Tuesday, January 26, 2010

When Banks Own Radio Stations

When Citadel filed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company's lenders became its owners.  Citadel CEO Farid Suleman got to keep his corner office with the fancy couches.  So is it business as usual for employees and listeners?  The answer is no.

Two weeks ago, Atlanta radio lost Bill Celler from his 23-year on-air perch at Kicks 101-5 (WKHX-FM).  Celler moved to the Webmaster role at Citadel/Atlanta for a salary rumored to be way lower than his afternoon drive bounty.

Banks are reluctant station owners but are calling the financial shots.  They own stations because the radio business is upside down.  So while they wait and hope prices edge a little closer to the money lended, the banks will sure as heck operate the properties as cheaply as possible.

With Bill Celler's departure from the air, Kick 101-5 claimed a new distinction.  Outside of morning drive, where the blue-chip combo of Cadillac Jack and Dallas McCade hold court, Kicks has now completed a small-to-medium-market staff for the other 20 hours.

Celler's replacement, Tim Michaels, has improved since his debut as an evening part-timer.  Listening to him doesn't get me as out of breath as it once did.  Tim's bio says he worked at Los Angeles, Nashville and Huntsville.  Though I'm not quite buying that he was on-air in L.A., he did make it to the mic at WSM-AM in Nashville.

I have to hand it to Kicks PD Mark Richards.  No matter the on-air hand he's been dealt, he manages to keep the station sounding good with music, imaging and formatics.  And Kicks has excellent processing that makes the music come alive.

A sad part of the new radio paradigm is, outside of AM drive, personalities on most music FM's seem to have little effect on ratings.  A couple years ago, New York's Lite FM (WLTW), owned by Clear Channel, was staffed with top talents, some of whom had worked there for years.  Over about 12 months,  Clear Channel replaced every one with a no name and saved a ton.  The ratings?  As radio icon Bill Drake used to say, "Number 1 then and number 1 now."

It's hard to criticize Kicks for placing Sari Rose in midday, for example, when her ratings are near the top.  And I mean no ill will to Tim Michaels and Sari Rose; I'm sure they're nice people.  It's just the radio critic in me.

Thanks for reading.  Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/atlantaairwaves, and we’ll follow you back. I would love to hear from you mailto:roddyfreeman@bellsouth.net

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