Radio's Past Decade in a Word: Consolidation

March 2, 2011 by launched ten years ago -- March 1, 2001.   To mark the anniversary, we reached out to dozens of local radio personalities and managers. We sent out a series of questions, figuring it would be interesting to see which ones get responses. And one question certainly did -- when we asked people to name THE biggest story from radio over the past decade, one common theme was mentioned: consolidation.

That's no surprise to anyone who has worked in local radio -- here or elsewhere -- for the past ten years, or even five years. Ask anyone who currently works in local radio and they can probably name a few former co-workers who have lost their jobs to the effects of consolidation. Don Wagner, General Manager at Leatherstocking Media Group, said "the loss of jobs" is, simply put, "very sad."

In some cases, hard-working, talented personalities were replaced by voicetracking. In other cases, syndicated programming. In a few cases, there may have been no replacement at all -- just automated music, liners, jingles and spots.

93Q's Amy Robbins. Photo:

Amy Robbins from 93Q (WNTQ) in Syracuse says "the consolidation of stations and talent is certainly something that has changed the way local radio 'feels' these days. I feel very lucky to have gotten into radio when I did (23 years ago!!) because I think it is much tougher to break into the business with more stations going to voice tracking and syndication."

The disappearance of "training grounds" like live overnight shifts isn't the only effect of consolidation. Across town, Tom Owens from B104.7 (WBBS) points out that "fewer on-air people" has resulted in "more responsibility for those who survived" layoffs.

Bill Keeler sums up the past decade like this: "fewer jobs, more regional syndication, less creativity and far less focus on talent." And Keeler, who recently launched his own network of online stations at, speaks from first-hand experience. His most-recent terrestrial radio show on Arjuna's 92.7 The Drive (WXUR) was replaced by the syndicated "Bob and Tom Show" at the beginning of this year.

But Keeler says his observations aren't just personal -- he says the entire Utica/Rome market has been affected by consolidation.

"Utica used to have three full time news departments, at least 10 full staffs with local live talent and live local morning shows, and plenty of part-time positions. There’s not a lot left today. With that said, I think the next 10 years will be very interesting."

Although some might point to "corporate" desire to squeeze every possible cent of profit out of a cluster of radio stations, Keeler acknowledges that the overall economic conditions of the region have impacted the radio industry.

"The last decade saw an incredible destruction of the local revenue base. It’s made it difficult for small groups and stations ranked outside the Top 3 to succeed financially without national and regional revenue. You almost need to own stations in Utica and Syracuse, allow the Syracuse staff to supply Utica with content- cut your expenses way back in Utica and offer advertising deals that practically bonus the smaller market – just to keep the investors happy because it’s all about the bottom line. <sarcasm> It’s a shame nobody has thought of this. </sarcasm>"

Minus the sarcasm, 93Q's Rick Roberts concurs that the economy has impacted broadcasting.  "Radio has changed a lot over the past 10 years. The biggest change I saw was the recession a few years ago that hit everybody particularly hard. Lots of co-workers lost their jobs and it was a sad time nationwide for people who suddenly became unemployed."

Roberts points out, "stations don’t have budgets like they used to, and it's not easy to find a job in radio for people looking. Ten years ago budgets were higher, more people had jobs, jocks live, etc."

Cutbacks have hit close to home for Roberts, who was moved from afternoon drive to a new noon-5pm shift in 2008, after longtime personality "Big Jim" Donovan was laid off.  But while most stations would just remove all traces of former employees and move on as if nothing happened, WNTQ ops manager Tom Mitchell posted an announcement on 93Q's website declaring Donovan was removed "due to a big business slowdown."

Donovan has since resurfaced across town at Newsradio 106.9 and 570 WSYR and AC sister station Y94FM (WYYY).  But there are many other talented personalities who haven't been so lucky.

Aside from various radio people who lost their jobs over the past decade, arguably the largest "single incident" loss caused by consolidation came two years ago -- nearly to the day -- when Granite Broadcasting announced that it would be moving CBS affiliate WTVH-TV a block up James Street, into the facilities of Barrington Broadcasting's WSTM-TV (NBC-3) and WSTQ (CW-6).  More than 40 people lost their jobs, as positions deemed "redundant" following the move-in were eliminated.  Perhaps as a further sign of the economy's troubles, the former WTVH building remains on the market to this day.

Predictions for Radio's Next 10 Years?

Admittedly, today's topic was more of a downer than a celebration.  Hopefully we'll get back to better spirits as we continue to mark the 10th anniversary of  Check back at 10:10am every day for the rest of the week!

  • Yesterday - Our very first story, ten years later: updating the Britney Spears / Rick Roberts internet rumors.
  • Tomorrow - Where local radio experts see radio headed in the next ten years.
  • Friday - Founder Scott Jameson's reflections on the original (2001-2005), current editor Peter Naughton's thoughts on the you've been reading 2008 to Present, and your thoughts/reflections on the site.


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