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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

(TALENT) Wanted: New, Courageous Owners


Last year, one of the larger, Canadian, corporate-radio ownership outfits went on a search for a couple of PDs for stations they had acquired in Toronto (North America?s fourth-largest market) and Vancouver, the pride of the ?Wet? Coast. The invitation to apply included the phrase, ?We want to talk to the best programming minds in the world.? Note: They had just (accidentally?) confessed to not having a clue as to what they were doing.

I am sure the copy was intended to bait the interest of some radio folks who enjoyed a certain degree of competence and confidence. Plus, the script was to imply the suggestion that, even at the corporate level, the organization was open to exciting, unique, and new approaches to programming. Hardly.

Corporate radio, unlike Saul of Tarsus and his ?road to Damascus? conversion, has not had its own revelation experience. To the contrary, corporate radio is still out here slewing, slaying, and smiting everything and everybody that stands in the way of immediate profits. (In some cases, the priority is avoiding the creation of more debt ? another wholly exciting and truly motivating premise.)

It doesn?t take a Ph.D. to figure out that any radio ownership group that doesn?t already have the best programming minds in the world in their employ is in that position because: a.) They don?t want the hassle; b.) The expense for expertise is more than they would ever tolerate; c.) They were overstating (lying about) what they really do want; or, d.) They wouldn?t recognize such a personality if s/he showed up at the front door and barfed in the foyer ? although that?s one way to mark some turf while gaining an immediate and long-lasting impression.

Corporate radio is not quite ready or willing to demonstrate panic. Panic looks so ?uncool.? Internalizing that, however, also has well-known consequences. And another thing: Searching for alternate strategies is much more difficult when one is in an extremely agitated, sweat-producing state.

Radio, in general, has needed, and been ready for, fundamental improvements for decades. Radio should have begun its transition into implementing a significant series of contemporary, communicative strategies and methodologies a long time ago. But then something happened. The Reagan administration made it possible for a relatively small cadre of corporate interests to own, oh, just about everything. When those acquisitions starting kicking in, any chances of radio making worthwhile improvements were dashed against the rocks of corporate greed, incompetence, and malfeasance.

Since then, other platforms have come of age, and those ownerships are now primed to eat our lunches and our dinners. I?m not sure if radio can operate, never mind prosper, on cornflakes alone, especially if the owners of those other media decide they might want to get into the breakfast side of things, as well.

It might be worthwhile to point out that the newer corporations that deal with all things Internet, cable, and digital are toying with and gnawing away at what used to be radio?s entitled revenues. Some proponents of radio have even had the gall to declare those revenues ?deserved.? It?s time to snap out of that one, too.

Although hardly ever discussed, I?d suggest that a number of well-heeled, cash-loaded, and willing-to-take-some-risks entrepreneurs on that side of the street might be willing to saunter over for a quick lookee-see at the radio side.

After all, radio has only been going through the motions long enough for a whole generation of broadcasters to not even know or speculate that ?things? could be any different. Further, there is no one in this business who can mount a solid defense for the ongoing elimination of those who would provide the content, and who would ? maybe on a good day ? be able to generate the quality of commercial content, necessary for radio to even maintain its current position. I could stand out on a scorching, dusty street at noon every day and, like Liberty Valance, throw down a spit-lubricated challenge to anybody in radio?s leadership to mosey out for an eyeball-to-eyeball shootout. The result would still be me in the street, sipping lemonade, untested, unmarked ? and alone.

To be sure, should any more-contemporary corporations ever want to consider buying up some strong-signaled, terra-radio properties (when the price is right), those would be the guys with whom I want to have a long and worthwhile conversation about retraining a whole new generation of effective [I]broadcast communicators[/I]. And that?s what it will take. They might be interested to learn that a whole bevy of new (to radio), exciting, and demonstrated-successful techniques and methodologies are immediately available.

Current corporate radio ownership can be compared to a herd of claustrophobic elephants stuffed into the same telephone booth ? bashing and crashing everything and everybody in order to bust out and get, at least, some temporary relief. What is pitifully ironic is that very few others are fooled by what is going on in radio. Audiences are losing their loyalties. Advertisers are losing their willingness to participate. Employees are losing their inclination to care. Those who are deluded by radio?s dogma would be the exceptions. Also include those whose ?rice bowls? are still secure.

As to the outfit advertising for ??the best programming minds in the world?: Many months have passed since, and all of the stations are still copycatting the outlets up the street or down the coast. Some are becoming progressively, noticeably worse. One of this owner?s properties took their library and edited the music down from 3- or 4-minute tunes to 2-minute cuts. The market (audience) freaked out and they have retreated back to standard lengths. The acrid aroma of desperation ? ?panic? ? is in the air and on the air. Bring on the new, imaginative, and courageous owners.

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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