Friday, January 17, 2014

Radio's Money Trouble

If you read some of the radio trade publications on a regular basis you might begin to think that the commercial radio industry is limping along toward extinction, about to be eclipsed by smart-phones, mp3 players and digital dashboards in new cars.

After all, there's more and more consolidation which has led to fewer owners and far fewer jobs for those who used to make a career in radio. But when you look at the numbers, things don't exactly add up.

The commercial radio business had a very good 2013 compared to prior years. In fact, two of the top three radio markets were up and the third was down only slightly.  How much money are we talking about? A lot - look at these revenue totals for the top three markets last year:

Los Angeles  $630,719,000
New York      $587,000,000
Chicago         $419,700,000

You don't have to be a math whiz to figure out that commercial radio, in just those three cities, generated more than one-and-a-half Billion dollars last year - $1,637,419,000.

And when you hear stories about radio professionals losing their jobs, just like in many industries, you hear about little or no notice and little or no severance pay. But that's not true for everyone in the radio business.

The largest radio company is Clear Channel, and their former top executive just 'retired' suddenly. According to documents filed with the SEC, John Hogan's separation agreement includes:
  • Severance payment equal to $3,297,000, paid over 36 months
  • Payment of $1,000,000, paid over 12 months, beginning on first anniversary of separation
  • Continued healthcare coverage for 36 months
  • Continued secretarial services for 6 months
  • $20,000 in outplacement services
  • A housing allowance of $25,000 per month for up to 9 months
  • Up to $25,000 for Hogan’s reasonable legal fees

With all that money going to commercial radio and to displaced executives, you might be impressed to know that your local independent public radio station operates in a much more frugal fashion.

KSER and KXIR operate on about $500,000 for an entire year. Of course we don't play 20 minutes of commercials every hour - not even one commercial. We rely on your support to remain truly independent, to be able to bring you programs like Sound Living with Ed Bremer and Democracy Now with Amy Goodman.

The top three commercial radio markets generate $4,486,000 in a single day.  In a little over two hours on any given day they exceed our entire annual operating budget.

So we're hoping you'll think about the value you receive from KSER and KXIR with your donations. And we hope if you listen but have never donated, you'll take a moment to do so online right now.

Maybe we can get one of those 'retired' commercial radio executives to donate!