Is the Budget Ax About to Fall at Denver's Clear Channel Stations?

Times may be ultra-unpleasant for newspaper operators these days, but specialists in other areas of the media universe aren't enjoying a smooth ride, either -- and Clear Channel represents exhibit A. Toward the end of the last millennium and the beginning of this one, the Texas-based firm seemed to be an unstoppable force destined to dominate radio and concert promotion for years to come. But even though Clear Channel still owns more radio stations than any other U.S. company, declining listenership and a slew of other factors hit hard, leading to a late 2007 buyout -- and in the weeks since then, the news hasn't improved. As noted in this January 29 article, fears that the deal is about to fall through fueled sharp drops in the corporation's stock price on two consecutive days.

Such developments would have raised concerns at the eight Clear Channel stations in Denver under any circumstances. However, employees at KOA, KHOW, KBPI, KRFX, KTCL, KBCO, KKZN and KFMD had already been sweating due to a recent memo from Lee Larsen, market manager of the Denver cluster. In the note, reproduced below, Larsen writes about staff attrition and assorted belt-tightening that's just around the corner:

Good Morning,

I know you are keenly aware that the economy is a major issue facing our country. Our government leaders (and everyone wishing to become one) are focused on how we can prevent the country from dropping into a recession. For those of us in the media business this translates to a slow down in revenue as our clients pause to consider the timing and size of their marketing expenditures. Usually once they make those decisions they return to the advertising arena so that they can continue growing their businesses. Many of them increase their radio budgets at that point because we get them to their customers quickly and are very efficient from a cost standpoint. In the meantime however that puts us in a bit of a crunch as our revenues slow and our expenses continue. Thus, much like our clients, we have to stop and reconsider the timing of some of our expenditures.

In the coming weeks you will be hearing about decisions we are making across the company and here in Denver to manage our expenses until the revenue picture brightens. Most notably we will be slowing the amount of marketing we do for our stations and holding off on filling open positions. To the extent that this makes your job a bit more challenging I apologize but know that you understand.

You are part of one of the leading clusters of radio stations in the country and you have worked hard to get us there. Let's all step up and look for opportunities to help one another keep it that way while we ride the wave of economic uncertainty impacting our country. Keep an eye out for opportunities to cut expenses where we can and if you see a sales person in the building thank them for what they do for us every day, then ask them what you might do to help.

Working and pulling together as a team, keeping the fun and excitement in our day to day work and on the air will see us through to better times.


Lee Larsen RVP, Denver Market Manager Clear Channel Radio

Larsen's e-mail features an upbeat tone, and for that, he deserves credit. These days, it's not easy to be an optimist, especially in the media business. -- 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