“Do you want to follow the rules or do you want to win?”
Being able to bitch and complain about our legal departments is almost a rite of passage, a badge of honor; something that can allow us to one-up our radio peers, i.e: “You think your company is bad? They’re nothing compared to ours….”
And there is no question that they often give us plenty of fodder to work with. But there’s a group of people out there people like Michael Martin or Rick Thomas, who if you say “United Broadcasting” will get that tiny, almost imperceptible post-piss shiver.
If you believed the lore that was doled out at corporate meetings, the founder was an innovative, albeit insane man who would hold meetings in phone booths, and yes it’s possible that tin foil was involved. But only a truly insane man in the 1950s would have realized that there was a place in the marketplace for “Black Radio”. Thus became United Broadcasting with a network of stations from Baltimore and Atlanta to Los Angeles and San Francisco. And when he finally died and went off to the loony bin in the skies he left his heirs with a group of radio stations that they wanted absolutely nothing to do with… except for the profits. So the company was turned over to a consortium of lawyers to run the thing and mail checks to the family.
Sure your company has lawyers but imagine if your company was run by lawyers? That was United Broadcasting. The most simple of tasks required a 17 page form be filled out and sent to Bethesda, Maryland for revisions and rewriting. So it was no surprise that almost all of their stations were getting euphemistically gutted in the ratings. I once ran a legal promo that was a minute and 44 seconds for a simple Coca-Cola promotion based around the Summer Olympics. That’s some great Radio.
One of the reasons that Wild in San Francisco was actually winning as opposed to their other radio stations was that we are on the West Coast and they were on the East Coast, and there was a certain point in the day when we knew that they wouldn’t be listening. It was no surprise that at the corporate meetings we were awarded number 14 out of 14 stations in the corporate Legal Compliance awards category. (I’m not joking)
Spending 3 to 4 hours a day filling out forms was a tough environment for somebody like me to operate. Time spent filling out forms, often for the fifth or sixth time, as opposed to time finding ways to beat the competition, was soul sucking.
I don’t think I ever realized how truly competitive I was until I got to KSOL, soon to be Wild 107, and went up against one of the greatest radio stations ever : KMEL/San Francisco. I looked at everything as a battle to be won. Morning show contests. Remotes. Appearances at concerts. And weekend contests.
So it came to be that I found myself driving home on a Friday afternoon at 6:50 after launching a weekend contest of movie tickets for something called “Blame It On The Bellboy” featuring cinematic superstar Bronson Pinchot. I tuned over to KMEL and heard them doing Prince tickets every hour. They were winning. And that was unacceptable.