Monday, October 13, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

From today's Tom Taylor email:

Spike at the Mic Spike O’Dell wasn’t kidding about his intention to leave the plum job of waking up Chicago, on Tribune’s WGN (720). For the first time, he confirmed to listeners last Friday morning that he’ll be leaving the second week of December. He said – rightly – that his decision not to renew his deal was the “worst-kept secret” in town, but the 55-year-old really truly is walking away from a big salary and big ratings. He wants to retire while he’s still “young enough and healthy enough” to enjoy the next stage of his life, and he’s financially able to do it. His departure ends an eight-year tenure as the morning host at ’GN, but an overall 21 years there.

When Sharon and I first motored from Hartford, CT to our new home in Fairfield, IA, naturally I was listening to the radio for every turn of the tires - that was long enough ago to hear real, live, local radio and rich regional differences from village to town, with its concomitant variations in quality, most of it, er, charming - I came upon "KICK 104" in Davenport, IA, and a guy who jumped off the dial. He was folksy but professional, chatting comfortably about last night's charity dinner where he was a celebrity waiter, and with listeners about the highlights of their lives. And what a voice! "Holy shit," I exclaimed (inwardly, so as not to alarm the Mrs.); "what's this guy doing in Davenport, IA?"

It turns out what he was doing in Davenport, IA was owning part of the station he worked for; that's how they could afford to keep him. But soon he was headed to the bright tower lights of WGN anyway, and it was obvious he was heir apparent to the venerable Wally Phillips. (No keys exist on the keyboard that accurately render Mr. Phillips's own pronunciation of his name, BTW - suffice it to say that his success was all the more remarkable, having a pronounced Brokawish speech impediment, a name with four "L"s and call letters beginning with "W." Oh, and before WGN he was at a Chicago station that threw another "L" at him for good measure).

Anyway, the prophesy was fulfilled: Mr. O’Dell entertained Chicago for two decades ... and now he is leaving us. He has had an enviable career, as much for what he didn't do:

  • He didn't get downsized on any of the industry's myriad Black Fridays.
  • He didn't get fined by the FCC.
  • He didn't get arrested.
  • He didn't start rumors he wouldn't renew any of his contracts, thus stirring up the infamous Industry Buzz and starting a bidding war.
  • He didn't syndicate his show, thus losing the essential local quality that made him so great.

Instead, Mr. O’Dell did what good broadcasters do: he got up (very early) every morning and did good (make that great) radio. 

I wish him well in his next stage, but I mourn our loss.

And thanks, Spike, for proving to this big-city-radio kid - for the first time but certainly not the last - that good, and sometimes great, radio happens in smaller markets, too.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Saving the Web, One Site at a Time

Marketing Expert, Too

I've been doing websites for my own businesses and clients for years, mostly as a diversion. But lately more such projects have been coming my way, and I've discovered my Inner Geek. I enjoy it immensely, and I'm getting good response from my clients: they're saying I give them exactly what they want, on time, for a good price.

So, I'm getting serious about website development, and I want to tell the world (or most of it):

  • If you know anyone who is looking for help with a new or existing site, please let them know about me.
  • If you are considering your own site, whether personal or business, please think of me.
  • If the topic comes up in conversation, please put in a good word.
  • If you hear the word "website" uttered, even several miles away - or even think you do - rush over and tell them about me.
  • Forward this post to everyone in your address book and have them do the same. (I calculate that if we all do this, everyone in the world, except maybe in China, will see it in about eight days.)

No Outsourcing! You (and everyone else in the world, except maybe in China) can see my approach, work and references at; I would love your feedback. (When you tell others about the site, just say "put hyphens between all the words." Without the hyphens, you're buying eyeglasses.)

I'm doing all sorts of projects, but being a lifelong radio guy, radio station sites are the most fun. (It turns out that a consultant who also does websites can be downright dangerous.)

For the time being - at least until the world (except maybe China) beats a path to my door and I become a total prima donna - I can be quite flexible and reasonable ... and nobody leaves unhappy.

