by Ed Ryan
There aren't too many people who will not recognize the name in that headline. And if you're one of the few, you may want to make an effort to reach out and get to know Joe. Learn the radio trade. Learn how to be a strong leader. Learn how to put people first. Joe Bilotta is, without a doubt, one of the most well-respected and well-liked individuals in the radio industry today. On Friday, Bilotta will celebrate 45 years in the radio business...every last day of it with Buckley Broadcasting. It will, no doubt, be an emotional anniversary for Bilotta. Today is the third anniversaary of the death of Rick Buckley, the founder of Buckley Radio, and Bilotta's best friend. Buckley died from a brain embolism after falling ill while boating in Long Island Sound near his home in Quogue, N.Y. We spoke to Bilotta Wednesday about his 45th and the friend he misses dearly.
RI: You're celebrating 45 years in the business. Has it gone by in a blink of an eye for you?
Bilotta: Some days it does seem like, "What happened to the time?" and other times the longevity of it all seems like an eternity?.What does make it seamless is that I really have not worked for another broadcaster, so the body of work has been a continuum and after 45 years the beginning, middle, and eventual end is all part of one piece of energy and effort.
RI: Why do you continue to work in the radio business? What do you love about it?
Bilotta: It is what I do, what I have always done, and what I will do in some way, shape, or form until I decide to do nothing else. The love of the business is ingrained in my DNA.
RI: What is your best memory of being in the radio business over the years?
Bilotta: The day Rick Buckley said to me, ?Joe, what do you think if a couple of independent guys from Connecticut try and buy WOR Radio in NYC?"
RI: What is your biggest success?
Bilotta: There is always material corporate success in any career?We were the first company to merge with Ralph Guild, when we dissolved Buckley Radio Sales, which enabled him to represent multiple stations in one market?.The longevity of our station ownership?.The acquisition of WOR, were all accomplishments for our company?.I humbly view my biggest personal accomplishment to be the ability over the years/decades to interact honestly and with integrity in all of the relationships I formed: employees, customers, vendors, and competitors.
RI: You are very involved in organizations like the RAB, NAB, Broadcasters Foundation, etc. Why is that important to you and for others to do?
Bilotta: Early on Rick Buckley told me that regardless of scale, you give back what you can to the industry. He was a former chair of the RAB, I am a former chair, I served a six-year term with the NAB and I succeeded him on the Broadcasters Foundation board. I think that going forward it is critically important for independent representatives from non-public companies to be engaged in industry-related trade associations.
RI: You have always had the attitude that people come first. Do you believe the radio industry follows that creed?
Bilotta: I don?t speak negatively of other companies, but will advocate for a greater concentration of efforts on people development?.Resources are being invested in so many great things that I hope we do not forget that people should come first and are our greatest resource.
RI: What would you like to see radio do better?
Bilotta: There are so many great minds guiding companies today and they are all concentrating on "the next big thing" and "all things digital." I would like to see a reengagement of interpersonal-relationship skill development from everyone who represents our brands. The core of our business still remains that we must entertain and inform the audiences we seek, engage in a mutually beneficial partnership with the advertisers we solicit, and most importantly, design and create an industry that is challenging, rewarding, and beneficial to the employees we ask to give of their time, energy, and efforts.
RI: Three years ago your best friend Rick Buckley died. How have you dealt with that? What has helped you move on?
Bilotta: Rick and I were very unique?. a relationship that everyone should be blessed enough to have. It has been a very challenging 36 months without him. I have a wonderful relationship with Connie, his wife, and Jen his daughter?That has kept it, "in the family" for me.
RI: How were you able to stay with one company for so long? Nobody does that.
Bilotta: Over the years/decades I was often criticized for not venturing out? I had numerous and great opportunities and each time I discussed it with Rick?each time he left it to me to decide ?Each time, I stayed and my family and I have benefited.
RI: What do you miss the most about Mr. Buckley?
RI: We've seen over the past several years, some of your stations sold. Was that part of a plan if Mr. Buckley did pass away or was that a decision the board made along the way?
Bilotta: Family businesses are unique, and it is not unusual when an iconic head of a family-held business leaves on a Friday and doesn?t come back on a Monday that the dynamic changes. There are and were many influencing factors in our decisions to market some of our properties over these last three years and the board of directors were unilateral in their guidance and decisions.
RI: How much longer will you stay in the business?
Bilotta: As long as they have me.
Reach out to Joe to congratulate him on a career not yet over but one with 45 years in the bank -- firstname.lastname@example.org
And please leave your comments below.
(8/1/2014 9:28:29 AM)
Congratulations and thank you! 45 years is an unprecedented body of work and you’re done it with class and integrity, well done. Words cannot fully express my appreciation for your leadership and guidance and I have become a better person being able to call you a friend…although it hasn’t done much for my golf game.
My best wishes to you and your family in the future.
(7/31/2014 9:49:28 PM)
I am forever grateful that Joe brought me on board at WSEN in Syracuse over 21 years ago. I had the wonderful opportunity of working with him and Rick for almost 18 years..... The best years of my career. Joe is my mentor.
I thank you for all that you and Rick taught me, shared with me and encouraged me to become. I'm proud to have helped write a chapter in the Buckley Broadcasting history!!
Congrats to you Joe. Miss you dearly Rick.
This business needs more leaders like Joe Bilotta.
He was a pain in the ass as a tough competitor when he was in Syracuse, but advancing the radio industry has always been his and Ricks number one goal.
Congrats Joe and many more!
(7/31/2014 11:25:47 AM)
I started my career with Buckley's Hartford stations, and, even though I may not have been with Buckley Broadcasting all through my 37 years in the industry, I was always welcomed back with open arms by Rick and Joe. They were like family. Being VP/Director of Engineering at WOR for 16 years was a phenomenal experience, and I learned a lot from both. Rick was always supportive, and I could always count on Joe give me great advice and keep me grounded. Thanks, Joe! And Congrats!
(7/31/2014 11:11:02 AM)
I was part of Buckley Broadcasting for just a very short time but in that time I felt I grew significantly under Joe's careful watch. Not only is he a great guy, but in an industry that can sometimes be filled with hallway gossip & chatter, none of that ever surrounded him. This is a testament to his integrity and character. I like and admire Joe Bilotta very much...radio man, family man, good guy. My hat is off to you Joe.
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