Tag Archives: KHJ

What’s the Purpose of a Radio Station?

WSM Tower SiteRadio is a business.

Peter Drucker said the purpose of a business is to create a customer.

For radio, that means creating two types of customers: 1) a listener and 2) an advertiser and when done correctly, a radio station makes a profit.

Making Money

For most of my radio career, radio enjoyed a revenue expansion that rivaled the infamous “internet bubble.” Owning a radio station was considered a license to print money. Bottom lines often delivered a profit of 25 to 50% or more, so, while those profits were noticed by Wall Street investors the ownership limits on radio stations kept them away. Investors were frustrated that there was no way to scale up the size of a radio broadcast company.

Telcom Act of 1996

Then President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It relaxed radio’s ownership rules making it possible for one company to own multiple radio stations in a single market.

Wall Street loved the change! The money poured in from eager investors, and companies like Clear Channel, Citadel, and Cumulus quickly bought as many stations as they could using other people’s money. Mom & Pop radio operations had multiple companies vying for their properties and radio station values soared.

Ownership Limits

In 1953, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted its so-called 7-7-7 rule to encourage diversity of broadcast ownership. In essence, no single owner could own more than 7 AM radio stations, 7 FM radio stations, and 7 television stations in the entire United States of America.

By July of 1984, the FCC said they sought to encourage media competition and increased the number of radio and television stations a single owner could control to 12-12-12. The FCC Chairman was Mark S. Fowler. The President of the United States was Ronald Reagan. The five member FCC was 3 Republican appointees and 2 Democratic appointees. The vote to expand the ownership limits was 4 to 1 in favor.

“Bigness is not necessarily badness,” Chairman Fowler is reported saying. “Sometimes it is goodness.”

The New York Times reported reaction on Capitol Hill to the expansion of ownership limits this way:

On Capitol Hill, there was mixed reaction to the plan to abandon all limits on broadcasting ownership in 1990, although sentiment has grown in recent years for raising the ownership maximum somewhat.

Representative Timothy E. Wirth, the Colorado Democrat who is chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee, said, ”The 12-12- 12 rule is just as arbitrary as the 7-7-7 rule.”

Mr. Wirth said a broad bipartisan consensus in Congress favors adoption of ”objective, long-term rules that assure diversity and competition.” He said such rules would provide for increased broadcast ownership but would not completely deregulate it.”

He went to say “If they deregulate in 1990, we could end up with a handful of companies owning every broadcasting outlet in the country.”

President Ronald Reagan

Reagan loved two things, cutting taxes and eliminating regulation. Remember Reagan famously said that “Government isn’t the solution to our problems, government is the problem.” Reagan’s pick for FCC Chairman, Mark Fowler, fully embraced this vision and actively applied it to the FCC.

However, the prediction of Congressman Timothy Wirth wouldn’t come into existence until President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It would be the first significant overhaul of the 1934 Act in more than sixty years.

Radio station ownership in the first five years under this new act went from 5,100 owners to 3,800.

Instead of opening up ownership to new and more diverse ownership, it created an opportunity for media monopoly. The Wall Street funded radio companies could now buy out the Mom & Pops and the temptation to sell at never-before-seen-multiples was too good to pass up.

Operating in the Public Interest, Convenience and Necessity

When no one really knew what radio broadcasting would become, they did know they wanted radio to be a communications business that would serve its community of license for convenience in good times and of necessity in times of trouble. The airwaves were considered to be owned by the public, so operating in their best interests was a requirement to being an FCC broadcast licensee.

Changing Competitive Landscape

Historically, radio stations competed against one another. Most markets had such battles as, WLS vs. WCFL, WMEX vs. WRKO, WPTR vs. WTRY, KHJ vs. KRLA etc. When FM radio began to take over from AM, a station such as WABC no longer had just WMCA to beat, but now WTKU-FM too, which offered better fidelity and stereo. This new radio competition replicated in every radio market in America.

Then came Satellite Radio, followed by Pandora along with other pureplay streamers, and podcasts so that today, the radio competition landscape lines are blurred beyond recognition.