Thanks so much for helping me launch this thing. And become a total prima donna. Except maybe in China.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Radical Thought

Sometimes it works out this way: as I cobble together our weekly newsletter, the same topic ends up being addressed from different angles in different articles. (Around our office, we call that the “accidental topic of the week.”)

That’s exactly what happened this week, as two broadcasting luminaries took issue with two separate topics that define broadcast free speech—and free speech in general—in America.

I have posted them here as guest blogs:

I read with great interest Erwin Krasnow’s article, because I have long advanced his argument; I have scoured the Radio Act of 1927 and subsequent legislation, and I have never been able to find any mention of the fact that the airwaves belong to the public. Now we have validation from a prominent communications attorney, complete with lawyerly citations to back up his argument.

And then there’s our good friend Bill O’Shaughnessy, who rails against the Fairness Doctrine, arguing that this, too, is a suppression of our Constitutional right to free speech.

Both gentlemen make the same compelling argument—I’m paraphrasing here—that our government has hijacked our rights, not just as business operators, but as citizens of this land.

The governmental environment in which we operate presents far too many immediate threats for us to engage in frivolous philosophical discourse. But what Erwin and Bill are saying is far too important for us to ignore.

I am enough of a realist to realize that sudden change is impractical, to say the least. But I do urge the leaders in our industry, as they wend their way through the halls of power, winning and losing skirmishes along the way, never to lose sight of the free-speech freedoms Constitutionally guaranteed to all Americans—and to find a way to reclaim them in the long run.

Virtually all the leaders in our industry to whom I’ve talked are resigned to a tightening regulatory environment, regardless of which party takes the White House in November. But both candidates are preaching change. I can think of no better way to demonstrate the sincerity of that sermon than to make right a great wrong that has plagued our industry—and the public—for far too long.

Memo to Messrs. Rehr, Haley, Newberry et. al.: As we stay on message, speaking in One Voice for Radio, let’s make restoration of free speech a central part of the message.

Guest Blog: The Unfairness Doctrine

By William O’Shaughnessy

An influential communications blog recently called for the re-imposition of the so-called Fairness Doctrine, suggesting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi might favor the effort. “It will not surprise us if the Fairness Doctrine returns and we wouldn’t get all that upset about it. Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants it back on the books. It could be good for broadcasting.”

I’m absolutely opposed to this and just to make myself clear, we’ll refer to it henceforth as the Unfairness Doctrine.

The misnamed doctrine was struck down on August 4, 1987 by an enlightened FCC of its day. And although the darn thing sometimes resembles Lazarus in the Bible in that it keeps jumping up again and again, I hope we won’t associate ourselves with any recurring assault on the First Amendment rights of broadcasters, no matter how agreeable and deceptively named.

It’s very simple and very fundamental: The Federal Communications Commission and the Congress should not be allowed to dictate our agenda or shape our priorities. Our opposition to any Unfairness Doctrine is based, in every season, on the bedrock, fundamental wisdom of the Founders: “Congress shall make no law. . .” You know the rest.

The bloggers may have Nancy Pelosi on their side. I’m afraid I only have James Madison.

In our best moments we are electronic journalists at the People’s business. And clearly, it (any doctrine by government fiat or decree) would be an impermissible intrusion into the editorial process and an inhibitor rather than promoter of controversial expression. It would unquestionably inhibit the presentation of controversy. So much for “balance.”

I don’t think we want to be among those who would intensify the chill an Unfairness Doctrine would induce. We either believe in the principle that broadcasting is entitled to the full freedom of the press that the First Amendment guarantees. . .or we do not.

Governor Mario Cuomo instructs us:

“You can’t get at bad taste and destructive communication through regulation. That’s just substituting one evil for another. The ceding of authority, on a basic principle, has to come back to haunt us.”

The great Cuomo (whom the Boston Globe calls “the preeminent philosopher-statesman of the American nation”) is saying that maybe this generation of broadcasters, buffeted by new technology and competition (and consolidation), can survive by what I’ve called our “obsequious acquiescence” and by pulling our punches on free speech and content issues like an Unfairness Doctrine, but our kids won’t—the people we leave our businesses to.

