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(TALENT) Radio Schema


Music-radio is in a similar position as a person who considers the following description: It is a fairly large animal. It has a coat of fur. It has four legs. It has a soft nose. It has hooves. It can be moody. Some people like to get on its back and ride. Radio comes to a premature conclusion and bets this beast heavily. Problem: I also just described a cow. 

Meanwhile, there is a $3 word that those of us who toil in the H/R field throw around as if everybody knows what it means. The word “schema” is a representation of our individual and/or group and/or organizations’ models-of-the-world. Some portions of the models support development and success. Other portions of the models support limitations and failure. It really is all about context.

Radio has been operating through a model-of-the-world that has, for decades, been severely limiting in its scope and continuously resulting in unsatisfactory outcomes. Very few other commercial enterprises would take on as a defining dogma the practices of cutting the quality and value of all products and services while expecting anything other than disappointing results.

Yet, this is exactly the state in which contemporary radio finds itself. Not only that, but because of the necessity of dogma having to support itself, radio insists that this situation is locked-in and immovable. This position allows for relief only from outside sources or as a result of outside influences.

Now, I do appreciate that radio is almost completely sincere in the belief that their schema, model, dogma is not only real but it is true! Just such beliefs have historically fostered only disasters, pain, and eventual demise for those who refuse to consider easily accessed alternatives. Unfortunately, this situation can be easily understood. For those whose schema is secure, there are no alternatives!

“But, wait!” as every infomercial on the air will demand, “There’s more!” The vast majority of ownership and management of radio stations do know they are withholding their best efforts from their audiences and advertisers. Few would call this “cheating” as perhaps that’s just a tad too harsh. For me, however, “cheating” is a fair, reasonable and accurate term. Fortunately for some, their schema allows for skirting any responsibility and still allows for a continuation of at least some self-esteem. I rather doubt the ownership and management corps are drenching their jimmies tonight in angst or flop-sweats. The ones who are -- and they can take some heart in this -- are the ones who are on the cusp of some wonderful discoveries and transformations in their businesses and their careers.

Still, a rational consideration of the tawdry and disappointing state of commercial radio as one of the major, mass media leads to only one conclusion: Sumthin’ ain’t right.

Every model-of-the-world is made up of, essentially, three components: Generalizations, deletions, and distortions. Indeed, these elements can generate an enormous number of possibilities when attempting to understand a person’s model. My intention here, rather than provide a full and satisfactory description, is to point out these as powerful and pervasive representations of actual experience. They can be extremely useful.

However, it is unlikely that a tidal wave of corporate or personal introspection will be generated by a mere blogger’s rantings. The failure to do so, however, will still result in less-than-satisfactory results. I can claim without reservation that radio ownership and management have, for the most part, taken the positions that: 1/ There is nothing new in radio to be learned, and 2/ Whatever might be new and that would be applied, will have a limited impact and, therefore, be hardly worth the time, expense, or effort.

Our circumstance is not one in which evidence of the material is available or the results of the applying the material can be massive and significant. It is a situation where our generalized, deleted, and distorted models-of-radio disallow our even making the required inquiries and considerations.

Maintaining a refusal to apply other models of behavior to radio reminds me of the individual with an extremely low-fiber diet who also hasn’t enjoyed the orangy tang that comes from a daily does of Metamucil – grumpy, out-of-sorts, in pain, and on the verge of an internal explosion that never seems to detonate. Even though it would enhance their ongoing, better health, this is still an experience they would rather avoid altogether – and to hell with any future consequences.

“Schema,” meanwhile, has also been described as the subjective view of the world one might have through rose-colored glasses. In some cases, it is the view through dung-filled goggles. In radio’s case, though, it could be described as the view made up of a single picture that has been glued to the lens – a photo taken in 1961.

Radio’s refusal to consider other available options in the communications field is, to my mind, tantamount to a gross, systematic, and intentional dereliction of duty. Good thing the shareholders are dummies – those who aren’t also complacent and/or complicit. This article is targeted at the managers who may, in the privacy of their own bedrooms, be soaking their jammies. Maybe it will be those folks who will be taking part in kick-starting this business and bringing it up to speed. Maybe the pain limit is still somewhat farther away. Even Popeye had hit a threshold when he said, “That’s all I can stands. I can’t stands no more.”

Radio is a willing or unwilling participant in the Advertising Sweepstakes. This is a business for professionals. Radio will continue to lose dramatically while it insists on avoiding thoroughbreds and, instead, breeds, raises, and bets on cows.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed. Check out his website