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

Did Severin take a pay cut?

From Jessica Heslam’s interview with Jay Severin in the Boston Herald:

Severin referred questions about the conditions of his return — including whether he took a pay cut — to his agent and attorney, George Tobia. Tobia declined to comment on the conditions, saying simply, “Jay is very excited to be back in the fold on his station. He loves working there and he’s excited about doing a great show for WTKK.”

If the answer was “no,” wouldn’t Severin and Tobia just say “no”?

From Eric Moskowitz’s story in the Boston Globe:

As have others who have followed the issue from both sides, [El Planeta managing editor Marcela] García speculated that the suspension had as much to do with Severin’s reported $1 million annual salary and his recent drop to 14th in the ratings as with his particular remarks. A spokeswoman for Greater Media Inc., has confirmed that WTKK’s parent company and Severin are in negotiations.

Negotiating over what?

Keep your eye on the big picture. From the beginning, this has sounded more than anything like the story of a troubled media company — and keep in mind that all media companies are troubled — trying to get out of a contract it agreed to in the midst of an entirely different economic climate.

I don’t think we’re going to see any $1 million-a-year local radio hosts anymore. It must be particularly galling for Greater Media to have to pay Severin that much to come in last in his two-person race with WRKO’s Howie Carr.

No doubt Severin’s ratings on Tuesday will be spectacular. We’ll see if he can sustain it.

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  1. Tony

    From what I have heard though Dan, Greater Media is not in as serious trouble financially like other radio and media companies [another round of cuts at Nassau here in New Hampshire, BTW]. Unlike a slew of other companies that piled on the debt to buy everything in sight, they seem to have been very conservative in their acquisitions, taking time to build audiences and opportunities for advertisers. Other companies have done that too but Greater Media doesn’t seem to have the debt structure that other companies have. Lately, I have been listening to a lot of radio [My never ending work transferring all my CDs to mp3s and my busted Sansa 2 gig player have kept me from listening to my music collection]. My rotation has been WBZ, WTKK, and WRKO, if I want news or talk; The River, Radio 92.9, and 93.7 Mike FM if I want music [those three are easy to hit scan back and forth]. During the time listening to all six stations, I rarely hear a filler ad on the Greater Media stations but hear them constantly on WRKO, for example [During Carr’s show, there seems to be three or four promos an hour!]. This would lead me to believe that WTKK and WBOS are doing a pretty good job of filling their commercial slots [maybe they are giving away the store, I don’t know …]. In the case of Radio 92.9, that’s pretty easy to do since they bracket songs between commercials [there are no DJs]. But when you compare the number of ads on WTKK and WRKO, there seems to be a striking difference, at least from a random listen. That all being said, clearly Severin was overpaid for that slot, which has historically been the second tier talk slot. Sure, they stole him away from syndication and now the market has changed. But one also has to wonder why they would have him back at any cost. I mean, say they got him down to $500k. That’s still $500k … for 14th, when just about anyone could come in 14th at a fraction of the cost. Jeez, I could put together a quality four hour program, without the complaints and headaches, and come in 14th – if not better – and I’d do it for a tenth of the money! There are a lot of other people who can say the same thing. They also could have been creative about the time, like expanding newscasts during the top and bottom of the hours with shorter talk segments since more people want that information when they are going home. The possibilities were limitless … The question I wonder is this: Was there push back from listeners or advertisers to get Jay back on the air instead of being more creative at a fraction of the cost? One has to wonder …

  2. lkcape

    Sometimes, Dan, you can be somewhat naive and cynical to a fault.Did you consider that a) whatever discussions that went on between Severn and Greater Media were private, and b) there is a non-disclosure agreement in place?These could easily explain why there were no comments on the conditions or salary arrangements. There is no constitutional right for you…or anyone else for that matter…to know the details of the contract if the principals elect not to discuss the matter.But then again, it may be an evilv conspiracy designed specifically to make sure that YOU do not find out — and disclose — the terms. We need to remember that speculation can easily be termed gossip, and “gossip” often leads to false and misleading assumptions.Would you consider, in the interest of full disclosure, making public your contractual arrangements with Northeastern Univeristy, or WGBH/Greater Boston, or The Guardian?Somehow, I think, you would view those as a private matter.Is Severin not so entitled?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Would you consider, in the interest of full disclosure, making public your contractual arrangements with Northeastern Univeristy, or WGBH/Greater Boston, or The Guardian?No, of course not. But if I had been suspended for misconduct and was asked by a reporter if my pay had been cut, I would answer “no.” That is, unless my pay had been cut.

  4. O'Rion

    Why–return–Tuesday and not Monday? I suppose they will promo the heck out of the announcement tomorrow, which kind of defeats the purpose of the suspension. But it was always about business, wasn’t it? Jay’s compensation may also be tied to ratings minimums so maybe Tobia doesn’t know?

