The memo couldn't have been clearer: Every on-air employee of WUSN-FM (99.5) must attend--and work the crowd at--the George Strait Country Music Festival on May 26.
But here's the catch: US-99 staffers will be required to pay their own way into the concert at the Tweeter Center.
Calling it a "command performance," program director Justin Case explained in his memo that any free tickets US-99 gets (as the "official station" for the event) have been earmarked for contests.
"I'm sorry, but we are gonna have to buy tickets to see Strait this year," Case wrote. "We are going to use all of our free tickets on air . . . . We are still cutting expenses, and the tickets will be our only promotion to close out the spring [ratings] book."
Case suggested that staffers might consider buying the cheaper lawn seats for $29.50, holding out only the vague possibility that he may be able to reimburse them if the station "kicks a-- in billing. . . . Otherwise, you will have to take it off your 2001 taxes."
His memo concluded by reminding staffers that they will be there to work. "I would expect most everyone to be up and walking around and NOT just watching the concert the day of this event," he said.
When called to comment on the memo, Case confirmed the content, but then backtracked a bit, saying: "I intend to reimburse anybody on my staff who works the show on behalf of US-99."
By calling it a "command performance," was he really giving them any choice? "If one of my staff members comes to me and says they don't want to go to the George Strait Country Music Festival, I understand," Case said. "But I would hope that this being the most important country music event of the year that my staff would want to be there. If somebody doesn't want to work that show, they can talk to me about it."
US-99 proudly calls itself "America's most listened to country music station," boasting an audience of 700,000 listeners a week. More important, the Infinity Broadcasting outlet was the No. 1 biller in the market last year, posting revenues of $46.1 million.
So this isn't about some dinky little radio station nickel-and-diming its employees. It's a lot scarier.
Earlier this year, US-99 was forced to fire its veteran morning personality, Ramblin' Ray Stevens, because it couldn't afford to keep his salary in the budget. Then, a few weeks later, the station hired him back as afternoon host for considerably less money.
If that's the way it is at one of Chicago's top radio powerhouses, how much worse can it be at one of the losers?
From today's (4/13) Robert Feder column in the Chicago Sun-Times:
"Employees at WUSN-FM (99.5) were quaking in their boots Thursday after their bosses called a meeting and angrily threatened to fire the source who leaked a management memo to this column. The memo ordered all on-air staffers to work at a station-sponsored George Strait concert May 26 -- and to pay for their own tickets.
"Infinity Broadcasting, parent company of US-99, grossed close to $2.5 billion last year."
Posted in the FMTV Newsgroup by Kevin Redding, firstname.lastname@example.org. Sun, 15 Apr 2001
BACK to NRC articles page