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Ron Robinson

So It Is Written


A significant majority of radio commercials are as welcome as being interrupted by the mall cop who has found the upside of coming to work with a pint of gin. Both (spots and mall cops) are annoyances that can be quickly disregarded. But, we are still obliged to go through a process of deciding whether to tolerate them. People tend to resent that exercise, especially when they already know the outcome.

That radio is providing some of the worst examples of commercial advertising ever produced by a professional organization has seldom, if ever, been put up for serious debate. There is a reason for that no one can bring any convincing evidence to the contrary.

An outsider like, say, an advertiser, a shareholder, a note-holder, a supplier, an audience member, or an employee of one these organizations, can be forgiven for wondering how this circumstance continues. The answer, while wholly unsatisfactory, is still, apparently, acceptable: dogma.

I say outsider because, similar to religious organizations everywhere, it is the priesthood that controls everything. Lay folks the rest of us are just there to carry out orders and profess ongoing belief in the dogma being presented. Any and all challenges to the dogma will be dealt with sometimes quite harshly.

Now, Im not saying the lay folks are the enlightened, non-believers of radio dogma. To the contrary, we are, for the most part, the willing pack mules that keep dragging this unfounded set of edicts this nonsense up the trail. Nor am I suggesting the radio priesthood the corporate leadership is a uniform and unabashed group of unquestioning believers in radio dogma. Some are, after all, smart enough to know when its time to keep their traps shut regular paydays having certain advantages.

One of the toxic edicts that has been, more or less, supporting radio is: Tell somebody something long enough and hard enough and eventually they will believe it even when what were telling them is bull****! That, I assert, is a proposal that, over time, has started to crumble. Our five percent share of available ad revenues might be a clue. Indeed, I acknowledge the premise has stood up in the past. However, it seems to me that presuming this to be the basis of a successful advertising strategy is slowly being confined to having an impact on the very young, the very credulous, and the very gullible. Fortunately, we do still enjoy an inside track to an audience members psyche. But even that has some limitations.

Contemporary music radio has become to put it harshly a band of cutters. That is, we obviously (to some) and grotesquely injure ourselves for no other reason than the facing of, taking responsibility for, and generating action to address our own greater discomfort. That would be even more painful than hurting and crippling ourselves. That our associates, clients, and audiences are also made to suffer, speaks to even deeper-seated issues.

One could, at this time, wonder what this so-called greater discomfort could be. Rather than dance around the issue, let's spell it out: After all the years that include generations of broadcasters plying their trade, some with more success than others, at thousands of radio stations we still dont know what we are doing!

More of the dogma that has been self-embedded and strategically reinforced in our broadcast-brains include the absolute givens that: we are connected to our audience one at a time and that we have authority over this audience. Broadcasters still pick these noxious zephyrs as their hills to die on. Here is an irony of the first order, as they are getting exactly that for which they have programmed themselves they are being cut down in a hail of unsubstantial confetti.

While incredibly frustrating to those who think this medium has a prosperous future, the process can still be (reluctantly) described as quite natural. Anything that is evolving is still learning to adapt and change. For those of us, however, who are unwilling to wait for some kind of natural selection to take place and who are more bent on doing like the dog-breeders do and intentionally design a whole other breed, the waiting around for someone to do something is a horrible strain. Im reminded of the two vultures sitting up on a telegraph pole in the middle of a scorching desert. One turns to the other and says, Im tired of waiting for something to die. Lets go kill something!

The convenient and, apparently, necessary thing about any organization that depends on its own dogma is that, when the fur starts flying, leadership can fall back, reference the dogma, and apply it as if it was comprised of rules and regulations that were actually useful. Plausible deniability is a tidy bonus that comes with the package.

It should be noted how it takes only a slight stretch of the imagination to compare ourselves to lemmings. Even as the lemming population ultimately becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet for some other species, the suicidal leaping off the edge of the cliff is not a behavior any newly-enlightened lemming might choose for themselves. Better to go back home, make more lemmings, and teach the kids a better way.

Dogma is, indeed, a mighty force. Even the king of the lemmings accepts and is influenced by that. Because of dogma and his belief in it, he too will be making The Big Plungerino in due course. Another example of Here, Dogma. Good boy. Attack!

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

(5/5/2014 2:53:04 AM)
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