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McRadio – Not Even


During all dayparts, corporate music radio has multiple opportunities to dish out the equivalent of a full and yummy smorgasbord. A tantalizing and stunningly attractive buffet. But, we won't do that. Instead, we are offering up the music radio equivalent of cracked bowls of dry cornflakes.

Now, I'm not suggesting that music radio go whole hog with a 12-page menu. After all, the cupboards and fridges are already bare and many of the skilled and imaginative chefs have taken their aprons and funny hats and either vacated or been ushered off the premises. What remains are a lot of short order cooks, sneezing on the dishes and butting their smokes out in the Jell-O.

Yet, even real-life, short order cooks know there is value in the preparation and presentation of every meal –  repeat business and tips being parts of the motivation. Pride in the job is also a factor. It should be pointed out, though, that underdone bacon laid over runny eggs next to half-raw home fries has been successfully served up often enough. That being a disturbing precedent, one can understand why radio menus across the country are advertised as no more than, "The Greatest, Commercial-Free Cornflakes of All Time!"

Over the last 20 years or so, music radio has clued into the fact that it can get away with serving cornflakes, taken it on as natural truth, turned it into dogma, and found this allowed for the general suppression, if not elimination, of talent. With extremely limited other-media competition at the time, and as a result of deregulation, the corporate interests and their smaller, copy-cat pretenders could carry on, drop many of the expenses, and still maintain an impressive profitability.

However, except for those in the deeper states of denial, evidence of the changing times, landscape, technologies, and other-media options, is overwhelming. But only for some. There are still those who consider the presentation of "evidence" as no more than an inconvenient interruption – a form of radio scotoma where one sees only that which one has been programmed to see.

"If we are going to go anywhere, we've got to have talent. And, I'm going to put my money in talent." That gem is from Ray Kroc, the man who built McDonald's, and it was offered on the occasion of the opening of McDonald's Hamburger University in 1961. That a hamburger university would be established was, even at the time, considered to be just a natural and reasonable progression in the development of the corporation.

Meanwhile, a difference between McDonald's and corporate, music radio is in that Mr. Kroc was saying these words at the opening of an actual brick and mortar building with desks, chairs, and lunchrooms. A school dedicated to the teaching of specific techniques and philosophies for staff and managers. A place was being provided, at company expense, to teach expertise. Actually, Hamburger University doesn't just teach. They train. And they train until the students can demonstrate their new abilities.

Many radio folks might assume they would be forgiven were they to assume that a much easier and cheaper-on-the-front-end option is that of simply re-hiring some talent and throwing them back on the air. In the case of highly intelligent and already-skilled talent, their hiring or re-hiring may very well be a valid option. No assurances are offered here, though, as some terrific but quirky talent can also make an audience crazy and drive them away in droves. Often, the case can be made that talent delivers their own material quite well, but fall far short in basic broadcast communications skills.

Meanwhile, unlike music radio, McDonald's restaurants operate with actual, living, breathing, on-the-job-at-the-locations staffs – as many as it takes to prepare for and serve their customers up to established standards. McDonald's obviously has reasons for not transforming its outlets into no more than a building with vending machines. Maybe the public gets some satisfaction witnessing other people making an effort to provide a meal or a snack. Maybe they enjoy a certain familiarity with those people and, by association, with the brand. Maybe diners appreciate knowing their expectations will be met on a consistent basis.

All of these restaurant services and products are provided, by the way, with the full understanding that a portion of the buying public will consist of boors, wack-jobs, and those who are expecting Trump room service on a Super-8 budget. And yet, staffs are so well trained, they can tolerate more abuse than many people would even contemplate. That alone is an amazing accomplishment.

I mention this because my contention is that music radio outlets have been the abusers for years. They are consistently insulting their audiences, pandering to and patronizing their listeners, and under-serving them to the extent where more and more members of those audiences are taking their interests and loyalties elsewhere. They are wandering off more often and for longer periods of time. Advertisers have been similarly abused.

Now, I do appreciate that many managers would assert that my contentions have no grounds – that they do want to serve their audiences and advertisers; that they do want to treat them well; that they do go out of their way to provide a high-quality service; and that their intentions are genuine. Good intentions notwithstanding, the evidence suggests otherwise. We won't even go so far as to train our talent to even the basic level of necessary abilities required of a broadcast communicator.

Further, those who are labeling what we do "McRadio" are actually offering an undeserved insult to McDonald's. At the very least, never let it be said by anyone in music radio that McDonald's doesn't offer McOpportunity to those who would aspire. They also offer the facilities to accommodate and enhance those aspirations.


Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer, and coach, and has trained and been certified as a personal counselor. Ron makes the assertion that the most important communicative aspects of broadcasting, as they relate to Talent and Creative, have yet to be addressed.
Check out his website


(5/16/2012 11:44:39 AM)
Indeed, David, broadcasting in the public interest" is essential. That is, if the well-formed Outcomes include: generating bigger numbers, better advertising results and taking receipt of greater quantities of large American dollars. :)

- Ronald T. Robinson
(5/16/2012 10:49:35 AM)
What Mr. Robinson is talking about, at least from my perspective is, "BROADCASTING IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST." My question is this, who today in "corporate radio" is BROADCASTING IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST?

This article should be required reading of every person involved in brodcasting today, and that includes those who own stock in broadcast companies.

- David Aamodt
(5/16/2012 9:29:46 AM)
Well said, Ron. And we wonder why commercial radio is less important in people's lives than ever?

- Peter Tripp

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