  5. lkcape

    Well, Dan… If you were under a non-disclosure agreement and you answered the question, you would be in violation of the agreement contract. No if, and, or but.Then, if there were a liquidated damages clause in the contract… say of $500K… then you would be required to pay the other party $500K.That's what non-disclosure agreements are all about.It's none of our business anyway, now is it — with or without a non-disclosure agreement?

  6. Dan Kennedy

    Ikcape: He can answer a simple question like that. We both know it.None of our business? We're talking about the media here. Everything is our business. That doesn't mean people are going to tell us.

  7. Tim Allik

    I’m disappointed that WTKK isn’t staying with Michael Smerconish. His show is loads more informative, timely, interactive, civilized and entertaining than Severin’s show is, regardless of whatever the politics might be. Back to just WBUR and WRKO for me.

  8. tsg

    I don’t think Jay can sustain decent ratings without changing something–maybe, as you suggested on Beat the Press, discussing local issues, or having some guests. But that would require some actual work on his part.Namecalling isn’t “provocative,” it’s lazy and boring. Any middle schooler could do it for a lot less than $1 million. You can blather on about “the best and brightest” all you want, but you don’t get interesting callers when you don’t present any interesting arguments for them to respond to.

  9. Tunder

    It will be interesting to see how Jay discusses the heinous Kansas murder. It might show whether management’s admonishing has any legs.Either way, disappointing to have the arrogant bully back on the air.

  10. lkcape

    Yes, Dan, we’re taking about the media here. And as much as the gossip is intriguing, if the principals choose not to comment, that is their right.As for non-disclosure agreements, it is clear that you have not been a party to one… for the answer is that if one is in place, the discussions of the matter are limited by the terms and conditions of the agreement. If one is in place, silence becomes a requirement.It’s pretty basic: Contractual elements are contractual elements, ignored at one’s own risk.The point regarding Severin’s silence is that there may well be a valid reason, and no matter what degree of media whining, for him comment might be inappropriate.And, just as you reserve the right to not divulge or discuss the terms and conditions of your employment contracts, so, too, might Mr. Severin.Have you allowed for that?

  11. O'Rion

    Kansas Murder If ever there was an inflammatory talk-issue, here it is. However, my point about starting on Tuesday just so TKK can spend the weekend (and Monday) promoting the return comes into play, and of course Jay is in nowheresville instead of discussing a hot-button issue.

  12. Amused

    1. Who says Severin “earns” a million a year? That’s 962 dollars per revenue hour, or 53 dollars out of every single spot, assuming 18 units per hour. That’s before sales commissions, overhead, the company contribution to Severin’s FICA or profits. Who was bidding against WTKK for his services to possibly bid his pay that high? Sorry, I don’t buy that he has any kind of a deal that outright pays a million per. Maybe there are bonuses that he hit for overall station ratings and individual ratings, but spectulation of a salary of a million a year just isn’t credible.2. I’m sure he is well paid, even if he’s not in the million per year salary class. But why would he take a pay cut, unless the company had an out in the contract which would allow it to walk away from the contract without being on the hook for the whole thing. If his contract was voided, he would have the right, in Massachusetts, to negotiate with other potential employers, since convenants not to compete are unlawful for broadcast employees — and we haven’t heard anything about even an idle conversation with other broadcasters or syndicators.3. The radio station characterizes the “conversations” as being about how he conducts himself on the air, and that he has agreed not to be hurtful and inappropriate. That’s still negotiation, especially for an ego such as Severin’s, who clearly was taken down a peg from his carefuly cultivated outspoken image by agreeing to watch what comes out of his mouth. IF they didn’t want that kind of talk on their air, it probably did, in fact, take some discussion/negotiation to tame his monumental ego.4. I am still unable to find anything in Greater Media’s history or present stable of employees that makes me think it’s purely economics. Other than the usual mammary-obsessed morning shows on a couple of male-demo-oriented rock stations, this privately held companfy just don’t seem to do shock jock radio.

  13. mike_b1

    “Mr. Severin.”*Guffaw!*

  14. lkcape

    Mr _B1. Style manuals have their uses. NY Times has a useful one that tends to keep the conversations civil. The “Mr.” usage is in it.BTW…Do you have “Guffaw!” on a macro key? Or is this a Monday morning brain malfuction?

  15. Rick in Duxbury

    Personally, when I’m looking for civility, I avoid someone who is flipping me off at the time. (But that’s just me….)

  16. mike_b1

    lkcape, you’re giving Severed Head a large dose of wholly undeserved respect.

  17. lkcape

    No more…or less… Mr. _b1, than I would give you.

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