dismuke, you fail to acknowledge a difference between the old model of "building a business" versus the new vulture-capital model of tearing down a business and extracting the pieces. It is the latter business in which much of commercial radio is now engaged.
Smedge2006, I understand and can even relate on a certain level to what you are saying. But I don't think there is any fundamental difference between the two processes you mention.
People invest their scarce and precious time, energy and hard earned money into "building a business" only because, looking into the future, they see evidence that there are opportunities for growth and a rewarding return on the time, effort and money they put into it. And I promise you that you are not going to be seeing any such "vultures" come along and tear down and pick apart companies such as Google or Apple anytime soon. These companies are flourishing Just as you don't see the kinds of vultures that have feathers circling around animals that are healthy and vibrant, you don't see the "vulture" practices you describe being done to companies and industries that are healthy and vibrant.
The kind of "vultures" you describe do their work on companies and industries that are already
either in decline or are enduring a period of great change and transition. Such companies and industries, if they are to have any chance at long term survival, absolutely MUST find new and sustainable business models. ANYTIME a company or an industry is dying or going through transition, it is a VERY painful process to have to witness or be part of. The role that such "vultures" play is to prevent the entire business from dying by attempting to pick out and destroy those elements of a company that, if the present course is not reversed, WILL kill it in order to preserve those elements that at least have a chance of surviving and perhaps eventually getting back on a growth track. The other beneficial purpose they serve is they destroy elements of a business that are unsustainable in order to free up the precious, finite capital that had been used to keep them afloat so that it can be redeployed into industries that ARE sustainable and DO have prospects for growth.
The reason I say there is no fundamental difference is because, whether you are "building a business" or radically restructuring a sick business, in both cases it is a process of trying to deploy scarce capital and resources into those areas where they will be most productive and achieve the best possible return on one's efforts and money.
Terrestrial radio (like all other forms of Old Media) is NOT a growth industry. And I don't think that anybody will disagree that long term trends for the AM side of the dial in particular do NOT show signs for growth. If broadcasters continue to run their businesses in the same way that they did when things were booming for the industry, it is only a matter of time before those companies run out of money and go out of business. WHOEVER you might put in charge, the process is going to be very painful for an awful lot of people - there is simply no escaping that. The only question is who and what is sustainable and able to remain standing when all is said and done.
In this model, the listeners are not the customers. It's the bankers. The theory is that the listeners are pretty indifferent to whatever comes out of their radio. If Ben Ferguson can turn out an inferior version of boilerplate conservative rhetoric, lacking much of a choice of what comes out of their car speakers, people will listen to Ferguson. They'll probably pay him a lot less than Davis, and Cumulus comes out ahead. Much of major-market radio is now built around this model, inside and outside of Cumulus, making Davis much less likely to land a job.
That is a fair enough description. But the part you have incorrect is that listeners lack much choice of what comes out of their car speakers. They now DO have a choice - LOTS of choices - which is precisely why terrestrial radio finds itself in this spot. Let's see, they have ipods, satellite radio and, for those who have smart phones, an entire WORLD of stations offering endless choices of variety and formats that terrestrial radio could not even begin to offer. Used to be when I would drive to work, even if I didn't particularly like what the host on WBAP was talking about at the moment, I stayed tuned in so that I could hear the traffic reports. Any more, before I leave the house, I just look at the real time, crowd sourced Google Maps traffic on my smart phone and glance at it periodically throughout my trip.
As to the rest of what you describe - personally, I agree that replacing Mark with Ben is VERY short sighted and downright dumb. I personally think it is an example of being penny wise pound foolish. Based on everything I have read, I think the Dickey Boys are in over their head and too arrogant to realize it. I think they are probably going to destroy WBAP and all of the other things that Citadel/ABC/Susquehanna had going for them. Unless the company reforms and changes its approach, my opinion is that it is only a matter of time before the whole thing collapses - especially given the burden of debt it is under. I wouldn't put a penny of my money into that company - unless it was to sell the thing short.
