Clear Channel Coup

I work in the same building as all of the Clear Channel radio stations (AM640 WGST, 96 Rock, Peach 94.9, Viva, etc). A few weeks ago they fired the morning DJs on 96Rock and a week or so later they flat out changed the format of the station, jettisoning its name and re-badging it as “Project 9-6-1“, a faceless jukebox station with no local flavor.

What happened over at 96Rock was just a warmup though!
The other shoe dropped yesterday.

Clear Channel fired AM640 WGST’s longtime morning host Tom Hughes, as well as Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson and most all of their other daytime DJ’s. They’re consolidating back toward a handful of syndicated shows out of cities up north, with very little Atlanta programming whatsoever.

This is happening at their other stations around the country.

I’d read about the controversy surrounding Clear Channel’s growing monopoly and shrinking concern for local programming, and I’ve seen the Frontline special on PBS on how small homegrown radio stations in New Orleans took care of the city when Clear Channel wouldn’t, but I never expected this to happen in a market the size of Atlanta. I have no idea why I though we’d be immune.

I don’t know if this is a direct result of the competition between satellite radio and traditional terrestrial radio but it’s very troubling to see a sea change of this magnitude with no explanation, executed in the cool, clinical style of corporate dismissals; fans of the shows denied any sort of closure with the hosts of the programs.

Without a doubt this is tied to the recent $18.7 Billion acquisition of Clear Channel Communications by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital Partners LLC whose regulatory filing assured the FCC that they didn’t “expect any senior management changes or significant layoffs.”

Right.

While the deal is expected to take as long as a year to gain approval and selloffs of smaller stations is anticipated, I suspect that Clear Channel has agreed to make the way easier for the investors with pre-approval broom-outs of stations like WGST and 96Rock.

If you’re an on-air talent at a Clear Channel station anywhere in the United States I’d start talking to your colleagues in other markets because you may have the potential for one Mother of a class action lawsuit if any of these firings is in any way illegal. The firing of the 96Rock DJs is beginning to look pretty fishy in the light of these new happenings. I smell setup.

Meanwhile, back at the dial, the rest of us have to figure out what we’re going to do with shrinking coverage of our local markets from terrestrial radio. Our big rush to satellite radio has painted us into a tricky corner.

[tags]clear channel communications, clear channel, clear, channel, 96rock, larry, eric, regularguys, regular, guys, kimmer, kim peterson, tom hughes, radio, fired, FCC, monopoly, sale, investors, lawsuit[/tags]

4 thoughts on “Clear Channel Coup”

  1. In the weeks since the Clear Channel house-cleaning at the local radio stations, I have continued to listen to 640 WGST on my way to work to form an opinion on the likely success, failure, wisdom … whatever… of this action. During this period, I have developed an expectation that listenership on this station will continue to fall, probably faster than it was before, if that were the case. Here are my reasons:

    Tom Hughes, while he had the annoying habit of pausing after every third or fourth word to select the next three or four words during his “ad lib segment”, as I mentally nicknamed it, presented material that was interesting and relevant to Atlanta and the surrounding listening area. He conducted interviews with people who generally had something interesting to say on a current topic in the news. Clear Channel has replaced the Tom Hughes show with “The Wall Street Journal” report with Gordon Deal and some woman. This show is mostly fluff pieces, which I would guess failed to make the printed version of the paper, interspersed with an occasional item that is actually interesting. The problem is that you have to listen too long to the uninteresting reports, chit-chat between the hosts, and strings of commercials before you encounter anything worth listening to. To fill up their allotted time, they have taken a page from the NPR notebook and will sometimes go into an excessive amount of detail on a story. It’s like they try to make up more questions and comments to stretch out their interview or discussion of the topic long after everything that needed to be said on the subject had been discussed.

    I found Kim “The Kimmer” Peterson’s afternoon show so disgusting when I listened to it that I rarely did. In my opinion the absence of his show is no loss for us. However, the Dave Ramsey show that replaced it is even less interesting than Gordon Deal’s presentation in the morning. It’s apparently supposed to be some kind of a consumer advice show, but the callers to the show I have listened to have been so stupid and dull, and Ramsey’s advice to them so mundane, obvious, and trite, that I have been unable to make myself listen to the show through more than a couple of callers at one time. I suppose anyone with any sense who has a question appropriate to this show has already called Clark Howard.

    It’s clear that Clear Channel is a compassionless organization whose undivided attention is focused on their bottom line. In fact, it is focused there so intently that they are ignoring or neglecting practices that would increase their audience and generate loyalty. If they continue on their present path, my prediction is that their fortunes will experience a turnaround, and satellite radio will benefit from more deserters of on-air radio. Of course, maybe Clear Channel just needs a tax write-off.

  2. I agree with everything that you’ve posted Scott. I’d be curious to know the revenue for each of the Atlanta CCC stations over the past five years, just to see which stations were really pulling in the best revenue. I’ve heard through the entirely unreliable grapevine in our building that it’s the Spanish language stations because the immigrant population relies on the station for information much more than the resident population of native citizens. I tend to believe this argument.

    From the outside, Cox Communications seems to enjoy a solid foundation in Atlanta that would be challenging to any rival. With WSB radio pushing the 83 year mark and WSB TV closing in on 62, it’s a company that speaks with a lot of authority on all matters local. It obviously knows how to manage itself for the Atlanta market far better than anyone from the outside, as would any local station in any market.

    I finally understand why so many people have been so angry about Clear Channel. Diverse local programming has moved to the internet with podcasts, but that doesn’t respond to the generation who are passive listeners. Maybe the real lesson here isn’t that Clear Channel is the big, bad monster… Cox Communications’ near monopoly of the Atlanta market is certainly a factor in the diversity of our airwaves.

  3. For years I thought of Cox Broadcating as the big monopoly in ATL, and WGST as the little guy trying to take them on. Now since J-corp/CCC have gotten so big…

    “I have seen the enemy, and he is me.”

    Where has the WGST tallent gone to now?
    Does anyone know where Kimmer, Wayne, Snake,Tom
    or mthe rest are?
    -Sumter

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