It doesn’t take a genius to know that there’s going to be another massive round of “layoffs” (firings) in the year ahead. Clear Channel, the largest radio group in the known universe, is not going to be able to pay off the 19 billion dollars it owes lenders. Little things like paying off senior debt don’t worry the vulture capitalists that run radio now; you just turn the screws on the top layer of management and force them to re-finance the deal, insuring another round of exorbitant fees. Everybody’s happy.
Except the hundreds, perhaps thousands more radio folks who are going to get pink-slipped in the coming year by Clear Channel, Cumulus, and Citadel.
Cumulus, which is a huge group owner but not as big as Clear Channel, has spent the last year firing anybody who makes a decent wage and replacing the veterans (or not) with low-paid-still-wet-behind-the-ears “talent.” The bankers who run corporate radio today can’t tell the difference between quality on-air presentation and schlock, and the mid-level managers (those few who’ve made it through the last two years of purges) have no choice but to cut expenses.
Prediction: both Clear Channel and Cumulus will be significantly smaller organizations a year from today, but I won’t venture a guess as to what’s going to happen with Citadel. Cumulus has already tried (and failed) to take over Citadel. The “big three” will just keep re-financing debt they can’t possibly pay, enticing the bankers with more personnel cuts to “make the model cash-flow”.
Who’s the real loser here? Well, the experienced radio folks who will join the ranks of the many like them who’ve already lost their jobs; and, the consumer. The listener. Fewer “live” radio shows; fewer (if any) local news reports; more station clusters being run by one person during nights and weekends; and fewer real reasons to listen.
More music? Please. The mp3 player has taken over that function. More commercials? Sure, if there’s anybody left to sell and produce them. More live, local personalities serving up your daily dish of news and entertainment? Sorry. Not gonna happen.
I think it’s another grim year ahead for radio.