Thursday 29 Sep 2016

Channel Changes
Matt Seinberg

The most interesting piece of radio news to come along in awhile is Mark Mays announcing that he is "stepping down" as President and CEO of Clear Channel Communications (CC). I don't think Texas rocked this hard since Charlie Van Dyke was on KLIF-AM.

When announcements like this come, doesn't it make you wonder what caused it? Talk about things that make you go "Hmm?"

Did Mark say to himself, I've screwed up the radio industry long enough with all the cost cutting, mergers, stock sales, and generic radio that it's time I move on and screw up something else? Did his father, Lowry Mays, the founder of CC, ask him to resign because he didn't go far enough?

Did his brother Randall Mays, Vice Chairman of CC tell him to cut the radio division to the bone, and Mark refused, because he finally realized that, (oh my god!) he was actually effecting the lives of real, live, breathing people?

Nah, that's not it. Presidents and CEO's don't' truly care about the people that work for their companies. They only care about the bottom line of how much money did we make for ourselves, and the stockholders

How about Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners, do you think these investors had anything to do with the exit of Mark Mays. When is a resignation not a resignation, but a choice of being let go or telling the broadcast world you are resigning? It's when your shareholders tell you what they want you to go, but let you make it look like it's your choice.

I'm no Wall Street or investment expert, but I know that I've been in sales and management for over 30 years and I've seen the good, bad and ugly from many positions. I've worked for small companies and large corporations. The sad fact is that most owners, bosses, or whoever is in charge really doesn't care about the underlings.

I'm the outsider, looking in; sometimes I get a bit inside information from friends in radio, reading newspapers or online broadcast magazines. How we interpret, such information, for example, forms our opinions. When it comes to Clear Channel, I tend to see the negative, because of what they have done to radio.

I'm not going to rehash how CC killed radio, with voice tracking, generic, boring programming and the removal of any personality from their stations. The fact other companies followed the lead of CC, took the same easy way to profiting, stinks. I would truly like to know how many jobs in radio have been lost in the last 10 years. Remember that years ago each station had its own management team of General Manager, Sales Manager, Program Director and Music Director, along with assistants.

Now, each cluster of stations only has one of each, if they are lucky. So the PD that used to run one station for a, hopefully, decent salary is now programming 2 or 3 stations for the same, now low, ridiculous salary and working more hours. Do the local labor departments know about this?

Back to Mark Mays and his resignation. He is going to stay on as Chairman of the Board of CC and they are going to do an executive search for a new President and CEO. Make it easy, CC, bring back your old friend, Randy Michaels, now working for Tribune Broadcasting. I'm sure he would love to rejoin CC and put the final nail in radio's coffin.

I would love to have been the proverbial fly on the wall the day Mark Mays told his brother and father that he didn't want to do his job anymore. May I take creative license and create a conversation? This is but one way I see it happening and I'm sure there are plenty of others. I just went for the cheap laugh.

Mark Mays: "Hey, Dad, Randall, I don't like being President and CEO anymore. It's too much work, and I'm tired of everyone blaming me for killing radio. I want to quit."

Dad, Lowry Mays: "Are you crazy? I worked my whole life to build up this company, destroy creativity in radio and hand it to you homogenize radio, even more, and you want to quit?"

Randall Mays: "Mark, are you sure this is what you want to do? You're making a ton of money and lot's of enemies. That's what CC and the Mays family is all about: greed."

Mark Mays: "I'm tired of the death threats from disgruntled DJs that we fired and listeners that hate what we've done to our stations. The cost cutting has gone too far and I have nothing else to slash and burn. I'll stay on as Chairman of the Board, but I'm not running this company anymore."

Randy Mays: "Are you kidding? You're afraid of stupid death threats. I get threats every day from employees that hate what CC stands for, that is, benefit shareholders and the heck with everyone else. Of course, the threats I get are anonymous, so they don't mean much. Besides, Dad gave me a Taser for Christmas.

Lowry Mays: "Mark, would you like me to buy you a Taser as well? I carry a Taser all the time. I keep it handy, just in case I run into an unruly employee complaining about not getting a pay raise. It also works well on former employees that are unhappy CC fired him or her."

Mark Mays: "You're both crazy. I'm out of here."

This is dreaming on my part, I suppose. I often wonder if there is an organization of former and current CC employees plotting a takeover of the company, only to have the CC Secret Police crush them. Did they hire former CIA, FBI, Russian Spetsnaz and KGB agents to infiltrate their stations to root out dissent? Will CC and the cabal of former and current employees take prisoners to swap, later?

This almost sounds like a novel from Dale Brown or Dean Koontz. Maybe I could write a book about it. Now wouldn't that be a hoot?

My advice is to always look over your shoulder, and keep a resume and demo air check ready. Always be on the lookout for that next exciting job opportunity that pays less than you make now and has you working more. Welcome to the wonderful world of deregulated 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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