Jim Walsh's Big Hairy Weblog Thingy

Friday, January 25, 2008

Why Radio Sucks

Wired reporter Brendan Koerner, with a little help from Reason’s Jesse Walker, have given us an excellent summary of what’s gone wrong with radio in the twenty-first century. The passage I keep coming back to is this one:

…when corporations like Clear Channel started buying up stations in the late '90s, they set about building a lowest-common-denominator product that would be attractive to the most listeners. "There's this idea of the perfect playlist," Walker says. "Find it with research and attract the perfect audience." But it turns out that the most lucrative audience is really just "people who will not change the channel during the ads." The result: watered-down programming designed primarily not to offend.

(This applies to talk radio as well; go here for the talk version of all Fergie all the time…)

As a long-time radio broadcaster, I can say that these comments are a refreshing departure from the bellyaching I usually hear inside the industry about how "deregulation ruined radio." I've been in the biz for thirty years and can tell you it wasn't exactly an idyllic wonderland before Telecom '96. Returning to the "good ol' days" of heavy regulation won't fix a damn thing, though I fear that's ultimately what we're gonna get...

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