Teaching Talent To Do Tricks


(By Ronald Robinson) What radio’s talent base wants more than anything else is to be treated like tamed and subdued livestock, and to be housed in the cramped quarters of a dilapidated petting zoo somewhere out on a secondary highway. Programmers enjoy the situation, too, as they get to play with manacles and cattle prods, while keeping a sharp and wary eye out for the SPCA.

Those talents who might have any complaints about these programming positions, might be prudent to keep their heads down, and to keep any mooing or bleating to a minimum. There may be consequences.

With rare exceptions – those who are definitely outside of my awareness – programmers have become no more than daycare workers and shepherds. Some are in charge of cheerleading. Some love to run their “sparkle meetings.” Others are disciplinarians who patrol their penned-in flocks, listening for transgressions of the latest dogma that was introduced a week and a half ago.

Some of these folks are more than willing to share their programming and “staff development” philosophies in blogs and articles. Some spread out their stations’ programming flow charts; look for elements that are not consistent with their already existing assumptions (“schema”), and then read the entrails.

Others, it seems, make extraordinary efforts to find the ways and means to further abuse and/or disrespect those who have the grave misfortune of having to toil under the leadership of incompetents. And they are eager to share those positive aspects, as well.

Over the past month I have been exposed to a number of articles where the programmers are displaying the evidence that they have lost their minds! One of those examples was a piece that recommended other programmers take the tack of approaching the on-air and creative staffs and to “treat them like dogs.”

At no time was there any indication the article was satire. To the contrary, the piece was straight up and serious. It was a litany of vacuous and insulting pronouncements. I offered the author an opportunity to either recant or explain. I received no response.

The writer suggested a substantial number of approaches to working with talent that were consistent with the care, feeding, and training of puppies, mature, and senior dogs. A whole new benchmark for the demeaning, abusing, exploiting, and insulting of human talent had just been established.

Breaking News: Programming Desperate, Grasping

Another recent article from a GIC in C&C (Guy in Charge in the Command and Control center) was, to my mind, equally staggering and equally as disastrous a strategy. I shall attempt an explanation.

Station management and programming were to get together and determine which of the following words – one pick only – does or should represent the station’s desired position:

“Family, Smooth, Uplifting, Serious, Intelligent, Fun, Positive, Happiness, Surprise, Authority, Hope, Companionship, Relaxing, Joy.” There were many others, but that is the gist.

From those words, only ONE was to be chosen. After that, absolutely everything the station says and does is to be strained through that “emotional filter” and only allowed on the air when it passes muster. Any content that is inconsistent with or doesn’t support this brand new, honkin’ premise will be ejected – and sometimes that might include the talent who crossed the line.

Yet again, the experiences an audience could have through listening are being limited. I really do have to wonder if these guys are being held captive in a sealed environment – one in which access to the outside world is denied, and in which the level of oxygen is kept at the lowest possible level. These materials certainly make me want to sit up, wag my tail and beg.

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 counselor. E-mail Ron at [email protected].


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