They’ve Finally Been Held Accountable

Entercom’s bruising loss yesterday in a Sacramento courtroom provides the first real check on the long-oversized ego of CEO David Field. At this point, whether he’s actually accepted defeat or is merely reconfiguring his legal team is anyone’s guess.

His track record suggests the latter, sadly.

The WRKO-WEEI owner (NYSE:ETM) lost big in a civil suit filed by radio contest victim Jennifer Strange’s family, with the jury taking a seeming eternity to reach a verdict. In hindsight, it appears they spent much of the time determining the dollar amount of the reward.

From the BBC:

She had taken part in a contest to see who could drink the most without going to the toilet, to win a Nintendo Wii.

She lost, and a few hours later died of acute water intoxication.

Water intoxication can occur when the normal balance of electrolytes in the body is altered by a rapid intake of water.

Employees sacked

This can eventually cause the brain to swell, stopping it regulating vital functions such as breathing, and causing death.

In the competition – “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” – contestants were given 225-ml bottles to drink every 15 minutes without going to the toilet.

After eight rounds, contestants drank half-litre bottles.

Ms Strange is believed to have drunk nearly two gallons (7.5 litres) in the hope of winning the games console for her children.

During the trial, KDND-FM and its owner, Entercom, argued that Ms Strange should have known the contest might be dangerous.

The organisers did not face criminal charges, but 10 employees of the radio station were sacked.

That’s right- Entercom, a company built on legalistic bullying, attempted to blame the victim for her own death. And rather than take responsibility for the actions of his firm, Field immediately blamed and sacked those below him.

It’s a teachable moment for all of us: there are people in this world who truly have no moral compass and David Field provides today’s case study. Unfortunately, he still oversees several radio stations in our region.

ADDENDUM: Entercom’s corporate spin revolves around the idea that only the Sacramento subsidiary, Entercom Sacramento LLC, was found liable, not its corporate parent.

While technically true, it’s an act of PR desperation to pretend the local operation is somehow separate from company headquarters in Pennsylvania. It’s a disturbing sign that Field may have learned nothing from this incident regarding personal and corporate responsibility.

Entercom shares traded down almost 10% today.


This Senate Race Is Wide Open

Sorry, but anyone who thinks the open US Senate seat will be won based on a debate or via glowing reviews from a paper with plunging circulation is sadly mistaken.

WTKK’s Margery Eagan believes her candidate, embattled, half-hearted Attorney General Martha Coakley will simply waltz right into the nomination. But the far-left clearly has other ideas and they are most likely to turn out for the primary election.

(shown: GOP challenger Scott Brown, did you really need to see another picture of Martha?)

There is also an incredibly strong anti-incumbent sentiment running rampant throughout the country and she’s the closest thing to one in this race.

The Globies are likely to take orders from the Kennedy family as they always do, which means Capuano gets their nod.

So how will this race really be won?

By ganging up on Martha (which she often deserves), through blanketing the state with advertising and via a flood of direct mail pieces to capture the attention of distracted holiday shoppers, etc. Coakely’s opponents have very little time to accomplish this but a lot more money than expected.

Not Buying The Spin On Newspaper Circulation Declines

Here we go again: newspapers continue their stunning print circulation declines and the standard excuse is made- “migration to the web”.

But the Internet isn’t exactly new, nor is their presence there. So what explains the huge drops seen in today’s semi-annual report? Could it possibly be a rejection of their content?

Here at home, The Globies were slaughtered (-18.48% to 265,105), with the Herald beaten up just a tad less badly. Of course, the Boring Broadsheet’s excuse was built-in: a price increase to $1.50 in many areas and $4.00 on Sunday. Gosh, how did that work out?

The Globe is now just a tad bigger in circulation than papers in much smaller regions, such as Portland (Oregon) and St Petersburg in Florida.

With the New York Times also taking a big hit, it’s hard to believe they really want to keep the Globe. Were the bids that low?

Given the still-bloated staff ranks and high overhead, the Globe’s problems seem beyond repair. The Herald, by contrast, has been pared down to the point where it doesn’t take much to keep it going.

But the latter paper still needs to address its beleaguered Sunday edition, which needs more content. It has slipped under 100,000 in circulation, which ought to alarm its owner. Daily is down to 138,260, but that could have been worse.

“Worse” = the San Francisco Chronicle, which shed 25% of its readers in just one reporting period.

Image: Bostonist

Entercom’s Dash-For-Trash ‘Revival’

For our Entercom friends, these are strange times indeed: while they await the verdict in the water-drinking contest death trial in Sacramento, continue to fret over unexpectedly strong competition from new WEEI sports rival WBZ-FM and watch their stock price surge as part of the 2009 Dash-For-Trash stock bubble, the firm’s future prospects have never been more unclear.

And what is The Empress doing during all of this chaos? Painting the walls, of course!

Yes, our sneaker-cams are capturing all kinds of future classics, thanks to what we hear is her recent obsession with finding exactly the right color to impress Guest Street visitors. According to one perplexed observer, the walls were covered in “puke yellow, then loud green, then gaudy orange, then bone white, then back to the gaudy orange again,” with a lucky paint crew reaping the benefits of her indecision.

Apparently, this went on for weeks!

That’s keeping your eye on the ball!

As for the market surge, Entercom has benefited greatly from the Dash-For-Trash rally, where the most beaten-up stocks in the worst sectors benefit from cash pumped into the overall markets by the feds. Hundreds of dubious issues (including nearly every radio broadcast firm) are up 1000% or more since March as the bubble reaches what could be the popping point.

It’s good news for Pops, who had been reducing the number of shares available to the public through open-market share purchases (NYSE:ETM). But if he were to suddenly dump them, it would send the price tumbling.

Where is radio headed? The same place it’s been going for years: into the toilet. Nothing has changed. At least we have Entercom to keep us amused while we await its demise.

Peter Smyth’s ‘Tell’

Whether Peter Smyth is a decent poker player is unknown, but in the game of broadcasting, he’s just given away his hand. The Greater Media CEO is quoted in today’s Boston Herald as saying he won’t take another stab at bringing Howie Carr to long-suffering WTKK.

That’s a classic “tell”: making it clear he’s not going to invest the time and energy it takes to finally bring success to the struggling FM talker. Peter’s clearly given up.

Smyth’s stubbornness has held back the station for a decade as his own personal programming preferences trump what’s best for the station. When his friends (Mike Barnicle, Don Imus, etc) are bumped from the lineup, it’s usually because a (suddenly endangered) lower-level manager put up a fight and won.

There’s little doubt he despises Carr’s conservative stances, but was temporarily convinced Howie was needed to save the station from ruin.

From his political contributions (and love for Barnicle, etc), one can see that Smyth is a firm believer in our state’s corrupt ruling political establishment. Until he’s out of the picture (most likely never), WTKK probably doesn’t stand a chance.

There are other Peter Smyths in broadcasting, executives who try and fail at force-feeding unpopular talk programming to an unwilling listenership, but he’s a great deal more secure in his position than the others, who often eventually fade from the scene.