Radio Waves 12/4/15

Airwaves: December 4, 2015

Sounds Like the Holidays

Holidays are in the air(waves) as KOST (103.5 FM) continues its annual tradition of playing Christmas and holiday music, and SiriusXM features traditional (channel 18), contemporary (channel 13), country (channel 58), Latin (channel 785), and Hanukkah (Channel 68) holiday favorites, with more scheduled to go on as the season progresses. Even New Years Day gets its own channel on December 31, billed as the ultimate soundtrack to parties around the country.

It’s a killer ratings time for KOST, which dominates the ratings for December every time it switches formats. As one reader put it years ago, “it just puts me in a good mood. I love listening to KOST this time of year.”

Rivera Ousted from Cumulus

Changes continue at Cumulus Media, owner of KABC (790 AM) and KLOS (95.5 FM), under the direction of new CEO Mary G. Berner. Berner replaced Lew Dickie, who many — myself included — credit with accelerating the decline of the company.

The latest move is to finally take Geraldo Rivera off the air in New York; Rivera was once heard on KABC in an East-Coast/West-Coast simulcast, though he was removed form the KABC lineup at the end of 2013. Since that time Rivera had been heard on WABC/New York exclusively, until he was allegedly locked out of the studio last week.

“This is the end,” he posted on Facebook November 28th. “In the four years since I joined 77 WABC radio in my hometown of New York I have enjoyed uneven success, but managed to establish an open-mined core following.” According to Rivera, Berner (or her team) are not recognizing a handshake deal made to extend his contract that was made with the Dickies before their removal from the company.

Speaking on the subject of the problems being suffered by his employer, he wrote, “As the company tanked, the men who employed me, the honorable brothers John and Lew Dickey ultimately found themselves in financial peril, over-extended and prey to hedge funders who gobbled up enough clout to oust them as managers and install someone who had no experience in broadcasting but who apparently impressed those adventurous investors.”

While I tend to agree that someone with no experience in radio running a radio company is a bad idea, Rivera is a bit off-base. It was the Dickies who put the company in peril first by overextending to the point where massive debt held the company down, then by responding by gutting talent. The result: low-ratings, lower ad revenue, and even more debt. Cumulus stock has lost over 99 percent of its value since it hit $50 in December, 1999.

Think I’m too harsh? Let’s turn the page over to Tom Leykis, who left radio for online media ( due in large part to the Dickie-effect. His response to Rivera:

“’Uneven success?’ I challenge you to open up the ratings to the public. They will find the same thing you found in Al Capone’s vault: virtually nothing. The fact that you think the Dickey Brothers are “honorable” shows what a radio neophyte you are. By not signing a contract with you, they PUT you in the position you’re in right now, rather than showing ‘honor.’

“Most of us who’ve worked in radio have known the truth about the Dickeys and Cumulus Media before you ever heard of them. You’ve conveniently ignored their long list of firings of hundreds of professional radio people.

“Your firing in this holiday season gladdens the hearts of many of us in the radio business because you had no business working in the business in the first place.”

Cumulus stock was actually up last week and as I write this is trading in the area of 38 cents per share, double what it was at the close of last Friday. That’s a huge improvement, but still a long way from the $1 per share it needs to maintain in order not to be delisted from the stock exchange.

Corrections and Clarifications

Reader Pat Mooney of Torrance sent in some information regarding Bob Eubanks that I never knew.

“Regarding Bob Eubanks’ rise and career in Los Angeles radio: he created and owned the Cinnamon Cider right up the road at the Long Beach traffic circle (I think it is a car dealership now).

“It was the place to be. The Upstairs Downstairs in Downey was started right after plus a couple other clubs.  But the Cider was the first. Heck, Art Laboe used to hang there.”

And I wrote that Stephanie Edwards did not have any radio experience outside of Lucky Supermarket commercials … longtime radio programmer Chuck Southcott checked in to tell me she actually did have some experience: “Edwards was part of the on-air talent Saul Levine hired to host his Broadway format” when it ran on then KGIL (now KMZT, 1260 AM).