Citigroup, and Bank of America to move with him on this deal. It can’t go south because they’d lose around a half billion.

Question: How many times can these institutions go to the Chinese for a bail out?

Someone’s always out there gullible enough to buy their hype. But Zell and Michaels are two peas in a pod. Add two more and you’ll have the media equivalent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

One of the crown jewels in the Trib’s new media division is Career Builder. No, that’s not a joke but it will be.

Let’s look at what the world the surviving Trib employees will live in.

Start with their new version of HR? When in doubt, just alter the records, or tear them up.

Telling dirty jokes and degrading women while not mandatory, will be strongly recommended.

Maybe Michaels will start wearing that rubber penis around his neck again?

Computer records? Hard drives were made to be fried.

Video-tracked news. Who needs local anchors when you can take one with a low cut top, match her with Jerry Springer, and feed the world?

Your local Cleveland weather will now delivered from Grand Rapids.

Dallas will do Houston.

L.A. will cover San Diego to Seattle.

Here’s a new concept: re-running actualities. All fires, shootings, murders and unemployment lines look alike.

Why use a stink of human camera crew when you can just rerun stock footage of storms, accidents, cats in a tree, an arrow shot into a duck’s wing? You see one, you see them all.

You need cute? Run stock footage of puppies or kittens in a box.

Sports? A touchdown is a touchtown, a goal is a goal, a home run’s a home run. Just superimpose a logo. Big deal.

Per Inquiry? Per hour.

How much you want to bet that Zell scarfs up Oak Hill's Broadcast Media TV stations, too? That’s the company Michaels just came from. Some theorize that Zell parked him there.

History repeats itself. Minutes after the TeleCom bill was passed in early ’96, Michaels, then with Jacor. bought up maximum eight-station clusters in Denver and Cincinnati. Even if eight was the cap, that didn’t stop him from going over and above. In San Diego he bought 12 by skirting the law and adding four stations from across the border to legally stay within the cap even though his salespeople were selling time on all twelve.

He was considered a real genius – and he was. He loaded up on stations, spun everything off to Clear Channel, lived like a Mays off of their fat, and when he got caught charging his private flights to his own private charter company for top of the rate card, all they could do was park him and pay him until they could get rid of him.

I’m all in favor of high-energy, take-no-prisoners aggressive competition if the end result includes an improved growth product. That’s not what this is.

Sure, he’ll jazz up and shake up the TV industry. But, like Clear Channel, he and his cronies have all the fun and, in the end, it’ll be others cleaning up his mess and paying off his debts.

I know there are those that feel Michaels has good intentions. Pol Pot, Pinochet, Stalin, and Slobodan Milosevic, just to name a few, had their followers too.

You should’ve heard the messenger from Fox TV address the troops when he announced that Broadcast Media, Randy's pre-Zell, was buying their station in Cleveland.

He said “I’m sorry” twenty-two times.

How are their benefits? “I’m sorry.”

How safe is my job? “I’m sorry.’

What about local news? “I’m sorry.”

Need I continue?

I hear Michaels is planning to move the whole Trib op to Melrose Park. The strip joints are better there.

Here’s the new business plan for the TV and cable side. Strip it to the bone, suck out the marrow and sell it to some unsuspecting idiot by way of the greater fool theory. There’s always a greater fool than you willing to pay even more than they did for something that’s not worth half as much.

You would be correct, sir, in your prediction that the guy that did the most to destroy radio now has TV to kill.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Radio-TV-Newspaper? I was there 39 years ago.

My second job in radio was with an FM station that, along with an AM and television station, was owned by a major daily newspaper.

The year was 1968. The newspaper was the Boston Herald-Traveler. It owned WHDH AM and FM.

The AM, FM, and TV were housed in the same building. The newspaper offices were miles away, downtown.

I never witnessed any relationship between the Herald-Traveler newspaper and the radio and TV stations. They were considered separate entities.

The newsrooms of the radio and TV stations and the Boston Herald-Traveler worked independtly of one another. In fact, so much so that there were frequent complaints from both the stations and the newspaper over not sharing exclusives.

Let me take it one step further. Back then, the Herald-Traveler was the Republican Boston Brahmins newspaper. The Boston Globe, which fueled the fire of its rival’s plight was and is the Kennedy-style liberal daily.

