When Synergy is not Synergy

When con­sol­i­da­tion first began, there was much talk about how the syn­er­gies would ben­e­fit every­one. The nar­row own­er­ship would cre­ate some­thing greater.  Small sta­tions would sud­den­ly have the resources of huge con­glom­er­ates. The sum would be greater than the indi­vid­ual parts.

There are two prob­lems with this argu­ment.  For syn­er­gy to occur, the parts have to be dif­fer­ent, so they add some­thing unique to each oth­er.  How­ev­er, con­sol­i­da­tion makes all of the parts the same. They save mon­ey by cre­at­ing a boil­er­plate and then apply­ing that to all of the sta­tions.

Sec­ond­ly, they cared more about down­siz­ing staff than syn­er­gy. So any ben­e­fit of syn­er­gis­tic resources was instant­ly lost because those resources were fired. Con­sol­i­da­tion took many vibrant radio sta­tions across the coun­try and gut­ted them. The ben­e­fit of being pur­chased by a large com­pa­ny became a lia­bil­i­ty.

In my kitchen I have a spice rack of unique spices.  If I were to com­bine them, I’d get syn­er­gy between the var­i­ous tastes. I use some spice mix­es but I also keep the diver­si­ty of spices so I may make dish­es that are unique.  If I got rid of those indi­vid­ual spices, my food would become pre­dictable, much like radio. Syn­er­gy can bring oppor­tu­ni­ties to make some­thing new and unique; but to cor­po­rate radio the word now means the oppo­site. Fake Synergy

We’re at a point, where high finance is try­ing to con­vince the Trump FCC to allow it to gob­ble up more sta­tions. To them, radio is worth more as a con­sol­i­dat­ed asset. But the truth is that radio would be worth much more it were smashed into hun­dreds of dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies.

Diversity = Synergy

I’m con­stant­ly hear­ing about for­mer radio peo­ple who want to buy radio sta­tions. These aren’t the high-finance types. They’re the for­mer DJs, music direc­tors and sales staff.  The inmates want to run the asy­lum as they see fit and make local radio into a small busi­ness again. Small busi­ness­es have some­thing that large cor­po­ra­tions envy. Soul. The thrill of com­pe­ti­tion and the will to sur­vive cre­ate more syn­er­gy than cor­po­rate radio ever dreamed of.

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