Clear Channel promises to subtract radio ads
July 20, 2004
BY ROBERT FEDER SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
The head of America's largest radio group is embarking on a bold plan to save his company -- and ultimately the radio industry -- from the scourge of overcommercialization.
John Hogan, president and chief executive officer of Clear Channel Radio, announced Monday that strict limits will be placed on the number of commercials that will air per hour and on the length of spot breaks on all 1,200 stations owned by the Texas-based operator.
Commercial clutter, which has exploded in the past decade to more than 20 minutes an hour at some stations, has become radio's Achilles' heel. The new limits, effective Jan. 1, will vary by station format.
Even if it means a short-term loss of revenue, Hogan acknowledged during a recent visit to Chicago, he is determined to lead the way in improving the value of radio relative to other media.
"We're taking this step to close that gap and make radio more competitive, effective and valuable," he said. "And we actively encourage the rest of the industry to do the same."
In Chicago, where Clear Channel owns seven stations, news of the plan was met with delight.
"We're thrilled with John Hogan's initiative because it will create a better experience for our listeners and it will improve the environment for our advertisers so they see more success from radio," said John Gehron, regional vice president and Chicago market manager for Clear Channel.
"We see it as a win/win for our listeners and our advertisers."
'Chicago Tonight' takes a hit
A Chicago media watchdog group is nipping at WTTW-Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight" for allegedly ignoring people of color, citizen activists and labor representatives on the public-television news program.
A three-month content analysis, released Monday by Chicago Media Action, concluded that more than 55 percent of all stories covered on "Chicago Tonight" were about sports or entertainment rather than news.
Guests on the show are overwhelmingly white male figures from the arenas of government or corporations, the study reported.
For more about the study, see: www.chicagomediaaction.org.
In response, a Channel 11 spokeswoman released this statement: "'Chicago Tonight' is a news and information hour designed to be relevant to the widest and most diverse audience possible, not the special interests of a few. The producers make every attempt to provide a fair and unbiased presentation of the day's events on a nightly basis.
"WTTW/11 respects Chicago Media Action's right to freedom of speech and welcomes balanced feedback from any and all constituencies."
Dialing: Q-101 boss resigns
* Chuck DuCoty resigned Monday as vice president and general manager of WKQX-FM (101.1) to become chief operating officer and equity partner of The New Radio Group, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
DuCoty, 56, joined Q-101 in 2001 after 10 years as vice president and general manager of WISN-AM and WLTQ-FM in Milwaukee. Under his leadership, the Emmis Communications alternative rocker has been locked in a close ratings battle with ABC Radio rival WZZN-FM (94.7) -- although Q-101 continues to outbill the Zone by a 2-1 margin.
"I am so confident in the team we've got here and where we're going," DuCoty said. "Emmis is way committed to Chicago and to what we're doing. I know that they're going to be successful here. I would not have done this for any other opportunity."
DuCoty said he plans to start his new job on or before Oct. 15. The New Radio Group owns 28 stations in seven markets. All are in Illinois and Wisconsin.
* Eric Ferguson and Kathy Hart, morning stars of WTMX-FM (101.9), have been nominated for major-market personalities of the year in the National Association of Broadcasters' Marconi Radio Awards for 2004.
Chicago's only other nominees this year are WGN-AM (720) for news/talk/sports station of the year and WNUA-FM (95.5) for jazz/new adult-contemporary station of the year.
Awards will be presented Oct. 7 at the NAB radio convention in San Diego.
* Never on Sunday: Declaring Sunday "a day of rest from the events of the world," the bosses of classical music WFMT-FM (98.7) have dropped all regularly scheduled newscasts on Sundays. On Saturdays, WFMT airs news only until 9 a.m.
In an election year and with the world at war, it's nice to know that reality isn't a priority at Chicago's "fine arts station."
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