As I write this, the jury is still out as to what the future will hold for iHeart Media, though there is much speculation rampant on the internet, on radio Facebook pages and the like that a bankruptcy filing could come virtually anytime.
And frankly, I am disgusted at some of the comments I read from so called radio pros both in the business and retired pros who should know better.
Sure, there can be no argument now that “bigger” in radio is not necessarily “better”. That “economies of scale” are, largely, a fantasy of the bookkeepers. And don’t get me started on “less is more”.
Still, I refuse to laugh about this. It is no laughing matter. And honestly, there are too many radio people dancing on the company’s grave right now.
It’s unbecoming of professionals to be like this.
Too many people have lost jobs. Too many people have become victims of a R.I.F. (reduction in force), some just days before Christmas.
Even so, I am not holding my breath (as some are) that a potential Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 or whatever filing is going to mean the sale of 1,500 radio stations to local owners who will restore radio to the 1970’s with live jocks 24/7.
I don’t expect to see Bob Pittman in line at a food pantry anytime soon.
No. The people I am most concerned about…are the hardworking people inside these radio stations. (And don’t smirk and say, “There are none”.)
I know a number of them. Some are my friends and former colleagues. Some work at stations for whom I once worked. It simply cannot be easy to be working inside one of those businesses right now. Undoubtedly, some of them are going to work waiting for the shoe to drop and wondering if “I’ll be next.” Imagine what it’s like to work for a number of years without a raise. That’s what I’m told some of those folks have been dealing with.
But having once gone through a personal bankruptcy, I can tell you it’s not the end of the road. Sometimes, when a person or company emerges from a bankruptcy, it becomes better and stronger.
Perhaps some of these stations will get new owners who can spend some money on them. Perhaps those who remain in the fold will find themselves with investors with just enough wherewithal to give them a fighting chance and get the company some freedom from the Debt Devil.
I once worked for a company that owned about 6 stations at the time I worked for them that found itself 40 million in debt. And every available dime did NOT go into the legendary AM station I found myself on. No. Every available dime went down the hall to the FM CHR station, because that’s where the money was.
It was not a fun time. I was transferred to one of their stations in a bigger market…for the existing salary I was making in the smaller market. So little was I making that, when a new General Manager came in, despite the tough times, he gave me an instant $2,000 raise because I was working for about $15,000 LESS than the typical PM Drive person in that town. I got $5 grand more the next year, even though I was convinced the GM’s bosses were going to end his career if he wasn’t careful.
Then the station was sold…to a fairly big radio company at that time.
What a difference that made. In about 6 months or so, we had new offices on the tenth floor of one of the company’s skyscrapers. We had a new format…we had promotions money…all new equipment…and before long, we were #1.
So be careful what you wish for iHeart. You might just get it. And to all of their employees…keep the faith. Better days just may soon be ahead.