How Radio Adapts During A National Crisis


The coronavirus does not pay attention to market size or market share. With COVID-19 starting to impact how the radio industry operates, Radio Ink reached out to some independent and small-group managers to see how they are adapting.

Tim Marshall, CEO/General Manager, Nebraska Rural Radio Network:
We are looking at how many of our people can do their jobs from home. We already have that ability on our sales team as a lot of them already work from home, so that’s not really going to be affected. We want to make sure that our on-air stations can continue to bring the information we need to our audience, especially our stations that handle news, agriculture news, and sports — although sports isn’t that big right now. We are working with our IT and engineering staffs to make sure our folks have the proper equipment and connections to work from home. This week we are actually doing some “dry runs” with some of our people, so we know that it works.

Right now we have just one person that is self-quarantining. That happened last week. Who would have thought that a company that only has 90 full-time employees, basically in the middle of the country, would be affected by this. Another concern of ours is with schools closing and daycare options dwindling, a lot of people need to stay at home to take care of their families.

Jeff McCarthy, VP Programming, Midwest Communications:
Number one on the programming side of our job is to serve the public, the local communities. To present factual information, no opinions, and make sure if you are going to report factual information that it comes from a reliable source. This thing is changing almost hour to hour, so we have to be prepared to serve our listeners.

As far as our facilities go, we have implemented policies such as all prizes being mailed; no in-person pick-up. We have discontinued having in-studio guests and giving tours. We have been fortunate in that,to this point, no staff or employees have been sick. That being said, we are prepared in the event that it does happen. We have backup plans to backup plans. Basically our philosophy is, let’s plan for the worse and celebrate when it doesn’t happen.

Above and beyond, we cannot get away from what our job is and that is trying to keep everyone as calm as possible in our local markets. That starts with our own people getting the facts, being realistic, and not to spread panic.

Greg Davis Jr., VP/Atlanta Market Manager, Davis Broadcasting:
This is unprecedented for our industry and for our nation. I was down in Columbus last week where we were going to have one of our largest, annual events, our Women’s Empowerment Luncheon — it was going to be a sell-out. We had to make a very tough decision to postpone the event, a day before it was to be held. Events like this, and the political season, are very important to radio stations as we approach the end for the first quarter. We’ve had order cancellations because of this, and that’s tough in the spring. We are playing it day by day.

We have been fortunate that none of our station personnel have become sick. To insure the safety of our employees we are limiting visitation to our stations and following the CDC guidelines when it comes to cleaning and disinfecting the workplace. There are multiple people in and out of our studios, so we are being very proactive about keeping the studios a clean environment. We are also limiting our station-related activities outside of the office. We are emphasizing to our employees that if you’re feeling sick, stay home.

We are looking at options when it comes to having our employees work from home if necessary. We have not made an official decision on that should it become necessary.


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