Senator Questions iHeart Layoffs (DAY 2 WITH YOUR COMMENTS)

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Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown has written a letter to iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, questioning him about the recent company layoffs. Brown wants Pittman to explain why the company is laying off hundreds of people at the same time salaries for executives were increased and he received millions in bonus money. Brown has given Pittman until February 14 to respond. Here’s the full letter.

Dear Mr. Pittman:

I write in response to iHeartMedia’s recent announcement that the company is laying off employees across the country, including dozens of employees at radio stations in Ohio.   I am particularly concerned about these layoffs in light of additional news reports that the company significantly increased executive compensation the year before entering bankruptcy and have since asked the bankruptcy judge to approve more executive bonus pay. It is hard to understand why it is in the long-term interest of the company to significantly increase executive compensation while making significant job cuts.

According to numerous news reports, iHeartMedia recently announced countrywide layoffs as part of the company’s new organizational structure. Although the company has not released the total number of workers who lost their jobs, it is reported that hundreds of workers were terminated and that the layoffs were concentrated in small and medium media markets. It is difficult enough to understand the decision to continue the hollowing out of local media outlets by laying off disc jockeys in smaller communities. But it is particularly difficult to make sense of this decision given that it came after a significant increase in the company’s executive compensation over the last few years.

According to reporting by The Wall Street Journal, you received more than $9 million in bonuses on top of your annual pay of $1.25 million in 2017, the year before the company initiated bankruptcy proceedings. Other reports indicate that the bankruptcy judge approved the company’s restructuring plan in January 2019, which included another $9.3 million incentive bonus for your 2018 work with the company. I ask you to answer the following questions to help the affected workers better understand the company’s justification for these two seemingly contradictory decisions:

1)     How many workers were affected by iHeartMedia’s recent layoff announcement? Of those workers, how many are in Ohio?

2)     The company is reportedly giving severance to the affected workers. Please provide details about the severance provided, including whether it includes severance pay and if so how much, and whether it includes health care benefits, and if so for how long.

3)     Is the company giving affected workers priority consideration in the hiring process for any currently open positions in the company? Is the company going to give affected workers priority consideration in the hiring process for any positions that become open in the future? If so, for how long will affected workers be given hiring preference?

4)     Is the company offering or paying for any training affected workers might seek to help them find new employment? If so, please provide details about the training offered or paid for, including the type of training, the length of time a worker can pursue such training, and, in the case of training paid for by iHeartMedia, the amount the company will pay for the worker to obtain such training.

Thank you for your consideration of this letter. Please provide written responses to these questions by February 14th.

Sincerely,

13 COMMENTS

  1. BOB PITTMAN COULDN’T COME CLOSE TO THE PEOPLE IN RADIO WHO FULLY UNDERSTANDS WHAT IT TAKES. IT’S ALL ABOUT HIM. HEY BOB, DO US A FAVOR AND RETIRE.GOOD GRIEF, GET RID OF THIS OVERPAID CHIEF.

  2. I don’t know where you can think you can legislate live and local back. More full time jobs will become part time or be eliminated if you do.

  3. Due to their senior management business practices, Clear Channel/ iHeart stations rank second tier importance when we negotiate client schedules in local markets. This latest news on head count reduction only reinforces our view of them.

    When they had 20 billion dollars of debt we knew where content was headed. Today, after wiping out 10 billion dollars of that debt through bankruptcy, the landscape is unchanged.

  4. Due to their senior management business practices, Clear Channel/ iHeart stations rank second tier importance when we negotiate client schedules in local markets. This latest news on head count reduction only reinforces our view of them.

    When they had 20 billion dollars of debt we new where content was headed. Today, after wiping out 10 billion dollars of that debt through bankruptcy, the landscape is unchanged.

  5. Because Pittman…. like so many other radio execs…. is self-important and greedy with no empathy or consideration of others in the industry. This is one of the things that is killing the radio industry…. but hacks like Pittman don’t care as long as their bank account gets bigger.

  6. Simple. Investors in local markets should challenge the station licenses of iHeart radio stations. These investors could promise the FCC that they would better serve the local community by offering 16 hours a day minimum of local and LIVE programming, local live newscasts, and a certain percentage of minority hiring. Additionally, the challengers could argue that iHeart is not fit to be the license holder, because iHeart is broadcasting zero (or whatever minimum hours for that station) hours of local programming and therefore is doing nothing to serve the local market of license.
    A massive effort by local investment group challengers and enough political pressure might convince the FCC to pull some iHeart licenses at renewal time, and award them to local challengers.

    • Peter – While is is an election year, Sen. Sherrod Brown’s current term doesn’t expire until 2025.

      Any good politician should defend jobs and challenge executive malpractice no matter which side of the aisle they’re on. People expect that, and these seem like valid questions to be asked.

      Radio Ink’s Executive of the Year? Now that’s optics.

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