Letters to the Editor - February 1997

letters-logo-oct95I read your piece ["Greed Kills" by Mr. Mel - January 1997 RAP]. You bore the hell out of me.

I'm a Program Director at a large station, and I'll be the first to agree with you that I'm not thrilled with all the changes in our medium. However, I'll be damned if I'll fault the owners for wanting to increase profits. You're apparently far more naive than your grizzled attitude would indicate.

Radio always has been a for-profit business in this country. R&R used to make a BIG deal out of Scott Shannon's travels because it meant there might be a BIG swing in the ratings (and, ultimately, profits) of the station he left and the station he joined. Since the tools (research, music management programs) we use to program got better, the specific programming executives were made less important. That's not ownership's fault; that's just the way it is.

The short term shame of the new ownership regs is that the little guys will get forced out. It was those little, owner-operated, stand alone stations that often yielded the most creative radio solutions. Face it, the big operators had too much to protect to get terribly creative. It was the #4 adult contemporary in a market that had nothing to lose, so they'd try to invent a new format or hire an unusual talent. Still, if any of those guys could yield a 45% margin, you can bet your ass they would.

To suggest that radio's ownership is leading those of us who toil for them toward communism is ridiculous. It's evolution. The companies that really treat employees badly will lose good people and will tend to fail. The companies that reward employees will get the good people and will tend to be more successful. If you and some group of other losers want to revolt, go for it—I think you're already revolting.

All businesses change. All businesses go through cycles. Not too long ago, this was a small business for cheesy managers (formerly car salesmen) in cheap green suits. It's gradually lurching toward becoming a bigger business. There will be casualties of the changes. Some of these new companies will fail. Some groups will be successful and get bigger. Some creative types will earn very nice money; others will seek a new field.

It's easy to vilify ownership. But, try to imagine that it's really your station. You own it. You no longer have time to have fun doing production. Protecting the license, paying the employees and making a profit is now your principle concern. What do you want to do now? Make just enough for you and your heirs and share the profits with the staff at the end of the year? Or, would you prefer to maximize profits and try to build a larger business? Major market FM's are now commonly selling for $100M. How would you like YOUR investment to perform?

The bottom line is...the bottom line. Ownership IS greedy—but that's not necessarily bad. That's their motivation to risk their capital and be in ANY business.

Master Mel, grow up or get out.

Leigh Jacobs
New Jersey 101.5

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