Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Clear Channel bloodbath

I was tempted to sit on this one for a few days, just to let the smoke clear. But to be quite honest, I really don't know if and when that will ever happen.

So, while the real world is caught up in the whirlwind of President Obama's inauguration, the radio world is reeling with news of massive layoffs by the industry's giant, Clear Channel. In essence, 1,850 positions, or about 9 percent of its staff, have been wiped out, effective immediately. These cuts are occurring at the outdoor advertising division and the company's stations nationwide, and have affected everyone, including management, salespeople, office staffers, part-timers and even full-time air talents.

The cuts began yesterday, and they keep coming in (industry bible Radio and Records is keeping a running update on their site). And where it all stops, no one knows.

Most of the paring down is due to the economy. As companies struggle, that leaves far less money to put toward advertising. And that lack of advertising revenue is hurting the media, especially newspapers, magazines and radio.

Of course, the cynical among us assume that the woeful state of broadcast revenue makes it quite convenient for radio station owners to cut staff down to a minimum to minimize expenses and maximize revenue. After all, does anyone expect radio stations to hire more on-air staffers once the economy rebounds? Considering that even music-oriented radio stations are filling afternoon and evening shifts with syndicated programming, that doesn't bode well for the local guy. The big corporations will see this as an opportunity to program stations from regional or even national offices. Look at all of this as a trend toward the national homogenization of radio.

Rumor has it that the Obama Administration's FCC will make the corporatization of the radio dial a heavy priority over the next few years. They would certainly like to expand access to the airwaves to more parties as opposed to the Bush/Clinton approach of letting a few big groups own virtually everything. This would certainly be a welcome development in the industry.

As for what layoffs concern stations covered by this blog, there are so far only a few. WXXM program director Brian Turany is one of those who have gotten the axe, which is a shame, since he has been a stalwart and sympathetic supporter of the station's progressive talk format.

And in San Diego, former progressive talk station KLSD, currently withering away with its sports talk format, has virtually eliminated its local presence on the airwaves. Four of its five on-air hosts are gone, with the remaining personality teaming up with the station's program director to host a four hour afternoon show. The rest of the schedule is straight off the FOX Sports national feed.

And for those curious, KLSD's sports format is still mostly a no-show in the local ratings, having fallen off the list with the departure of its old progressive talk format.


Unknown said...

It's ironic Clear Channel is laying off all these people in an attempt to cut $400 million in spending.

Just this past July, Clear Channel gave Rush Limbaugh a contract extension guessed it...$400 million. ($100 million signing bonus and $38 million a year for the next 8 years, according to the New York Times)

So many families being flushed down the toilet to keep Rush Limbaugh happy.


FSL said...


Interesting part here, not mentioned in FI's story, is CCI's cuts mostly hit sales staff, the profit center. Not air talent, the cost center.

Some "families" might be helped by this. Radio geeks might be forced to actually get real jobs and move out of their parents' basements.

Let's remember who brought us the "corporatization" of radio, even though bringing it up is for a fans of liberal radio an, ahem, "inconvenient truth." Hint #1: Inventor of the Internet. Hint #2: Same last name as singer of "It's My Party."

But no matter who owns what, advertisers aren't buying and people aren't listening. The party is over.

blazingkat said...

If Clear Channel spends that kind of money on Rush Limbaugh, it deserves to fail. It might hurt the employees who lose their jobs in the short term but ending their association with CC will save their souls in the long run.

Lu Cifer, @Lu666Cifer said...

Hey CC, if you wanted to make money, here's some tips you SHOULD have took:

1) Smooth move firing Bubba The Love Sponge & Howard Stern from your stations instead of standing up to the FCC!

2) Syndicated Randi & other progressives, instead of bowing to oxyRU$H, who seems to be loosing a station a week or so. Liberal talk is on the RISE, Con talk is speaking from the bed on life support! Barely!

3) Don't own 3/4th of every radio market. As you have seen, having a monopoly leads to crap programing, no competition, laziness, and in the end: FAILURE!

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