But the fact that I agree with you on the nature of Cumulus and of the Dickeys in particular does not mean that it necessarily applies to any and every other company and executive that is in a similar position and is tasked with making similar difficult choices. A person's or an organization's liberty should NOT be contingent upon whether you and I like them or approve of the decisions they make.
I am guessing that, given the economy over the past few years, pretty much all of the dead wood at most local radio stations was cut out a long time ago. My guess is those that still have jobs in such stations do so because they are good at what they do and they hold jobs that provide some sort of value to the enterprise. In that kind of environment, pretty much ANYWHERE you end up having to reduce an expense, it is going to be painful and is going to result in the station's overall product being reduced accordingly at the risk of driving way customers. Having to make such decisions is a difficult position to be in - you are damned if you do and damned if you don't no matter what you decide. At the end of the day, however, they have to pay the bills and have to service their massive debt in order to survive. And, at the end of the day, they have to try to eek out a return on investment - i.e., a profit - to those who risked their hard earned money on the company in the first place. If companies did not do so, nobody who has money to invest would put their hard earned funds into them in the first place - they would simply hoard everything in vaults or in their mattresses.
And this is not just something exclusive to giant corporations. Mom and pop businesses have to make such decisions all the time. If you own a restaurant and find yourself in a bad economy facing rising food prices and a customer base that can no longer afford to eat out as often you are going to have some serious choices to make - all of which will result in a diminished customer experience. If your customers are unwilling to absorb a price increase then you have no choice but to make cuts. Maybe you cut staff and hope the customers won't notice or will forgive you for the deterioration in service. Or maybe you have already done that. Perhaps you make portion sizes smaller. Perhaps you substitute lower quality ingredients and water down the coffee. You don't want to do any of these things and you have already received received a number of complaints from disappointed customers - but it might be the only option open to you if you wish to hang on until conditions perhaps improve later on or some of your competitors perhaps go out of business first. The very fact that it is necessary for you to consider such drastic measures in the first place is a pretty good sign that you are not in much of a position to "grow the business."
As for which nasty, arbitrary overseer I'd prefer, give me one that can be removed by "one person, one vote", rather than "one share, one vote" or "one dollar, one vote"...
Please consider, for a moment, the implications of the above.
I am totally free to have NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with Cumulus. I do not HAVE to seek employment with them. I do not HAVE to invest one penny of my money into that company - and I wouldn't. I do not HAVE to listen to their stations - and given the demise of Mark and their putting the obnoxious and deranged Chris Krok on in the evenings, I am going to be spending a lot less time tuned into WBAP than I have been. And if I am so unfortunate as to be working for a company that is bought out by Cumulus and find that my working conditions have become undesirable as a result, I am free to seek out a more desirable situation elsewhere. If Cumulus implodes because of the inept management of the Dickey Boys, I have absolutely NOTHING on the line because I have wisely chosen not to be a part of it. It is a sad thing to watch - but, really, it is none of Dismuke's business.
Now, you want "one man one vote" to decide how and which people may or may not run businesses. First off, why should I, Dismuke, have ANY SAY or ANY VOTE AT ALL in how Cumulus runs its affairs? What have I contributed to the organization? The mere fact that I tune into one of their stations? My listening entitles me to an ownership stake? Perhaps I have purchased advertising on their stations. So when the company sells me advertising spots, I am somehow morally entitled to an ownership stake in the company? The very notion is absurd on its face.
You want "one man one vote" on such matters. And what if you end up on the LOSING END of such a vote? After all, there are millions of other people out there who will also have the same one vote. Do you REALLY wish to give other people that much power over every aspect of life in this country? Whatever political party you belong to - do you REALLY want to potentially give the power to pick and choose who wins and who loses in every aspect of life to the sorts of people you don't particularly care for or think highly of on the other side of the aisle?
It is simply part of life that people are going to engage in behavior and live lifestyles that you do not agree with or approve of. And businesses are going to make decisions that you do not necessarily agree with or think are wise. That is a consequence of FREEDOM. A system where the behavior of private individuals or voluntary associations of private individuals (such as companies and corporations) is subject to "one man one vote" is the exact OPPOSITE of freedom