By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

WTKK statement on Jay Severin

This now appears on the Web site of WTKK Radio (96.9 FM):

WTKK and Greater Media value an open and vigorous dialogue, but we also adhere to basic principles of civility, common decency and respect for all cultures. We believe Jay’s suspension is the best way to uphold both of these corporate policies. WTKK Management met with Jay Severin and his agent today. He will remain on suspension until further notice.

V.B., who took the afternoon shift today, said he was “filling in for Jay.” Sounds like Severin may be back. And if management means what it says, it also sounds like Severin will be helming a very different show.

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  1. Aaron Read

    Management never means what it says.Unless management says “This talent is getting great ratings and making us a sh*tload of money, so he’s going to keep right on saying offensive things!” Then, you could argue that they actually do mean what they say. But anything else is total B.S.WTKK and Greater Media are not in the business of appeasing offended listeners, they’re in the business of getting RATINGS (not necessarily listeners) by any means necessary, and then using those ratings to sell ads. Period. Anything else is secondary.If Jay ain’t getting the ratings, however, then yes…he will be forced to change his show or he will be fired. But don’t think it’s because he’s “learned his lesson” and is “now being contrite”.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Aaron: Another possibility is that Severin’s contract is almost impossible for ‘TKK to get out of.

  3. O'Rion

    Sine the GOP is rebranding, I’m glad they will be going forth with assistance from the likes of Teabaggers Rush, BillO’Reilly, Groucho Levin, Savage, Beck and yes, Severino!

  4. Ani

    It’s interesting to see how much good (farsighted and effective) “lawyering” in a contract can make a difference.

  5. bostonmediawatch

    Greater Media CEO Peter Smyth, May 2007, post-Imus flap:

  6. Al

    I find it hard to take anyone who calls himself Virgin Boy seriously… also, 1510 is carrying progressive talk from 6 AM to 7 PM now so there are other options

  7. Aaron Read

    Aaron: Another possibility is that Severin’s contract is almost impossible for ‘TKK to get out of.Yes, that’s quite possibly the case. BUT, and this is wild speculation, I can’t imagine a radio station signing a contract that doesn’t have a clause allowing the contract to be voided if the talent does something that invokes FCC penalties…or some other definition of “crossing the line”, like causing sponsors to yank their sponsorships.That all said, I find it hard to believe that Howie Carr was so dumb as to sign a contract that trapped him so badly with WRKO and yet Severin somehow got a contract that lets him lord it over WTKK. Contracts usually bind the host more than the station, unless you’re an uber-star like Stern or O’Reilly. I think it’s possible that after the Carr/WTKK/WRKO debacle that WTKK very much doesn’t want a public contract fight on their hands.And, unlikely as it sounds, it IS technically possible that it’s cheaper to suspend Severin, pay him his salary, and get someone else in there who gets better ratings and thus gets better ad rates.Admittedly, that’s still a painful hit to take since Severin’s contract is through 2013, but Severin’s a fool if he elects to go down that road…because if he’s off the air for more than six to 12 months, at most, he can forget about ever getting a job in radio ever again; people will have forgotten him and he’ll be toast. THAT could be the leverage WTKK has over him.

  8. Dan Kennedy

    Aaron: The trouble is that Severin has been a ratings success in the past. Every single person ‘TKK has brought in over the years has been a complete stiff. I doubt management feels confident of its ability to hire a replacement who would do better in the ratings than Severin.Remember, Graham was hired to replace Severin after Severin went to syndication. That was such a mistake that ‘TKK overpaid to bring Severin back.

  9. Steve

    My sample size with Severin is admittedly small, but based on the snippets I have heard over the years, Jay seems to have TOTALLY lost it since Obama has taken office. Everything I’ve heard from him recently has struck me as delusional, as opposed to a couple of years ago when he seemed delusional only half the time.

  10. Cleary Squared

    I can agree with that, Steve.Jay is really good when he’s calm, presents his case in a rational way, and entertains listeners when he’s not berating or belittling them. But I had to turn the station many times when he went way WAY off the reservation.

  11. Rick in Duxbury

    How does Graham always get dragged into discussions of Severin’s misdeeds? I’ll bet 1510 would be quite happy to get the same ratings as Graham, the “mistake”. Interesting how progressives presume that all conservatives are monolithic.

