Chobanian is leaving terrestrial radio behind. She now has a website called eavradio.com, a new-music station with an emphasis on the Atlanta scene.
"I see it as an extension of what DaveFM could have been," she says.
And old-fashioned broadcast radio? She's done -- done with the numbers, the restrictions, the suits.
"I'll never program for a corporate radio station again," she says.
Remaking the business
"Life is a rock But the radio rolled me ..." -- Reunion, "Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)"
At 15, Bob Pittman started as a DJ in his hometown of Brookhaven, Miss. It was not his first choice.
"I really wanted the high-paying job in town, which was bagging groceries at the Piggly Wiggly," he says.
Radio was, however, the right choice.
He was quickly promoted to positions up the line. By 1974, when he was 20, the "Boy Wonder" was the program director of WMAQ-AM in Chicago. Within three years, he was running WNBC-AM in New York, one of the biggest stations in the country.
Over the next three decades, he helped found MTV, became a successful producer, headed Time Warner's Six Flags theme parks division, ran the Century 21 real estate company, took over AOL in its formative years and was chief operating officer of the merged AOL Time Warner.
And then, three years ago, the famed media entrepreneur returned to his radio roots, investing $5 million in Clear Channel. Today he's head of the nation's largest radio company, becoming the symbol of "corporate radio."
While he was gone, there were plenty of changes. When Pittman started, music radio mainly used to be AM Top 40; over the years, it moved to FM on a continually splintering array of formats.
But the big sea change in the business came 17 years ago when Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Gone were restrictions on the number of stations a company could own in a market; suddenly corporations went on a buying spree. The two biggest, Clear Channel and Cumulus, started dominating markets by purchasing several stations in the same city.
At its peak, Clear Channel owned more than 1,200 stations, a concert promotion company, a billboard division and a variety of other interests. (Before 1996, it owned 43 stations.) It's since sold off the concert firm, but still owns about 850 stations. Cumulus has about 570.
With Clear Channel's aggressive tactics and formidable clout, others in the business took to calling the company the "Evil Empire." Eric Boehlert wrote a number of stories for Salon about its power plays, calling it "radio's big bully."
For a decade, the big companies thrived, but the recession hit them hard. In 2008, Bain Capital helped lead a leveraged buyout of Clear Channel. The company now has $20 billion in long-term debt, and according to a 2012 article in Forbes, "barely earns enough to cover its interest payments and capital expenditures." Cumulus posted a huge loss last year thanks to its debt load.
In 2010, Pittman bought into Clear Channel, telling The Wall Street Journal he'd agreed to "help out part-time." A year later, he became CEO. He's been trying to remake it ever since.
It hasn't been easy. The company has been on a cost-cutting binge for several years, shedding stations, cutting jobs and consolidating operations. One of its practices, voice-tracking -- in which a DJ in one city can broadcast his or her show to several others, giving the appearance of a local broadcast in each market -- has been particularly criticized as emphasizing the national (and generic) over the local.
The cutbacks have taken a toll: Rick Wright, a longtime radio veteran and communications professor at Syracuse University, does a weekend show at a Clear Channel station. He says the building's local studios are like a ghost town when he visits.
Pittman dismisses the criticisms. The company still believes in local, he says, only now it's tapping into national talent -- the way local TV stations replaced their self-produced talk shows with "The Oprah Winfrey Show" nearly three decades ago. And the company's head count, he maintains, is still healthy.
"We have cutbacks, but you don't look at the other side of the equation, which is, how many people have we hired?" he says, his Southern accent mixing smoothly with his rat-a-tat-tat, statistic-laden delivery. "Our head count has not gone down as a company, and the reason it has not gone down is because we're constantly rebalancing."
Creating a 'trusted friend'
"There goes the last DJ Who plays what he wants to play ..." -- Tom Petty, "The Last DJ"
Roger Vaughan got the idea for WWCD after living in Denver in the 1980s while working in real estate.