The Virgin's Guide to Consolidation - Part 2

by Craig Jackman

In part 1 of this strange new journey, the deadline for interventions had passed, and the current owners of CHEZ-FM Inc. were waiting for the paperwork to go through to sell the company to Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. Not sur-prisingly, the way government works, we are still there, waiting. Some inter-company planning had begun however. CHEZ-FM and sister station CFMO-FM have switched consultants to the ones used by Rogers Broadcasting stations. General Accounting was being handled with the assistance of the Rogers head office in Toronto. Also, the Engineering staffs of both stations are looking at (among other things) expanding the Production area at CHEZ-FM as part of a complete renovation and expansion of the current building (which was just renovated and moved into 2 years ago).

When it became obvious that the CRTC was finally proceeding with the application, one of the things that we did was to arrange a very casual after-work meeting with our Creative and Production counterparts at the existing Rogers stations in town. After all, theoretically we are all going to be working the same building together. The first thing to do was to finally put a face to the voice on the phone, and second to see how we would all get along. The meeting went swimmingly, and the only thing we should have done differently was to move it to a Friday or a weekend to avoid the mid-week hangover. A good time was had by all, but speed and efficiency did suffer quite a bit the next day at both sites. The thing that was interesting, was the current Rogers people had about the same, or maybe just a little less, level of information about what was going on as we did. Obviously the business people want as few people as possible to know what the business it going to do—either that or the business people had no idea what was going to happen as well. It certainly was an interesting get together. There was much in common between the four writers and three producers attending as you would expect. The same complaints about lack of respect and understanding, swapping stories about salespeople that had gone from CHEZ to Rogers, but the biggest surprise was the similarity in tastes and beliefs no matter the format. The rest of the meeting gets a little fuzzy (which resulted in the hangover no doubt) so please excuse the briefness of that report. Meeting with the people who you will be working with is highly recommended, even if it’s just over lunch. It is easier to deal with a person who has a face, rather than just the name on the memo or the voice on the phone, and rest assured you will be dealing with these people even if it is only for a short time.

The sitting in limbo is the roughest part. It’s even harder in that there is very little you can do about it. You want to make plans but how far ahead do you plan—professionally or personally—not knowing if you will be in your current city let alone even have a job? You want to do good work, but do you try to please your ear, the current PD, the un-named possible new PD, the VPs at head office, the GM at the other station in town, or the faceless consultant in another time zone? Do you order a new case of dub cassettes? What about that hot new production library you really need? What I’ve discovered is that you have to cut all expenses to absolute minimum. New libraries and equipment have to wait, and just order the minimum of what you absolutely need to get by. It’s an interesting challenge for sure, but one that I’m finding quite invigorating. If you are looking to break out of your current style rut, consolidation isn’t a bad way to do it if you can deal with all the other crap that is flying around! Be aware that your current PD is going to be under much greater pressures than you are and may end up taking some of it out on you with invisible deadlines, and many times your usual workload. It isn’t personal (he’s just trying to keep up, too) and quite frankly is probably good practice for what lies ahead of you. Remember that the business suits want to get a return on a very substantial investment as soon as they can. After all, we can be talking many millions of dollars here, and American or Canadian, that is a wad of cash. What I’m finding different is that I’m now doing things content wise that are quite different from the way we’ve always done them. The challenge of combining what the PD and consultants are asking of me, plus what works within our current format and keeping in mind what our competition is doing is really keeping my days full. Also, the sales reps will be going above and beyond to make and break their budgets, thinking of course that the more money they are bringing in, the harder it will be for the new Sales Manager to get rid of them or change their account list too drastically. Of course if sales is bringing in more money, you know that your workload is going to increase by the same amount.

In case you hadn’t noticed by now, just about everyone is noticeably increasing their efforts in this period to try to become as valuable as possible. Time to decide if you want to go another round or “let me up I’ve had enough.”

From part 1, you may remember that all of this consolidation happened because the CRTC changed its rules to allow owners 2 FM + 2 AM groups per market. The new business rules have completely changed the face of this market already. First Rogers buys CHEZ to increase its local share to 2 FM/1 AM plus an AM/FM combo that is heard locally, but legally is in another market. Then 2 other AM/FM combos combine, making them a 2/2. Against those station groups sits arguably the most successful radio company in the country with their stand-alone FM. Since the CHEZ buy, Rogers has also come to agreement to buy stations in Toronto, Calgary, and a handful of small market stations in the interior of British Columbia. Sitting here blind, not knowing my future, this strikes me as a good thing. If they don’t want me at the Ottawa site, maybe there is a place for me elsewhere in the chain. Moving wouldn’t be that bad would it? The BC interior is God’s country, I still have family in Toronto, and Calgary has the mountains. Of course there is always “Would you like fries with that?”

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