What Will Dan Barreiro Do?

You want to feel a cone of silence? Call around to KFAN and KSTP and ask what’s up with Dan Barreiro? You gotta hope the U.S. spy satellite program has security this tight.

As has been reported here and by Judd Zulgad over at the Strib, Barreiro is at that rare moment in a broadcaster’s career when he has maximum leverage to close a sweet, long-term deal with either of two eager employers. (I was going to strain the usual "seduction" and "suitor" analogies, but lifelong bachelor Dan just got married — finally — so it seems in bad taste to suggest some kind of reckless promiscuity.)

What can be said is this; KSTP AM 1500 has made Barreiro a handsome offer for six years, most likely in the 11-to-2 slot, and KFAN — which is to say the suits in Clear Channel’s San Antonio office — have roughly another week to meet or beat that offer. Whatever Barreiro decides will have serious impact on both stations since it hard to say which needs him more.

For the unaware, Barreiro’s 4 to 7 p.m. KFAN show is something of an oasis of literacy in Twin Cities commercial talk. While the basic stratagem for holding male audiences continues to depend heavily on feeding the ill-informed near toxic amounts of bullshit and candy, Barreiro’s act routinely reflects someone who reads material heavier than NewsMax, the deep thoughts of Hugh Hewitt and Fantasy Football websites. The ex-Strib sports columnist appears to actually read — gasp! — books, novels and more than one newspaper. What’s more, his show reflects something more evolved than a supermarket check-out line intelligence level.

KSTP badly needs Barreiro to add octane to an act that was slumping before the departure of their right-wing marquee attractions, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, to Clear Channel’s KTLK two years ago. (Jason Lewis departed prior to that, and signed with KTLK in large part because Clear Channel didn’t want him rebuilding right-wing talk back at AM 1500). The station’s much publicized and very expensive deal to bring the Twins in — $1 million a year for four years, with virtually all ad revenue accruing to the Twins– did not deliver anywhere near the kind of ratings boost they hoped it would give the rest of the line-up. Other than Joe Soucheray, the station’s other personalities just aren’t pinging many radars.

KFAN does well among men, but should be doing better. If Barreiro left they would no doubt consider shifting P.A. and Dubay, their all-football all-the-time mid-morning act to afternoon drive. They might — or at least they should consider giving Barreiro’s long-time sidekick, Joe "Mr. Phun" Anderson his own show … if he doesn’t follow Barreiro to KSTP. (Anderson’s contract expired at the end of September. Word is he has been told to stay cool until the Barreiro deal is settled.)

Even earlier this year, with Mick Anselmo running KFAN and the other local Clear Channel operations, Barreiro most likely would have been sewn up long before by now. But the perception now is that none of the surviving managers here in Minnesota have anywhere near the pull with San Antonio to make this deal happen via their own influence.

Anselmo hired Barreiro years ago and, with Dan Seeman, cultivated Barreiro’s game. Seeman was fired in late ’05 and Anselmo was canned earlier this year. The fact that Seeman — whose support and insight Barreiro values — is now only one office door away from AM 1500, running Hubbard Broadcasting’s FM 107, has to make the offer from KSTP all that more appealing.

Another thing that must be playing in Barreiro’s mind is the ever-tightening clutch Clear Channel corporate has around the necks of all its local operations.

Formal approval of the Clear Channel empire’s move back into private ownership will almost certainly mean another round of budget-tightening and even less local-level decision-making. The joke in the business is that where Clear Channel is a company with almost no patience (never mind that the KFAN line-up has been unchanged for years), Hubbard Broadcasting is a place with far too much patience. Change comes at a very pre-global warming glacial pace at Hubbard radio. The upside, if you’re Barreiro, is that once you’re in you tend to stick for quite a while. A deal at AM 1500 has to be seen as significantly more secure, all things considered.

Finally, there is the matter of the notorious Clear Channel "basic contract", which in truth is less contract than a series of medieval dictates of no value whatsoever to the employee. The standard language allows the company to do pretty much whatever it wants whenever it wants. As much leverage as Barreiro has, there is always the question whether he has enough to push Clear Channel into a for-real guaranteed contract. That is to say, a contract with language so specific that "meet" actually means "meet" in terms of matching every detail of KSTP’s offer.

Put another way, there is every good reason to be highly, intensely skeptical of anything Clear Channel promises. Three years down the line they could get bored with his "literate" act and all that book and reading stuff and demand a shift to all Vikings talk all the time (like a real sports station) and, if Barreiro rebelled, the big firm could whack him, a la John Hines, leaving him paid but in professional limbo.

Finally, as I mentioned in a previous post. There is the Soochie factor at AM-1500. As most listeners and all his colleagues know, Soochie ain’t exactly Mr. Cuddly. More to the point, I seriously doubt there is anyone in the Hubbard building who dares even ask Soochie if he’d consider moving into the old Limbaugh slot in order to make a better fit for Barreiro.

If there is anyone foolish enough to pipe up, "Uh, uh, Joe … I mean, Mr. Soucheray … could … uh … uh … I mean … " I want to be there to see what happens.