Why the Audacy bankruptcy might be good for Southern California radio

The Audacy bankruptcy is still in the works — I thought it was a done deal but apparently, there are some stakeholders who still need to sign off on it, though it is expected to be approved by the spring of this year.

Audacy is the second-largest radio group in the country, formed out of the merger of Entercom and the former CBS-owned and -operated stations. Prior to the merger, Entercom owned just one station locally, KSWD The Sound (now KKLQ, 100.3 FM).

After the merger, they had to sell off The Sound because they were over the ownership limit, and currently own six stations in Los Angeles that were once part of CBS: KNX (1070 AM), KNX-FM (97.1), KRTH (101.1 FM), KROQ (106.7 FM), The Wave KTWV (94.7 FM), and Jack (93.1 FM). A few others complete the portfolio in surrounding areas, such as K-FROG (95.1 FM) in the Inland Empire.

I am not sure how you can merge a strong, successful station group like CBS with an established set of stations owned by Entercom and end up with a company that bleeds money, but that appears to be what happened. Ironically, the local stations are still quite successful in spite of the problems created by central management … a testament to the expertise of local talent.

For example, KRTH and The Wave are consistently in the top 10 of the ratings. Jack is right below, and the KNX simulcast, due to the strength of the AM signal, is highly successful. The only real problems stem from KROQ which lost its way even before the merger, and KNX-FM, which is a waste of a signal. In the IE, K-FROG (95.1 FM) is another consistent ratings success.

I started thinking of all this while reading a recent column on InsideMusicMedia.Com, wherein writer Jerry Del Colliano discussed the bankruptcy, highlighting that the new ownership, consisting of lenders who never ran a radio station and most likely really don’t want to do so now, are going to be in charge. He predicts, among other things: Reduced management, significant layoffs and stations put up for sale.

And if you think this through to the logical end, this could actually be a good thing. OK, stop laughing. Hear me out.

If they do it right, there should be a minimum of central management. All you need is enough staff to ensure compliance with applicable broadcast laws. You do not want to run afoul of the FCC, as impotent as that organization is.

Fewer brand managers? You don’t need them. Same with regional managers.

Station sales? Of course. Then use the income to hire more local salespeople and hit up local businesses that desperately need marketing. And speaking of marketing, hire more local people to do that for your own stations.

What’s left is a group of talented men and women who work locally and actually make the magic happen on the air. Do you think The Wave, KRTH, KNX, and Jack are successful now? Wait until they are not held back by the dictates of central management so removed from the art form that is radio, they actually think playing oldies on KROQ is a great idea.

In other words, having people in charge who don’t know how to run radio stations may empower the people who do, as long as they are allowed to do it. This could be a great thing – with the key word being “could.”

My Dashboard

One of the cool things about an HD Radio — a radio that receives the digital streams sent out by most FM stations and a small number of AM stations — is the on-screen album art, song and artist information, and even station logos and slogans that appear.

What is not cool are the advertisements that stations have started appearing in that space. In essence, stations are making money on the investment I made for my car stereo, and frankly, I detest the idea. Advertise? Sure, but not on my dashboard.

I am not sure who ever thought this was a good idea, but they should tarred and feathered.

Fixing California

John Phillips, heard for years weekdays on KABC (790 AM) from noon to 3 p.m., has added to his duties and is now on the air in San Francisco with a special one-hour program called “Fix California.”

Randy Wang — a longtime part of the Phillips show on KABC — is there with him to Fix California every weeknight from 11 p.m. to midnight in KSFO (560 AM), a sister station to KABC. You can hear it on “skip” over the air if the atmospheric conditions are right, but it might be easier to just listen online at ksfo.com either live or via recorded podcast.

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The focus of the show is simple: “I don’t want to have to move,” Phillips told me recently. “It’s time for the people causing all the problems to be voted out, and the regular law-abiding people — the people who play by the rules — to be able to live life they way they want.”

“You shouldn’t have to worry about your car being stolen, your catalytic converter being cut, your business being robbed, your safety at risk walking at night, your freedoms and liberties being taken away. It is time for the politicians to do their jobs and ensure that criminals are dealt with. The good people are being pushed out and that needs to change.”

Richard Wagoner is a San Pedro freelance columnist covering radio in Southern California. Email rwagoner@socalradiowaves.com.

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