May 05, 2009 11:22 am ET (from MediaMatters)
Even for a pancaked industry like radio broadcasting, which has become somewhat numb to years' worth of mass layoffs triggered by hyper, corporate consolidation, and more recently by an over-the-cliff advertising recession, last week's HR wave of mutilation unleashed by industry giant Clear Channel Communications must have felt like a pile-on.
Drowning under massive debt and desperate to cut more costs, Clear Channel took an ax to its payroll -- again -- and hacked hundreds of radio pros out the door. Program directors, morning show hosts, production pros, news anchors -- all of them tossed over the side. A "bloodbath," one newspaper called it. (In Albany, New York, the entire on-air staff at a Clear Channel music station was sacked; same with a radio outpost in Exeter, New Hampshire)
The most recent blizzard of pink slips (one industry report pegged it at "nearly 1,000") came in the wake of a January purge, in which 1,850 Clear Channel employees were let go. So already this year the company has shed nearly 3,000 employees, or 12 percent of its workforce. Also, last week, Clear Channel's parent company announced it was suspending its matching contributions to employee 401(k) retirement programs.
Clear Channel, the conservative-friendly media behemoth with a soft spot for right-wing radio -- and which emerged earlier this decade as the poster child for everything that's wrong with runaway media consolidation (aka "The Evil Empire") -- is now hanging on for dear life. "It's a house of cards," radio watcher and Clear Channel expert Alec Foege recently told me, noting the company's crippling debt payments, which are due at a time when advertising revenues are vanishing. (Foege is author of 2008's Right of the Dial: The Rise of Clear Channel and the Fall of Commercial Radio.)
As The New York Times noted last week, "It is too soon to say who will be the biggest loser among media companies in this recession. But Clear Channel Communications is vying for the title."