For Those of You Who Think Radio in America Sucks

You’re not alone. According to a piece on NPR (you’ll need to scroll down to the bottom of the page to hear the story), the number of people listening to commercial radio in the US has dropped by ten percent in the past four years. Some people are beginning to believe that it’s because the radio formats for most of the stations in the country are developed by just four companies and their focus groups only get to hear fifteen seconds of a song being considered for airplay.

I couldn’t get the Real Audio link to work (not your link, Tuckerfan, the one on the NPR page). Did they say if there was also a drop in the number of people listening to public radio, or is it just affecting the commercial side?

that is because radio is all about selling out. they don’t play the music because it is good. they play the music because it puts money in their pockets. which is good for the tennie-bopers and the radio exects, but not the majority of the listening public. i am suprised that the drop in listeners wasn’t larger.

They didn’t mention anything about public radio, as I recall, but its a two part story with the second airing on Monday, I think. It would be interesting to see if the ratings for public radio stations and college radio stations has increased or decreased. I know that the local public radio station here in Nashville has seen an increase in listenership in the past few years.

that would be interesting to see, i would think that the college stations would have a rise in the listeners.

Given the amount of press coverage that this issue has caused over the past two weeks, I’m smelling a huge PR move by some anti Clear Channel Communications lobbying group.

And to answer your question, yes, local programming has vastly improved in the Knoxville area over the past 4 years - there is now pure sports talk, alternative, R&B, classic rock, decade-oriented formats, 24-hour national news, and more choices where none existed 3 years before. If this is because of Clear Channel (and I haven’t the foggiest idea as to who owns what in the K’vill market) then more power to them!

But seriously: this is as big a manufactured crisis as you will see in business this year. There really is no story here… just some lobby group wants a part of the 1996 telecommunications act removed and they’re beating the war drum. If there was a :yawn: smilie, I’d put it right here. :wink:

It would be very interesting if public radio listenership has risen over the same period. I’d also be interested to see how the ratings split between talk and music radio. I bet music radio has taken most of the beating.

with the new XM radio, will it jump start the radio industry or will it be the finishing touch on radio’s demise??

Local radio stations here are running ads exhorting listeners to stay away from “national” bands and to visit the radio’s advertisers, letting them know that you still listen to local radio.

In short, loca radio is scared. They are part of what is behind this increased media attention viz the Telecommunications Act, Clear Channel Communications, and supposed “freedom” of the airways. They haven’t mentioned XM just yet, probably because they don’t want to lend it legitimacy right now.

Let me weigh in a bit.
I was in the radio biz for a year and a half and I’ve seen some of the problems associated with it.

For starters, Arbitron and Scarborough (radio’s version of the Neilsens) both suck. They suck hard and they suck harder and everyone knows it. But because everyone knows it, they all accept it the flawed truth as the truth.
They give people a sheet to fill out that asks you what radio station you listened to in 15 minute incriments throughout the week. But no one listens 15 minutes at a time and no one fills it out as they go along. They make it all up on Friday right before they have to turn it back in.
So what do radio stations do? They pump the tv commercials full of ads for their radio station Thursday evening so the people who fill those surveys out on Friday remember them.

Next comes the results of Scarborough and Arbitron. The results don’t matter. They don’t. Not one bit. You can play with the data quite a bit and make your station become number one in the market in something. 12-18 year old lesbian goat herders…we’re NUMBER ONE in the market! And you put that “Number one” in big letters and hope the client doesn’t notice what it’s refering to.

Now what if you’re not number one this time around? Well, just don’t update your sheets! You were number one in Spring of '99 but number four now? Keep the old sheets. Client isn’t gonna know the difference, right?

As long as the ad dollars come flowing in, the production side sees little reason to change. And why should they? Things are going great as it is.
But how do they come up with those stellar decisions on what songs go on the air? Well, they ask the public what they want to hear. And what does the public want to hear? Why…whatever is on the radio, of course.
It’s a chicken and egg scenario. So which comes first? The recording industry. They step in and tell the programming directors that THIS is what people want to hear. The PDs say “by jove, you’re right!” and now everyone is happy and the record companies have increased their sales.

It sounds cynical, but it isn’t. It’s just life in the radio business.

If I may suggest an additional confounding factor–people tend to listen to the radio primarily in their cars, and more people have in-dash CD players in their cars now. Four years ago, most people were buying and listening to CDs at home, but most cars still had cassette players. (I don’t have numbers for any of this; just my own observations.)

As for radio, there was a fascinating series of articles in Salon a while back about Clear Channel and other less savory sides of the radio biz. The part that astonished me was the indie system (not to be confused with “indie” as in “indie rock” or independent labels), in which intermediaries and fancy legal maneuvering are employed so that the record companies can pay radio stations to play their music. It is, essentially, legalized payola.

Support your local, independent stations!

