One of my radio friends contacted me yesterday. She had just been fired and wanted advice as to what she should do next. All of us seasoned radio vets know that being fired is just a regular part of the business. “You ain’t no real broadcaster until you’ve been fired at least 3 times!” My friend is new to this business, however. She’s only been in radio for a few years. This is her first termination. Naturally, she’s panicked, emotional, and wondering “what did I do wrong?”
Because this is radio, the station is contesting her eligibility for unemployment benefits. This also comes with the territory. Out of all the times I was fired in radio (there were several), I can only think of two times when management didn’t attempt to deny my claim. In one case, the station had been sold and the entire airstaff was let go. Not much grounds for contention there. Especially since the station apparently failed to pay state unemployment tax on my behalf. Which of course I learned when I went to apply for benefits. In the other case, they didn’t bother to contest because the program director who had fired me was himself terminated for cause shortly thereafter. Trying to explain that to the Division of Labor might have become a bit messy. In every other instance, the station attempted to deny my benefits. Some would stretch the truth while others would outright lie in order to stop me from collecting what was rightfully mine. My favorite was an operation in Florida which claimed “theft of station equipment” as grounds for my dismissal. The item in question was a frequency spectrum analyzer which the chief engineer had reported missing. It was later returned, but damaged. I had no use for this piece of equipment. However, our weekend jock who also just happened to be operating a pirate FM station in his spare time found it a very useful tool in the calibration of his transmitter. It was my word against theirs. My benefits were denied.
Why do radio station owners/managers routinely contest legitimate unemployment benefit claims by their former employees? The first reason is money, of course. In most states, the employer’s unemployment insurance premium is determined in part by their claim history. The more claims, the more they pay. So there is an incentive to contest all claims against the station, valid or otherwise. The other reason is ego. The radio industry is full of egomaniacs. Some of them eventually end up in the GM chair. This is especially true if it involves a disgruntled former employee with an axe to grind. It becomes a grudge match. Management/ownership knows the unemployment benefit process better than the average jock who has just been terminated. Within the state system, there are a limited number of appeals available for denial of benefits. Once the appeals process is exhausted, the ex-employee has 2 options: drop their claim or hire an attorney and pursue civil litigation against the company. How many unemployed radio folks have the resources to do this? Very few. Management/ownership knows this. They use the process to their advantage.
Back to my newly-fired friend: I told her to hang in there. “It’s not you, it’s the business.” She’s very talented and extremely good at asserting/promoting herself. Despite the extremely tight job market for air talent today, I don’t think she’ll have any problem finding another job. Consider it a blessing to be out of a bad situation. I’ve always said “Why would you want to work for someone who doesn’t want you working for them?” She’ll be fine. If you’re reading this and happen to be in the same situation, things will work out for you also. “It’s not you. It’s the business.”