Radio’s Radioactive “I” Word 


Too many members of radio’s ownership and management have accepted a certain concept as one which glows in the dark, emits poisonous gasses, and melts minds and eyeballs. Many fear that close proximity has already generated huge, mutated, out-of-control carnivorous beasts bent on devouring an entire broadcast industry.

Some management individuals have returned from a startling brush with this element in a state of abject terror, heaping stories of accidental, close-encounter brushes where they were hearing electronic bleeps and extremely high frequency hums – the kind that emanates from any device just before a massive, crackling explosion rips the territory to shreds and renders it an uninhabitable, radioactive no-man’s-land.

Some still-delirious victims have even reported hearing gurgling, satanic growls and soul-piercing howls, as well. These poor devils are suffering, and are of no further use to themselves or their organizations. However, their edicts are still reluctantly followed because they do maintain their authority.

This to-be-avoided-at-all-costs element is generally understood as “Innovation.” By other names, this exceptionally foul concept is also known as revolution, transformation, breakthrough, alteration, and upheaval. Over the last decades, radio has applied none of these – not in any positive or worthy sense. Indeed, radio’s behaviors have represented the very antithesis of anything that could be remotely awarded an innovation medal.

So, radioactive and toxic has innovation been perceived to be that radio has taken the exact opposite tack by crippling the human, on-air participation of talent and commercial writers to the degree where they are positioned to be, essentially, useless and annoying. The numbing banalities of the greatest majority of on-air presenters, both “live” and voice tracked, contributes to the humiliation and embarrassment of the talent, and the well-earned shame of the managers.

My last two articles dealt with the sub-par and benign admonitions from a dozen otherwise experienced and well-intentioned radio professionals. To their credit, however, they agreed on the need for more – lots more – skilled talent to be brought back to the airwaves, or generated from scratch. Unfortunately, they were unable to articulate what, specifically, constituted examples of how, specifically, veteran and/or new talents were to be educated.

Also included were the poorly thought-out recommendations for many more “live & local” talents. That tactic is no innovation – it is, rather, a strategy that guarantees expensive, industry-wide disasters. The flaunting of even more babbling from untrained, unskilled presenters is unlikely to generate more attentive listening.

The innovation the (aforementioned) members of “The Gathering of the Twelve” have missed can be described as follows:

Radio’s presenters, including those who are on-the-air and those who write for the medium, must be re-educated in the new FUNDAMENTALS and the many more nuances and subtleties of communicating to a broadcast audience.

Anything else would only constitute a shambled, disjointed return to some of the approaches of decades ago. While mine is a huge claim, it is, nevertheless, my claim. I can support it at all times and in any environment. Radio does not now have, nor is it attracting enough of, those wonderful personalities who are so talented and entertaining they could make a show out of chewing broken glass or farting through a soft, Turkish cotton towel.

It is the rank-and-file staffs who would be much more valuable to themselves and their stations if only they could become more efficient, influential, and appealing communicators — every time they hit the air. Accomplishing this state requires intense training, practice, and the ongoing application of the new principles.

Who, then, is likely to take any of this seriously? It is highly unlikely that someone who is suppressing their talent to only pop up like prairie dogs a few times an hour to prattle out station promo and pap will be stepping up anytime soon. Nor will those who cheat their advertisers and audiences by foisting the worst examples of commercial advertising messaging in unending phusterclucks be making inquiries about any forms of “innovation.”

So-called “radio people” are the ones wrecking radio. Some sophisticated sales executives, meanwhile, are becoming more keenly aware of how to make more appealing approaches to potential advertisers. Even with those improvements, AEs are still going to the street crippled by horribly flawed advertising.

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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