When we did our first ad campaign for WHDH-FM’s rock format, the advertising was distributed evenly between the Herald-Traveler and the rival Boston Globe.

The company purchased WHDH AM and FM in 1946 and signed on WHDH-TV in 1957.

The AM had a successful middle-of-the-road format. The FM was automated beautiful music and going nowhere. The TV station was the market’s CBS network affiliate at that time.

WHDH-FM, the station that hired me, changed format to album rock.

Though Boston already had an FM rock station, WBCN, which had signed on in March, three months earlier, the company believed the market could easily support two stations in the same format because of its large college population and young demographic.

WBCN, a former classical station (its call letters stood for the Boston Concert Network), was an independent stand alone FM, owned by T. Mitchell Hastings, a slightly eccentric an FM-radio technology pioneer turned broadcaster, who had signed the station on in 1958.

At the same time as WHDH-FM changed format, the Herald-Traveler Corporation was in court, trying to save its television license.

The FCC granted the Herald-Traveler a provisional television license due to a contentious matter dealing with an alleged coziness and influence peddling between a former FCC Commissioner and a former Herald-Traveler chief executive in the early ‘50s.

Challengers to the TV licensed claimed that illicit transactions between the two resulted in the newspaper winning the TV license over other applicants.

The snubbed applicants questioned the media concentration of a newspaper, two radio stations, and a television station and that, along with the alleged misdeeds, was enough, they claimed, to have the Herald-Traveler’s television license revoked.

Several companies that were hoping to seize the WHDH-TV license went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge it.

Because of that it was decided that WHDH-FM would remain automated - but in the new format until a court decision was reached.

At the time everyone at the stations and newspaper were confident that the Herald-Traveler would win.

So, in the interim, my responsibility was to select and program music, using the automatic racks, and filling any remaining time with instrumentals to round out the hour. I was only 18 and it was only part-time - but here I was selecting and programming music for a major market station.

I had a ball scheduling in Cream, Hendrix, Joplin, the Moody Blues, Iron Butterfly, Eric Burdon & the Animals, Steppenwolf, Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Small Faces, and the other prog-rock artists of the time.

In early 1969, we got the news.

A rival company, Boston Broadcasting, Inc. was granted approval to replace the Herald-Traveler's WHDH-TV.

It came out of left field. No one anticipated it.

Without the TV station, the Herald, which was rumored to be losing $4 to 5 million a year, was put up for sale as distressed merchandise.

A few years later the radio stations were put up for sale. A dynasty dead.

What’s the difference between 39 years ago and today?

39 years ago a television station's profits could bolster a newspaper.

Today? Not a chance.
The classic WMMS 1975 production of A Christmas Carol is now on line at

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Radio: Today, it’s war.

Leading the charge is Boy Kevin Martin, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, which he believes to be his own personal hackery.

Just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, the victim du jour is you.

Martin’s trying to push through more deregulation; allowing corporations in nearly all major cities to own TV and radio stations and newspapers in the same market.

He wrote off criticism from Congress as bipartisan politics and said that he was “not convinced that we would ever reach a consensus on media ownership.”

Kev, ever think there’s good reason for that? But I digress….

Even a threat by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) to investigate some of the improprieties uncovered by the dreaded General Accounting Office on Martin’s leaks to certain media companies and trade groups failed to deter the Boy Kevster.

Martin refuses to admit that he broke any rules. He was just passing along inside information to those companies and groups so they could get their lobbying efforts in order. It always helps to know which palms need to be greased and when. What’s so bad about that?

Face it. When was the last time you heard of the corrupt being prosecuted and convicted in Washington anyway?

If there’s one thing those Bushoid Republicans can’t stand, it’s democracy.

Even our beer drinkin’, hell raisin’ Fumbles had the NAB launching a “defend Kevvie” campaign, though the latter considers the former a mess in a dress. It’s probably the only thing I’d ever agree with the Kevster on.

Those backing the Kev claim the need for more flexibility and rule relaxing and anything less critically jeopardizes its competitive fight with new media. It’s a weak argument considering radio and TV are free media and the alleged new media competition they’re whining about isn’t.

