The latest issue of Wired has a short, one-page article called “Why Things Suck: Radio.” We’re guessing it’s a part of a series, but we can’t remember having ever seen it before. We’re probably too fixated on their “What’s Inside” column, where you can find out about all the bizarre stuff in everyday consumer products.
But let’s get back to radio and suckiness. The piece does a fair job of itemizing the reasons the commercial dial is often devoid of actual entertainment. Public (airwaves) Enemy Number One? Profit-hungry conglomerates like Clear Channel:
The biggest barriers to building a radio audience are the polarizing power of music and the plethora of choices on the dial. So, when corporations like Clear Channel started buying up stations in the late ’90s, they set about building a lowest-common-denominator product that would be attractive to the most listeners. “There’s this idea of the perfect playlist,” says Jesse Walker, author of the radio history Rebels on the Air. “Find it with research and attract the perfect audience.” But it turns out that the most lucrative audience is really just “people who will not change the channel during the ads.” The result: watered-down programming designed primarily not to offend.
FMC’s 2006 Radio Study takes an in-depth look at this very phenomenon. But there is some hope for more diverse FM radio. In October, the FCC opened up a licensing window for non-commercial, full-power stations — the opportunity of a lifetime. Check out the first in a series of posts from FMC Full Power Project Manager Mike Janssen for an up-close look at the process.