Dr. J


I don’t really know why since such claims are so transparent, but this practice really annoys me. Some guy on radio and tv boards keeps on claiming that “Opie and Anthony” are “number one in DC.” Who knows what the hell that means…they’re # 14 in PM drive in the DC market–on an FM hot-talker. From what I understand, they’re a colossal failure in all markets except NYC. But I’m sure they’re # 1 in some closely-defined demographic.

As to the general issue, I live in Richmond, VA (moved back from DC a year ago). There is no local radio, pretty much; we’re fed tons and tons of Premiere syndicated crap–Rush, Jim Rome, FOX Sports, plus the main talk station’s drive guy is indistinguishable from any other Clear Channel drive host. The music always has that generic, programmed feel–there’s the hot AC, the general hard rock station, the modern rock station, the classic rock, the classic hits, the hip-hop, the r & b. Not even 5-6 years ago we had tremendously diverse talk, tons of interest in local sports, and one of the best eclectic rock stations in the country.

I hate Clear Channel just b/c it’s impossible to flip the channel without getting one of those “V Factor” better-sex-more-often spots.

      • In St Louis all the main contemporary rock stations have gone Clear Channel, and the morning shows all suck horse**** now. DJ’s who never mention local stories because they’re in another state/city somewhere, doing the same retarded recycled routines (hey, let’s make another PRANK PHONE CALL!!!), complete with forced laughter because even they think it’s boring, and the same music in heavy rotation. Often on weekday mornings you can flip between 3 stations and hear the same song playing within seconds of each other. Not that I ever listen much anymore. - DougC

Except that changes in the damned Telecom Act, no matter how much of a yawner they may seem, wind up affecting what choices we have on the radio, what we pay for cable, and so forth. I don’t regard these sorts of things as a yawning matter, but to each his own.

25 years ago, no one company could own more than 7 TV stations and 7 radio stations. Since then, through Republican and Democratic administrations alike, these restrictions have been eased, with the 1996 Telecom Act being the most recent installment. So now we can have Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting and a couple other biggies owning most of the radio stations in the country.

It’s impossible for listeners to tell the stations that they want to hear music by a particular artist or group if they’ve never heard them. That’s why we need some stations that aren’t playing the same old same-old. And the fewer restrictions there are to prevent a company from gobbling up as many stations as it can, the fewer such stations there will be.

Maybe XM or Internet radio will fill this void, but it hasn’t yet - and the big guys are already doing what they can to make life difficult for Internet radio.

So paying a moment of attention to these Telecom Act yawners is usually not a bad idea.

Public radio stations are generally not included in the ratings. The ratings are a tool for advertisers to decide where their money is best spent for their particular target demographic.
The way to show support for public radio is to contribute and become a member of your local favorite station, or non-com.

I agree with recommending reading the articles Salon had a while back re: Clear Channel and Indie record promoters. Check these out.

If you want to find out who owns which radio station in your market, you can check out Radio And Records Magazine online. Go to ratings and find your market. These are the 12+ ratings which are way too general for most advertisers, so they have to buy “the book” from Arbitron to find out where their desired demo is hanging out this quarter.
It does list who owns each station and shows you what number market you live in, etc. Lots of info.

Wow, so it isn’t just me.

I haven’t driven in about six years, and when I do listen to the radio I stick closely to the public stations, which I actually do support when I can afford it.

Well, in the last couple of weeks I’ve been driving around a lot, I can’t believe how homogeneous and uninspiring the DC dial has become above about 90.9.

I thought America’s taste in music had gone from primary waste water straight to raw sewage. Glad to hear a lot of you think it sucks, too.

One of my dreams is to start up a “pirate” radio station out of my garage and play all kind of cool shit that the one good station in our area used to play before it got bought out by the mega-broadcating company. anybody know where i can get an old army-surplus radio transmitter?

corporate radio sucks!

You may be interested to know that recently the FCC relaxed its regulations (with no help from the NAB) to allow inexpensive low-wattage radio stations. From what I’ve heard, getting a license to operate one of these stations is now relatively cheap.

Actually it’s free, provided you are a "noncommercial government or private educational organizations, associations or entities, and government or non-profit entities providing local public safety or transportation services. " Unfortunately, “Individuals will not be eligible to apply for LPFM stations.” License is valid for 8 years. Previous pirate stations operators are ineligible, with some exceptions. From the FCC website

Fun factoid:As expected, NAB was the #1 lobbyist against allowing the low power stations. However, NPR, that’s right, liberal voice of the little people NPR was #2. That’s when I stopped giving them money.

THere was a very good show on ClearChannel and things associated wtih it last friday night, in my city, by Bill Moyers on PBS. It really opened my eyes and explained why it does suck(from our viewpoint). The owner of CC is raking it in hand over foot, and we get drivel.

I find myself listening less and less. For music I’ll listen to Spinner at work, or cd’s at home. If it is radio, my finger is on the button or I’ll listen to NPR or the listener sponsored station. ANd I sure as hell won’t be paying $10/month or whatever it is for pay-radio:gimme a break!

Thanks for the link fibonacci