From Dick deButts ~ Former General Manager/WRAL-FM

Prior to the 1996 Telecom Act touching-off a feeding frenzy of consolidation that was destined to create financial indigestion. Bear in mind that what you’re about to read was written by a station GM in Raleigh, NC. During the mid-1980s!  

“What makes a radio station succeed? Is it the programming, sales, technical facilities, promotions, research or management? Any good manager will tell you that it is a combination of all of these, but if one key ingredient is missing the successful accomplishment of all of all of these is in vain. The one ingredient I call… “The human factor.”

When I read about stations selling for $35 or $36 million and the buyers not first securing the people who built them, I wonder about the future financial implications. When you take away the spark plugs, a car won’t run. Why do we believe that stations will continue to be successful without the key ingredient – people?

Radio stations are just steel and electronics. The frequencies and power may vary but plug in “the human factor” and watch them go. How many times have you heard of a Class A FM achieving numbers in a market full of Class B’s or C’s? They do exist and some are market leaders. What makes one station more successful than another. “The human factor.”

Radio people are the most abused group I know. Their job security hangs on a thread between ratings revenues with Arbitron being the supreme judge. Conversations at radio meetings center on how well or how poorly one does in “the book” and how that affects the bottom line; not what new management techniques have been discovered to help motivate and educate the station’s most valuable asset. It’s employees.

What can we do as managers to build security for our employees? The answer is simple: develop the best team of professionals by giving them a positive, constructive, creative learning environment where they are made to feel important.

It you remove “the human factor,” all that remains is steel and equipment, and that never won ratings or delivered a bottom line.”

From 1982 through 1986, Dick deButts served as General Manager of Capital Broadcasting Company’s Adult Contemporary WRAL-FM, Raleigh-Durham, NC. Note that Capital still owns and operates this successful station.

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