I really don’t see the point of writing a hopeful post about American commercial radio. If you follow the radio trades (see a list in my right column), you’ll find the recent buzz was all about Clear Channel‘s seeming company-wide, country-wide firings of seasoned, successful employees — local radio stars in some of the major U.S. radio stations. The reason has nothing to do with their, or the stations’ performance. And everything to do with corporate-consolidated radio’s falling out with Wall Street. Clear Channel, and other major station collectors, are trying to make a strategic withdrawal from the public markets, with heavily leveraged private equity companies setting up huge buyout deals. This has not gone well, and the stock of these consolidators have fallen embarrassingly. The lending crisis has done nothing to make this process easier. The American commercial radio business has been pillaged; dragged through this deregulated buying and selling binge. At a time when US radio should have been trying to get its innovation mojo back in the face of the historic breakdown of its audio distribution monopoly, everything froze for a land rush. So, who knows, indeed, if, as the disengagement of radio licenses from the public markets takes hold, radio will be turned back over to good radio people to run. Are there enough good ones left in the business to crank up the energy to do it? I don’t want to end on a negative note, so here are a couple of hopeful signs. 1. The San Diego Union-Tribune, a newspaper, has started up two online radio stations, here on its Website, one a talk station and one a local music station. They tapped some retired San Diego radio guys to help run them, along with people from their newsroom. Why not? I’ll have to listen more before reviewing it. 2. The BBC World Service has just cleaned up their Website, as they celebrate this worldwide program service’s 75th anniversary. I’ve been listening to them a lot this year on my Sirius radio. Our NPR and PRI are no slouches, but the BBC is the greatest broadcast news operation in the world. If you haven’t heard them in a while, you may be surprised to hear more than just Ox-bridge accents on the Beeb these days. There are all flavors of English, and you’ll hear a variety that’d make ‘enry ‘iggins’ head spin. Radio’s still great. May American radio at least aspire to new, or great old, ideas, in this new year.

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Heinrich Hertz's experiments proved the existence of electromagnetic radiation. Cycles-per-second, the standard measure of radio wave frequency, was named for him. He died in 1894, at 37. Wikipedia: Hertz


What do you do with a problem like Howard? After decades of profits and FCC indecency fines as routine budget items, Howard Stern, king of all pottymouth radio guys, followed his enabler Mel Karmazin to Sirius Satellite Radio, leaving CBS to make up a hundred million in revenue (They sold stations) and fill the void for the half of Howard's loyal audience who didn't choose to buy a new radio and pay fifteen bucks a month for a few more, ranker epithets.
Wikipedia: Stern


CBS might have become the Cigar Broadcasting System. William S. Paley was the scion of the family business. In 1927, his cigar tycoon dad, Samuel, bought the struggling network of early radio stations from a group of poor schlumps who were trying to – would you believe: sell programming to radio stations! Every syndicator since has had to relearn that this doesn't work. Bill and his dad figured out the right business model -- you sell commercials to advertisers, and give the programs to stations. Got it?
Wikipedia: Paley