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Monday, February 16, 2015

(TALENT) Radio's Live & Local "Hail Mary"


Once again, the beast raises her scabrous and mucous-oozing head. Even so, radio managers and programmers are treating her like she was wearing heels, stockings, and flaming lipstick. Like sirens of old, luring unsuspecting sailors to their dooms, this one also calls out with promises of pleasure and redemption. Her name: "Livenlocal."

Radio managers and programmers are, it seems, constantly on the lookout for cheap, readily available, "plug-and-play" options to address the question: "How is it we suck so much?" I am here to assure diligent readers that "live & local" is not one of those desirable options. Implementation is near impossible to execute, and charging ahead only adds significant expenses to the station. Proceeding arbitrarily is actually the forerunner of a station's public detonation ? right in front of everybody.

Then there is all the collateral damage to lives and careers that comes with completely debilitating an already-crippled station. But, as history has shown, this is not a matter of any real consequence to the ownership, anyway.

Pundits, station ownership, and programmers describe "live & local" as a means to rectifying the lack of interest in a station that audiences easily and often demonstrate. By inserting live and local elements, they also reveal a lack of understanding of what the implementation of the strategy would actually cause.

Because of a horrible lack of training about how, specifically, to communicate to a broadcast audience, most of the thousands of new, poor devils will be told to "Go get ?em, tiger!" Then they will be given a set of innocuous, masturbatory station-branding statements and promos; they will be told to include a reference to a local location, event, or person in each of their three or four innocuous, hourly stop-sets. Next, they will be locked in the control room and told if they screw up, the consequences will be severe. Plus, all of this will be foisted on an audience at just above minimum wage.

Meanwhile, audiences, for a while, will tolerate this truckload of newbie announcers being dumped on their radio lawns. They will very quickly recognize this new group of posers is not made up of finely processed fertilizer, but that they are more of a steaming, stinking load of fresh manure. The audience will not like it.

And there is another element that broadcasters have yet to even consider. And, if they have, they have concluded the issue to be of no particular import, anyway. Implementing an arbitrary "live & local" approach is utterly insulting to an audience!

Management presumes audiences will continue to accept having their interests, intelligence, and capacities to understand language at multiple levels of consciousness discounted. This is a clearly obvious demonstration of ignorance, callousness, and disregard for the very people who, ultimately, pay the station's bills.

Meanwhile, the contemplation of going more "live & local" is on the table without any regard for the status quo, that being the horrendous state of the majority of talent that has been and is on the air currently ? many for years.

I understand there are a few ? very few ? talents on the air who rank as genuine "personalities." These are the folks whose combination of wit, intelligence, mastery of vocal performances, and delivery make them entirely unique and incredibly valuable. There are some others who are pleasant to the ear and can demonstrate they have a "personality." After that, it's all about the announcer-drones ? those poor sods who may be innately intelligent, imaginative, and eager, but who are, nevertheless, trapped on the radio. They operate under the boot of radio programming dogma, without the skills, without the knowledge, and without access to the training. They also operate without permission to make any attempts at becoming superior communicators and performers.

Further, how does a thoroughly uneducated management group go about finding this new batch of talent? Yuk-Yuks? So they can hire a guy who has spent five years putting together a 45-minute set? The local dry cleaners where the counter girl is kind of witty and smart? It might boil down to that, but good luck and thanks for comin' out.

The last 20 or so years of corporate radio executing its own version of a "scorched earth" policy within their own outfits has resulted in fewer Big Talents on the air. More importantly, though, corporate radio has turned into cinders those fertile fields where new talent can begin to learn and develop. I still am obliged to minimize this situation, as even then, back in the day, most talent was coming up uneducated. Some, however, did develop some chops, and did demonstrate some style.

Now, here is the ironic bit about management?s lack of understanding of this issue. This "live & local" strategy is not the priority on which radio needs to concentrate. The priority and greatest improvement needs are in the remnants of the creative departments. (Home of white flags and rubber chickens.)

The worst possible examples of broadcast advertising will be found emanating from studios at radio stations everywhere, where principles of slave labor still apply. Add to those the pressures, lack of light, water, and air, and crushing deadlines to accomplish the impossible. There are limited (and limiting) resources for the people who have yet to be educated and trained and assisted in generating listenable and influential ads. Better, nevertheless, to serve the advertisers and audience that do exist before screwing it up entirely by tossing even more incompetent talent into the mix.

Pro football player Doug Flutie was an up-the-street neighbor of mine out in Calgary. His successful touchdown toss for Boston College against the Miami Hurricanes was the most famous "Hail Mary" pass of all time. It was a one-time-only event. Radio cannot replicate that because of the extreme lack of knowledgeable and skilled quarterbacks.

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 at

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