KBPI’s Uncle Nasty (Gregg Stone) was fired by Clear Channel Thursday from KBPI 106.7 FM and Keefer and others were let go at KBCO 97.3 FM in what has become an end-of-year rite affecting the company’s stations in markets nationally. Keefer, who held the 3-8 p.m. shift at KBCO, was let go along with Chris Griffin, the morning producer, long-time KBCO Studio C Engineer Andy Torri; Joe Niko, weekend/swing, adult alternative and a receptionist. Stone and Eddie Barella, overnights/imaging director, were let go from KBPI.
“They eliminated my position. We’re already pretty streamlined here,” Stone said. “It will all be piped in.”
Also shown the door: Julie Hayden (of Channel 31) and her husband Chuck Bonniwell, who will no longer do their Saturday show. “We’re disappointed but we weren’t doing it for the money,” Hayden said. All agree it was “a corporate thing.”
In another round of year-end staff reductions, management decided to reduce staff and put more syndicated fare on the air as a cost-cutting measure. Stone echoed the expectation nationally, that Clear Channel intends to rely more on the company’s Premium Choice syndicated service, which offers more than a dozen musical formats.
After 15 years with the company, Stone said he was offered “an insulting severance package” and was in and out of the boss’ office “in 13 minutes.” Stone blamed what he called “reactionary” decisions from the top — “talk more, don’t talk, play more music*” — for the station’s ratings woes. The company has pushed the “iheartradio” app as the next big thing but, Stone said, “without terrestrial radio there’s no cash flow.”
The company’s statement:
We are constantly looking at all aspects of our business to ensure that it reflects how the best organizations work today, taking advantage of the latest cutting-edge technology and organizational structure so we can continue to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Like every successful business, our strategy continues to evolve as we move forward as a company; this creates some new jobs, and unfortunately eliminates others. These are never easy decisions to make.
In the process of making these recent changes, some employees were affected. We thank them for their service and wish them all the best for the future.
On Wednesday, radio trade publications reported Moody’s analysts believe Clear Channel may have a tough time refinancing more than $10 billion in debt obligations due in 2016. Industry observers speculate that Clear Channel may have to consider a merger or a sell off of some of its assets. The company was acquired by Bain Capital in 2008.
Update: We don't have a total on the number of folks being let go at Clear Channel Denver this week. Rather than answering specific questions about the move, exec Greg Foster provided the same corporate statement seen below. But the bloodletting may not be over. We're hearing additional dismissals among sales staffers may take place today. If so, those fired will join approximately seven of their peers, including Keefer, the well-liked afternoon personality on KBCO.
KBCO producer Chris Griff was also disappeared, as was Eddie Barella, who did overnight shows and imaging for KBPI, where Uncle Nasty was also released from his duties. At least one behind-the-scenes staffer is also on the list. In addition, we're told a program director has been demoted.
As for Keefer, he posted a note on his Facebook page a couple hours ago. It reads:
Thanks for the kind words and letting me be a small part of your lives. It was a pleasure. So it's goodbye for now, but not forever. Like the good doctor once said, When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro...
Continue to read our previous coverage, with additional information about those let go and the official Clear Channel statement.
Original post, 2:13 p.m. December 6: According to multiple sources, pink slips have been distributed throughout the day at Clear Channel Denver, with on-air personalities and behind-the-scenes personnel affected. We don't have total numbers yet, but among those let go is Fox 31 reporter Julie Hayden, who confirms that she and her husband, Chuck Bonniwell, were informed this morning that they'd no longer be doing their Saturday morning program on KOA.
Also gone is KBPI's Uncle Nasty, an icon of Denver radio for more than two decades. Within the hour, he posted the following on his Facebook page:
Want to let people know this decision came from San Antonio where they think they know what you and I want and they pretend to run radio stations. It's not from my friends here in Denver. Willie was a good boss and is a great friend. I was part of Clear Channels "National Firing Day" many afternoon personalities as well as other day parts and positions like Eddie, good luck bro, were let go today across the Country and I wish them well. KBPI family this is not the end for me, though I will miss our afternoon conversations very much, it's just change. Hail to you for all the years of support KBPI family! Health and Happiness and thank you for a great run!!
No mystery about why this is happening. The terrestrial radio business, like other examples of traditional media, have struggled in recent years, with layoffs coming at regular intervals -- like the 23 pros released in April 2009.
Similar reductions in force are reportedly taking place around the country. Here's a Clear Channel statement on the subject shared by All Access:
"We are constantly looking at all aspects of our business to ensure that it reflects how the best organizations work today, taking advantage of the latest cutting-edge technology and organizational structure so we can continue to operate as effectively and efficiently as possible.
"Like every successful business, our strategy continues to evolve as we move forward as a company; this creates some new jobs, and unfortunately eliminates others. These are never easy decisions to make.
"In the process of making these recent changes, some employees were affected. We thank them for their service and wish them all the best for the future."
Look for updates as they become available.
Update: Since last week, we've been documenting the latest batch of layoffs at Clear Channel Denver stations -- a nationwide action referred to by affected staffers as "National Firing Day;" see our previous coverage below. Among those canned was Andy Torri, engineer for KBCO's acclaimed Studio C sessions; his walking papers arrived shortly after the 24th annual CD in the series was released.
Torri is best known among music scenesters as a longtime associate of Big Head Todd and the Monsters. His page on AllMusic.com credits him as an engineer, producer and even photographer on a slew of the band's albums, including 1991's Midnight Radio and 1994's Strategem. He also contributed to recordings by acts such as Rubber Planet, Hazel Miller and Mick Brown.
His connection with Studio C and the namesake CDs is explained on the KBCO page featuring program director Scott Arbough's liner notes for the 20th edition of the series. A now-out-of-date excerpt reads:
In April of 2000 I was promoted to KBCO Program Director and no longer had the time to engineer Studio C sessions. Andy Torri had been assisting with engineering in Studio C for many years. He stepped up and became the KBCO Studio C Engineer and continues in that role today.
The artists who took part in the sessions during the period when Torri oversaw them include Sting, Coldplay, Stevie Nicks, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Elvis Costello and many, many more.
The 24th edition of Studio C, benefiting the Boulder County AIDS Project and the Food Bank of the Rockies, went on sale at the beginning of this month, and even though physical CDs aren't nearly as in-demand as they were when the series started, they're already sold out. Their popularity is due, no doubt, to the good causes and the participation of acts such as Mumford & Sons, Wilco and Jimmy Cliff. But Torri definitely did his part, too -- which only makes what happened to him career-wise only a few days later that much more unfortunate.
Here's a Metromix feature about KBCO's Studio C sessions.
But they think they can get the same or better ratings and advertising without local DJs. And at the same time save money on salaries by streamlining everything with the use of automation. They are voicetracking pretty much everything on stations that do have any personalities. And there are stations like Jack that just play song after song from a computer without any jocks at all. If ratings were impacted, they would give a crap. But they don't.