Clear Channel Communications Inc. said Friday that it had dismissed some on-air and off-air staff earlier this week, in a reshaping of its regional and local programming that should enable it to seek out advertisers focused on areas wider than a single market.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the company dismissed dozens of local disc jockeys at small stations from Syracuse, N.Y., to Spokane, Wash.
Company spokeswoman Wendy Goldberg said the moves took effect on Wednesday, but declined to specify the number of employees affected. The company operates about 850 radio stations and has 12,000 employees.
Goldberg said local stations are being asked to select syndicated or other programs produced elsewhere to replace their local programs. In many cases, the stations would not have been able to afford such programming without the help of the parent company, she said.
She compared it to local TV stations showing late night show host David Letterman _ local audiences still find the show entertaining and might even prefer it to local hosts.
"Listeners have responded to this in the past by giving us higher ratings," she said.
Clear Channel, based in San Antonio, is struggling under the huge load of about $20 billion in debt _ amassed when it was taken private in 2008 by funds Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital.
In the quarter through June, the company cut its net loss by more than 90 percent to $13.3 million on $1.6 billion in revenue, but the company continues to pay more in interest than it makes on operations.
Earlier this month, media veteran Bob Pittman was promoted from chairman of media and entertainment platforms to CEO of parent company CC Media Holdings Inc. He invested $5 million when he joined the company in November and is betting he can turn it around. He is also responsible for launching the iHeart Radio online radio service in a move that puts it in competition with rival tech upstart Pandora Media Inc.