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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Big, Or At The Least, Very Imposing, Brother Broadcasters


When I entered radio a few decades ago, Programming was recognized as Top Priority, from where the money came. That which is on the air RIGHT NOW was paying for everyone's groceries and its Fearless Leader and those who worked under the Programming banner were respected, if not understood. As long as the ratings were good.

Times have changed, as Radio Solutions Experts (Time Peddlers) love to tell me when I visit any station in L.A., for example. "SALES is in charge NOW," they boast. Hmmm... Since when has the listener bonded with Sales?

More, since Sales is the new boss, what are they doing with that ability to attract, entertain and maintain an audience? I'll tell you this: when the coin obsessed don't know a thing about entertainment or broadcasting, they outsource it. They hire a programming consultant. Some of these radio consultants are priceless. I've even heard of one "expert" with a consultant of his own: a fortune teller. It was true; he mistrusted his own instincts so much he had to pull in Madam Turban and her crystal ball. Funny, and inadequate is REALLY funny.

A monstrous Conference Call of Radio 'Who's' for This One Corporation In Particular was reported to have taken place last week. It was between Those Who Tell Others What To Do on your air waves, (what songs to play, who to hire and fire, what costs to cut) and Those Who Must Obey.

The conference call was held by radio programming consultant Mike McVay, who,  among other dictates, apparently informed his troops, "All contracts with programming consultants will be severed immediately." If this is so, Mike just axxed himself, a first that deserves to be applauded.

But, dang, no. There was an even more recent interview, designed to spin the previous one, and, in it, we learn he didn't say, or especially MEAN that.

Nor did he mean there were 500 corporate managers and programmers on the line. That was just the inability to spin a lower number of attendees, is all. But there were enough on the call, maybe 350, to eventually realize everything he said would turn out to be otherwise.

So - when he said, "Jan Jeffries is the head of Country, Top 40 and Hot AC stations." what he meant is that Jan has been doing that all along. Still doing it NOW. I guess he just threw that in or thought it required repeating.

The statement, "Programmers will also receive a list of...(song) adds, other(s) ... will be subject to corporate approval." in fact turns out to include an open season reverse loophole: "...we're going to give those PDs the ability to decide the songs they want to play." (from that list they received?) "Part of my whole thing is that I want to get the very best broadcasting minds in the business in our company..."

Well! That's a big difference, even though that last sentence was completely irrelevant to the topic of Choosing Music or Following Corporate/Consultant Play Lists.

But, let's keep rolling. The edict made during the conference call, mandating "Stations will no longer be permitted to talk with record company promotion personnel..." is ACTUALLY: "...100% wrong," according to McVay. "They can absolutely talk to record company promotion personnel and can go to lunch or dinner or with them. I did say we have rules and regulations we all must live by, and I want record company promotions to run through corporate." Then McVay added, to underscore absolutely no point made earlier: "By the way, it is all about entertainment."

Well, I AM being entertained. By the acrobatics; indefatigable flip-flipping.

When, during the vast conference call, it was said, "All adds by all stations will be reported exclusively to Mediabase by one person in Atlanta," McVay INTENDED to say, rather, that they want the programmers to report all adds exclusively to Mediabase by one person, John Kilgo here (in Atlanta), who has always (done that)..." And to clarify, "I don't ...think that's too much to ask for a programmer, particularly if we're utilizing their input in the music they provide to us."

Huh? trying to follow that sentence was not unlike following a Mobius Strip. You give up trying to make sense of it and wait for it to end. but it just goes on and on. I lost the scent of reason at the part of the trail where "all stations were to be reported by ONE PERSON."

What about the new rule: "Programmers will have to make 'good arguments' if they choose not to carry Citadel Media-supplied programming?" What that really meant, says McVay, "...wasn't said in those words, either...What I said is that...if we have shows on our network that you're interested in and they're available in your market, I encourage you to take them....I heard one of our stations playing music and rolling sweepers with no air talent whatsoever, no voice-tracking, nothing that connected us with the community on a holiday weekend. [editor's note: nice to see that even the suits notice the effects of their own cost-cutting. OK, sorry]...I'd rather you carry syndicated programming than just play music and sweepers...."

And IF that Programmer WOULD RATHER NOT choose from Citadel Media-supplied programming, NOR finds interest in any other syndicated shows, THEN, before hiring anyone to do weekends, she can start writing out those "good arguments," right?

That tidbit about "Sometime in October, a new 'Programming Operating System' will be put into effect..." doesn't exactly mean that either. It goes into effect within days (or a few days ago, depending on when you're reading this) and it's absolutely not new; nothing different about it at all. The so-called 'New' Programmimng OS is not at all unlike what McVay called his Media's Systems Management Manual for years. Looks like the man is recycling his assets.

The news blip that said "Format Managers will be appointed, and programmers are being encouraged to apply for those posts" had a spin.  (And, of course they'll want to apply! It's either that or lose their income. That's a typical, undignified, cookie-cutter corporate scheme to avoid bestowing raises: eliminate the position, then create it again with a new name and make proven employees go through the application process.)

McVay says that, after the telephone conference, he "...got about 150 emails from individuals inside Cumulus who are interested in being brand managers, format captains, more involved in programming and having their responsibility and role enlarged." [read: keep pulling in a paycheck even if it means extra duty at less pay]

"So," says the Big Brother-man who keeps HIS paycheck and security at the expense of an entire corporation of others, "I'm really looking forward to digging within our company, as well as without, to find the best programmers and give them greater responsibility."

Gut it, Mighty Hunter Mike. Fill it with the desperate. Then sell it.

Here's the so-obvious-that-he-now-denies-it-Big-Brother-line: "...individual employees are not permitted to talk to the trades." That would be against Free Press, so... Not true, right, Mike?

Big Bro Mike says, "Not true; it never came up on the call. I would encourage our programmers to be interviewed and have profiles... the names that I'll announce sometime in the next 30-60 days are ones who ...I'll want ...to be interviewed. (In other words, re-apply for your old job IF you have created a corporate profile)

Finally: "...A dress code has been implemented: no blue jeans, flip-flops, piercings or exposed tattoos."

The next day, McVay was interviewed and said, "...Honest to God, it was never mentioned. I mean, today is casual Friday. I am wearing jeans, no socks, brown shoes and I have on a shirt that's tucked out."

I'm aghast, Mike, you hippy. He goes on, "...I've been saying I want to change the culture...SVPs stuck a note on my door that said, "I'm changing culture, not clothes." (Bet that SVP is wearing a gray suit, white shirt and red tie today)

And the Corporate Choke Chain, gagging your drones at Big Broth... um, corporate cluster of radio stations, that's all in our minds and not at all true either, right Mike?

"I'm sure if you're in Cumulus", he said, using the old scaffold analogy, "you feel like the noose around your neck was loosened. And I'm sure if you're in Citadel, you went, 'Hey, there's a noose around my neck.' So it's all perspective."

If you say so, sir. Point of View, then, got it. Way ya look at it, sure. Shee... I practically have a blog with that name...

Here's a POV: Instant irrelevance. A gentleman I've always had a nice chunk of admiration for, as I watched his radio programming consultancy move along over the decades, suddenly blows all that perseverance in one conference call. Now he's sounding like a writer for Rush Limbaugh. It's like one of those zombie virus movies.


1 comment:

robin said...

This is going to take some digesting. Got any Pepto?