To many African Americans, Tom Joyner is the king of black radio. Based in Dallas, with a nationally syndicated radio show reaching some 115 markets and 8 million listeners across the country, Joyner is unquestionably a radio powerhouse.
So when Clear Channel, the San Antonio, Texas-based media conglomerate, unceremoniously announced in March that it was replacing “The Tom Joyner Morning Show“ with the nationally syndicated “Steve Harvey Morning Show“ at WVAZ-FM in Chicago, Joyner fans were outraged. After all, Chicago was the first market to ever carry Joyner’s show and WVAZ-FM had aired the show for 13 years. Many Chicagoans see Joyner as a part of the city’s fabric, a part of the family.
But you can’t keep a good man down. Last week, after four weeks off the air, Joyner returned to the airwaves in the Windy City, this time on Soul 106. 3 FM (WSRB/WYRB), a Denver, Colorado-based Crawford Broadcasting station.
“People were very outspoken about the show leaving Chicago,” says Joyner, “so we went to Crawford and they gave us a proposal. But since we were on the street, it wasn’t much of a deal. We decided to buy the four hours completely, essentially becoming our own affiliate.”
Joyner would not disclose the financial terms of the transaction.
Clear Channel’s decision to replace Joyner with Harvey, the comedian and best-selling author whose popular show runs in more than 60 markets, underscores the pressures of the radio business in today’s challenging economic environment; radio had already and continues to face threats from alternative sources of audio entertainment like satellite radio, iPods and the Internet.
“The new media explosion makes it harder and harder for established stars and formats to aggregate audiences in an environment that is experiencing fragmentation and dispersion,” suggests Christopher H. Smith, professor at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Southern California. “Tom Joyner is not immune to the shifting dynamics,” he adds.
And it arguably did not help that Joyner’s show is owned by Reach Media, a division of Clear Channel competitor Radio One, the nation’s largest radio company targeting African Americans.
The stresses on the radio industry are readily apparent. According to Chantilly, VA-based BIA Advisory Services, a media research and consultancy, 2008 radio revenues in the U.S. were $16.7 billion, down 8.5% from 2007. Additionally, 2009 revenues are expected to decrease 11%.