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More national, less local programming coming to radio

More National, Less Local Radio Programming

More National, Less Local Radio Programming

Clear Channel Communications, which owns more radio stations than anyone, is expected to cut local programming and as many as 1,500 jobs tomorrow in response to the recession, according to The Wall Street Journal, Radio Business Report and the New York Post.

The three publications say that Clear Channel is waiting until Inauguration Day to try and quietly implement its restructuring plan that will save $400 million. Sneaky.

The plan is expected to include a “national programming model,”meaning less local-level staffing and more nationally or regionally syndicated programming on its more than 1,200 stations.

Since the early rumblings of the recession, most media companies have moved toward restructuring. But Clear Channel’s plan would without a doubt affect the way companies and PR reps will pitch to Clear Channel-owned stations.

With less time devoted to the local market, there will be more battling for precious airtime. There will likely be fewer nationally-syndicated radio hosts featuring local content, such as Tom Joyner. In each market, Joyner’s shows feature designated breaks in which local producers go to air with local news, events or promotions.

It might be easier to pitch a regional show like Clear Channel-owned WWDC-FM’s Elliot in the Morning in Washington, D.C. Even with an expanded signal to Richmond, Va.’s WRXL-FM in 2002, and Baltimore’s WCHH-FM last year, Elliot still retains the local flair of all three markets. Additionally, the morning show crew is more apt to visit and feature a nearby market than visit one across the continent.

Despite the changes PR reps will have to make, that’s nothing compared to the drastic change Clear Channel may face if its national programming model fails.

Radio Business Report concludes that the new national radio environment could pump new life into independent, locally owned stations. Program directors at independent stations can easily beat nationally produced formats, and the Clear Channel ad reps left behind after the layoffs will become overworked. “Lower ratings and lower revenues. Are these smart guys or what?”says RBR.

Perhaps Clear Channel isn’t seeing clearly. Are they jerking the wheel after hitting the ice patch that is the recession? Radio audiences crave local flavor. Without it, the market tends to flock elsewhere.

–Jeff Peterson

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