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Saturday, October 18, 2014

TALENT)Thorns In The Paw


Like the traveler who found an enraged lion along the road and pulled the thorn from its paw, I, and others, have been diligent and eager to provide radio with a great service. Fortunately for the traveler, the lion had the good sense to keep still while the thorn was extracted. Radio, instead, continues to rip ?Dudley Do Rights? thorax to abdomen ? and continue to suffer as a result.

Even as owners and managers puff themselves up to full girth to exclaim the viability or superiority of radio, the rattiest of the rank-and-file on up to large portions of a subjugated and disheartened officer corps, know they are engaged in a freezing, bitter retreat.

With reference only to radio?s model of communications from on-air and creative departments, there are so many flawed strategies, methodologies, and philosophical positions cued for transformations that a book could be written to explain the required adjustments that are so desperately needed. And I mean right now!

I would write that book if I believed there was an audience for it. I do not believe there is that audience. This is the case, even as nobody is willing to engage me with any counter-arguments whatsoever to the points I have been introducing all along. Indifference prevails.

So far as ownership and management, along with the vast majority of on-air and creative personnel are concerned, there is no particular need for any adjustments in these models at all. Further, and not surprisingly, there is no desire to reconsider the approaches we have all been using for like, forever.

Some of the necessary adjustments are significant and transformational. Others are less strange, but still important, especially when one considers that an audience?s exposure to these factors is consistent and over a long period of time. The cumulative effects can be speculated ? and spectacular. They are all extremely toxic and do indeed spoil the influence and acceptance we might otherwise enjoy.

During my recent drive through the night, I found only stations that were completely without ?live? performers, and what spoken word portions there were had been plugged with poorly constructed and poorly delivered examples of stations? self-congratulatory braggadocio.

One of the more common terms spread all over the airwaves like so much cheap, spoiling margarine was as follows: ?WXXX ? today?s BEST Rock,? ?CXXX ? The BEST Country,? and my favorite ? ?CXXX- The BEST of the BEST.? And that was from a major market station. Those examples alone demonstrate to my satisfaction that programmers have lost their minds and forgotten they put them into storage. They no longer actually listen to their radio stations. They listen for flaws in their formats ? tragically crippling and flawed formats at that.

Meanwhile, back to ?The BEST.? These statements beg a series of follow-up questions.
1. ?Best? ? according to whom?
2. ?Best? ? compared to what?
3. ?Best? ? under what circumstances?
4. ?Best? ? until what happens?
5. ?Best? ? using what criteria?

It is too easy for audiences to make quick comparisons for radio stations to make such arrogant claims ? with expectations that anyone would or could actually believe them. And yes, I realize these mindful machinations are not made at a conscious level ? not regularly. These are unconscious considerations, coming from the place where the heavy decisions are made?and where there be monsters.

?Best? meanwhile, is just one of a number of words that fall into the same linguistic category, that of ?absolute quantifiers.? These are words that disallow a listener to come to any other conclusion and, as such, are words that are forcibly arbitrary. This is not a wise strategy for a station that is working to earn listenership, credibility, acceptance, and influence. Employees might be obliged to accept a manager?s statement of ?Because I say so.? That is, if they want to keep their jobs. Listeners, on the other hand, can simply flip us the bird and change the station. Or get off the radio altogether while drawing on some other medium.

A few other ?absolute quantifiers? are ?every,? ?always,? ?none,? ?only,? and ?never.? Unless there is verifiable and acceptable evidence to back up such claims or statements, speakers and writers use them at their peril. Listeners (unconsciously) recoil.

Readers of this piece ? radio?s leadership and line workers ? might wonder how it is they are leaning about this one, little tidbit now, especially since the information has been available for over 30 years. The answer, though harsh, is obvious. Radio?s more recent crop of leadership has had no interest whatsoever in improving the products and services they supposedly are rendering. They are only interested in taking profits. (As an aside if there was ever an example of the failure of unbridled capitalism, corporate radio gets a very high branch on which to perch.)

Still, as radio is in serious jeopardy, despite the bleatings of cheerleaders and apologists, addressing and correcting this one, seemingly insignificant but still important aspect of radio?s model-of-communication can begin to have serious, worthwhile results. Making the change can be done by the simple behavior of issuing a memo. I wonder how many will do it.

I, and a few others, am on the lookout for an owner or manager who will let someone take out the thorns, bind the wounds and do the physio. They will, however, be required to lie still for a while. Things will work out. We could then be like the traveler and the lion that became great friends, walking into a setting sun horizon, whistling a happy tune. Gosh. That would be just terrific.

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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