Playing A Request


(By Ronald Robinson) Because of an urgent request for more than I provided in my last piece, I feel obliged to continue. The main premises of the article were:

  • Radio, despite the acceptance of all traditions, is not as effective when delivered as a direct, authoritarian, conscious-accessing medium.
  • Radio, instead, is more effective when it is presented as an INdirect, non-authoritarian, UNconscious-accessing electronic medium.

People in general, and radio’s leadership in particular, have no idea whatsoever of how audiences are accessing every electronic medium. A simplified explanation of this circumstance would be that while content is a factor, the power lies in the process! Electronic media scramble audience brains extraordinarily well – turns our cranial innards into mushy, pliable putty.

I emphasize pliable because listeners to, and viewers of, electronic media become much more easily influenced and, indeed, more easily manipulated without their knowledge! There are truckloads of verifying neurological research and as many anecdotal examples available to anyone who might be paying attention. (Note: This is not a conspiracy theory – not yet. But, it does have a vast range of sinister potentials – for those who might find that kind of thing intriguing.)

Over these last decades, when presenting portions of the communicative alternatives, I have been unceremoniously thrown out of more radio GMs’ offices than I care to recount. I would leave the building muttering to myself, “This is like trying to explain to a vegetable it is actually a functioning eagle.” And even when I was partially, semi-convincing, I reminded myself I was still talking to a vegetable.

Exploiting the reality of the unique and powerful influence of radio comes with some responsibilities for action — before anyone is going to cash in at any substantially more rewarding and satisfying levels.

Radio, or rather definitely/maybe some portion of the industry, will be required to learn and apply a unique and stand-alone set of communicative strategies and methodologies that are consistent with the always-presenting “scrambled brain” scenario.

A terrifying example of how electronic media turns the minds of semi-regular people into curb-slush is the rate at which drivers are killing themselves and others while they are using their cell phones. The rate of carnage has overcome that of drunk driving. And, in this culture, that’s saying a lot.

Besides the distraction of looking at a keypad surface, cell phone use sucks the mind capacities of both the dominant and sub-dominant brain hemispheres – leaving very little left over to watch the road for squirrels – or to change stations. This is a behavior that requires a driver to be, at least in those minutes, temporarily engaged elsewhere and rendered stupid and/or insane. The last report I read demonstrated that, at some time, 88% of all drivers fall into this category.

These are the same folks who have, for decades, been overwhelmed by mass, electronic media; they own car keys, weapons, and – they have the vote. And still, they become temporarily stupid and insane. Can’t get around it. The situation still makes for happy days for sophisticated advertisers and for astute, political campaign managers.

Just in case readers haven’t considered it: This information has tentacles; it reaches out with serious social ramifications. The neurological impact, the influence of electronic media is so incredibly pervasive, it really is unfortunate that radio refuses to learn enough to exploit that which is already available. The buffet is still open.

Many radio managers already understand their businesses are stagnant, mired in the goo. To be sure, some efforts are being made to make the sales process more effective – a good thing. But sales is only half of the package. The other half consists of everything that goes out on the air. That part of the package is severely broken and weakened.

So long as radio continues to believe it is a direct, authoritarian, conscious-accessing medium, it will be unable to compete with other electronic media, squabbling over the entrails left over, essentially, for print. The change-making distinctions are many, as are the communicative interventions to reinvigorate radio’s appeal and its effectiveness. Arguing for the status quo is a futile exercise. Better information has been provided. Radio remains deaf, dumb, and blind.

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 Ron at [email protected].


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