A Contrarian's Defense, or Why We Whine
October 4, 2013
I'm not going to repeat my views on AM revitalization in addressing the flap over Clear Channel and WLW's Darryl Parks' blog post on the topic and the responses he got from several quarters. You can read about Darryl's post and Fred Jacobs' response here at All Access. In short, I agree with much of Darryl's argument, and I agree with Fred that dismissing the entire convention isn't fair, either, because, yes, there IS value in the gatherings and there ARE things to be learned and taken home from those things. But...
In cases like this, people criticizing radio take heat for not being with the program and not being a booster for the industry. We're all in this together, the reasoning goes, and we get enough criticism from the outside; no need to contribute to it ourselves. But there IS a need for dissent from within. And I speak as one who gets the same kind of criticism from some quarters. "You're always complaining," they say. "It's like you don't want to be here." I expect them to say "love it or leave it" next.
But I love it -- radio, that is. I'm sure Darryl loves it, too. I know that other critics of the industry's current state love radio as much -- maybe more -- than anyone else. And I won't speak for Darryl or anyone else, but my criticism and my crankiness aren't because I hate the medium or the people, it's because I love the business and I want it to survive. I know in my heart that radio, even in a more divided media world with much more competition, some of which do some things better than radio can, has competitive advantages that it can use to survive and prosper. I know that there are answers; I've offered some here, but I'm far from the only one who feels that way. Yet I see elements of the industry doing things to the business that will ultimately be destructive, and I can't do anything about it other than point at it and complain and wish things were better.
And then I go to the conventions and it's nothing but defensive exhortations about how radio is just fine, that the audience is still there and it's only a matter of image and those evil Internetty people and young ingrates who like Pandora and, in the words of Chip Diller (Google him), "Remain calm! All is well!" Sit through that for panel after panel and you'll lose hope after a while, too.
There IS a place for boosterism, and the conventions are part of that. It's what the RAB and NAB have to do -- that's their job, to promote the industry to the ad agencies and Capitol Hill. It's a shame that the organizations will go on quixotic campaigns like the AM Revitalization Plan, but when they talk up the business, they're doing what they're paid to do. But when broadcasters lay off massive numbers of people and cut news and local operations to the bone and refuse to adapt their product to changed market conditions and then, with a straight face, say that radio is all about live and local and being there when people need them, I can't ignore that, inside or outside conventions. And I can't ignore their wasting time on trying to reanimate AM. So, yeah, I'm going to be critical and I'm going to be cranky.
That's what happens when you love something enough not to want to see it suffer. That's what happens when you get frustrated seeing mistakes being made. And speaking for myself, that's why I'll continue to point out when the emperor's naked.
After that, a plug? Of course, because... well, because. And because you gotta do a show, and you need stuff to talk about, and at All Access News-Talk-Sports' show prep column Talk Topics, we have plenty of it. Go take a look by clicking here for the full column or going to Twitter at @talktopics, where every story is individually linked to the appropriate item. Free! And read this week's "10 Questions With..." TheBlaze Radio Network host Buck Sexton, who made the unusual transition from the CIA to hosting a show for Glenn Beck's network and has some interesting perspectives on hosting as a result.
I know I said I'd be talking about podcasting this week, but, hey, events intervened. I'll get to it soon enough. And this weekend in Santa Monica, I'll be on a panel at the L.A. Podfest. Hope to see you there; the information's here. And I'll also be at the Talkers thing in Hollywood Adjacent (the edge of Los Feliz, to be precise) next Thursday, so see you there, too....