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Consolidation is Killing the Radio Business


Ed Levine once worked for Mel Karmazin at WJFK in Washington DC. He says he learned more working for Mel at Infinity in two years than anyone else at any time during his radio career. While employed by Infinity Levine was assembling a plan to make his dream of ownership come true back in upstate, New York. In 1992, Levine would give back his Infinity stock and launch his first station in Utica.

Levine, now with clusters in Syracuse and Utica, is the Radio Ink cover interview on January 21st which focuses on small market radio. Levine says there's a battle brewing between small market radio and the big guns. "Consolidation has caused radio revenue to go backwards. These are not McDonald's. These are not one-system fits all. Every radio station is it's own living, breathing organism."I think that's going to be a very interesting competitive battle over the next five or ten years. Its really a battle for the soul of radio." Here's more from our interview with Galaxy Communications CEO Ed Levine.

On why the radio industry is not growing its revenue...
"It gets back to blocking and tackling and taking care of the local communities with local personalities, local promotions and local events. You will reap the rewards of that. We've spent the better part of the last 15 years, since consolidation really took hold, coming up with easy answers. At the end of the day, there are no easy answers. The more that we continue to eliminate staff, the more that we continue to broadcast nationally into small markets, the more vulnerable we are going to be. 

What has made radio great locally, is serving the community. Its an old fashioned concept but it works. That doesn't mean you can't use technology to your advantage. Im not suggesting you need a full-time news department 24 hours a day. Im talking about putting some sanity back into the process. If you look at what's happened over the last 15 years, first it was cutting the fat, then you cut the muscle, then the bone. Now they are splitting tissues apart. A lot of the people that have done this are no longer in the industry but they did a lot of damage.

On Pandora...
They found a niche. If you want to have a product that competes with Pandora, and iHeartRadio, God bless. I don't have an issue with that. But to turn your radio stations into nothing more than local versions of Pandora is insane. We are so hung up right now on Pandora and how that's going to destroy radio. Our answer is we make our stations sound more like Pandora. That's crazy logic.  

On how to treat people...
Show them some respect. I think that's one item that has vanished from the radio business these days.

Do you agree with Ed? Leave your comments below or reach out to Ed directly at

To read more from Ed Levine in our January 21st cover story, order an 1-year subscription to our digital issue HERE. To get a print subscription, go HERE or call 561-655-8778.

(1/8/2013 12:29:10 PM)
I couldn't agree more. I dream of the
days when we had a night announcer who
could answer the phone and get live news on the air. That muscle has long been cut off along with staff who is so
involved with writing blogs we don't get
stuff on the air. On the positive side we still do alot of local events and reports but they seem to get fewer and fewer

- Mark, small market Shelby, Mt.
(1/3/2013 6:07:47 PM)
Quite so, Walter. Likewise I had a PD who challenged me with the admonition that nobody wanted to hear what I had to say. "The Book", I declared,"demonstrates otherwise." He didn't like that and so I got canned. The next set of ratings showed the daypart had collapsed. Nor did it ever recover.

What is spectacularly weird is that there are some managers who would read this little anecdote and accuse me of arrogance. If, however, I was a master plumber and told these same guys that I can fix their leaks, they would just say, "Okay. How much?"

- Ronald T. Robinson
(1/3/2013 3:27:18 PM)
Well, I know that Ed has now experienced the finest Pizza in the Varsity in Syracuse. And let me tell you, when I was a jock in Syracuse (going to college) the audience just couldn't wait for the song to stop and me to talk :))))

- Walter Sabo
(1/2/2013 4:10:42 PM)
Way back before TV took hold, much of Radio was on the "network". In response to TV's penetration, Radio had to change to survive and the idea of playing recorded music (rather than live bands) took over, with announcer's being the "glue" that held the "show" together.
Now, Radio is once more responding to a new challenge; online streams. IMHO these consolidators like Clear Channel have it ass-backwards; "local" is what made Radio succeed. Give the audience something relatable & unique.

- Panama Jack
(1/2/2013 3:58:21 PM)
Well said, Ed. There really is a growing divide between the big groups and us independents. I marvel at the accolades, high regard, and deference lavished by Radio Ink and so many others on these "industry leaders" who have critically injured a once-great industry.

- a Michigan broadcaster

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