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Monday, March 23, 2015

(TALENT) Radio's "Box" Dilemma


Out here where the buses don't run, I can't imagine the stressors and limitations under which station managers must operate ? and be expected to perform. Given multi-media competition, other stations, the lack of enough creative and on-air talent, budgetary restraints, and refereeing dust-ups in the hallways, running a chain of "Wishy-Washy" laundries becomes a viable option.

And yet, there are elements of radio that have been and continue to be ignored ? not because they have been discarded, so much, but because they have yet to be identified, accepted, and implemented.

As everyone who reads these pieces already knows, radio will not invest a dime in R&D unless it has to do with sales trainings ? maybe. I am reminded of Mike Myer's character who says, "If it's no' Scottish, it's crap!" Radio stations take a similar position when they insist, "If it's no' produced in-house, it's crap." Unfortunately, the reverse is more accurate: "If it's produced in-house, it's likely crap." Harsh, indeed, but who is going to provide a reasoned argument?

Outstanding personalities that can draw and hold significant audience excepted ? rare though they are ? radio has yet to pay any attention to the fundamentals required for everybody else, including on-air and commercial production personnel to be effective through this electronic medium.

Less so now, but over the years, we (radio) have been able to accomplish a great deal with enthusiasm alone. That, and a significant lack of audio competition had made things somewhat easier through the years. Yet, the medium continues to slip as a preferred advertising and enter-/infotainment resource, for known and some still-unknown reasons.

As painful to contemplate as it may be, I still expect no argument when I insist that radio has to re-tool! By that, I mean with new tools and only some of the old ones. As a career-long radio guy with specialized education and multiple successes, I am embarrassed to reveal I actually participate in an industry that refuses to upgrade in its prime directive, that being to communicate effectively.

In earlier pieces, I offered some demos of one of my series of auto dealer spots. These spots have been generated with radio fundamentals completely in mind and with the elements to massage audiences for the benefits of the dealership. They also include elements consistent with the findings of modern neuroscience ? very special and amazingly powerful when applied. The requests to hear them could have, so far, been piled in a teacup. This lack of interest says a great deal about the desire of station managements to influence audiences on behalf of advertisers. Even so, they are still available for monitoring (and discussion) by requesting them from me at

Still, I am obliged to recognize the factors and limitations under which most managers are forced to operate.

Commercial music-radio is famous for providing pomp and circumstance, particularly when the horn it is blowing is being tooted for its own benefit. But we (radio) seem to forget that most of that is still just noise. That kind of "noise" does little to create credibility with an audience. Some managers would call this bleating "quality programming and advertising content," but even insiders are beginning to recognize that the same ol'-same-ol' is not producing satisfactory results.

I have always speculated that, because of radio traditions and radio dogma, the leadership has never really considered that the medium is operating and producing results that are only a fraction of what is possible, available, and necessary. Nothing is being done to improve the quality of on-air personnel or the generation of more dynamic commercials. So, it might be fair to surmise that managers believe that what it is today is all it ever can be ? an extraordinarily uninformed and self-defeating assumption.

Radio can be likened to an old sailing ship with a hull covered in barnacles. The bilge is over-filled with heavy, black water, which is pulling the vessel further below the waterline. The unholy stink is one of the consequences. Radio's barnacles need to be scraped, the bilge has to be jettisoned, and a new, modern set of sails wouldn?t hurt performance either.

All that, plus constant storms, breaking steering gear, cracking rudders, mutinous grumblings below decks, and the lubberly performance of midshipmen means the ship's officers have more on their hands than they can muster the energy to perform. Re-varnishing the topsides accomplishes nothing. The ideal time for coming about and making for a sheltered port is well past. Indeed, a re-fit is required.

Pundits everywhere are encouraging radio managers to start "thinking out of the box." Some of those pundits, like myself, are more strident about the bogged-down situation in which radio finds itself. The urging to "think out of the box" comes with the assumption that radio can identify the box in question (BIQ). They can't identify the box. They can't describe the box. Some may retaliate with bold statements that "There is no box!" They can be lead to the box. They can hear it. They can see it. They can feel it. Some can even articulate the shape, form, and colors of the box. But, they still refuse to admit it exists! That it is a horrible position to maintain.

Weird, I know. But, there will likely be no coherent arguments forthcoming. And that's from how many radio managers?? Indeed, the dilemma exists. If not self-generated, radio's leadership desperately needs to be pushed, pulled, dragged, bullied, or tricked into making some decisions. First order of business: Identify the box. Truth be told, I have no idea who in the leadership has the chops or the juice to 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 at

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