This past week, Clear Channel (CC) once again had more layoffs at many of their radio stations nationwide. Its pogrom is called a "Reduction in Force" (RIF). I like to call it The Killing of Radio.
For some stupid reason, I thought when Bob Pittman took over the radio division, he’d remember his time as a DJ and programmer. I thought he'd restore the CC stations to what they once were or could have been.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Pittman killed more stations and people, with his RIF, than any other executive before. The exceptions may be Farid Suleman, of Citadel Broadcasting, and Lew Dickey of Cumulus Media, which are now one, merged company.
My prediction for CC is this and it’s not pretty: eventually, all programming comes out of San Antonio, Texas, with no local programme directors running the stations. There will be one general manager (GM), one local sales manager, one national sales manager and an operations manager (OM) responsible for implementing whatever programming the main office sends down the pipeline.
Only the local morning and afternoon shows will be live and local; the other parts of the day will be either (a) voiced tracked or (b) fully automated. The GM and OM will do whatever hiring or firing there might be, until, inevitably, they, too, must find new jobs.
For anyone that has ever heard the “Nine!” or “Ninety Nine!” parody recording, the time has come. Radio has become a shadow of what it once was. It will never return to a personality driven music machine.
The days of great DJs, such as Dan Ingram, Ron Lundy, Big Ron O’Brien, Jackson Armstrong, Scott Muni, Charlie Van Dyke, Charlie Tuna, "The Real" Don Steele, Robert W. Morgan and Larry Lujack are gone. These DJs weren’t liner card readers, but true personalities that could talk about anything and make it either meaningful or funny.
Most DJs today hardly, if ever, say their names during a break, and sometimes it’s only their first name. I like to know who I’m listening to, just to know it’s not some nameless, faceless voice out of the ether.
As much as I love my iPod, I truly believe that it and computer automation software helped kill radio. In the 1970s, music was loaded onto ten-inch reels of tape, with primitive software juggling between the music, commercials, production elements and sometimes the DJ. Today, high storage computers hold all the music, commercials and production elements in one place, with one or two complex automation programs putting them all together.
The two signs you’re not listening to a live person is the lack of time and weather given during the show.
Recently, a list came out with endangered jobs on it. Radio broadcaster was among the Top 10 on that list. Whenever someone tells me today he or she want to get into broadcasting, I suggest to them to find another field, or at least a good back up job, since that radio job they may get today may not be there tomorrow.
Years ago, there used to be many mom and pop stations, along with smaller companies that owned a limited amount of stations. The Communication Act of 1996 changed all that, and consolidation came quickly. It was Bill Clinton’s FCC that destroyed radio, as we knew it, and the big radio companies today that cater to Wall Street and their investors that are gutting it like a dead fish.
The days of compelling radio programming are long gone, never to return. That’s why I treasure my air check collection, and have a website dedicated to it, www.bigappleairchecks.com.
So, shut down the turntables and the cart machines, kill the lights and computer and knock down the transmitter towers. Radio is dead. Long live radio.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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