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Why?

I receive quite a few off line emails from my readers. I hope that I get to them all.  At the end of the day, after coming home from class, I can be pretty bleary-eyed and may make a mistake or two when parsing the inbox for relevant subject lines in and amongst all the other flotsam and jetsam that occupies my e-mail. Truth be told, I am often working on this thing in the 9-11:30 pm hours, which is not my sharpest time of day.

And so it is tonight.

Why do I expend so much time and effort on a blog?  For that, I would like to relate a little story.

A couple of years ago, I received an email from a woman in Russia.  She had somehow come across this blog and asked if I wanted to be her pen-pal for a while, as she needed to practice her English writing skills.  I was intrigued by the idea but had one condition for her; she must treat me like a Russian person.  Her response was something along the lines of:  “So, you want to be treated like a Russian person do you?  Fine, you asked for it.”  What followed was one of the most interesting and informative exchange of ideas I’d ever had.  At some point, we managed to exchange a few photographs and her comment on mine was “That is a terrible picture, you like like the worst sort of KGB agent.”  I laughed so hard my stomach hurt because it is true; I look terrible in almost any picture ever taken of me.  What made this exchange so interesting was the truth that was told.  There was no expectations or preconceptions, just two virtual strangers telling it like it is. People love the truth and know it when they hear it.

That reminds me of why I do this.  I would like to give some idea of what it is like to be a broadcast engineer in the United States.  I can say that the company I work covers the area in and around NYC all the way up to the Canadian border.  We see the operations of stations in small, medium and large markets everyday.  What I see in the day to day operations of the radio business are likely very different from the versions printed in the trade magazines.  The truth that I know and a lot of my readers know too, is one of slow decay over the years, cuts in operating budgets, reduced employees, declining programming quality, reduced or non-existent maintenance, suffocating bank notes, and so on.  And it is not just the mom and pops.

Radio will only exist for as long as it is relevant.  Crappy, bland, monolithic programming, stations on autopilot during an emergency, poor technical quality, prolonged off air periods; those sounds precede the sound of the off button being pushed.  It matters not the band or modulation scheme either.  If radio is going to be a viable business, the programming must get better.  Otherwise, the ride is over; time to collect up our things and move on.  And that would be a shame.

Radio Headed in the wrong direction

Inside radio seems to be hitting its stride, the latest story about a survey they took hits the nail squarely on the head.  Of the survey takers, 74% say that radio is off the rails.  According the Inside Radio, 854 surveys were completed.

Granted, most readers of Inside Radio likely work in the industry.  The Recession (on which all bad things seem to be blamed) has cast a pall over the working environment in most radio stations, especially those owned by the big three.  If anything, this survey is a good inside look at how radio station employees feel.

What is more telling are the thirteen pages of comments that survey takers left, many of which state precisely what I have said in the past:

It’s about live local connection to the community!

That cuts right to the heart of the matter.  Radio has lost its connection with the local community and has marginalized itself.   Now the major owners are riding the wave which is in decay.  Radio is no longer about the listeners or even the advertisers, it is about maximizing profits and minimizing expenses until the day they throw the big switch and turn off the last transmitter.

I wonder if they’ll talk about that issue at the NAB, or will it be drowned out by happy talk of The Recession ending and a bright future ahead.   More likely the latter, no one in high levels of radio management wants to admit there is a problem.  A problem they created.  Firing most of the local talent will be the undoing of radio.  That being said, radio equipment manufactures and vendors will do pretty well this year.  After all, equipment is an asset, employees are liabilities.

Axiom


A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
~1st amendment to the United States Constitution

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
~Benjamin Franklin

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. To be your own man is hard business. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
~Rudyard Kipling

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers
~Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, Article 19

...radio was discovered, and not invented, and that these frequencies and principles were always in existence long before man was aware of them. Therefore, no one owns them. They are there as free as sunlight, which is a higher frequency form of the same energy.
~Alan Weiner

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