The Clear Channel layoff

clear-channel2While Barack Obama was being sworn in as our 44th President, something else was going on. And it wasn’t good.

Clear Channel made what is perhaps the biggest one-day layoff of any media company in history by axing around 1,850 jobs nationwide from Chicago to Atlanta, from Detroit to San Francisco, and everywhere in between.

Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays confirmed the layoffs – which amount to 9 percent of the company’s workforce. The axings were spread around its radio, outdoor advertising, and corporate headquarters. The company also plans to cut back on local programming and add more syndicated content.

While ad sales and promotion positions were eliminated, some on-air personalities were shown the door as well -literally.

Two-decade veteran Rick O’Dell of Smooth Jazz WNUA-FM was one of those fired yesterday. O’Dell was the station’s popular midday personality and also served as the music director and program director. The move also raises the speculation about the future of WNUA, whose ratings have fallen since the implementation of the Portable People Meters, the new ratings system now used by Arbitron, and the Smooth Jazz format has already been sacked in markets such as Minneapolis, Denver, and Washington, D.C.

Also out was WKSC-FM’s Marty Headrick, who handled promotions and production.

Word is two dozen employees were axed from Clear Channel Chicago.

And it didn’t stop there as a long list of terminations were posted on All Access and Radio and Records. As far as the Midwest is concerned, layoffs occurred at Clear Channel clusters in Madison, Wis.; Minneapolis; Cleveland (where 46 were let go); St. Louis; and in Detroit, where the entire staff of all-sports WDFN-AM was let go – including the Stoney and Wojo morning show – and the station may flip formats. Another all-sports radio station – this time in San Diego (XTRA-AM) had its entire staff purged as well.

Read Clear Channel President/CEO Mark Mays’ and Clear Channel Radio President/CEO John Hogan’s letters to employees here.

Thought: Man… Where do I begin? Employees escorted out by security… entire staffs being let go… firing your morning personality – who finished first in the ratings… Yep, it’s the Clear Channel way.

No, it’s the corporate radio way. And its little wonder why listeners are fleeing for iPods/MP3 players, satellite radio (until Uncle Mel screws that up), and Internet radio (until the RIAA shuts it down because of their royalty “tax”.)

Today, Clear Channel openly admitted it doesn’t care about its listeners or its employees – something everyone has known for years.

And did anyone think they would try to get away with this by trying to bury this news on the same day Barack Obama was being sworn in as our 44th President? News about the layoffs were leaked out last Thursday. How dumb do they think we are? No, Clear Channel executives are the dumb ones. What a dick move.

Even more appalling is their plan to cut back on live, local programming and add more syndicated content. The audience has been telling them for years they demand live and local programming. But since Clear Channel doesn’t listen to or care about the listener, why bother?

It no longer matters what the audience wants. To radio companies, its the bottom line that matters. Quality doesn’t (which explains syndicated crap like Delilah, Van Pelt, Seacrest, etc.) The audience can either take it or leave it. And from the look of things, the audience has left it.

And don’t give me this BS about the weak economy. While it is tough times out there, why aren’t Clear Channel execs having their pay cut? Mays and Hogan are still incredibly wealthy from what I hear, especially after taking the company private. These layoffs would have happened anyway, weak economy or no.

And don’t forget: it’s not just Clear Channel. Dan McNeil was dropped from WMVP-AM on Friday by the mighty overlords at ESPN, who think Mike & Mike is the best radio show in the world (not) and annoying prick Scott Van Pelt is the next superstar. I hope his sister Lucy pulls away the football, hits him with it, and beats him up… CBS Radio have axed personalities from its FM stations, including four at WBBM-FM in the last two years alone. Citadel made a huge layoff at WLS nearly a year ago.

You know, when I started this blog in September 2006, I promised you a twisted look at the media business. But with all the layoffs and firings over the last several months, writing about this business is becoming less and less fun. There’s nothing humorous about heartless media companies like Cheap Channel treating employees like cow manure – and then putting them out to pasture.

Yesterday was indeed a historic day in America. Leave it to the radio business to make history on the same day for all the wrong reasons.

(Editor’s Note: On Wednesday, it was revealed the Mays brothers were voluntarily cutting their own pay, from $800,000 a year to $500,000. Of course, they still get their bonuses, which could top out at a paltry $4 million. Wow, how nice of you guys… to clean your conscious like that, so you can sleep at night. Too bad you can’t say the same about the people you assholes laid off, who are laying awake at night wondering how they are going to pay their bills. Totally despicable. – T.H.)

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