Radio Waves: 11/17/17

Cumulus Defaults on Interest Payments

Troubled Cumulus Media is the owner of over 400 radio stations nationwide including KLOS (95.5 FM) and KABC (790 AM) locally. The company, which has been trying for years to figure out a way to stay afloat amidst a Titanic-level of debt, decided to forgo payment of about $23 million in interest due on loans totaling over $2 billion. The decision was made earlier this month by the company Board of Directors.

Some claim it is a hardball push to get lenders to agree to concessions. Whatever the reason, the move could land the company in bankruptcy court sooner than later if agreements cannot be made. The company is currently in a 30-day grace period in which it can still decide to make the required payment as negotiations with creditors continue.

The frightening aspect? Inside Music Media’s Jerry Del Colliano wrote recently that “Lew Dickey is waiting — blank check in hand — to pounce on regaining control of Cumulus the moment it enters bankruptcy.”

For the uninitiated, it was Lew Dickey who put Cumulus on its death spiral through purchases, mergers and truly bad management … he was forced out of the company in a coup that placed Mary Berner in his former position of CEO. The problem is that Berner was way too little far too late … Berner had no radio experience and the vultures were already circling the company long before she arrived. 

So how can Dickey be poised to regain control … something that Del Colliano says is fact, not rumor? Apparently, like Bill Gates’ educational initiatives, people love failure. And for whatever reason, investors continue to give money and support to those who consistently fail. So what if Dickey proved he couldn’t run Cumulus in the past? Let’s give him another shot.

What should happen to Cumulus is that the bankruptcy court and the FCC should force it to sell every one of its stations until the debt is paid off. To local owners who will run the stations like radio should be run: competitively and creatively. Using local talent, serving the local community. Cumulus could still exist as a lean company with no debt, keeping about 50 stations nationwide … if it so desired.

Dickey? Been there, done that. Time to move on.

My Turn Redux

Several letters and emails arrived after last week’s column on my My Turn on The Sound (100.3 FM). Most mentioned other stations that could/should have been highlighted.

I agree. There are many stations that could have been recognized had there been more time. KRLA, KFWB, KROQ, K-WEST, KBLA even KFI. The problem was time … I had just ten songs and less than an hour. Now if we can get Sound programmer Dave Beasing another local gig, perhaps that can happen. Of course by the time you read this, The Sound is probably already gone … so it may be a while.

War not over?

It seems that some of you remember the “War of the Worlds” differently than what has become the modern version of the story … you were indeed led to believe that martians had landed.

“Living in Long Beach, and finishing the dishes in the kitchen with my sister and mother, we were listening to the program and really thought it was happening!,” writes reader Peggy Folger Miller. “We ran into the living room and my father told us to stay seated together while he went throughout the house, getting my brother and other sister so we could all stay close! 

“Sorry; it was no myth in our part of town.”

“Steve Allen told me in one of our many interviews and guest disc-jockey airings that he and his mother were two victims of the show,” wrote former LA radio personality and programmer Chuck Southcott. “He recalled, as a teenager, hearing “Worlds” with his mother in a hotel room in Chicago. Not hearing the intro explaining it was a drama, they were totally fooled. In fact, they ran out of the hotel screaming and looking for others who were as frightened as they.

“When they soon discovered that ‘life was continuing normally,’ they sheepishly returned to their hotel. Steve said he didn’t recall ever being that frightened in his life.” 

But agreeing with the new view on the panic – that most of the panic was brought on by the newspapers of the day, is Lynn Burgess, who says, “I was an 11 year old listening to our evening radio in Manhattan, NYC when the program came on. My then 10 year old brother and I listened to the radio station’s mystery broadcasts weekly. The week previously, the “War of the Worlds” was announced, therefore it was no surprise to us. We were surprised by the fuss that followed!

“At age 90, remembering. Radio was a great form of entertainment … letting us use our imagination and stretching our minds.”