iHeart Using BLM to Cut Jobs

So, let’s get this right.

Bob Pittman has started a Black Lives Matters radio network as a front to cut jobs initially from 15 stations with more to come.

Hiding these firings behind a movement that aims to attack systemic racism only emphasizes it more.

This is an example of pandering that only a white dominated media company like iHeart  could try to get away with.

Their new Black Information Network’s flaws are already exposed and what’s worse, you can almost smell how iHeart and the lemmings who follow them are going to jump on the BLM movement to advance their own goals.

Details on iHeart’s plan for BIN are downright embarrassing and may draw the kind of ire against the entire radio industry as an unintended consequence.

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Radio Will Come Back, Advertisers Not So Much

Stations have been floating their best advertisers during COVID.

When they return as paid sponsors, it will all be different in at least two important ways.

Some of radio’s misguided practices from the past will unfortunately resurface but there is one radio group that has been using the downtime to build campaigns that advertisers need and will pay for in a timely manner.

There are collection problems ahead making the full-fledged return of radio ads moot to the bottom line.

And Black Lives Matter – I guarantee you 100% of the nation’s radio stations don’t see the destabilizing effect of a potential BLM boycott and there is no industry that is more vulnerable to it than radio.

iHeart is also hoping to flip formats on 15 stations to a black “our voices will be heard” format – firing more people and creating a radio syndication under the cover of commercializing the issue of racial injustice – but will advertisers support a gratuitous effort that will seem like pandering from a group of white execs and a predominantly white board of directors?

Radio believes the new normal is to reopen and advertisers in radio and in social media are hitting pause – which is it?

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Will Entercom Ever Pull the Trigger on FM All-News?

Now, would be a good time.

But it looks like David Field is slow to wake up and take note of the reality as clear as the Nielsen’s under his nose.

A pandemic, racial strife we haven’t seen since the 1960’s, and a divisive election year. It’s an ongoing news cycle that should be drawing new ears to the Entercom all-news stations.

If, listeners could find them.

He’s got the FM stations to make the switch and simulcast AM news, but why is Field so reluctant when news accounts for a great deal of revenue from Entercom’s CBS Radio merger.

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Liberty Media’s iHeart Talent Dump

Some people don’t believe that David Field is planning to eliminate all live talent from his stations except for maybe one show – if that.   

Entercom’s WBBM, Chicago morning traffic reporter Beau Duran took to Twitter the other day to say “@Entercom has handled this so much better than other radio companies and here @jdelcolliano goes talking out of his ass once again”.

Except, it’s true – coming to all markets except New York and LA one live show per market max and even though David Field attempted to change the subject by restoring wage givebacks once the news leaked, he isn’t changing his mind about eliminating live talent.

Beau can’t be faulted for shooting the messenger, after all, radio folks just want to keep entertaining people but Field is the one who runs Entercom and he did not back down nor even attempt to walk it back.

What’s worse is when Liberty takes over iHeart (Liberty reportedly owns about 35% of iHeart’s debt and is asking the DOJ for permission), it will unfortunately mean firings like radio has never seen before in a model so unique that it has never been tried previously.

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Entercom Salary Restoration Funded by More Firings

When did you ever see David Field give money back to employees? 

He’s not known to be the radio industry’s “Discover Card” giving cash back to surviving employees.  He’s got plans to pay for yesterday’s grand salary cut restoration with more firings as we reported yesterday. More developments on firing all live air talent with very few exceptions.  It’s not if but when and there’s more on the timetable now.  And what Field did not say yesterday when he suddenly announced the end of the 20% pay cut that is just as important.  What happens with big talent contracts many of which expire at the end of the year.  Any chance that Field will change his mind?

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Entercom To Fire All Live Talent

Very few exceptions.

This is even worse than iHeart’s 1,000 plus “dislocation” firings early this year.

And even though Entercom has been mimicking iHeart’s many cutbacks, they are about to take the lead in firing.

Once iHeart, Cumulus and Beasley see Entercom take this drastic step, they may want the savings that Entercom is having.

Entercom will eliminate a massive number of jobs, consolidate operations and run like a virtual satellite network.

Entercom’s plans are in the final stages according to sources close to the situation.

The details are ugly and sad.

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Entercom’s Cost Cuts Beginning to Backfire

As one former CBS employee tells it, David Field was jonesing to cut programming expenses even before Entercom officially completed the merger.

What’s public is that even back then when the economy was still booming, Field reportedly wanted to know if certain people employed by CBS were really necessary and could they be eliminated.

Field reportedly felt that CBS paid their people too much and that many were expendable and the ones that weren’t could work for a lot less.

Now evidence is mounting that Entercom’s aggressive cost-cutting is killing the company’s ratings and negatively affecting their declining revenue.

Number one stations have lost over half of their ratings with huge revenue declines.

College stations are ranking higher than their biggest brands in two of their top markets.

And then COVID handed Entercom all-news stations a gift and they gave it right back as their cost cuts are now documented to hurt more than help.

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Bombshell: iHeart, Entercom, Cumulus Furloughs Permanent

  • Enough already! Getting furloughed is not better than getting fired and you’re about to find out why (beyond the obvious).
  • This pox is on iHeart’s house as the lesser but troubled radio groups are following their furlough strategy to the T – a plague on all their houses.
  • Furloughed employees are about to get screwed (again) and here’s why radio groups are abandoning flat out firing for the slow torture of furloughing.
  • Entercom deviated from the iHeart plan at first and here’s why they won’t make that mistake again.
  • The ingenious iHeart “no fire strategy” that actually hides the furloughed – keep in mind that the other radio groups follow iHeart’s lead so this is notable.

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Radio Faces 6 Bankruptcies

A few years back when we first informed you that Cumulus was seriously considering filing Chapter 11, Mary Berner went out of her way to publicly deny it – shortly after Cumulus filed for bankruptcy reorganization.

Same with iHeart – the word was out about their financial difficulties but their denial was followed by, you guessed it, bankruptcy.

Now in an industry facing the tough task of selling advertising in a recession COVID is acting as an accelerant to several years of previous revenue decline.

Some radio groups are burning through operating cash, others are also finding it hard to pay down debt from earnings and all have panicked into widespread furloughs, firings and layoffs.

Wall Street money people are not accepting radio CEOs happy talk about getting through these troubles and moving on.

They are baking in more bankruptcies – six to be exact – they know the radio groups, the timeline and the real reasons they will be forced into reorganizing.

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New Outbreak of Furloughs

It took iHeart a long time to come up with furloughs.

They have been prolific firers over the years but since necessity is the mother of invention, they had to come up with a way to stop personnel costs in their tracks without having to pay benefits or severance – thus the furlough was born.

Then Entercom, Beasley, Cumulus and the other radio groups followed.

Business is still bad – revenue down as much as 50% year over year.  More expenses need to be cut so major broadcasting groups are revisiting the concept of furloughing employees.

They are also considering ways to enhance previous furloughs, expand their use and develop a way to scare employees who manage to escape being benched.

Here are the groups most likely to double down on furloughs for action expected very soon.

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