Mission vs. Platform

Today’s communications company needs to clearly define its mission and needs to earn the trust of all of its stakeholders. That means building trust between its employees, advertisers and listeners.

We need to stop thinking of “radio” as AM or FM.

We need to think of radio as being the audio leader for creating an environment for convening and supporting groups. We need to be preparing for a future that is still coming into focus.

 

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Time for a New Adventure

Dick Taylor WBECI just recently moved to Virginia from Kentucky.

I moved to Kentucky from New Jersey 7-years ago to pursue a bucket list career goal of mine, to teach at a college or university radio broadcasting. That opportunity came for me at Western Kentucky University (WKU) in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

I knew absolutely no one when I interviewed for the broadcast professor opening, but the person I would be hired to replace – retiring broadcast professor Bart White – would become a good friend over my tenure at WKU.

Long Ago & Far Away

When one moves, it means going through all of your stuff to decide what gets packed up and moved again and what gets donated or tossed into the dump.

One of the little pieces of memorabilia that I came across was a newspaper article on my being promoted to the position of Program Manager for WBEC Radio in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. That occurred on August 8, 1975. (Picture of me on-the-air at WBEC above from the 1970s)

I had just graduated from the Masters Degree program with a perfect 4.0 grade point average from the State University of New York at Albany with a degree in Educational Communications and teaching certifications, but I found myself in a field that tight school budgets were eliminating from their programs. Going back to the “three R’s” they would say, Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic, instead of employing modern teaching technologies in the classroom.

One of the radio stations I had worked at while going to college was WBEC and being offered this position was a dream come true. It was the very position I had always wanted.

A Lot of Career Success is Luck

WBEC was a station that was very programming oriented. During my tenure as the Program Manager, and later promoted to Operations Manager over both the AM and FM properties, I went to a lot of programming conferences and competed in both air personality as well as program director competitions. I was lucky to be in the position I was in at the station I was employed by.

But as time went along, I found myself more captivated by what happened off-the-air versus being an air personality, the position that attracted me to radio since I was old enough to remember.

I decided I wanted to be a general manager.

General managers didn’t come out of programming at that time but instead they came out of radio sales. So, I decided my next job would be in radio sales.

When I got a call from a general manager I knew that they wanted to hire me for a programming position, I said I wasn’t interested. I wanted my next move to be in sales. He said, “let me get back to you on that.”

Two weeks later, he said “Let’s get together, because I have a radio sales job for you.”

Moving to his stations and the company that owned them was lucky again, as this was a very sales focused organization and I would be exposed to monthly IBIB (International Broadcasters Idea Bank) reports, lots of sales training by any sales consultant to get within 200 miles of New England and annual trips to the Managing Sales Conference run by the Radio Advertising Bureau (RAB).

AR to MM

I quickly rose through the ranks from account representative to sales manager to director of sales to station manager to general manager.

General managers were renamed market managers as the age of consolidation took over after the passage of the Telcom Act of 1996.  That’s when a single company went from being able to own only 12 AM radio stations, 12 FM radio stations and 12 TV stations in the entire USA. The Telcom Act of ’96 would unleash a buying spree funded by Wall Street that would see the largest operator owning over a thousand radio stations.

Radio Ink Best Managers

In 2009, Radio Ink named me one of the best radio managers in America. I was very proud of that honor, but I had been thinking about a change for some time and I was ready for a fresh adventure.

After all, I had invested early in my life, earning the qualifications to teach and I wanted to pay-it-forward to the next generation of broadcasters by teaching at a college or university.

I was lucky once again to see an ad in Radio Ink by WKU looking for a broadcast professor to teach at the School of Journalism & Broadcasting courses in sales, management, media process & effects, radio performance and the history of broadcasting in America.

7-Years a Professor

In May of 2017, I completed my seventh year of teaching at the university. The students I’ve mentored over that time have become extended members of my family. I went to every graduation ceremony – they’re held twice a year – because I was invested in each and every one of them.

Bowling Green, Kentucky is a lovely place. But it is far from my friends and family back on the East Coast.

New Adventure Time

In the book “The Adventure of Living,” Paul Tournier writes: “Many people are never able to come to terms with the death to which every adventure is inevitably subject…The Law of Adventure is that it dies as it achieves its object.”