BARGAINING CHIP. I’m afraid broadcasters are not united in pushing for our long-overdue independence from content regulation. In every season, it seems, structural, so-called “pocketbook” issues take precedence among the speculators and investors, and even some broadcasters—those “market managers” who operate out of airport lounges with their PalmPilots and Blackberries, beholden to corporate masters a whole continent away. They’ll beat their breasts about ownership caps, newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, multicast-must carry, dual-carriage, retransmission consent, a la carte pricing, fin-sin rules, performance taxes, the DTV spectrum and those white spaces in the DTV band, low power FM, satellite radio, SOARS repeaters, copyright royalties, main studio location, competition from telcos and iPods, etc.

But the broadcasting establishment and the NAB Board, sadly, have always viewed the First Amendment as a stepchild among our priorities and even, occasionally, as a bargaining chip.

So before anyone attempts to bestow their imprimatur, it would be wise to give this some thought lest a lot of owners, people who make profits in this business (again, read: profession), will sell freedom for fees or accommodation on structural, competitive issues. They will make deals with Speaker Pelosi and Congress. They will accept regulation we shouldn’t be accepting—all in exchange for an opportunity to make more money, thus adding their weight to a destructive principle.

And what’s more (and worse), they will flee from any controversial or meaningful programming and throw Radio back to its “jukebox era.”

That is the real danger. And I don’t think you want to encourage that.

UNITED EFFORT. Why not instead use our resources and energy to revive our own flagging spirits and lack of attention to these fundamental issues? All elements of today’s modern media would be better served by a united effort by broadcasters, podcasters, bloggers, Internet entrepreneurs, cable operators et. al.—all those now firmly fixed, and those just entering, the Information Age—to develop a consolidated, joint resolve against government intrusion into content and free expression.

Fairness? Balance? No matter how comforting it would be for the Congress and the Commission to wrap themselves around “fairness,” a concept not explicitly or penumbrally protected by the Constitution as free speech and free press expressly are, I am confident the Supreme Court will one day be compelled to concentrate on the clear, certain, elegant, unvarnished language in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights should we ever again be confronted by the siren song of “fairness” by government fiat, decree or doctrine.

No one disputes what has been called the “coarsening” of our culture. And yet the quest for “fairness” and “balance,” while understandable, and even commendable, is every much a fool’s errand as the crusade to install “decency” on the nation’s airwaves. And perhaps even more dangerous.

Bill O’Shaughnessy is president & CEO of Whitney Radio and editorial director of WVOX, New Rochelle, NY. He can be reached via

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Guest Blog: Are the Airwaves Really Public?

By Erwin Krasnow

Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, as well as citizen group advocates, frequently proclaim that the airwaves belong to the people. Indeed, the concept of “public airwaves” is the foundation for the return to heavy-handed regulation proposed by Chairman Kevin Martin and his colleagues in the localism proceeding.

In April the FCC released a revised edition of a manual entitled “The Public and Broadcasting: How to Get the Most Service from Your Local Station,” which broadcast stations are required to provide to any member of the public who requests a copy. The manual asserts, without any citation to legal authority, that station licensees are trustees of the public’s airwaves.

The concept of public ownership of the airwaves is repeated over and over, without a close examination as to whether the notion has any legal basis or makes any sense. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said, repetition does not transform a lie into the truth.

If you review the record, it is clear that Congress never intended the public to control the airwaves. Here, for example, is Sen. Clarence Dill, one of the coauthors of the Radio Act of 1927, on the subject of ownership of the airwaves: “The government does not own the frequencies, as we call them, or the use of the frequencies. It only possesses the right to regulate the apparatus. We might declare that we own all the channels, but we do not.”

Or take the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. He debunked the argument that the government can control broadcasters because their channels use air space by comparing broadcasters to people who speak in public parks—like the airwaves, also in the public domain. “Yet people who speak there do not come under government censorship,” he said.

Even the Congressional Research Service, which conducted a study of the problems raised by proposals to assess fees from broadcasters for use of the spectrum, concluded that “the notion that the public or the government owns the airwaves is without precedent. We find no case that so holds. Furthermore, when enacting the Radio Act of 1927, the Congress specifically deleted a House-passed declaration of ownership.”