  12. Kevin

    A few points:Jay’s show was just recently named one of the best by newsmax. response to Clearly Squared, the fact that you turned the statio when hearing something you didn’t like speaks volumes. Rational and discernible listeners can make that decision. If enough people do it, the market will take care of itself. However, if enough people remain interested, Jay will remain on the air. I’m inclined to leave it up to the market. I don’t want some politially correct “nut” dictating what I can and can’t listen to. I’ve turned Jay off a couple of times, but I still enjoy the show and have learned a lot from him and I will continue to listen to him as long as I am able.With regard to Michael Graham, I don’t know what his ratings are but he is by no means a mistake. He is witty and informative; and is truly enjoyable to listen to. I don’t always agree wit hwhat he says but I can appreciate his point of view and his ability to state the facts. I think he is an assett to any radio market and we are lucky to have him in the Boston area.I do urge fans of Severin to contact WTKK through their website to show support for Jay. His opponents have no problem voicing their concerns so we should be rqually dilligent in voiving ours. If we want to ensurethat he gets back on the air, it is up to us to make our wishes known.

  13. Dan Kennedy

    Kevin: The free market? Get real. You can’t have a free market when there is a limited number of broadcast frequencies available, and ownership caps have been loosened to the point of irrelevance.The reason station executives seek out programs like Severin’s in such an environment is that they’re cheap, even with the big salaries, and there’s little price to be paid by out-of-town ownership when a host flips out. Greater Media may be based here, but it’s a national company.Until God starts making unlimited numbers of radio frequencies available, the FCC should mandate local ownership and limit the number of stations any one owner can have to two.If Severin can keep a job in that environment, then so be it.

  14. Kevin

    Why in the world would we want the government to come in and limit ownership of stations and what exactly does that have to do with Severin keeping his job? If his ratings suck and he makes no money for Greater Media, they will let him go. If his ratings are great, advertisers buy time durng his show, and people listen, they will keep him. So there aren;t unlimited frequencies. There are plenty of people who woould like a crack at a radio talk and if they can unseat Severin….so be it. Pretty simple really.

  15. Dan Kennedy

    Kevin: You need to bone up on your history. In fact, government came in and loosened longstanding ownership limits.When you have a monopolistic environment like we have today, you don’t need big ratings — you just need to do a little better than the other guy and hold down your expenses. That may serve the shareholders, but it certainly doesn’t serve listeners.

  16. AJH

    Now can someone just get Michelle Mcphee to say something offensive

  17. Kevin

    Dan: I guess I don’t really understand the communications business. I’m not trying to argue with what you know. Clearly you have a knowledge of the history of broadcasting and the inner workings of broadcasting as a business. So, just so I am clear, are you suggesting that Greater Media keeps Severin on the air because hepromotes their political agenda and becuase they are, for all intents and purposes, a monopoly, they can choose to keep him on the air regardless of the public’s opinion? Maybe I still have misinterpreted what you are saying but I am really trying to understand this as it doesn’t fit with any business model or plan that I have encountered. Again, this is a sincere question. Despite our differing opinions regarding whether or not Severin should remain on the air, I really want to understand what you have been trying to get across to me.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    Kevin: I don’t think Greater Media has a political agenda. It’s a matter of a government-created environment in which out-of-town, monopoly owners can make the highest profits just by being “good enough,” broadcasting cheap programming that beats the competition without necessarily pulling in really high ratings.Thus, ‘TKK does fine as long as Severin is beating Howie. The station has no incentive to invest in, say, an expensive news-talk program, because even though the ratings might be higher, the profit would be lower. Of course, profits also go down if Howie starts beating Severin, which is why ‘TKK is now panicking.Out-of-town ownership also means that management has no incentive to cultivate relationships with the community. Severin, for instance, has often called Hillary Clinton a “fat-assed socialist bitch.” He has done that in a context in which the owner of ‘TKK does not have to defend that at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast the next morning.The current regulatory regime has created perverse incentives compared to the previous regulatory regime.The best evidence is public radio, where the market actually works quite well — higher ratings equal more contributions from listeners. The result: stations actually invest in news, and in Boston (as well as many other markets), the public stations are consistently at or near the top of the ratings. Which you might not know, because when the ratings services issue their reports, they don’t include the public stations.

  19. Dan Kennedy

    Kevin: By the way, congratulations on having a superior knowledge of the “inner workings of broadcasting as a business.” The real question is: Who is served? Listeners and the community? Or inside players?

  20. adoptarott

    This may or may not be an appropriate thread to post my comment. On the internet, I have not been able to find any other discussions regarding Jay being suspended. Am I one of the few supporters of Jay? I find this hard to believe being a loyal listener for years. I also find it hard to believe that now all of a sudden his comments are considered offensive to the point that the station would do this. There has to be more to this story. If his ratings are low then of course take him off the air, and tell the listeners this. It is absolutely the right of the station to remove a show that it’s listeners does not like (and yes I still believe strongly in the free market). We are a free society with free speech and I am so sick of everyone worry about what might offend someone. Let’s just start turning the channel, shutting the radio off or walking away. When we hear something that may be offensive why can’t we take a moment to remember how lucky we are that we are able to speak our minds?

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