I’ve experienced this “death” multiple times over my life.

Something in your gut just tells you, it’s time for a new adventure.

In June, I moved to northern Virginia.

I became engaged the weekend before Valentine’s Day 2017 to a wonderful woman who is a member of the same Pittsfield, Massachusetts high school class as I. Ironically, we went to opposite public high schools.  At that time our city had two public and a parochial high school, but we now all reunion together every five years – and so we never met until our 45th class reunion.

Another part of my new adventure is this blog that I started writing almost three years ago.

I remember Ron Jacobs (first program director of Boss Radio 93-KHJ, Los Angeles, creator of The History of Rock & Roll, co-founder of America Top 40 with Casey Kasem, etc.) telling me during a phone call that he enjoyed writing more than being an air personality, program director or anything else he had accomplished in his life. I now completely understand where he was coming from as I’ve developed my own love of writing and mentoring others. Ron said he enjoyed reading my blog and that’s why he sent me his phone number one evening and asked me to give him a call at his home in Hawaii and chat.

Got a career adventure I should be considering?

Shoot me an email & let’s talk.

I’m ready for a NEW ADVENTURE.

Dick.Taylor@wku.edu

 

“Twenty years from now

you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do

than by the ones you did.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

-Mark Twain

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Your Idea Is Ugly

44Ever had someone say that to you? How did it make you feel?

Well, all ideas start out as ugly.

Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar writes in his book Creativity Inc. that early in the creative process every movie Pixar has ever made sucked.  They all start out as “ugly babies” that are “awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete.” And that’s OK, because the public never sees these “ugly Pixar babies.” Catmull says it’s the company’s job to protect these original, fragile ideas from being judged too quickly. They understand that great ideas aren’t born; they are created from ugly ones.

Ideas Are Born Ugly

The problem today is too many ugly ideas are released to the world while they are still ugly. No one has invested the time, love and attention to craft them into something great. Or, just as bad, ideas not ready for broadcast are put on-the-air piecemeal. Radio is famous for doing this sort of thing when they change music formats and start off with 10,000 songs in a row. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. So why put something on the air that is not going to be what it will be when it’s finished?

Practice, Practice, Practice

You don’t see a Broadway show open without there being a lot of practice first. You don’t see any type of performance art take to a stage without practice. “All of showbiz except for radio has rehearsals,” observes programming genius George Johns. Why is that?

When Did Radio Stop Rehearsals?

Ron Jacobs, the first Boss Radio PD in America at 93/KHJ writes in his book KHJ Inside Boss Radio that before the new KHJ launched, every air personality and board engineer spent two weeks practicing for the station’s debut. “Every word and every nuance was critiqued on the fly by Jacobs and (Bill) Drake,” said Boss Jock Gary Mack. “More up! More energy! Faster! I remember the distinct odor of flop sweat. But every day got better, and we made our mistakes off the air,” said Mack.

The entire original Boss Jock air staff was all seasoned radio professionals by the time they were hired to launch the new KHJ. But they all had to attend “Boss Jock Kindergarten” before they could go on the air. Boss Jock Tommy Vance put it this way, “I was to spend six hours a day doing it (practicing) until he (Jacobs) decided I would be ready for the real thing. He would be listening in his office. If the red phone rang, pick it up and listen to every word he said – very carefully. Take notes and follow his directions to the letter. Jacobs left me in my Boss Jock kindergarten.”

“Six hours every damn day I played the records. Read the commercials. Again and again, and yet again. The red phone never ceased ringing. Criticism was heaped upon me hour in, hour out. I began to picture Jacobs as the force behind the Spanish Inquisition. As the Marquis de Sade. Jack the Ripper. Eventually I was let out of the bag and given the six to nine pm shift,” said Vance.

That Used To Be Us

This was the way radio worked once upon a time. Nothing went on the air unrehearsed. Everything that went on the air was screened to insure it would meet the standards set by the station. “Ugly babies” were nurtured until they became great ideas that became great radio stations.

Great radio takes work. Great radio is exciting to listen to. Great radio gets results.

Let’s make radio great again.

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