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Radio Reality


We can monitor almost any radio station we want, anytime and from anywhere. There is a single, disturbing phenomenon to which I am exposed at all times, everyday, everywhere, in all formats, on major market stations and on single-stickers. Strother Martin, who played the prison farm "captain" in the movie Cool Hand Luke put it aptly when he viciously beat Luke down and declared, What weve got heyah isfailure.. t communicate!

He had no real need to make that declaration. It was a moot point. He did, indeed, communicate and extremely well. His required outcome was that of complete and utter control. He communicated this quite effectively with dogs, guards, guns, beatings, and impolite commentary. He not only communicated effectively, he was, ultimately, understood perfectly.

By the time I was being fitted for my official H/R hat, I had become familiar with speech-cues that reveal much of what a persons positions, beliefs, and values are in some context or other. What a person is saying reveals a great deal about those elements of their experience even as they are unaware of them. Unfortunately for most radio presenters on-air and commercial what is spoken also reveals serious limitations.

Ill go out on a skinny, but stable ledge, and state the following: The vast majority of people in radio who either deliver or have influence over what goes on the air have little affection or respect for either the audience or the advertisers. Plus, many of these same folk go a step further and actually demonstrate a disrespect and disgust for these same groups. Some have taken the position to where they have developed a poorly camouflaged fear of, and rage towards, listeners and clients. (Hallway comments will suffice as evidence.) Strong accusation, I will admit. But then, the behaviors are there to be observed. Besides, its all out in the open anyway right there on the radio!

Now, I already have enough friends in radio to scream bloody blue murder in their own defense without my inviting readers to do likewise. I am unmoved and unconvinced by their wails of innocence, and I will soon present some of the evidence. Hamlets mom, Gertrude, said, The lady doth protest too much, methinks. Theres a lot of that around.

Music-radio is, to my mind, the worst, overall offender. The airwaves are pervasively littered with examples. This presented derision of audiences and advertisers is, fortunately for us, just a tad below a level of awareness in these sectors. Were it ever specifically pointed out how music radio demonstrates its appalling disgust for the very people they are purported to serve, the resulting responses could get noisy and ugly. Disturbing, also, that radio, with the greatest reach of all major media, gets around 5-7 percent of available advertising revenue -- a clue that much of the audience and advertiser-base have already picked up on this unacknowledged-by-radio disregard for their well-being.

Without digressing, a point about audience treatment: I am not against satire, ridicule and, where deemed useful, offensive material being aired. Frankly, I often prefer it as a performer and a listener. What has me punching stations out is when I am, usually accidentally, insulted! Offend me all day long, but if a comment seems to be targeted at me and it insults my intelligence, I start making get-off-the-station moves. No surprise, then, that so many fingertips have impressive calluses.

As to the evidence: The first piece is easy -- and indefensible. Music radio stations make great efforts and take long strides to supply the barest minimum of quality products and services to their audiences and advertisers. This is unequivocal. The last decades of culling on-air and creative departments will long stand as indictable offenses perpetrated by a cruel, short-sighted, fearful, uninformed, and unimaginative corps of managers and ownership. These crimes have no applicable statute of limitations and everyone who is a victim of them suffers to this day.

Further, and I refer back to the prison farm captain -- radio stations behave as if they have authority over me and every other member of the audience. They are continuously telling me telling me! what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Not only that, they presume to know where I am, what I am doing, with whom I am doing it, and how much I am enjoying/not enjoying it. Plus, if we listen more closely, they are also telling me what I am thinking, what I believe, and what I value.

These vocalizations are more than demonstrations of arrogance and assumptions of authority. They are also flat-out inaccurate and they are insulting. As a result, the speaker can sound like a clueless, callous, self-absorbed, and disconnected dolt. I am inclined to wonder how much of the above is a demonstration of respect or affection on the part of the speakers or the stations. Were we to take even more liberties, we would need guards, dogs, guns, and warrants to administer beat-downs with impunity.

I mention these elements as they are spectacularly glaring offenses that leave gaping communication wounds in the very people we are supposed to be serving. There are many more pieces of evidence more subtle but just as powerful and pervasive that are persuading audiences and advertisers to head for the hills. Radio is as guilty of the sins of commission as of omission. That most may not be aware of them yet will not stand up in court.

Even as advertisers and audiences are getting abused and insulted, they can and do walk away with no remorse or penalties. This too is a reality with which radio is, so far, unwilling to deal. Even though a lack of understanding allied with complacency can ruin everything, radio can still consider the therapeutic alternative because, What weve got heyuh is failure t educate! Time to begin that process, is it not?

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

(9/12/2013 11:16:25 AM)
aa2Bcp wow, awesome blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

- NY
(8/25/2013 2:49:00 PM)


I personally don't listen to much over the air radio, except in the car, and only listen to commercial radio when circumstances force it.

I was having an email discussion with a radio buddy of mine (whose name you would probably instantly recognize). We agreed that for most of our listening we turn to the BBC. He likes 6 Music and I'm more of a Radio 3 fan but both of us like the fact that we're treated to as if we're adults with more or less functioning intellects.

- Steve
(8/24/2013 11:34:33 PM)
Maybe, Steve, we attract the audience we deserve. Put another way: When we treat the audience like slugs, dolts and nobodies, it is those very folks who relate to that treatment that show up and/or respond. Reasonable, intelligent and aware individuals would balk at our general presentations.

I know that's a little simplistic, but it does make for some serious consideration.

- Ronald T. Robinson
(8/24/2013 9:26:18 PM)
"The vast majority of people in radio who either deliver or have influence over what goes on the air have little affection or respect for either the audience or the advertisers."

Dude, have you ever met your audience?

I don't know about music radio but the talk radio audience makes me want to get get rabies vaccine, just in case.

- Steve

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