Ch-ch-ch-changes at Clear Channel

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Kristen Mack, the Chronicle‘s one-woman Michael Berry Bureau, writes about the councilmember-talk host-radio programmer’s newest job:

City councilman and talk show host Michael Berry, who has filled in as mayor pro tem for the past year, is adding another title before his name: operations manager for Clear Channel’s three Houston AM radio stations.

Berry started calling the shots at news radio KTRH-AM (740), news talk KPRC-AM (950) and sports talk KBME-AM (790) on Friday.

Berry, who has hosted a morning talk show on KPRC for nearly 18 months, has little background in radio. Eddie Martiny, vice president and market manager for Clear Channel Houston, said hiring Berry was a departure from the norm.

“As far as industry standards go, the move I made is about as unconventional as it gets,” Martiny said. “Michael is less of an expert and more of a leader, who can understand what it’s like to embrace change and evangelize change. We can teach him radio fundamentals.”

Berry characterized his role as more strategic than detail-oriented.

“It will entail positioning us in the market, considering new programs, contemplating how to expand our product so the user can use it in more ways.”

Berry will continue his morning talk show and will serve out the remainder of his final two-year term on City Council. Berry, who has served as an at-large city councilman since 2002, will step down from City Hall at the end of the year.

“I’m near the completion of my term. If I was in the middle of it, I wouldn’t have taken it and they wouldn’t have asked me,” Berry said, adding that he planned to set politics aside for the foreseeable future.


KTRH’s news director Bryan Erickson was promoted to program director this week. Berry replaced Ken Charles, who left Houston to take a similar position with two Clear Channel stations in Miami.

Here are a few thoughts (for further discussion in the comments):

1) The Clear Channel email announcing this move spoke of change and new directions, and this story speaks of change also. That sounds great! But what does it mean? Will details follow at some point?

2) The operations manager job sounds like a full-time gig, in addition to the show-hosting duties. Serving as councilmember and mayor pro-tem is also a full-time job. I didn’t like Doctor-Councilwoman pretending to be an engaged councilmember during her full-time write-in campaign for Congress, and (likewise) I don’t like the pretense here that there’s enough time in the day to learn the radio business, run a talk show, and serve the public as a councilmember.

3) Eddie Martiny’s splitting the power formerly held by Ken Charles (before he was deposed) across two positions, and naming two people who are not regarded as talk-radio programming gurus to those positions, is interesting, in a Machiavellian-corporate sense. The pattern of regime change in corporate America has become utterly predictable.

4) What are the ratings of Berry’s show? Isn’t that somewhat relevant to the story of his emergence as a talk-radio ops guy?

Feel free to offer your thoughts in the comments.

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