Cap-Ex: Whose Business Is It, Anyway?

Paul McLane is editor in chief.

A trusted colleague gave me some candid feedback, and I’m sharing it here because I like to put such dialogue in front of you, our reader.

This experienced engineer, who holds a responsible position with one of our industry’s top 10 or 15 radio groups, took exception to a note that we included in a recent NewsBytes newsletter. Here is what we wrote:

Budget Time!
Engineering managers: Did you finish your 2014 cap-ex budget or budget request? What’s your outlook for new projects in 2014? Tell us about it. Email to and we’ll share with your colleagues (anonymously if you prefer). Put “Cap-ex” in the subject field.

I thought that was pretty innocuous. But our friend pulled me aside, rhetorically speaking, with an email. He said he understood why we might want to explore this topic but felt the manner in which the data was being “collected” might rub some group heads wrong. He has done some work in cap-ex, and knows it is a sensitive subject at most companies.

He suggests we “anonymize” our request in the future a little better, as we might with a salary survey; perhaps respondents could pass along info about spending and market size but not share names or other insider data.

“I would also suggest that the timing is off. By now almost every company has their budget requests submitted -- but, approvals usually don’t start happening until January unless it’s an ongoing project from the previous year or something the company is firmly championing (i.e., like someone knows they’re doing a facility move in April because of a lease expiring). I think asking the question in December limits the data set. Ask at the end of January.”

But overall, he said, he really thinks that cap-ex information is considered secret at companies. Of course part of our job here is to explore trends and develop data points that help you, the reader, to do your job and advance in your career. We’re not afraid to ask hard questions and be journalists. At the same time, Radio World is a partner to our readers, and we have no interest in putting managers in a difficult position or asking them to compromise their employers.

What do you think? Should RW ask about cap-ex and expect information? Is it reasonable to ask these questions; and if so, when and how?

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