Skip to main content

Slow Death of Radio: Part 2

This week has turned into a rather dark one for the radio industry.

Yesterday, Clear Channel laid off about 150 employees at radio station across the country due to heavy debt issues (Partial list of those laid off here and here). The people laid off were mostly on-air staff ranging from talk show hosts, news reporters, DJs, producers of those shows, and others. They are being replaced with syndicated programming that Clear Channel doesn't have to pay an extra dime for since they already have the rights to those shows. Once again, radio markets lose. Of local interest, Brendan O'Riordan, who had worked as a news reporter for WJTN from late 2000 to early 2002, was one of people let go from WHAM in Rochester. These are talented radio people and their on-air presence will be sorely missed.

I wrote about how local radio is dying in a 2004 post called, Slow Death of Radio. What I said then has been clearly demonstrated by Clear Channel this week. A Syracuse Post-Standard article does a great job at filling in those details and other historical background on how the hell this all has come to be.

On the brighter side, since 2004, two local stations have come on the air in Jamestown and in the Southern Tier. One of those is not-for-profit, Arts Council-owned WRFA-LP. The other is Seneca Nation-owned commercial station WGWE. Both stations provide local programming and local hosts. Money is probably the biggest issue why WRFA doesn't have more live on-air staff and local programming but they are fortunate to have some dedicated volunteers along with some of the hardest working radio guys I've met with Public Affairs Director Jason Sample, General Manager Dennis Drew, and Consultant Steve Shulman.

On a not so brighter side, a good chunk of the money WRFA receives has come the past few years from a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Earlier year, there were threats to cut money to CPB and National Public Radio (NPR). Fortunately, that did not happen, but now the GOP has geared up again to go after funding to NPR.

Why should you care?

When you have radio conglomerates where local programming is homogenized across the country, public radio is often one of the few places where you can hear a local newscast or hear local personalities. Of course, with the syndication of NPR programming, the chances that you'll hear much difference from one NPR station to the next is just as bad as listening to any given Clear Channel Kiss station (note: WKZA in Jamestown is NOT a Clear Channel Kiss station). Local radio has become less personal and more canned across the country. Fortunately, in Jamestown we still have local voices on the air, but there are a lot of instances where those voices are pre-recorded and aired later in the day.

My probably unrealistic hope is that Clear Channel will get to a point in its financial state where it's forced to divest itself of some of the radio stations it owns, thus potentially allowing the ownership of some of those stations to return to independent groups that don't already own over 3 stations in a market. Given the economy and the cost of running a radio station, I don't know if this will ever come to be.

Please support your local radio stations that do provide local programming and local personalities. Consider donating to the public radio stations that depend on local listeners to extend that small bit of federal funding they may receive to exist. I'll repeat my urgings from 2004 to contact your representatives in Congress to tell them not to cut funding to CPB or NPR; and to urge them to scale back the flawed Telecommunications Act of 1996.


Steve Blount said…
Very well written and well thought out post. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the underlying causes of the financial issues that are causing these unfortunate decisions. Are the stations losing ad revenues from the loss of ears due to online sites like Pandora and Spotify or is there some other causes? Or are there other considerations like the large corporate ownership just sacrificing the smaller stations? Or is the move to syndicated content just "the easy way out?"

Popular posts from this blog

Bloggery (a repost)

I wrote this on another site:
Perhaps I'm too old for the reveal-all-confessional type of blogging but reading claw marks lately makes me want to start blogging again to at least expand upon the thoughts I wouldn't otherwise write out in a Facebook post or vague tweet.
A couple of years ago, I took the month of February off from Facebook under the premise that the time I wasn't wasting on Facebook could be channeled into other things. I blogged quite a bit, I read a few books, got out a little, and generally tried to avoid looking at anything on there. It wasn't perfect, by far. A fair amount of friends still use Facebook to communicate about social events and general happenings, so I was out of the loop on all of that, thus defeating part of my goal to be in better touch with hanging out with them. Weird how that shit works.
Ultimately, I think I want more conversation. The introvert in me loves social media because it allows me form a complete thought and reply to wha…

A Surprise Delivered by the Postal Service

A women in Rochester was at an Amvets Thrift shop where she bought a box of Christmas cards. When she got home, she realized there were other things in the box: business cards, photographs, a work ID card, and a love letter written from a husband to his wife on their 12th anniversary. The woman took a chance and sent the personal items to the address listed on the business cards with a note saying she hoped people at the address would know the people in the photographs and to let her know if they made it to the right place. 

My grandmother in Buffalo received that bundle in the last week.  The items had belonged to my grandfather who died in October.  The pictures were of him at meetings with friends, spending time on a friend's boat in 2007, and one of him posing with me and my cousins on Easter Sunday in 1987. 

My grandmother misses her husband of 61 years a great deal.  She told my Aunt that she has been looking for a sign since October that he is where he's supposed to be …

Away, Away

We're on a mini-vaca in an area where they're experiencing forest fires (thanks asshole arsonist). It's an area that makes Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls, Ontario look rinky dinky. Holy cow. Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg is no joke. Tomorrow we try to escape it and find some peace and nature in the (literally) Smoky Mountains.