Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Those Who Are No Longer With Us

Two companies involved in the radio business – Clear Channel Communications and Air America Radio – have been in the process of downsizing in the final months of 2007.

Now we all know that Clear Channel is the largest company in the radio business. It started the year with over 1,200 radio stations with access to 40% of radio listeners. It is also involved in the outdoor advertising and international radio businesses.

AAR, on the other hand, is one of the radio industry's smallest companies. It is now in the process of reorganizing after a painful bankruptcy just over a year ago and the loss of about 20% of its coverage. Regular readers of Talking Radio know that AAR provides about a dozen liberal talk radio shows to about 60 stations across the United States. According to TR, their programs account for about half of the listenership to liberal talk radio.

Clear Channel (unaffectionately known as "Cheap Channel") has been actively downsizing since the start of the year, when they announced a plan to take the company private. Since that time, they have attempted to unload 500 (or about 40% of their stations.) Almost half of those deals have been concluded as of now.

Presumably, they are doing this to make the company more attractive to the buy-out firm – Bain Capital Partners. However, the bean counters at CC haven’t stopped there. In the past few weeks we’ve noticed a lot of news about how they are cutting staff on their remaining stations.

Here are a few of the items that we have read in, Radio Ink, and

In San Francisco, the people who are, in the famous radio phrase "no longer with us", include Bob Agnew, a Bay Area veteran who’d been overseeing programming at talkers KNEW and "Green 960" KKGN. Also gone is KKSF/KNEW production director Mario Butzner. According to a CC source, about a dozen Bay Area staffers got pink slips in the past month.

In Honolulu a newsperson and a producer have been cut.

In San Diego at least seven people, mostly low level, were given the boot. Management termed it a "staff readjustment." People that were fired were given the option of a six week severance or their job back - part time and no benefits.

In Los Angeles, Mike Nolan, who for over 20 years was talker KFI's "Eye in the Sky", and about a half dozen Airwatch traffic reporters were shown the door. Motorists in L.A. are going to have pay more attention to those ugly electronic freeway traffic signs. In addition, longtime AC KOST midday host Mike Sakellarides and at least five other employees will not be playing Christmas music at the soft rock music station.

In Cincinnati, John Kieswetter, Cincinnati Enquirer TV/radio writer reports that "you won't hear Gregg Doyel on WCKY-AM any more. Doyel, who co-hosted 9 a.m.-noon with Mo Egger, was fired today in a budget cut. Egger will continue to host solo, says program director Dave Armbruster."It was just part of our budget cuts. I didn't want to do it. I think he was getting a lot better," Armbruster says. Morning co-host John Phillips has exited WKRC-AM and Anchor/Reporter Will Sterrett is out at WLW-AM as part of the cluster's budget cuts.

In Louisville, talk host Joe Elliot exits WHAS after 14 years in the time slot as part of a larger layoff at the cluster.
In Boston, Karl Moore, regional director of operations at CC owned, Boston's Total Traffic Network, exits along with staffers Bill Trifiro and Mike Czarnecki.

In Chicago, management has trimmed at least four staffers from the programming payroll. Those include Armando Rivera, assistant PD at V103/WVAZ "once considered a rising star." There were also cuts at WGCI and "Kiss FM" WKSC.
These are items that we picked up over the past two weeks. An email that we sent to CC’s personnel department in San Antonio requesting additional information on lay-offs has not been answered.

A thread has been started at the Radio-Info News/Talk board, which we check out from time to time, entitled "Clear Channel Cuts Nationwide." has named"The fired and laid-off employees of Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Citadel, Emmis, Cumulus and other large, medium and small market radio stations who have devoted their immense talents to broadcasting"as the recipients of the "2008 Radio Persons of the Year" award.

When we checked out CC’s corporate website we discovered the following quote from the company's founder and chairman Lowry Mays. It reads, in part:

"We believe Clear Channel's people are our most important asset."

We are not very surprised about the staff cutbacks at Air America Radio. After the Green brothers (Stephen and Mark) took over the struggling network, earlier this year, their first order of business was to cut costs. Mark Green told Talking Radio in August that staff was reduced from over 70 people to the low 40’s and operational loses were significantly cut.

However, in the past two months staff cutbacks at AAR started to reaching the bone of the network. The first high profile lay-off involved V.P. of Programming, David Bernstein. Recently, we learned that four more staffers have been let go.

We are not comparing the cutbacks at Clear Channel to the on-going problems at AAR – That would be like comparing watermelons to grapes. However, we wonder if the continuing problems besetting the radio industry, where station values, stock values, and ad revenue continue to slide downward, mean that we will hear about more about those who "are no longer with us."


Aaron B. Pryor said...

Your post did not mention the recently announced layoff of Rachel Maddow funnyman Kent Jones, a decision I am convinced is the death knell of Air America Radio. They've taken their best product and have eliminated a key ingredient. Rachel Maddow is brilliant, entertaining, incisive, and funny, but her program will be just as beige now as the other single-talkies at AAR. Since the axe fell on Marc and Mark, every management incarnation has been determined to weed out any little fiber of quality entertainment they can. No, when AAR dies, I won't feel like a friend of Richard Jeni's when he died (oh my God, how did that happen, I just saw him last week and he seemed just fine), but more like a friend of Chris Farley's when he died (oh, I thought he'd already died, actually, gee, that's too bad, bastard's lucky to have lived long as he did...).

Anonymous said...

Will the last person working in radio please turn out the lights?

