radio = exit


I feel bad for writers covering the business of radio these days and I’m really not kidding.

Given the fact that the radio business has been tanking for sometime now (ad sales are down everywhere) combined with the other fact that radio is coming in a tight second to newspapers in the race for “worst hurt by the economic crap-down” (meltdown doesn’t seem quite descriptive enough for me), these poor writers have been posting stories that read more like obits.

Check out the various “People On the Move” or “In Brief” sections of major industry pubs and there’s one word you see over and over: exits.

Oh you see other words too: “leaves”, “departs” “let go”, “shown the door”, “resigns”. I only wish I was kidding.

That’s gotta suck. Usually people who write for industry trades have at least a passing interest in their prime directive but my experience has been that people who write for radio trades like All, FMQB, Radio and Records and the like – really have the radio bug that infects so many of us.

They have a passion for radio. Many people do.

Today the Buffalo News, itself prey to budget cuts and bloodletting, wrote a front page story about the recent disc jockey carnage that local owners Entercom, Citadel and Regent Communications have laid waste to in the past 12 months. Combine low ad revenues with corporations (notice I didn’t say broadcasters…there’s a difference) who spent reserves unwisely and the top radio station expense lines are the first to go: salaries and benefits.

As is the national trend, these local stations all replaced the departed with either syndicated fare or weirdly extended shifts. One station here has at present two on-air personalities working from 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Is there voice tracking involved? I would have to think so.

Unlike some of the tirades I’ve seen on message boards like, I’m not pointing fingers or trying to stomp up and down at the injustice of it all (easier for me as I’ve not lost my job…had I, I too might stomp a bit). It IS a business and it must be managed that way.

But for lack of a better term – broadcasting is a public trust and these companies and their local managers (in every market) owe their communities local content and information. It is what makes this communication tool valuable and special. Syndication and voice tracking does not serve that public trust. But I also wonder if the public really cares.

You may accuse me here of romanticizing the business of radio a bit and you may have cause. I do love what radio is and could be. Maybe its usefulness is coming to a close or maybe it’s simply evolving into something different that no one yet can predict.

But the constant loss – sales, market share, audience, talented staff (valued co-workers) and maybe even prestige hurts everyone who cares about radio. That includes a lot of us but the numbers seem to indicate it’s not the majority of U.S.

I’d love to hear what your thoughts/stories are on all this is…maybe its just me.

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