Will we see the end of radio in our lifetime?

I’m going back to school soon and seriously considering a major in Newsradio Broadcasting. My fear now is that I’ll do it for 10 or 20 years and find out that radio stations are closing down in favor of some bigger and better technology. Will this happen? Should I choose a safer major? Any opinions would help. Thanks.


Of course I would be a fool to predict the demise of radio, but I would hate it if and when that happens. Most of my childhood exposure to entertainment, except for movies (most of which were those B&W westerns they showed in double features on Saturday afternoons), came from the radio. I saw my first TV when I was 8 or 9 but we didn’t have one in our house until I was about to turn 14. (I did watch a fair amount of TV with friends and relatives.)

Although not much is being done in those genres these days (A Prairie Home Companion is an exception of note) radio dramas ranging from The Lone Ranger to The Shadow plus no telling how many comedy and variety shows were what I cut my teeth on as far as that sort of programming is concerned. By the time I saw TV versions of shows I had already become familiar with on radio, I was very disappointed with the way TV cheapened what I had been able to conjure up in my own imagination.

By the time radio was reduced to the Top 40 format of pushing recorded music, I was already moving to my own selection of records that fit better with my tastes, so I migrated away from radio as a main form of entertainment. The advent of “talk radio” has further removed me from the mainstream of radio.

But I would really hate to lose the access to the spoken word and some recorded music if radio died off. It’s the ideal medium for entertainment while driving or when one is forced to be away from TV, the internet, and the like. Portable radios make them nearly unique in that respect.

The sad thing about the point to the OP is that the availability of meaningful employment in radio may be shrinking, and planning for a lucrative career in the medium may be ill advised. A creative approach to new ways of doing old things, or in inventing new things that can only be done effectively through sound may provide some clever people a future in radio broadcasting. I must admit, though, that I would hate to recommend the field to just anybody.

One man’s opinion.

Well, just look at TV. It didn’t kill radio. Both techs evolved, sure, but they are still very strong.

I am no expert in futurism by any means, but I see a huge amount of inertia in these mediums. I see change, but not death.

Heck, Newsradio Broadcasting is the perfect major to take advantage of the new tech revolution.

First of all, terrestrial radio isn’t going anywhere. Even as the technology improves, people will still rely on local radio for news, traffic, and weather information, as well as entertainment.

Second, broadcasting teaches more than how to talk. A good program will also teach production, programming, writing, and other skills that are necessary to have a successful career in journalism. These are skills that are vital regardless of where you will actually end up working.

Third, it is possible to get into independent broadcasting. I can go online right this minute and start a streaming radio station, without need for expensive equipment or a broadcast license. I can also produce programming exclusively for mp3 players; this is called “podcasting”. People can pay to subscribe to the programming I provide, then listen to it at their leisure. Sure, it’s not “broadcasting” per se, but it’s there, and it’s possible.

Fourth, there is always the possibility of adapting to the technology changes. When TV started getting big in the 1940s and 50s, radio stars, writers, producers, and stations migrated from radio to TV. Radio stars of today are migrating to satellite radio. It’s not that terrestrial radio is dying, it’s that there’s the potential for more, which means more diverse programming, with better sound, and fewer content restrictions because of the lack of FCC regulation and less need to please advertisers.

IIRC, you have my e-mail. E-mail me and we’ll talk, OK?


As for the OP, no, I don’t think radio is going anywhere. But I don’t think you should choose a major based on whether it will be viable ten or twenty years from now. We can’t know which professions will be viable in the future.

It seems to me that if you graduate at 22, and keep working until your mid-60s, that’s a period of 40-50 years. I expect that you’ll need to reinvent yourself a couple of times over that period, either because your profession has become obsolete or changed. (Look at journalism, for example, over the last 40 years.)

Radio won’t go away, but you should be more concerned about shrinking market share for advertising, the consilidation of stations (Clear Channel) and the use of “national” DJ’s, which lessons the needed number of local staff.

Me, I wouldn’t pick a future in radio. YMMV


My guess is that television will disappear before radio does, because radio has more practical application.

The inconvenience of television (large receiver set, few good wireless TVs, etc.) is there only to deal with its entertainment function (the image); as more and more people migrate to computers and the Internet for their amusement, television will lose its practical advantage to radio.

I can’t say radio programming will be around longer, but radio as a medium will be, even if it were only for practical purposes (emergency bulletins, two-way communications, etc.)

As a former news professional who has worked in radio and TV, here is my opinion.

The need for local news will not go away, so you should consider making that your focus. Centralization of “entertainment” broadcasting will continue, but people will always be needed for the news/talk stations to go to the city council meeting for soundbites. That said, I think there are more opportunities for a news professional in TV than in radio.

What you are considering is a career in journalism, albeit a radio news niche. It’s quite likely that radio as we know it now (sound broadcasting over the ether) will be quite different in a few short years, but regardless of what medium is used to reach the public, you should have a useful skill. The need for news will never go away.

As someone who received his degree in broadcast journalism, I’m not as optimistic about the future of radio news. Many stations have dropped their news departments completely, or rely on syndicated packages. Even in stations that still do news, it’s often considered an entry-level job with no chance for advancement, or even long-term employment.

Make sure you get plenty of instruction and training in video news and internet production, as well. Get as varied a set of skills as you can.