The mass pinkslipping of 9 percent of the Clear Channel employees this past Tuesday just reminds us on how low commercial radio has become for the newer generations ahead of myself.

It's sadder to think that a burger flipper at McDonald's now has more job security and class than a radio station employee. The radio business just hasn't adjusted to today's hostile listener environment of 2009.

Clear Channel would have been a better company if it wasn't a control freak, forcing homogenized playlists on radio stations full of songs that people don't want to hear, and not allowing people who love music to think for themselves. This is what has driven listeners away in droves, causing radio stations to loose ad revenue, and to shrink their employee count.

Mp3s on the Internet featuring music that Clear Channel would never play is often more interesting than what they are airing. Every station sounds like cookie cutter adult contemporary, country, or rock formats.

Back before radio was allowed to own more than seven AM and seven FM stations (one AM/FM max in each market), there were far more voices that helped shape the sound of top 40 radio today than there are today. Putting music playlist decisions in the many back in the 60s and 70s helped foster a melting pot of ideas that other stations owned by other companies picked up on such as what songs were popular on their competetors in the market or out of market. There could have been a few companies that controlled the playlists of its 14 stations, but I can't name any and I don't know for sure if that ever was true, but I hope that there was no such thing as that back then.

With fewer radio station owners picking the songs, listeners showed radio how stupid it was by playing gatekeeper to them as they revolted to their music downloads and Internet streaming, leaving the terrestrial radio stations in the lurch.

What's on San Diego radio's formats? adult contemporary, hip hop, alt rock, classic rock, hot a/c, contemporary hits, contemporary country, smooth jazz, right wing talk, sports talk, brokered programming, and foreign language programming.

There's also nonprofit broadcasting stations playing mostly fare that is geared to mature listeners such as traditional jazz and NPR, but a few play some youth oriented music.

But the listeners want more, and radio just doesn't want to give it to them, so they leave for greener pasutres, helping Clear Channel to put over 1,800 people out of work because their ratings are tanking and ad revenue ebbed.

Clear Channel and the other radio companies have noone else to blame but themselves for turing radio into an unprestigious job that ranks lower than that of a sanitary worker.

Clear Channel has jettisonned many local talkers and deejays and replaced them with syndicated or voice-tracked programming depending on the market. In San Diego, XTRA is only a shell of its former self when it came to exist 20 years ago or so. XTRA might as well rebrand itself as Fox Sports and retire the XTRA name for good. Nowadays, XTRA is short for X-CRA-ment.

KGB has nothing but a local morning show in a sea of worn out classic rock and jockless programning. It's nothing but radio nowhere when DSC signs off. It's nothing like it was in the good ol' Hergon Breakfast Club days of my college years.

Rock 105.3's music is uninspired. Star 94.1 is unlistenable. Channel 933 skews too young for my tastes. New Country 95.7 isn't my kind.

KOGO has only three local talkers, Chip Franklin, Jack Rice (who's based in another city), and Steve Yuhas. XTRA, or Fox, or whatever on 1360, still has Josh Rosenberg. And that's it. Roger Hedgecock went to syndication and he's no longer on Clear Channel's payroll. XTRA and KOGO are syndicated the rest of the way. Local radio talk shows have gone the way of the cassette tape player.

There might have been talk that Clear Channel was trying to execute the cuts during the Inauguration festivities on Jan 20 so that it would not hit the press, but that has not been the case, seeing that it is one of the most e-mailed articles on the SD Union-Tribune websites, as well as lots of media outlets around the country. That according to sdwulfdawg on one of the radio-info.com boards.

It's weird to think that back then in 1979 when there was only LPs and cassette tape players competeting with radio for music listening time, radio was better produced and the music selection was better. I listened to a January 1979 episode of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem rerun on XM channel 7 the other day and I saw how much top 40 of today has declined in quality compared to back then. Even the era where disco and mellow adult pop ruled the charts is better than what passes for hit music today.

Seems that Channel 933 doesn't want listeners over the age of 35 and their playlist shows.

Nowadays, radio has Internet streaming devices, satellite radio, mp3 files, CDs, video games, Music Choice, and podcasts competeting against commercial radio, and commercial radio isn't doing anything to competet against them except to consolidate, eradicate, automate, and agitate.

A letter from Bill Hergonson published in the SD Reader last week shed some light on the history of radio and what radio was like back then. Back in 1979, the music playing on KGB was called progressive rock. Today, the same songs played 30 years later are called classic rock. Where's the innovative spirit that KGB had back then?

