I Don’t Much Care For Radio


(By Ronald Robinson) This may not come as a bolt from the blue to regular readers. For years, my position has been that radio has consistently, and with suspicious vigor, been throwing itself into the bramble bushes. Actually, that’s not completely accurate. What is closer to the truth is that radio heaves its on-air and creative department staffs into the briar patch.

At some point in the distant past, an executive who used to run a fleet of dry cleaning outfits, while nursing a severe hangover, wandered into the head office of a well-known radio conglomerate, foisted himself off as an “efficiency expert,” got hired and commenced to ruining an industry. Other snoozing CEOs noticed how costs were being substantially chopped down the street, made their own talent say “Baaa,” and moved them into the fleecing shed.

I’m not bitter. My distress about radio has no psychological causes. Besides, my angst can be treated with pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, scotch and deep massages. This is exceptionally good news as, because of Canada’s health care system, they’re all free!

I listen to radio with the same concern with which cattle ranchers monitor their herds. But, it’s safe to say radio staffs, long ago, have been “cowed,” so to speak, and are now rendered completely passive and obedient.

As I’ve often said, my threshold for what constitutes effective and listenable radio has never been met. There were times, to be sure, when radio was much more creative and interesting, but I wouldn’t expect the majority of contemporary radio’s participants to have any experience or recall of those times.

Radio’s ownership and management are suffering from ideological delusions. Most don’t know what radio has been, they don’t know what radio could be, and the status quo, although not particularly satisfying, is acceptable – the default position of an entire industry. Most importantly, when it comes to discussing strategies to make massive improvements, they come out empty, and in ill humor.

Whenever I go up and down the dial, I am almost always met with banality. Whether someone is “live & local,” voice-tracked, or delivering a milquetoast syndication, the chances of being intrigued, entertained, or intellectually or emotionally challenged are extremely low. Asking any listener to tolerate such a vacuous environment is beyond goofy. Radio’s continued reach would be startling if it weren’t for the fact of the neurological processes that listens experience.

Special prosecutors may have to be summoned in order to investigate the state of radio commercial presentations and the abuse of the people who are forced to write and produce them. Having to listen through multiple clusters of these nasty, speedily produced, and insulting productions counts as audience torturing, as well.

Actually, it is not a mystery – not to me and not to people who have done their homework. The neurological processes that are automatically and unconsciously engaged by an audience, bypasses much of the intellectual and rational components of their experience. If those elements were really being engaged, audiences would be showing up at the station’s doors with rotten vegetables.

In the meantime, let’s be clear of commercial radio’s mandate: To attract and maintain as many listeners as we can for as long as we can for the purpose of exposing them to commercials that are designed to influence and yes, manipulate those listeners to make purchases they would not ordinarily make without being exposed to those commercials.

Radio not only fails miserably at carrying out those mandates, it doesn’t seem to care all that much and, in fact, goes out of its way to reject any such responsibility. I am also willing to opine that radio has yet to go so far as to accept any of those mandates as being important, useful, or worthy of much serious consideration.

Meanwhile, my wife is lighting a floating candle in a carved-out piece of rock from a shoreline close by. The candle, she tells me, is releasing the spirits of Lake Superior. I should be feeling much better in a short while.

Given the exceptions of a number of spectacular talents, I don’t much care for radio – as it is.

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 him at [email protected]


  1. Arguing for the status quo is only an exercise for deluded apologists, like those from an anonymous, vacuous troll whose boots are stuck in the mire.
    Meanwhile, rather than being “old”, I am an educated, experienced and wily veteran. That’s my position. 🙂
    I have already allowed for the spectacular personalities. While more of them would be better for individual organizations, they are still not schooled in the necessary communicative skills required to raise the bar – and the results.

    • No one is “arguing for the status quo.” So your premise is false. I’m just explaining why you don’t like radio anymore. You once did, now you don’t. I’m not apologizing for anything, because you don’t like radio. That’s not my problem. I program to those who listen, not to those who don’t. You don’t listen, so you’re no longer on my radar. Sorry.

      Here’s what I’ve learned: Trying to change people’s minds is a waste of time. You start an article by saying you don’t like radio. That’s like going to McDonalds and telling them you don’t like hamburgers. It’s a waste of time to convince you otherwise because your mind is made up. That’s what being an “experienced and wily veteran” does.

      As I said, you can call me names. That doesn’t mean you’re right. Sticks and stone may break my bones. But you don’t like radio. What do I have to lose? Nothing. Even if I changed what I did to suit you, you wouldn’t know, because your mind is made up. Nothing will ever please you.

  2. Interesting.

    I don’t play the blame game.

    The business model is falling apart. The amount of man hours and creative energy budgeted for over the air Radio has necessarily declined.

    The creativity can still shine. There are already many hit podcasts and the number is growing. TV chat shows and Facebook full the void of conversation and things that matter, for better or worse.

    Things never stand still.

    The Polaroid and Film Cameras are dead. But photography is bigger than ever.

    How is my iPhone not a Radio? A full featured radio. It’s about time.

  3. Your problem is simple, and it’s a fairly common one: You’re outside the demo. You’re blaming “radio” for a very basic problem. You got old. Sorry, but it happens to everyone. The advertisers don’t want you any more, so you’re angry. They loved you when you were young, and now they don’t. How dare they!

    As I’ve said before, there are 14,000 radio stations in the US. Thousands of owners. Hundreds of thousands of employees. You lump them all together in one category, and you don’t like them any more. You think they’re all sheep doing the same thing. In a way, they are. It’s not because they’re wrong. It’s because you’re old. I can point you to a few hundred radio stations who aren’t going after younger demos, but you’d find things wrong with them too. Too many commercials, not enough “deep cuts,” or they run those long annoying infomercials.

    You’ll take these comments personally and call me names. But it’s the truth. Radio isn’t going to change, because you’re not going to get younger. Those two things are connected. I’ve studied this situation for many years. I saw it with my parents. They were very active radio listeners their entire lives. Then they reached a certain age, and they stopped listening. Boom, just like that. Never again. Then they started complaining about the station they used to like. How annoying it had become. The station didn’t change…they did. But it was the station’s fault.

    So keep on complaining. Keep on inventing reasons why you don’t like radio. Keep thinking if they’d just listen to you, they’d double their income, and people would throw away their computers and cell phones. But I promise you, it won’t solve your problem. Because they aren’t your problem.


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