Three infamous words from the mouth of morning-talk-show host Don Imus changed all that. Suddenly, Mr. Mason found himself forced to deal with the cancellation of an MSNBC simulcast, a sudden flood of advertiser pullouts and a national debate on race and propriety.
That same week the company ended its management role of radio group Westwood One, which syndicated "Imus in the Morning" across 61 markets nationwide. Though CBS Radio remains a key investor in Westwood One, Mr. Mason would not comment on the group's plans to replace Imus, saying only that it was a "very sad situation" and that CBS made the right decision when it canceled the controversial show. What he did share, however, were his plans for his return to CBS Radio.
MediaWorks: What made you want to come back after several years as a consultant?
Dan Mason: I wanted to come back because I thought I could make a difference.
MediaWorks: Google and Clear Channel recently announced an ad-sales deal that will allow Google to sell 5% of Clear Channel's inventory. Google has sought a major partner for this ever since it acquired dMarc last year, and at one point CBS was mentioned to be that partner. Is that something that still might interest you?
Mr. Mason: Absolutely. The Google deal is a good one for Clear Channel and good for the radio industry. It brings more potential advertisers into the industry. If you look at it like a network deal, the networks buy advertising from Premiere [Radio Networks] or Westwood or ABC Radio Network, and we look at it similar to that.
MediaWorks: What about multicasting in high-definition radio. What is it about the HD format that's appealing to your advertisers?
Mr. Mason: Advertisers could potentially brand the entire day on an HD-2 station. ... They could declare a Target day. The pioneering stages of that format are not only for radio programmers right now.
MediaWorks: The past two weeks have obviously been crazy for you.
Mr. Mason: It's been busy, but the good news is I know about 80% of the people in the company. I've had relationships with many of the employees for the past 15 to 20 years.