Maybe Nothing To These – Yet

A couple of rumors, reports and such that may or may not mean anything to Northeast Ohio… yet:

CLEAR CHANNEL/CBS SWAP: A note in Monday’s “Taylor on Radio-Info” E-Mail newsletter caught our attention.

Columnist Tom Taylor reports word that CBS Radio chief Dan Mason spent Monday in Houston, reportedly working out details a rumored swap that would have Clear Channel sending two stations to CBS Radio there.

As part of Clear Channel’s recent privatization deal, the U.S. Department of Justice required it to flip a number of stations to another owner.

In addition to the two Houston outlets Taylor cites, one of those stations on the Flip List is right here in OMW land – Clear Channel top 40 WAKS/96.5 Akron, the Cleveland market’s “Kiss FM”, which still operates out of the Clear Channel World Domination HQ on Oak Tree while under the nominal care of the Aloha Trust spinoff company.

This is not at all to suggest that even if it were possible, that WAKS would end up in CBS Radio’s cluster in Cleveland.

Not only would that put them over the ownership limits, CBS Radio itself is trying to unload its four Cleveland market stations, and pretty much all of its stations outside the top 10 markets.

But it’s a reminder. The tighter-than-a-drum credit markets mean that station sales are not nearly as automatic as they once were…and by “once were”, we mean even a few months ago.

Could the fate of the five Cleveland market FMs up for sale be decided, in part, by either Clear Channel or CBS working out swaps with other operators in other markets?

With debt-laden Big Deals pretty much a thing of the past, everywhere, in every line of business, this may be the only way the companies get those stations off the books in markets like Cleveland…

SPEAKING OF THE BAD ECONOMY: A brief note we spotted from Dave Hughes over at DCRTV, the long-established Washington DC-based media news and rumblings site:

Speaking of Gannett, we’re hearing rumblings that the McLean-based media giant has started offering a series of employee cost-savings buyouts at many of its TV stations around the country. No word about buyout cuts at Gannett’s Channel 9/WUSA.

In OMW land, of course, Gannett owns Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3, which just saw a number of reporters depart 13th and Lakeside involuntarily – mainly by the station exercising early contract-ending windows.

We don’t know if this was part of the company-wide initiative Dave Hughes mentions, or if more cuts are on the way.

Unfortunately, it’s probably not a bad bet to say that more cuts are on the way at anything remotely resembling a media outlet nationwide. And now that local TV and radio stations are no longer swimming in political ad buys, 2009 could get worse in a hurry.

One thing that continues to bother us: in the past few months of massive layoffs, it doesn’t seem to matter how important you are to a station or a newspaper, or how many years you’ve been there.

If they can cut costs by taking you off the books, they’ll do it, and institutional memory is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. (WKYC saw this in the most recent round, with the departure of veteran reporter Obie Shelton.)

There’s gotta be a light at the end of the tunnel sometime, no? A light that isn’t coming from a speeding, oncoming train?

Positive thoughts…it’s all we can do right now…

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