Think Tank Express: The return of Larry Tisch

Larry Tisch, former owner of CBS in the 1980's.
Larry Tisch, former owner of CBS in the 1980’s.

Of course he’s dead. But you wouldn’t know it

The latest radio cutbacks came from a rather unlikely place – CBS Radio, which hadn’t announced cuts since a company-wide downsizing in 2008. CBS announced earlier this week it was eliminating 200 positions nationwide, including a number of positions in Chicago. Other Midwestern cities were hit just as hard including St. Louis and Detroit, where WWJ-AM fired its afternoon anchor team and is running pre-recorded news reports overnights instead of live voices.

New CBS Radio chief Andre Fernandez , who succeeded the retiring Dan Mason in the role, has said he wanted a leaner-run company.

Sound familiar? Yes, it looks like ol’ Larry Tisch is back at the helm.

If you read Ken Auletta’s Three Blind Mice, then you know about Laurence Tisch’s method of running CBS in the 1980’s – boneheaded financial decisions, trying to cut their way back to profitability, selling assets of the company like it was a garage sale (such as CBS Records, despite money-printing artists like Michael Jackson. ) Everytime CBS has done something stupid – and was often – yours truly refers to it as “The Church Of Tisch”, a phrase I coined in 2008 when then-WBBM-TV head Joe Ahern hit up station employees to help pay for his lunch and a marble shower in his office.

So the company that basically pioneered the odious way of disposing people – copied by Clear Channel/iHeartMedia, Cumulus, and countless others – is the last one to implement it.

cbs-radioSo while The Church of Tisch is busy celebrating yet another season atop primetime, their local TV and radio stations – outside of a few – are seeing little benefit. For example, CBS-owned KYW-TV in Philadelphia let three on-air personnel go last month as the station’s ratings struggles continue as they have dating back 30 years (when they were an NBC affiliate owned by Westinghouse, which acquired CBS from Tisch in 1996.)

Of course CBS has no comment on the firings; its against The Church’s policies to say anything about a dismissal. Deacon Fernandez might wack you upside the head with the collection basket after he shakes down every remaining employee in the place. I hear he needs the funds to pay for his lunch with the National Association of Broadcasters – an organization that touts how great terrestrial radio and TV stations are, but is nowhere to be found when the layoffs begin.

In fact, you can apply this “church” mentality to practically any media company in North America. iHeartMedia is basically “The Church Of Seacrest” now, thanks to a contract extension signed this week, giving Ryan Seacrest even more perks. Every employee who gets laid off at iHeartMedia from now on gets a Kardashian product to-go bag.

So welcome back to CBS, Larry Tisch. Given the sad state of the radio business, its like your penny-penching cheapskate ass never left the industry.