How to survive in Washington? Never confuse anyone with the facts.

Times and technology have changed and there are old rules that should no longer apply in this brave new world – but the issues and solutions are not as black and white as Martin claims.

Personally, I liked the ethically-impaired Martin’s raison d'ĂȘtre for pushing through more deregulation. He claims the major chains are truly concerned for the smaller station chains and the few remaining independent owners, whose backs, they claim, would be crushed by the costs and paperwork that would come with increased regulation.

In their world, clusters surrounding and squeezing an independent radio station for ad revenue, has nothing to do with the ability for those stations to survive.

Just a couple of weeks back, the Senate Commerce Committee fired off a message to Kev declaring its unanimous endorsement of a bill, which would oblige the FCC to address localism and minority ownership before acting on larger media ownership rules.

Martin’s a cockroach. His earth gets scorched and he’s still standing. His cross-ownership campaign should’ve been dead by now, but it isn’t. Kev got his way and lived to see another day when Sam Zell got his Tribune waiver – and that waiver is proving to be a game plan that could fall Kevvie’s way should the deregulation stalemate end up in court.

In his world, wrong is the new right.

Some claim Martin may try to turn his FCC deregulation proposal into a swap meet. Give me what I want and I’ll throw you a bone. Maybe. Maybe not.

He could claim he’ll acquiesce on re-regulation of stations for the option of having companies prove that they’re acting in the public interest and creating a “live operator” rule, a nonsensical, unenforceable rule that stations must have at least the stink of one live human being operator on duty at all times.

The chains, of course, will claim poverty, insisting that would add even more work to overworked and underpaid program directors who are already overseeing multiple stations (not to mention those well-listened to HD Radio stations) – sometimes in multiple markets – and that the bulk of the grunt work will fall on them.

So it’s everyone else’s problem that these companies abided by the greater fool theory and significantly overpaid for their radio properties?

Let ‘em eat smoke from a distant fire sale.

Then there’s that pesky rumor leaking out of Martin’s office about foreign ownership – or at the very least, foreign investment in U.S. broadcast media.

Maybe he’ll play swap meet on that deal, too, and settle for allowing U.S. stations to hire Baahir, Bhumin, and Bandhu from Bangalore to voice-track.

That’s a joke. I think.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Radio: I have seen the future of radio and it is HD!

I stand corrected.

Peter Ferrera, a.k.a Sgt. Bilk-o, is right.

How could I have misjudged his acumen?

I should’ve known better considering his brilliant past-performance as a senior VP at Clear Channel, where he managed over 400 stations in seventy markets throughout the mid-Atlantic and south.

The value of those stations must’ve increased substantially under his watch.
Bilk-o is the rightful sage of HD Radio. A dim-bulb he is not. Steve Jobs is nothing more than a tent revivalist by comparison.

Foolish me. How could I have even considered that HD Radio would be abandoned for dead at retail? I now recognize HD Radio for the flawless invention that it is.

I should’ve never doubted one who was a former executive VP and board member of that exceptional outfit known as the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). Anyone associated with Fumbles has to be amongst the highest of achievers.

I don’t blame Bilk-o for being arrogant. He is committed to promoting and marketing the first eminent invention of the twenty- first century.

One would presume that Bilk-o would’ve been given the same respect Tim Berners-Lee received for his dedication and development of the Internet.

The inequity of it all!

Bilk-o is a promoter’s promoter and a marketer’s marketer.

This past weekend I visited Wal-Mart, Costco, Best Buy, and other retail outlets, and watched in wonder as HD radios flew off their shelves.

Consumers bypassed the iPod and satellite radio displays and stood in long lines for the chance to buy an HD radio.

You should’ve seen that thick coat of dust covering the iPod endcaps.

Most of the consumers I talked with credited the motivating radio spots they heard on their favorite radio stations, which detailed all the stimulating new formats available on HD radio.

It is such a no-brainer. Why pay for additional radio station formats from satellite when you can get them on HD radio for free?

And what good is an iPod? You already know what you’re going to hear.

It was almost inspirational to see Apple’s swagger and belligerence about the success of its iPod and iPhone deflating.

