Back to Wag-Net Main Page

Airwaves: December 25, 2009

Citadel Hits Bottom

Radio giant Citadel Broadcasting, which became the third-largest radio broadcasting company when it purchased ABC’s radio stations and networks a few years ago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last weekend.

The filing comes as the company was approaching a January 15th deadline to make a huge payment on current debt; the filing -- actually a formal filing of a prearranged deal worked out with lenders to swap debt for equity -- will reduce Citadel’s debt load to roughly $760 million from the current amount of $2.5 billion.

The radio industry -- as has much of “traditional media” including newspapers, magazines and television -- has been hard hit by the recession. Radio owners have an even harder time, though, due to massive debt loads brought on by the station buying free-for-all over the past two decades. Promised savings from such consolidation were never realized just as listeners shunned sound-alike stations with no “magic” found in the past, causing ad revenues to drop further. It seems the only “safe” companies are smaller, conservative operations like Emmis (KPWR 105.9 FM) or independents like Saul Levine (KGIL 1260 AM, KKGO 105.1 FM).

As for Citadel, it seems that the filing will have little effect in its day to day operation. Said CEO Farid Suleman in a press release, “Our business will continue as usual and the company will work to emerge from the restructuring as quickly as possible.” Locally Citadel owns and operates talk radio KABC (790 AM) and classic rock KLOS (95.5 FM).

No Music on KABC

In years past, KABC broke with its talk format to present a special Christmas Day program produced by ABC Radio. Mostly music, it truly showcased KABC’s nice HD Radio sound, if you happened to have an HD Radio. The music sounded fabulous.

Alas, this year they’re not running the special. They are doing a special cooking program with Merrill Shindler during the morning Peter Tilden hours (5 AM to 9 AM). Need hints on making CHristmas dinner? Tune in and see what Shindler is cooking up.

Bad Ads

It appears that commercials are as much of a tune-out for you as they are for me. Certain commercials, that it. I mentioned the legendary tune-out Sit ‘n Sleep, with which many of you agreed. Other mentions remind me of how much I hate some others as well:

Perhaps that suggestion of Sit ‘n Sleep was too strong ... almost all of the mail generated mentioned the same ad as a tune-out, although Ken Brock of Upland said he actually enjoys them. “Original, usually funny and change often,” he said ... to which I can partly agree. Contrary to that opinion is Julian Chasen of Torrance, who wrote in reference to the tag line “You’re killing me Larry,” “If only Larry would finish the job.”

The smell-good plumber came in a close second, also mentioned by almost everyone who wrote. The big debate: which is worse? ... the terribly bad script or the amazingly helpless women? ...

Any ad by Toyota was mentioned, as was the agonizingly repetitive Happy Honda Days. Mesa Garage Doors was mentioned numerous times (and with their awful “top-10 signs you need a new garage door,” I have to agree). Honorable mention goes to the ads that repeat the company phone number over and over as well as anything promoted by KFI’s (640 AM) Bill Handel. Rarely do you hear an ad from him that doesn’t make you think he got something free and that he wouldn’t do the ad at all if he did not personally benefit first.

But the one I forgot about that in my mind is worse than all of them? Named in letter after letter ... Kars for Kids. By far the worst ad of the decade. No self-respecting programmer would ever willingly let that tune-out on the air.


Copyright © 2009 Richard Wagoner and Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

To subscribe to The Daily Breeze, call (310) 540-5511