The other people "no longer with us" are listeners.

Air America was over-staffed to begin with. It's harder to shed tears for somebody's friend who shouldn't have been hired in the first place. But no program director. No research director. That's cutting muscle, not fat. Here's Bernstein axed. He's been there, what?, six months. He was going to turn things around. He brought in Lionel (questionable move) but little else noteworthy. Now gone. Is there something they are not telling us?

Anonymous said...

Ironically, the ONLY radio show that is doing well in Clear Channel, and I don't mean Rush, et al, has criticized the Bush administration openly is Coast to Coast AM. Yes they are the ghost/UFO/loony show, but why not them? Why isn't the most successful show falling over? Well, maybe because that's what people want? If C.C. reads this blog, which I know they do, if you hire more progressive talkers and have equal programming, then maybe you will do well? Bain Capital Partners would not have to be an issue and C.C. would be the greatest network around. Or maybe you should cut cut cut, don't move your investments to new areas, keep it with Rush and watch his show go from 30 million to 10 million (after Howard Stern moved from terrestrial radio to Sirius) and watch the ONLY real progressive show on Premiere's rating go higher and higher and higher,

Baroosk, interview George Noory at

Anonymous said...

I guess it depneds on your POV. I listent to Dr. Maddow every evening in the car on XM. I don't think Kent Jones is funny and I tune him out, especially when he does his fake news and Rachel giggles obligingly. "Death Knell"? C'mon. I also think Lionel was a great move-- probably my favorite show on AA. To each his own I guess.

Anonymous said...

And yes, I know how to spell "listen."

Anonymous said...

"Dr. Maddow?"
Who's that?
Dr. Savage. Dr. Laura. Dr. Meltzer. Dr. Newcomb. Enough!

If you have XM you are stuck with AAR and can't hear the real libtalk talents. Too bad. Maybe after the merger you can listen to Stephanie Miller.

progutopian said...

I'm bummed about losing Kent also. He was one of the last vestiges of comedy that AAR had. Hopefully, Rachel won't leave next.
At one point, AAR was so entertaining, funny and informative that I didn't have time for all of the great shows although I always had time for Morning Sedition. I will get used to the new AAR though. It's still left, it's still anti-corporate and they still have some great shows like Thom Hartmann, Seder On Sundays and Ring Of Fire. I've listened to alot of radio over the years and I do know that we are lucky to have AAR. For most of my life, we had no voice at all. I'm thankful for any network that dares to question authority and speak the truth and AAR does still do that.

gregrocker said...

Clear Channel like all other corporate media feels it cannot afford to let ANY populist sentiment run rampant on "its" airwaves, because each populist advance cuts into their bottom line. Like John Edwards as a candidate, a flaming liberal talker is just too great a threat to the corporate balance sheet. The few corporations which still have loyalty to America or good government are not in the radio or news business, apparently.

Clear Channel's experiment in lib talk was never anything more than a dirty trick, or at best an opportunity to cut their losses if Dems won it all back. But the Dem Congress elected in 06 is so spineless and witless that CC feels free to dump progressive talk, while the other corporate owners thumb their nose by doing such things as rolling out ratings0clunker Dennis Miller on 100 stations while ignoring winner Ed Schultz.

Try to imagine how it could have all been different if the Dem Congress would have been smart enough to assure its longevity by FIRST hauling the media corps. before multiple committees to grill them about the far-right takeover of the AM radio dial, or the lies being told by Faux on publically owned airwaves. This would have educated the public to what really poisoned their politics, reminded us who really owns the airwaves, and caused the near-zero-liberal AM talk ownership to have better excuses than flimsy lies about not being able to sell ads on progressive talk signals, when KTLK in L.A. has United Airlines, Bank of America and Trader Joes who would NEVER advertise on rr hate radio. Don't look now, but CC is already trying to lie that KTLK can't sell ads!!

Anonymous said...

gregrocker I'm getting word from the inside that KTLK management is involved in payola. Big Eddie opened up that can of worm...and I'm glad he did

Anonymous said...

Air America has made some really stupid decisions almost from day one.
Nova M is the REAL Progressive Talk.

Anonymous said...

The loss of John Ziegler from KFI Radio is a blow to a public that wants to listen to straightforward, informed talk instead of political party loyalists. The parade of substitutes KFI has inflicted on the public would make even the most hardened Abu Ghraib prisoner surrender. It's like being held captive at a dinner party by a boring relative who won't stop blathering. Please, KFI, bury the hatchet and bring back John Ziegler.

gregrocker said...

You must be joking about Ziegler. It is worse than pathetic when a hateful sneer like him doesn't even know he has a snagglepuss voice. It's like uberhater Mark Levin spewing macho hate with his 13 year old undescended-testicle voice, once even falling over with a heart attack as he was screaming in a liberal woman's face.

I think Clear Channel is too lazy to sell ads and prefers prepaid formats, which is what they did to every talk radio station in the south right off the bat which didn't have stars under million dollar contract. But they mess even with their ratings successes on libtalk, like legendary Mr. K on KTLK drivetime who goosed those ratings high. Today he was doing an interview with DUI lawyer sponsor for his whole first hour. Infomercials r us.

Eddie was their biggest ratings and they put him in a sports preempt evening slot. He wouldn't play to pay, and he shouldn't have to. This is nothing but evidence that our public airwaves are being squandered like the treasury under free market bucaneers.

Anonymous said...

There's a pretty good blog comparing CCU to Rockefeller's oil monopoly.

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