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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

(TALENT) Radio's Primary Technology


?We're not going to beat technology. We need to figure out how to use it.? ? Bob Pitman.

The Clear Channel CEO was, I expect, referencing all that software and those digital thingies with bells, whistles, lights that blink and may, occasionally, emit sparks. There are so many technology reps roaming the range and ruining peaceful pastures as to intimidate and overwhelm any senior radio cowboy.

It is easy to argue that radio is at the mercy of those who advance their own interests by promoting new technologies. I don?t doubt that every broadcaster is being forced into using some of these technologies to some degree and, maybe, with some success of some kind ? some of the time.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pitman, his colleagues, everybody else in radio ownership and management, all line-staff, audiences, and advertisers have been unaware of the most important technology available to radio: Language and its vocal delivery! This is Radio?s Primary Technology. Our current distress and angst lies in that we have never identified the delivery of language as even mildly important or of particular value beyond individual, intuitive, on-air applications. Further, we have never identified an expertise in understanding the influence and the skills of delivering the language on the radio as the main elements that determine our capacities to improve and prosper.

Back in the caveman epoch, well before the introduction of lawyers, AM radio, and fashionable shoes, guys had a few basic tools and were able to, say, throw a rock at a squirrel. But, they were unable to articulate their experiences with any degree of specificity or nuance. It was another while before a cave-dude could say, ?Hey, Duane! Forget the rat. Saber-tooth tiger behind you - coming in hot!?

One of the most ironic, disastrous practices radio has implemented over the decades has been the actual suppression of language on the air. The vast majority of on-air and commercial presenters are doing so with, essentially, one tonality and one speed or tempo ? an irritating artifact of robo-jocks with Top-40 lineage. This example is just another quick and easy representation of how ?dogma? has been ruling and ruining radio, without reason or justification. Programmers can come up with some rationalization or other, but bulls***-o?-meters everywhere go off simultaneously. ?Consistency? has been offered forever as a reason for this ridiculous practice. (?We are consistently consistent.? Huh?)

I have long been promoting the necessity for anyone who has anything to do with the words that hit the air to have a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of radio?s primary technology. I have argued for a familiarity and the skills to deliver the language with clarity and precision. I have urged ownership and management to engage in immediate training programs to make of their staffs actual broadcast communicators.

Meanwhile, the ability to present to an audience with clarity and precision is not the be-all and end-all, either. It is only the base structure upon which ?art, affect, and influence? are built. In other words: If one doesn?t know the rules, how could they possibly, with intention, bend those rules in order to achieve even greater attention in an audience? Indeed, only after a broadcast communicator understands and can deliver by the rules, can they also learn to be ?artfully vague.? Those who can pull that one off become the powerful and effective communicators.

Unfortunately, acquiring the understandings and skills of an effective broadcast communicator requires time, study, and practice. Radio?s primary technology comes as neither a bolt-on nor a plug-in. Unless there is an appreciation for the critical need to acquire these skills and a dedication to do so, there will be no peace in the radio valley and the wild things will keep on marauding. Fortunately, the learning component has been drastically compressed.

In the meantime, radio ownership and management have been trying to smuggle their success through customs by applying any number of hardware and software solutions ? none of which can solve radio?s primary concerns, including:
1.)  Losing the attention of audiences.
2.)   Losing credibility with advertisers.
3.)  Increasing lack of dedication from employees.
4.)  Inability to attract smart, younger people into the industry.
5.)  Inability to attract creative people from other media.
6.)  Crushing opposition from other media and competing audio sources.
7.)  Refusal on the part of ownership to research and make appropriate investments to address these crippling issues.
8.) An abject fear of line-managers to express their own concerns ? for all the known reasons
9.) An inability of all levels of programming to hear their stations with anything other than ears that have been developed over decades by accepting and applying pervasive and powerful sets of traditions and dogma.

Even in Radio Ink, the lack of programming discussions, beyond the occasional re-working of platitudes, stands as a rank indictment of the last 30 years of programming input. Radio sounds worse now than it ever has in the past when, at least, there was some tension and excitement on the air as some personalities (figuratively, if not literally) risked hanging their butts out of studio windows. Most of that has been replaced by anemic and shabby efforts from on-air and creative folks who are, now, just trying to get by, without being put to sleep by vicious, hallway veterinarians.

I am making no plea to ride Prof. Peabody?s ?Wayback Machine.? I insist that all the elements to which I have been referring are completely new to almost all of radio. The failure to apply this information ? across the board ? will only reinforce the ongoing slippage of radio as an important entertainment and advertising medium. Online advertising and digital platforms are separate issues over which radio has little direct influence.

I respectfully urge Mr. Pitman and others to reconsider his comment, and accurately identify what truly is Radio?s Primary Technology. As Bob sez: ?We need to figure out how to use it.? Indeed, let?s do that.

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

(9/26/2014 9:59:13 PM)
I should also add, mike - even though you don't need to be told this - the whole point of making massive improvements is for the purpose of generating massive amounts of profit.

And yes, I also appreciate how that concept is one, full level away from the risk-averse panic residing just under the surface, but still rampant throughout the biz.

(9/26/2014 9:29:45 PM)
All the evidence, Mike, and to be certain, suggests you are absolutely and categorically correct in your assessment.

In the meantime, I continue to get a body of work on the record.

My goal is to connect with ONE individual in One organization; get to work and assist in a massive success.

The rest of the "bonus keepers", as you say, can bleed out for all I care.

My peers, after all, are the talents - on-air and in creative - who can be taught to be magnificent entertainers, communicators and audience-influencers.

(9/26/2014 3:42:24 PM)
Ronald, Ronald, Ronald...your articles are well thought out, well written, and confirm many of the things that I have learned over the years. But in the words of the immortal Jim Croce, you are just spitting into the wind. In this day of Corporate Radio, nothing is going to happen! Your words are heresy to those who are desperate to pad their bonuses! Any money spent on your suggestions comes out of the bonuses! For shame!

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