With the pending LPFM filing window in October, I decided that perhaps I could spread the information to some local groups that might want to put a community radio station on the air where I live. Back over a decade ago, there were a couple of local commercial AM and FM stations in the area, but they moved out of town to a larger city some 24 miles to the east. If local legend is to be believed, the AM station was very popular, with its studios and offices over the local pharmacy. That station is now running 24/7 comedy, which given the area, is ironic almost beyond words. As it stands now, this is one of those rural areas that, on paper, looks well served by several different radio stations. Truth is, there are radio signals receivable here, but there is no local radio. The last time anyone from those previously local stations had a meaningful thought about the respective Cities of License was months if not years ago.
With all this in mind, I first approached a local community non-profit group. They seemed mildly interested, but expressed doubt about finding a studio location. Their basic take was, we can help, but we want others involved. Seemed to be a lukewarm, but understandable and not totally unwarranted response.
I then approached the local school board. The idea was to get the high school involved with the station broadcasting sports events and teaching kids how to do play by play and perhaps other types of radio shows. They fainted interest at first, then decided that they didn’t have the staff to deal with a broadcast program and there were other excuses like “liability issues.”
I then approached the local governments (two different towns) who were almost openly hostile to the idea. While they didn’t say as much to my face, they rather implied that it would be a waste of time and the town(s) were not interested.
I have approached other local groups, which don’t seem to be interested at all.
Has radio lost its mojo with the local population? Are we who still remain in the radio business simply fooling ourselves into thinking that somehow this is important? I don’t know.
The hazards of rural LPFM; large area, few people, generalized indifference.
9 thoughts on “Radio? Not interested”
IMHO, I think here in America (and perhaps in other countries as well) YouTube is the new “radio”, at least for the younger generations these days. Not only is there a larger selection of more diverse entertainment available, but also it’s easier to access with less trouble, especially with today’s smart phones. I see the humble default car radio as the last bastion of true radio receivers left in America. And then even that bastion is besieged by satellite radio. So given all of that, I can totally understand the lack of interest that many groups and individuals have over the idea of actually building a new physical radio broadcasting station. I believe they see that idea as expensive, time-consuming, limiting, and difficult to be profitable. Soon we’ll see physical radio stations dwindle slowly out of existence, and only those that are taken care of by radio enthusiasts for nostalgic sake will remain.
I think you’ve got to create a group with some like minded people, short term it makes for more work, longer term it means you don’t have to compromise to another groups well intended ,but often misplaced, ideals. Once you have a station up and running, then you should find it easier to attract volunteers. The local station I’m involved with started with a team of five people, we obtained the licence, commenced broadcasting with a temporary studio and then we started to attract other volunteers who helped with the main building fitout. A few years on, we now have a long waiting list and probably have enough resource to sustain two operational stations.
You do need to have an online presence, make your stream(s) easily accessible and podcast all relevant output – don’t rely just on an AM/FM outlet. Lots of “local” stations seem to have missed the trick and forgotten about actually being local. I think the public forgets what local radio actually is, but create a service, publicise it and they soon realise what they’ve been missing.
With a bit of sweat, ingenuity and resourcefulness, local radio can be done very cheaply. Sometimes we get a little lost in all the latest technology and we overlook how effective a simple setup can be. Even automation, remotes, etc. can be done with little more than scrap gear – and a capable engineer (but there’s no issue there with having Paul to hand!).
My experience is in the UK but I imagine the lack of real local content is probably even worse in many areas of the USA?
I think your experience has also answered your questions for you.
I have noted a frightening trend toward radio and even TV over the past 10 years. When being introduced at gatherings of family and friends it would be inevitable that someone would mention my long career in radio and TV including some of Americas best radio stations like KISS 108 or JAM’N 94.5. I would pretty much be accosted the entire time by people asking for tee shirts, tickets, CD’s and info about working with so called “Stars” they really thought these were celebrities …..it was the same for over 40 years. Now there seems to be no interest in the subject whatsoever. I am very happy not to be bugged about “can you get me tickets to” the KISS Party …. the Jingle Ball…a JAM’N Hip Hop fest, The Dresden Dolls, Weezer The Killers et al I doubt others working in the industry would have ever foreseen this abrupt change
Radio has lost much of its relevance as an entertainment medium, mostly due to its own decisions to play automated milquetoast music formats and be “safe.” Where radio still rules is with locally relevant content. Unfortunately, in my area, there has not been a locally relevant radio station in at least 15 years and most people have forgotten about it.
Come help me!
Paul, commercial (corporate) radio has done itself and the entire business of radio in and made itself irrelevant. It appears to be on some sort of suicide mission, I’m not sure what the end game is, but I am sure the Dickey’s and Bain Capital do have some master plan, just haven’t figured it out yet.
In my town, (Atlanta) commercial radio is a “vast wasteland”. That being said, the listener supported stations are doing well enough to not only stay on the air, but upgrade facilities. WCLK, owned by Clark Atlanta University, just moved to one of the most desirable broadcast sites in the city, and now has a signal that reaches out even further. WRFG, Radio Free Georgia- a 100kw non-commercial FM community station has been around since the 1970s, and has a good support base even today, in the age of YouTube and Pandora.
The secret is these stations actually SERVE THEIR COMMUNITIES, and have no problem not only finding volunteers to provide relevant content, but listeners actually OPEN THEIR WALLET and pitch into the kitty to keep the tubes warm and the speakers rattling, so they must be doing SOMETHING RIGHT in 2013.
I think this is the future of terrestrial radio, it will return to it’s roots. It will be of the community for the community run by NPOs, governments and even business owners who want to invest in their communities. It will prove itself reliable when the internet is down, the telecom cartels tell you that “you have exceeded your monthly capped bandwidth and are throttled”, when the storms are coming, when you want to hear LOCAL news and views, LOCAL music and culture, and LOCAL businesses who believe in investing in the world around them…uh oh I’m starting to sound like an evil socialist! Let me stop right there!
Erik, Thanks for the great comment and I agree with all of your points. Local radio will survive, it is simply a matter of figuring out how to get local radio back into my community. Stay tuned, this could get interesting…
Have you been to the retires and the unemployed? Localy they are the ones who take centre stage when it comes to these things.