More Lumps for HD Radio

2011 has not started out well for advocates of HD Radio. Last week, Microsoft announced it would discontinue production of the Zune portable media player – one of only two portable devices that had built-in HD reception capability. Earlier in the year, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, HD Radio’s presence was pretty underwhelming. Not good indicators for increasing uptake by listeners.
In addition, the political campaign to defund federal support of public broadcasting has HD squarely in its sights. Over the last decade or so, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has invested more than $50 million in HD Radio, through infrastructure “upgrade” subsidies to CPB-funded stations and support of National Public Radio’s in-house research division, NPR Labs. Continue reading “More Lumps for HD Radio”

Striking Back At The Empire?

From the inestimable Jerry Del Colliano: a former employee of Cumulus Media is pursuing a class-action lawsuit against the company (common share stock price as of today: $2.55) alleging several violations of employment law. The suit is in the very preliminary stages now, but if any of Jerry’s other informants inside Cumulus (and other large radio conglomerates) can back up their “believe it or not” horror-stories, the company – and perhaps the entire industry – is in for some serious trouble.
A quick history recap: after the passage of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the radio industry went on a station-buying binge. This led to massively inflated prices for stations across the nation. Flush with cash from investment banks, radio companies bought other radio companies, leading to a situation where less ten major broadcast conglomerates controlled some two-thirds of the industry’s total revenue. Continue reading “Striking Back At The Empire?”

Serving the Public Disinterest, Inconvenience, and Depravity

The old adage that Clear Channel represents the “Evil Empire” in terms of media conglomerates was getting a little stale. The windfall profits reaped from industry consolidation following the Telecommunications Act of 1996 have collapsed; the company went from private to public and back again; and, has been well noted by others, just about every major radio conglomerate is now in the same dire straits.
Clear Channel’s ways of dissing the public interest to preserve a buck have been well-documented by Eric Klinenberg and Alec Foege, but lately the company’s gone above and beyond many of its past transgressions. Continue reading “Serving the Public Disinterest, Inconvenience, and Depravity”

Del Colliano Chroncles the Cratering of Radio

I know I’ve mentioned Inside Music Media before but its proprietor, Jerry Del Colliano, has been on quite a roll over the last couple of months. Some examples:
IMM predicted mass-cutbacks at Clear Channel weeks before they were announced – and then gave the most accurate figures publicly available on the real size and scope of the layoffs. Continue reading “Del Colliano Chroncles the Cratering of Radio”

Heads Roll at iBiquity, Clear Channel

Skool is back in session, which means posts to this here page will become shorter and more sporadic (I think, I don’t have a firm read on the class dynamics yet). That being said, here’s a couple of bits of info which seem to back up some earlier prognostications.
This past week iBiquity, HD Radio’s proprietor, laid off 20 people. According to Radio World, these are the first bona-fide layoffs at the company since its founding in 2003 (I would argue they’re the first bona-fide layoffs ever at the company in its nine-year history, since the 2003 departures involved executives, who I don’t believe were exactly given pink-slips). iBiquity’s web site claims the company employs some 130 people; if that number is accurate, that would constitute a corporate workforce cut of an impressive 15%. Continue reading “Heads Roll at iBiquity, Clear Channel”

2009 To Bring HD Death Rattles?

While most policy-pundits are focused on the fast-approaching DTV transition and the potential selection of a new FCC Chairman, the saga that is digital audio broadcasting (otherwise known as “HD Radio”) continues to fly under the radar. However, this may not be the case for long.
Due to heavy industry-maneuvering and a shamefully-complicit FCC, the U.S. radio industry has locked the medium into a sub-standard, proprietary broadcast protocol. The problems with this protocol have long been known. Thus, if there is any force that might bring down HD Radio, it will be the marketplace.
There are several signs that the marketplace is now beginning to act: Continue reading “2009 To Bring HD Death Rattles?”

HD Datacasting Begins In Earnest

Clear Channel recently announced it’s started broadcasting traffic data information on 48 HD Radio-equipped stations around the country. It’s the first use of a digital radio signal for the delivery of content wholly separate from main program audio; the “Total Traffic Network” is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Clear Channel. It’s unclear how this service will compete with Clear Channel’s datacasting partnership with Microsoft, which also seeks to provide traffic information. Continue reading “HD Datacasting Begins In Earnest”

Clear Channel Buyout Update

The wheels are well in motion to take Clear Channel private. Shareholders will vote on the deal March 21. They’re being offered $37.60 for each share of stock they own, which is about a dollar and small change more than it’s currently trading for, and near the 52-week high, though just 41% of what CCU stock was worth back in its heyday, 1999.
Clear Channel’s executives are obviously urging all shareholders to approve the buyout (they call it a “merger”), as it represents the best option to “maximize shareholder value” given “extensive review of available strategic alternatives, taking into careful account the continued challenges in the broadcasting sector and…recent growth in the domestic outdoor [advertising] business, as well as future growth opportunities.” Continue reading “Clear Channel Buyout Update”

Clear Channel: Sold

As a rudimentary reading of the tea leaves has shown, Clear Channel has elected to go private, accepting a buyout offer of nearly $19 billion from two private investment firms. On the same day, Clear Channel announced it would divest its holdings of radio stations outside of the top 100 markets – just under 39% of its total station inventory, minus those small cluster-sales it has already made over the last couple of months.
It’s anybody’s guess what a leaner, meaner private Clear Channel may mean; regulatory review and approval of the deal will be required. There already may be a shareholder lawsuit in the works, too. Continue reading “Clear Channel: Sold”