I’m going to get all serious on your ass for a second here. Clear Channel, owner of hundreds of radio stations across the country, took their company private, and has since been on a layoff rampage. Some of my own friends have fallen victim. And now, the heartless bastards have sucked the last bit of soul out of local radio.
Clear Channel pioneered a concept in radio called “centralcasting.” Essentially, it allows a DJ broadcasting in Cincinnati to be on the air at the same time in Rochester, NY, 500 miles away. Why do this? Well, it allows Clear Channel to eliminate airstaff in Rochester, saving money. In addition, it allows the station in Rochester, a smaller market, to have more experienced air talent on the dial, making the station sound more professional. But does the DJ from Cincinnati get a bump in salary? Well, think about it: they’re still working the same hours, but just juggling even more tasks, including reading promotional announcements and answering the phones for two different stations in two different markets. The problem is abundantly clear here: centralcasting strips out localism and cheapens radio.
This has been going on for several years now. But most people thought that the top 25 radio markets – ranging in size from Cleveland (#25) to New York (#1) – would always be immune to centralcasting. Surely, with all of the listeners in those markets, and with all the ad revenue those stations can pull in, they can afford to employ full-time air talent – especially during the daytime hours when listenership is high.
Not anymore. Clear Channel is laying off their midday DJ at the #3-rated station in Boston, Kiss 108. Deirdre Dagata, a lifelong New Englander, a very personable DJ, and a recent breast cancer survivor, is being replaced. And who is replacing her? Shelley Wade, whose voice will be piped in from the Jersey City studios of New York’s Z100… while she’s on the air at Z100.
That’s right: a New York City radio DJ… on a Boston radio station. At the same time that Shelley Wade will be on Z100 cheering on the Yankees, she’ll be on Kiss 108 making forced, generic comments about the Red Sox. When she’s talking about red chowder in New York, she’ll have to talk about white chowdah in Boston. Has she ever even been to Boston? Can she name more than three landmarks in Boston? Can she properly pronounce towns in the Kiss 108 listening area like Peabody, Woburn, or Worcester? Does she know who the Mayor of Boston is? Will she care enough to learn, since she’ll be on another radio station at the same time? I doubt it. She has no incentive to do anything other than provide generic celebrity gossip to oblivious radio listeners in Boston.
Sorry to be so horribly unfunny, but this is costing too many of my friends their jobs, and I had to make light of it, because it’s only going to get worse.