Friday, March 6, 2009

Radio Daze

Talk radio’s number one ego challenging the president of the United States to a duel was bad enough, but it appears radio in general is having a tough time weathering the economic meltdown. Some recent headlines:

• CC Media, parent of Clear Channel, posts massive $5 billion fourth quarter loss. The company is owned by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

• Citadel Broadcasting was delisted from the NYSE, effective today, after their stock price plummeted to 14-cents a share. Citadel is parent to ABC Radio, which syndicates such conservative talkers as Sean Hannity, Focus On The Family, and Mark Levin.

It is, of course, purely coincidental that Clear Channel and Citadel entered into "an unprecedented syndication arrangement for The Sean Hannity Show” last December. I have to wonder if anyone regrets the massive contracts some of these radio yakkers have received, i.e., Limbaugh's $38 million contract signed last summer. By the way: neat trick to juggle a $38 million paycheck with an anti-tax message. Of course he doesn't support Obama's tax on the rich -- he's going to have to pay it!

• Cumulus Media announced it will cut its workforce by 7%. Cumulus became famous for banning the Dixie Chicks in the run-up to the Iraq war.

Standard & Poors has lowered the credit rating for Radio One Inc., which operates 53 radio stations around the country.

•  Westwood One, which syndicates Larry King as well as Fred Thompson’s new talk show, is trying to restructure its massive debt with the help of the Gores Group, which has increased its stake in the company to 72.5%.

* Revenues at Cox Radio fell 13% in the fourth quarter, and it took a $601.6 million write-down on assets. Cox owns 86 radio stations around the country.

I’m thinking of all of this because I understand the Country Radio Broadcasters are meeting in Nashville for their annual confab. CRS used to be the most over the top of all of the meetings we music business people would attend. The parties were lavish, the booze flowed freely, there was--to quote Michael Steele--bling bling on the bling bling.

I’m not in that world anymore, but I have to think the mood might be somewhat subdued this year. As to whether there's any soul-searching going on in the corporate offices of these media conglomerates, I doubt it.