The Programming Cupboard Is Now Bare


(By Ronald Robinson) The title refers to the fact that Corporate PDs have little else to do except slip into being philosophers rather than teachers/trainers or coaches. For over 30 years, any worthwhile strategies and methodologies, as they apply to influencing audiences, have been tapped, drained, and discarded.

The tragedy and irony of the situation is that it has been radio’s ownership and leadership that have been drawing the lifeblood out of their own industry – all for the sake of “efficiencies,” of course. Programming has been relegated to foisting old, weak, and distilled adages and edicts that were extraordinarily bland even from when they were still considered to be worthwhile — even whizzy.

Over the decades, programmers have been systematically suppressed to the point where their main responsibility now is to genuflect before GSMs and GMs. They had better show some respect, submission, and enthusiasm in the process, as well.

I do appreciate how radio has, within its ranks, maybe a few hundred Programming Master Sergeants who have earned their stripes and made their bones. Yet, their contributions extend only so far as their geographical proximity and management largesse allows. Corporate Programmers lost whatever touch they might have had with staff and audiences many years ago, and even they are prohibited from rising above the rank of Captain. (There are no Generals in programming.)

So austere, frustrated, and cynical have they become that the awareness of their programming cupboard being empty is a situation about which the shedding of any tears only becomes a wasted and pathetic display.

Programmers have little else to do but urge their staffs to become heavily involved in generating a “Positive Mental Attitude.” This would be despite all the evidence that points to that as taking up more a form of a secular religion, beyond a “mental adjustment,” there are no other useful or credible means or materials available for a staff member to further their skills and enhance their careers – beyond “getting their minds right with the program.”

“Positive Mental Attitude” has been in our lexicon for a few generations, but there has yet to be a satisfactory explanation or methodology provides testimony to its value.


– In what way, specifically?

– According to whom?

– Under what circumstances?

– Generated how, specifically?

– Applied when, how often, and how intensely, specifically?

– As compared to what, specifically?

Yes, I understand that anyone in radio who is not working towards a worthy ideal and doing so with genuine enthusiasm will have more difficulties than they might otherwise experience. Plus, the rest of the staff will be avoiding those who are the “buzz killers.” The exercise, however, is still akin to volunteering to go under the ether.

When The Universe or some other element doesn’t deliver the pony, it’s time to consider other options. And no, I’m not bitter.

Difficulties arise when, as this all applies to influencing audiences through on-air and commercial writing and production, the programmers have nothing but empty satchels from which to haul out any useful and powerful methods of enhancing a station’s results. Programmers find themselves double-timing in four-foot circles rather than being well armed, informed, and leading by example.

Somehow, although no longer a mystery, radio has dropped education, training, and practice as worthwhile programming concepts to, oh, I dunno, maybe kick around a bit.

As ownership and management are, rightly, considering how to communicate the reality of radio’s significant and wonderful impact on audiences for the benefit of advertisers, the programmers no longer have a seat at the table.

Only one of the ironies is in how most agree: The most influential elements required for engaging audiences are the on-air and spot-production dynamics of every radio station. So, let’s casually amble over to that there programming cupboard yonder, and whip us up some fine, tasty, and influential treats. Oh, can’t do that? Cupboard’s bare? “Don’ need no stinking treats, anyway.” Hammer the sales department instead.

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. [email protected]


  1. Kind words, indeed, Mary Anne.
    “Talkin’ dirty an’ playing the Hits” delivered many tangible benefits.
    While the results of superior talent putting out were demonstrable, I put it to management and the ownership that successfully negotiating the way forward is not necessarily by taking the road back.

    “Sales”, meanwhile, may be on the cusp of discerning how to better represent the medium. This, as more useful information is being provided.

    During my tenure here at Radio Ink, and before, I have been promoting the requirement for Talent to – not only demonstrate much more creativity, but to do so much more often. Most importantly – and this is the “biggie” – Talent needs to be far better trained in the science and art of communicating on the radio.
    The material does exist. 🙂

  2. Enjoyed the article, Ron. I was a personality on-air at the 1050 CHUM Toronto and CKGM in Montreal over many years. I worked with some of the most talented people on-air and with great PD John Robert Wood. The creativity was allowed to flow freely. Talent on air, in production, creative, et al, were driving the content and the numbers climbed into the stratosphere. It was the veritable Goose that laid the Golden Egg. The magic wand of content that brought the numbers home not sales. Remember the saying, “If you deliver listeners the sales will take care of themselves”. Delivering listeners requires more magic and less boardroom BS.
    I look forward to reading more articles by you Ron.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here