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Ron Robinson

Rustic Reflections On The Powerful People


During this sojourn into the wilderness, the magazine became soiled with spattered rain; was covered with my own red corpuscles – a result of black flies taking chunks out of my person and leaving behind open, dripping wounds; and the fold-out cover had suffered the indignity of being used as a place mat for numerous, assorted beverages. Even though marked by numerous stains of mud, blood, and beer, reading the magazine reinforced my  belief that the radio business has huge, pressing, and threatening matters that require immediate attention.

Although couched in more polite terms, Radio Ink publisher, Eric Rhoads, had some sobering comments directed to those executives and owners featured within the pages. I will attempt to offer more than a paraphrasing of those sobering comments.

With few exceptions, the comments of those being featured had a somewhat banal set of consistencies – the nod to teamwork, the recognition that online participation was no longer an option, but a necessity to doing business, and so on.

Perhaps because the profiles were as much "sparkle" pieces, I was not expecting any noteworthy revelations. But I think there were some anyway. Most of the individuals paid no more than some form of lip service to a number of well-known "challenges" that are in play in the radio business. But, that was about it. Fair enough. There were also the required and multiple nods to the value of teamwork and the benefits of having a "passion" for the radio business. I got the impression, though, that these values were being offered in the same, safe terms as any politician who restricts their comments to generally held values – those, about which, it would be difficult to argue.

Now, it's important for me to be clear here. I am not doubting the sincerity of those who claim a passion for the radio business. Few would rise to the level of influence and, to be sure, success that many of these individuals enjoy without the necessary enthusiasm.

My dad had a career as a salesman for Armco Steel. He sold bridging and corrugated culverts to contractors and townships all over Ontario. He had a passion for his business, as well. But, it wasn't a passion for bridging and culverts. It was a passion to meet people and to serve their requirements with high-quality products at competitive pricing and to make sure they were satisfied with his services and Armco products. Somebody else was responsible for design, manufacturing, and shipping.

I came to believe that a number, if not most, high-echelon managers are in a similar position. They have a passion for being engaged in the business of radio. Any other matters, like the design, manufacturing, and delivery of the elements that make up a radio station's broadcasts, are either assumed to be in order or are ignored altogether.

Yet, it seems the wails that audiences and advertisers are being grossly under-served continue to fall on mostly deaf ears. Others in the business take these to be patently obvious as well as long-held concerns.

I believe that the senior executives in the business (music radio in particular) have yet to grasp the most basic understandings, appreciations, and strategies necessary for a more effective approach to a broadcast audience. What makes this circumstance even more dangerous is that senior programmers and the talent base are in similar straits.

In the same Radio Ink issue, Roy H. Williams generated another articulate effort to encourage the business to begin addressing the necessity for far greater attention to be paid to the design and production of radio commercials.

I personally wonder if some of these management failures are brought about by a lack of knowledge or even an indifference or, rather, as a result of a considered collusion.

There is no kindly way of putting this. Any owners or managers who are knowingly under-serving their audiences and under-serving their advertising clients because they have a history of being able to get away with it while still producing healthy profits, are being supported by an extremely frayed rope. I realize this may be difficult to appreciate, particularly when one is wildly swinging between canyon walls and hollering "Wheeeee!"

These have been considerations that were developed where there was no Internet, no cell service, and no phones. I was able, however, to pull in many radio stations. I listened to some – for a while. But, I quickly tired of banal V/Ts, superficial syndications, and innocuous spots. So, I turned the radio off and contented myself with listening to the breezes and the birds. Those, and the bears and wolves that were in deeper cover – plotting.

Ronald T. Robinson has been involved in Canadian Radio since the '60s as a performer, writer and coach and has trained and certified as a personal counsellor. 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

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