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.
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.
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.