But if these arguments are not persuasive, think of the utter impossibility of anyone owning the airwaves. The radio frequency spectrum cannot be seen, touched, or heard. Like sunlight and the wind, it has existed since the beginning of time—long before any person was around to claim it as their own. The spectrum—actually pulses of energy at different frequencies—cannot be contained, or divided, or held in any way. So how can anyone own or control it? The very idea is preposterous.

How, then, has the government been able to regulate broadcasting? Actually, the FCC’s paternalistic control of radio and television slipped in the back door as an unwanted byproduct of a regulation that is, in fact, necessary for orderly use of the electro-magnetic spectrum. (Yes, even those of us who advocate a hands-off approach to FCC regulation of broadcasters agree there is a place for some government supervision.) Without the FCC’s rules on who can use what part of the spectrum, chaos would reign—signals would crash into each other, and clear communications could be impossible.

The late Harvard Law School Professor Louis Jaffe hit the nail squarely when he said, “The popular cliché that the broadcaster is using the public’s airwaves is a vague, indeterminate concept. I think we would have heard little of it had not the existing technology required regulation of broadcasting to avoid interference. For, in one way or another, we all use air and space. To speak of owning such resources is a solecism.”

Originally created to be the traffic cop of the airwaves, the FCC has taken on the role of a morals and vice squad. In the process, the electronic media, one of the most important voices in our society today, have been deprived of a basic constitutional right to freedom of speech.

None of this denies that the spectrum does have a special character, or that broadcasters have a special responsibility to use it in a way that is beneficial to society. In any event, the public still has recourse to stop a broadcaster who is doing a poor job. For one thing, there’s that dial. Every time you change the channel, you are, in effect, voting for or against a station’s programming. The public can also file petitions to deny a broadcaster’s license at the FCC.

But the public does not own the airwaves. The spectrum is there, whether it is used or not. Only when it is enhanced by broadcasters, who fill the airwaves with information and entertainment, does it have any value at all to the public. With their talent, technical knowledge and financial resources, broadcasters have increased the value of the spectrum for everyone. And without a signal, supplied by your local broadcast station, the airwaves would be so much empty space.

Erwin G. Krasnow is a partner with Garvey Schubert Barer, Washington, DC and former general counsel of the National Association of Broadcasters. This article first appeared in, and is printed with permission of, Broadcasting & Cable, copyright 2008.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What Did You Expect?

I feel bad for Don Imus. The poor guy isn't doing anything new, really. Given the shifting standards in our global community, what's the difference between 1972's "1200 Hamburgers to Go" and 2007's "Nappy-Headed Hos"?

It's noteworthy that the former routine is on the same-titled album reissued in 1997 with an EXPLICIT LYRICS sticker. Early-Seventies radio bits get a sticker? (I haven't listened to my copy in a while, but now I'm curious.)

Our paths have crossed a few times over the years, Don's and mine, and I really don't think he's a racist. But he's of a generation that has struggled with cascading seismic shifts in political correctness: what was okay when he was a kid ... what was okay in earlier adulthood ... and what's okay today. (Hint: as a kid, he probably heard adults tell - and himself told - racist jokes openly; as an adult, he probably told racist jokes to well-vetted white friends; today, he might tell a racist joke to a select few - if at all - and they would all have two first names and bad teeth.)

Ah, but there is that whole radio thing. Listening to the 2008 version of Imus in the Morning, you hear a guy who is struggling to remain relevant ... to see, with 68-year-old eyes, the boundaries of political correctness ... and to know just how far outside those boundaries he can safely stray to keep both his shock-jock cred and his job.

Overall, I think he does pretty well. He sure sounds more relevant than his contemporaries up the dial on the Oldies stations - legendary jocks we all revere but wish somebody would tell them to hang up their headsets already.

Yes, the "nappy-headed hos" incident (hereinafter known as Incident One) was regrettable, to say the least - as Imus himself acknowledged. But this "Pacman" thing? Puh-leeeeese. Even if you're totally not a fan (are you listening, Rev. Al?), you have to acknowledge that the remark was ambiguous. Given the eggshells he must tread since Incident One, and what I truly believe is Mr. I.'s outlook these days, his explanation is eminently plausible.