While observing the excitement for HD Radio at Wal-Mart, I called a friend who owns a BMW dealership. He told me of the back-orders for HD Radio-equipped BMWs. His customers don’t even want a car unless it has HD Radio.

Those $100,000 per-station upgrades the radio chains invested in to carry digital signals are paying off big-time.

Ibiquity predicted that they’d move between 1 million and 1.5 million HD radios by the end of the year. Judging from what I’ve seen at retail, they’ll do at least that much – if not more.

I have to credit Ibiquity with its unique promotion and marketing. Rather than be effusive about it, here’s a link to their site: It’s creative done right.

I now understand why Bilk-o always appears tense and on guard, as if he is expecting to be attacked by wild birds at any moment. He has to feel like Galileo Galilei did when ridiculed by associates and harassed by the Roman Catholic Church for his claim that Earth was just another planet rotating around the sun.

Remember when they laughed at Bilk-o last year when he was asked to explain HD Radio? "Quite honestly, it doesn't stand for anything,” he said. “The concept was somewhat of a steal from HD television, where viewers know it means better quality."

Who’s laughing now?

After I left Wal-Mart, I noticed a number of triple- tandem trailers lined up at the store’s receiving dock. I asked one of the drivers what they were hauling.

“HD Radios,” he said, “We’re trying to keep up with the insatiable demand.”

Then I woke up from my nightmare.
New updates at

Friday, December 7, 2007

Radio: Fish stink from the head

Understand this and you’ll understand it all.

We’ve been in a cycle of fiscal uncertainty long before the dot com bomb.

Whatever the case, you must recognize that Wall Street is no longer a factual economic indicator. It operates under its own convoluted set of rules - and because of that – it’s incapable of comprehending the gravity of our financial problems until well after they occur.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported that the top one percent control 19 percent of the nation’s income. The Dow’s ups have everything to do with how the wealthiest investors are faring. The Dow’s downs happen when reality catches up.

Wall Street will always buy into a company that claims it can operate with fewer employees. On paper, that means greater profit.

The reality is that long term, it can turn into a catastrophe.

Remember “Chainsaw” Albert Dunlap and Sunbeam? He slashed thousands of jobs, streamlined operations and took its stock from $12 to $55. In reality, Dunlap padded revenues by manufacturing larger quantities of merchandise and selling them at heavy discounts. Not long after, warehouses were flooded with unsold inventory and Sunbeam dropped to $11/share.

Almost sounds like Clear Channel, doesn’t it?

Let’s start with one fact: Private equity firms and radio don’t mix.

For the past week we’ve been hearing about Clear Channel’s annual holiday tradition.


Clear Channel never ceases to amaze me with their Orwellian rationalizations.

Meet Earl Jones, Clear Channel’s Chicago market manager and self-proclaimed station sultan. Here’s his elucidation for the latest round of downsizing at his stations: “We are re-expressing our assets to achieve greater results.”

How about the announcement that Clear Channel regional VP of programming Jim Richards will now also add the midday shift on its classic rocker, KGB in San Diego, to his list of daily duties.

Credit Clear Channel for coming up with the modern-day version of the medieval stretching rack.

You’re wrong if you don’t believe I’m tired of picking on Clear Channel. It’s not the people that work for the company. I have empathy for them. It’s the people running the joint that perturb me.

To be fair, let’s pay a visit to another broadcast company. Seen Citadel’s stock since it acquired ABC radio from Disney? I just checked a few minutes ago. It’s down around a buck ninety-eight. Five years ago, when Wall Street was still buying the radio investment hype, Citadel was trading for around twenty dollars-plus. So much for their Don Imus boost. You think Hannity’s going to save them?

My nomination for best-run media company today goes to Disney. The same week they sold the ABC radio division to Citadel, they struck a $7.5 billion deal to merge with Pixar.

That’s called selling an unprofitable past for a profitable future.

After reading this you may ask why boy FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is so gung-ho for further deregulation? If approved, it would allow a single company to own up to a dozen radio stations in a single market. That includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major markets.

And why is Clear Channel, a company that’s fruitlessly trying to pawn - er - sell off its smaller market properties strong-arm campaigning to increase its holdings?

Let’s ask Clear Channel Executive Vice President Andy Levin.

