Clear Channel's Lee Larsen talks about possible layoffs at Denver stations

Layoff rumors of the sort Fox 31 general manager Dennis Leonard addressed in this December 16 blog are common throughout the media industry these days. But the loudest such rumblings around here may be emanating from assorted Clear Channel outlets -- particularly those on the FM side of the dial: KTCL/93.3 FM, The Party/95.7 FM, KBCO/97.3 FM, The Fox/103.5 FM and KBPI/106.7 FM. But employees at the affiliated AM signals -- KHOW/630 AM, KKZN/760 AM and even the ratings-leading KOA/850 AM -- aren't resting easy, either.

Similar worries surfaced this past January, prompting Clear Channel Denver market manager Lee Larsen to send a memo to staffers about impending cost-cutting measures -- among them, a decrease in marketing for individual stations and delays in filling open positions. (Read it in the blog "Is the Budget Ax About to Fall at Denver's Clear Channel Stations?") When asked about the current buzz, however, Larsen avoids specifics -- because even he isn't sure what's going to happen.

"I think most of what you're hearing is just speculation and fear, based on the fact that we have not done our budgets for next year yet as a company -- and they're holding off until the first week of January to begin the budget process. We know we're not immune from what everyone else is going through, so it's basically deductive reasoning. But sitting here, I know of no specific layoffs. I know of no specific budget information, period. So I can't confirm or deny what might happen."

This dearth of data naturally fuels concerns about the future. However, Larsen doesn't want his employees to dwell on the prospect of bad news.

"Of course we're apprehensive about the whole economy and what that means to our industry, and what that means for our stations," he concedes. "There's a lot to be apprehensive about. If you want to internalize that, that's an individual choice. But that's all you can control. I keep telling everybody, 'Let's control what we can control' -- and that's our day-to-day performance. And if the company is going to make cuts in certain areas -- either in staffing or in other resources -- we just have to have the confidence that they'll make the best judgments they can."

At the same time, Larsen doesn't want to project an air of false optimism. "The only thing I know is, we're not just going to sail through this as if nothing happened," he allows. "That doesn't seem logical to me." As for when the Clear Channel picture will get clearer, he says, "The answer to your and everybody else's questions will start coming out around the middle of January."

Mark your calendar. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts