Thursday 08 Dec 2016

A Radio Carol
Matt Seinberg

When your brain starts to spin so fast that everything pushes to the outside and the center becomes empty, bizarre thoughts always seem to occur. Combine that with the annual holiday cheer that Clear Channel brings to all its employees and it’s a story in the making. Here is my version of the classic tale by Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol,” with a modern spin to it, along with some poetic license.

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; But the Mays,, Pittman and Hogan families were all jolly, laughing at all the paper money hanging from their trees, thinking how lucky they were to have jobs that they really didn’t have to work at.

Lying in bed in their separate homes, Mark Mays, Bob Pittman and John Hogan were tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep. Every time they closed their eyes, they saw ghosts of employees they had laid off over the years. They had no idea what was in store for each of them to come over the next few hours.

The first ghost came to Mark Mays, the former CEO and now Chairman of the Board of Clear Channel Media and Entertainment. The first ghosts name was Jack, and he had been a DJ for over 30 years. He yanked Mark Mays out of his bed, wrapped him up in a headphone cord and whisked him away to WOAI-AM in San Antonio, TX, circa 1975.

WOAI-AM was playing music back then, and had a building full of people that enjoyed their jobs. Jack The DJ took Mark into the studio, and made him watch the disc jockey in the on air studio, cueing up records, playing carts, reading live copy and recording listeners requests.

With a snap of his fingers, Jack took Mark to 2012, and the building now had very few people in it. While the studios new, they were mostly unused. WOAI-AM is now a Fox News affiliate, with many of its programming coming off a satellite. Jack told Mark that his family’s greed had put many people out of work at Christmas time. For that, he received eternal punishment: forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh for the rest of his life.

With another snap of his fingers, Jack sent Mark back to his cold bed, and even colder wife. Mark awoke with a start, shaking his head, wondering what just happened. His radio was on, and Rush Limbaugh was arguing with some listener over the meaning of Christmas. He tried to shut the radio off, but it wouldn’t.

The next ghost, Ronald had also been in radio for over 30 years, and no one could talk up a record like him. He grabbed John Hogan out of a deep sleep, and with a snap of his fingers, instantly took him back to 2000 and WLTW-FM in New York.

All the shifts were live, and the DJs were true music hosts. There was JJ Kennedy doing a live 7 PM-12 AM show, and loving every minute of it. No voice tracking, no automation and everyone was having fun. With another snap of his fingers, Ronald took Hogan to 2012, where Delilah is on the air everywhere. The Lite FM studio is dark and empty, with a computer running everything. “This isn’t radio!” Ronald said in a mildly disapproving tone. “This is a boring show with a host who isn’t compelling.” Hogan is stunned and the next thing he knows he’s back in his own bed, cursed to have to listen to Delilah for the rest of his life.

Bob Pittman is at home, enjoying a late night drink when the final ghost, Al shows up and takes him back to 1968 and WJDX-AM in Jackson, MS where Pittman was born. In the studio is a 15-year-old Bob Pittman, a Top 40 DJ for the first time. Al tells him, “Never forget where you started, because with all the employee firings you are doing at CC, there is no way you would have ever had the chance to get into radio at such a young age, if at all.”

With a snap of his fingers, Pittman is back home, with his punishment being that he is banished to AOL’s dial up service, never to have high speed internet again.

So, good night to all and to all a good night.

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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