Lev-zo claims that “changes to the radio ownership rule are once again necessary.” Here’s his logic: before the ’96 Telecommunications Bill became law, six out of ten stations were losing money. Now, he says that “radio companies are again facing major operating challenges.”

In other words, it didn’t work so we’re doing it again. It’s sooooo Clear Channel!

What’s the real reason why six out of ten stations were losing money? Try too many of them. There were – and still are - more radio stations than the market will bear. The reason there are more radio stations is from the time when FCC junked up the FM frequency in the eighties by adding all those 5,000 watt class A stations, licensed adjacent to larger, rated markets. The FCC alleged they were added to offer local broadcasters and minorities an opportunity to acquire their own radio station licenses – and they did. There was, of course, the routine loophole. If you met all the requirements (there were many) and awarded a license, you could re-sell it immediately.

Is it even worth trying to guess how many of those stations are still owned by the original license holder?

The Clear Channel crusade for additional deregulation is merely their up-front pimping for the private equity firms BainCapital and Thomas H. Lee, whose plans to take Clear Channel private have been delayed until 2008. Poor bastards.

Private equity firms exist to acquire often-troubled companies. They sell off their less profitable divisions – in this case, smaller markets that generate less revenue – and take their major market holdings and – hoping the greater fool theory is alive and well - chop them up into several companies with the hopes of creating new IPOs.

Do the math. More major market stations, more companies, more "value" to peddle.

You’ve probably heard that boy FCC Chairman Kevin Martin bought time through his latest deceitful stunt - using the Tribune waiver as an opening to toss out the cross-ownership rules in all markets.

It’s doubtful that Martin will be around after the first of 2009 when his buddies will be forced to vacate the White House. Until then, though, Martin will take advantage of time remaining to further foul FCC rules and regs.

Whispers heard in and around a certain Washington D.C. building at 12th street, S.W., claim Martin is preparing to press on for foreign ownership of American media. That’s for all those Saudi princes that’ll buy anything American. How’s that for a bail out scheme? The greater fool theory is alive, well, and thriving.

And fish will continue to stink from the head.

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's a Clear Channel Christmas

It’s Christmas. Some stations flip to non-stop, non-maintenance seasonal music while they try to figure out why their time spent listening continues to plummet with their regular format.

At Clear Channel, it means it’s time for the annual holiday season bloodbath. The fatality list is too long to list. Ten were whacked in L.A., for starters.

Don’t take it personally. If you’re with Clear Channel, the stations you work for are line items – nothing more. When your entire business philosophy, post-radio deregulation was “buy ‘em now and figure out what to do with ‘em later,” with absolutely no thought of any down side, what else would you expect? The bigger Clear Channel got – the more problems they created for themselves.

Unless you were fortunate enough, like John Hogan, and given membership in the golden parachute club, which Randy Michaels and Sam Zell set up shortly before scamming the Mays family into buying Jacor, you have no job security.

Catch that, Tribune employees?

See, we misunderstood John Hogan. We thought “less is more” was about reducing commercial inventory – not personnel.

Successful criminals always travel light.

Now we hear that Clear Channel plans to eliminate what little remains of their promotion and marketing departments.

Come January ’08, their account executives will be responsible for producing their own remotes. Yes, a $5.85 minimum wage entry level position for someone wanting to break into a career in radio will now be handled by the sales department.

That means in addition to writing the business, sales people will have to drive the station van to the event; set up the banners, booth, and sound system – and tear everything down after the event.

How much you want to bet that the account executives that don’t jump ship will just stop selling remotes?

You can thank Fiddle and Faddle a.k.a. the private equity firms of BainCapital and Thomas H. Lee. They’re the ones that paid the Axis of Evil, otherwise known as the Mays family, billions to take Clear Channel private.

Who says medieval systems don’t work anymore? The Mays family ends up with a major cash incentive for screwing everything up while everyone else, Fiddle and Faddle included, are stuck with a cash disincentive. That’s what you do when you run out of money to steal.

We knew that house of cards would tumble eventually. So did the Mays family. The deal was done so it would fall on Fiddle and Faddle. And Fiddle founder Mitt Romney wants to be your next President?

Memo to anyone making six figures or over at Clear Channel: Start looking now.