Which brings us to Rev. Al and his kind.

"Aha!" would say Rev. Al. "We know what you mean by 'our kind,' and that makes you, Mr. Radio Ranter, a racist."

But the good rev. would wrong. Again. By "his kind" I mean those who leverage societal sensitivities for their own political agendas, to the potential detriment of society itself.

I mean, who is this guy? Okay, I know who this guy is ... check out Wikipedia for a sense of how, just maybe, it's a case of the pot calling the kettle - oh, never mind.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why Consolidation Fails

I have decided to break up my little exercise in self-flagellation into its original parts, reviving Jay Mitchell's Radio Rants in the process.

Although the folks in radio are as wacky as they come, they come to a radio blog to get radio stuff, not other wacky stuff. And the 1.5 demented individuals - a long-suffering friend and the village idiot - who patronize my feeble attempts at humor have no clue what to do with the radio stuff.

So henceforth all the radio stuff is back here, where it belongs ... and all the other stuff is at Jay Mitchell's Blog, where it can't do much harm, hopefully.

Even if you enjoy both aspects of my schizophrenia, this way you can subscribe to both blogs and visit the one that fits your mood of the moment.

The failure of this micro-experiment in consolidation says a lot about what's wrong with consolidation in general: trying to cobble together disparate elements into a productive whole doesn't always work. It would be like trying to run hundreds of radio stations in markets of all sizes and types and expecting success ... oh, never mind.

Small Market Revenue Measurement NOW

I have long advocated the measurement of small market revenue performance with the same rigor and credibility as the RAB-Miller, Kaplan revenue reports from larger markets. I have not been alone in this, but these days, with the sad news coming from larger markets - which news is, for lack of anything better, applied to smaller markets as well - the small-market-revenue movement is picking up steam.

A number of factions - including measurement companies like Miller, Kaplan and BIA; industry associations like the NAB and the RAB; public-spirited industry vendors and broadcasters in all size markets - are working together to make this happen.

It now looks like the prime mover will be the RAB. I’m told that Board Chairman Peter Smyth has appointed Entercom Regional Vice President and RAB Board Vice Chair Weezie Kramer to head a committee to study the issue, ensuring that smaller markets are represented in proper proportion. I spoke with President/CEO Jeff Haley last week, and he assured me that the RAB is very focused on and committed to this, and that some form of all-encompassing measurement should be in place for 2009, if not sooner. He told me, "I believe it's our industry right to count every ad dollar received. Anything less sells us short."

This is good news indeed. CL King analyst Jim Boyle estimates that small market radio revenues account for about 20% of the radio total. Right now that total is around $21 billion, says the RAB ... but I think that number will be larger when small market radio is fully counted. That’s $4-5 billion of radio revenues that we need to count!

My concern in all this is the definition of small market radio. In speaking with various people in the industry, definitions include “markets 26+,” “markets 75+” and “markets 100+.” These definitions, in my opinion, are off the mark, and they aren’t useful in the present context. A more realistic definition is “markets 150+,” which pretty much takes up where the Miller, Kaplan study now leaves off.

Everybody seems to understand that unrated markets must be included, but even in that realm, we must be inclusive. The most cost-efficient way to survey these markets is, as at least one company is proposing, to identify key small-market groups and capture one number from each, representing all their markets. But that approach would omit smaller groups and independent operators, who - if our newsletter subscriber list is any indication - are the backbone of small market radio.

I will continue to work with our industry leaders on this, and I will continue to keep you informed. For your part, I and a bunch of other people need your support and commitment to participate!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Look Ma, No Data!

Being a radio guy, I was interested in this article from today's issue of Tom Taylor's excellent daily radio e-rag:

Who’s really #1 in Seattle? That would be public radio's KUOW.

This is a fascinating exercise in almost any Arbitron-rated market – unearthing the 12+ shares for the popular non-com stations and plugging them into the Arbitron-released rankings alongside the commercial stations. In the case of Seattle, the Post-Intelligencer’s Bill Virgin did that and discovers that the University of Washington-owned KUOW (94.9) would handily beat out CHR KUBE (93.3) as the #1 station in the Winter book.