Here's what I like for the readers to do. Send me links to your favorite radio stations that you listen to on the Internet, regardless of whether it's a broadcast station or just online only and I'll publish them in a future column here, as well as on my main website San Diego Radio News, located at sandiegoradionews.com

Comments

bluenwhitegokart Jan. 24, 2009 @ 6:08 a.m.

I'd say that you were pretty much dead on. I'm stationed 3000 miles from my beloved San Diego. I listen to the DSC show nearly every day at home, and at least once a week at work. As soon as that show is over, KGB gets turned off. I have a better selection of music than what they play. I also read the NC Times, Signon San Diego, the Reader, and The Coast News online, again, nearly every day, even when I'm on travel. Speaking of travel, XM does a great marketing ploy, which is to put XM in rental cars (as well as on many airlines). Although the last one I rented had regular radio with what they call "XM Preview," which is not the same thing as XM. Still, I'll be getting XM in our vehicles, maybe the house, as soon as we have some discretionary income coming in.

Television and radio just don't get it. Speaking of television, most television is geared to air commercials, with enough programming to keep you interested. And since when does the cable I pay lots of money for feel compelled to sell commercials, even in the "free" movies on On-demand? I'm sick of it, and I'm not going to take it much longer.

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BizarreChef Jan. 28, 2009 @ 3:48 p.m.

It's sad to see such a great industry continually go down the tubes. I feel for all those who were let go in the Clear Channel massacre of last week.

I was a jock at KSEA, 97.3 in San Diego from December '72 until the entire staff was let go on December 11, 1974. 22 employees let go 2 weeks before Christmas even though the ratings were on the rise and billing was really starting to improve. I can't help but believe that KSEA would have been where B-100 ended up. KSEA was a very good sounding Top 40 at that time (even under P.D. Tom Straw) and was making decent headway against monster KCBQ.

Radio (from an on-air perspective) always was a difficut business to maintain any longevity at one station. Some talent were able to do it, but for most you had better rent month to month and keep your resume updated and your suitcase packed. There were those who were able to stay in the same city, but over the course of years worked at many different stations and spent more time than they should unemployed.

Today it seems radio is all but monopolized by a handful of companies. Mom and Pop owners hardly exist except in the smallest of markets. Look at Clear Channel. How many stations do they own? Other large group owners holding 6 or 7 stations have figured out they can run syndication in the morning and automate the rest of the day by voice tracking. Operate all 7 stations with just one staff. And without AFTRA they don't have to pay extra to make one talent voice track 2 or 3 other stations. Or one newsperson or one promotion director to cover them all. And speaking of promotions, did you ever hear the Clear Channel call-in giveaway that takes the 100th call NATIONWIDE to win $10,000? 154 stations in 44 states, one 800 number. (Sounds like the CBS TV show Numbers). And if the winner wasn't from your city/station, you never heard who won because if you live in Las Vegas and the winner lives in Indianapolis, what do you do? The one big element that makes sense to a big time promotion, which is having the winner scream with excitement and tell everyone listening what a great station you have, is lost.

In Las Vegas John Berry was axed at Clear Channel's Sunny 106.5 (KSNE)after 16 years. He was the afternoon air talent/music director. I'm wondering why they didn't keep John Berry and let the boring morning show go eliminating two over-inflated salaries. They could have then picked-up a syndicated morning show for a lot less. I'm also wondering who made the decisions about who got the axe and who didn't, for all of Clear Channel's stations. Were they made at the corporate level, or did they leave it up to local management?

It looks like Clear Channel is in big trouble. I suppose they will start selling off stations (if they can find buyers) or be forced to eliminate even more positions. What has already happened should be a warning to all other Clear Channel employees: Update your resume and never assume your job is safe.

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davidtanny Feb. 3, 2009 @ 8:19 p.m.

I remember discovering KSEA back in 1974 when I first got an FM radio. I believe it was San Diego's first attempt to have an FM radio station that played current popular music, but it didn't last long. In 1975, a second station, B100 (100.7), started playing the popular hits.

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bluenwhitegokart March 11, 2009 @ 3:45 a.m.

Actually, David, KPRI was playing rock before B100 came along, if I'm not mistaken. That was back in the day when the old KPRI studios were downtown, Gabriel Wisdom was the big man on campus, when they played a lot of alternative stuff ("B" sides, complete albums, blues, interviews with rock stars, and so on). When I was in boot camp, we were allowed to listen to KRTH on Sundays. That was in 1973. Before that, I lived in the midwest, where WLS AM was the station to listen to...well, that, and KVOO, Tulsa (country, but kind of an alternative country, if you get that).

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