You get similar results in other markets that have a high percentage of college graduates (and often, colleges). In Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, WUNC (91.5) regularly appears at or near the top of the heap in the Research Triangle. Ditto for KQED in San Francisco. And don’t even ask about Ann Arbor.

This parallels my own in-depth survey, undertaken at great cost - namely, I had to put two hours of my life on hold - conducted yesterday when I received a visit from Justin the Cable Guy. (If you must know, my digital cable box showed NO DATA after 4 PM every day - a total bitch if you want to see who's on "Ellen" - and the PPV screens took longer to load than it takes NetFlix to arrive in the mail.)

Anyway, Justin - probably not his real name - hey, do you remember the name of your cable guy? - noticed the KIIS-FM bus card in my office and struck up a conversation about radio ... how's Rick Dees doing? (Hanging by a thread at MOVIN, thanks for asking) ... what about Ellen K, the total babe? (A very nice lady, probably thanks to her Iowa roots) ...

Not Justin, but pretty close

I should mention that Justin could have been from Central Casting - part Larry the Other Cable Guy, a dash of Jim Carrey - burley, goateed, probably stops off for a Frosty One with the other Cable Guys after work.

So after asking his polite questions about KIIS-FM - about the answers to which he could care less, judging from the fact that he kept asking the same questions - he told me he listened mainly to NPR.

That would have taken the wind out of the sails of lesser radio mortals, but it just so happens that I went to school with, roomed with, and got the first radio job for Robert Siegel, so I could continue to impress and amaze Justin. The Cable Guy. (Boy, that's depressing.)

Justin went on to tell me that he had satellite for a while because of Howard Stern (right with you there, buddy - my wife used to do massage therapy on Howard's mother, and Howard beat my ass in Hartford; it would have been more embarrassing all the way around if those situations had been reversed) ... but he only listened in the car and doesn't commute that much these days.

So there you have it: an empirical validation (n=1) of the findings of that fly-by-night outfit, Arbitron. Hey, I just did what most of us consultants do anyway - dress up personal, anecdotal experience as "research" to sell our points of view. Only this time, the sample came to me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bias? What Bias?

A couple of weeks ago I learned something about how people get their news ... what it says about journalism in general ... and what we can learn from it.

I was talking to a friend of mine in the Midwest - let's call him "Bill" - who was telling me about attending a recent forum at the University of Iowa featuring Karl Rove. "I was close enough to see his beady, evil eyes," said Bill. (Call me psychic, but from his subtle verbal cues I was able to discern that Bill may not be Mr. Rove's biggest fan.)

Bill went on to describe the proceeding, telling me that Mr. Rove's responses to the moderator's questions were, variously, outrageous, evasive and outright lies - which prompted the audience to erupt in what you could call a loud and colorful "No Confidence" vote. (Remember, this was a firsthand account.)

Being a fellow traveler when it comes to Mr. Rove, I wanted to see his shameful display for myself, so I went to YouTube and searched for "karl rove university of iowa."

I watched the beginning of the forum, courtesy of something called The Iowa Independent ... and found a significant difference between the actual event and Bill's version. The forum began innocently enough, and Mr. Rove had barely said a word when members of the audience started shouting invectives like "murderer!", "traitor!" and my all-time favorite, "[unintelligible]."

Loathe as I am to give Mr. Rove credit, I have to admit that he was graceful under fire. In fact, the crowd's boorish behavior had me feeling sorry for the guy.

This incident reminds me of several things that we in radio have to remember:

People remember what they want to remember.

When we report news, not only do we want our stories to be accurate and unbiased when they're heard by the firsthand listener, but we want them to survive retelling. You may think that's (a) beyond our control, (b) not our problem and/or (c) impossible to influence, but it's none of the above. After all, the last thing you want is for somebody to spin some scattered version of a story and attribute it to you! Keep your stories clear, straightforward and simple and you'll make a difference.

Commentary is fine as long as it's labeled as such. Sometimes it's not as obvious as we think it is. Our choice of words, phrases and emphases can convey bias. We have to be aware of what we're writing or saying to keep bias where it belongs.

We have a big enough problem with real and perceived bias abounding - from Clear Channel to Rush Limbaugh to Air America. But at least your listeners can trust you.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Can't We Just All Get Along?

I followed with interest the story about a patent-infringement judgment against Clear Channel. The story, as reported in Radio Ink:

Federal Jury Finds Clear Channel Infringed Patent

LUFKIN, TX -- April 24, 2008: A jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has found that Clear Channel Communications infringed on Grantley Patent Holdings' patent for an integrated inventory-management system for multiple radio stations and has awarded Grantley $66 million. The jury also found that the infringement was willful, which gives the judge the option to triple the award.

Grantley filed the case in November 2006, alleging that Clear Channel's Viero inventory-management system infringed on several patents related to Grantley's sister company Maxagrid International's system.

"We are very pleased that the jury understood the complex issues in the case and found that Clear Channel had infringed Grantley's patents," said Ronald Schuts of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, one of the attorneys who represented Grantley Patent Holdings.

I know the people involved, and this is what happens when a company is so big and diverse that Doing What's Right is often supplanted by Doing What's Good for the Company.

Call me an idealist, but there is no reason the two cannot be synonymous. All it takes is two qualities:

  1. The ability to take the long view
  2. A reasonable ethical framework

I like Google's mission statement: "Don't be evil." Whether they live up to it is debatable - I'm a fan - but the statement is kind of like the game of checkers: simple on the surface, but maddeningly complex beneath.

With its hegemony throughout the world, Google has to navigate some treacherous waters; it's hard to be big and not evil.

Ditto Clear Channel. Whether a company that controls so much of our industry - check out their web site and prepare to be astounded at how many ancillary businesses they own - is good for our industry is debatable ... but they are a lot better for our industry when they act a little less like the 1200-station gorilla and more like a good citizen, with all our interests at heart.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The New Language of Radio

First Clear Channel, then Emmis, slashed jobs to appease stockholders, who usually have jobs (or don't need them). This week CBS, um, released a bunch of good radio people. Here's the way CBS described it:
With these actions, we continue to build on our strategy of deploying our assets to best grow our ratings and monetize the results ...

CBS Radio also ... considerably strengthened our digital assets in order to distribute our content on all available emerging platforms.
Yeah, that's the way I talk, too ... all "deploy" and "monetize" and "aggregate" and "assets." The problem with this business today is that the people who write stuff like that wouldn't know a mic or a playlist if it bit them on the ass.

There are some exceptions - big companies that know they're in the radio business, treat their people well, and know they have a responsibility to those who got them big in the first place. Greater Media comes to mind, and Federated, and ... hmmm, I seem to have run out.

I guess it's easier to shit-can people if you think of them as "assets." Except if you shit-can them, they're "liabilities," aren't they?

Even program directors are talking that way nowadays, in the spirit of joining them in lieu of licking them.

But really, which gets you more excited, doing great radio or monetizing assets?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Am I Blog Enough?

I just learned another great thing about the blogosphere ... people look out for one another.

A couple of days ago I got an e-mail from my blogobuddie Dan Kelley, who wrote, "Haven’t seen a new post on the blog. I’m hoping that you’re really busy - and that’s a good thing. Us bloggers need to take care of each other."

Well, Dan, yes, I've been really busy - and it is a good thing. My idea of starting a talent development service has met with thunderous response. I've done two newsletters, a teleseminar and lots of aircheck sessions ... but more important, I've made a bunch of new friends who are dedicated to radio in a way that people not in the business (like our families) - and, alas, many who are in the business - cannot fathom.

I also do a weekly newsletter, so I'm pumping out about 5,000 words a week in my day job. But that's no excuse. I have no plans to abandon this blog. At the same time, I have no plans to let this blog devolve into passages like "You won't believe what my dog said today" and polemics about the Administration, global warming and the RIAA.

Thanks, Dan, for taking care of me. I'll return the favor, or pass it on, one day soon.