Guest Commentary – Bob Bowland Examines The State Of Radio

Radio and Television Broadcaster Bob Bowland

The Bean Counters Have Taken Over The Broadcast Industry!

The Bean Counters have taken over the broadcast industry. In doing so, they have abdicated their responsibility to the listener.

In their opinion, radio is mainly a music broadcasting industry. News and information simply gets in the way of playing more music, which in their opinion, is what the public wants. Besides news people cost money, so, if the bean counters can save money by reducing or eliminating the news people the company will make more money.

Before we go much further, we should set out the argument for more varied programming which should include an element of news as well as some other “stuff”.

There was a slogan once used by some stations back in the hay day of pop radio : ”Not just a service of records, but a record of service!”

Let’s look at the Canadian Broadcasting Act.

It says: “Broadcasting Policy for Canada, It is hereby declared as the broadcasting policy for Canada that the Canadian broadcasting system should serve to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada; encourage the development of Canadian expression by providing a wide range of programming that reflects Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values and artistic creativity, by displaying Canadian talent in entertainment programming and by offering information and analysis concerning Canada and other countries from a Canadian point of view;

The programming provided by the Canadian broadcasting system should be varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, enlightenment and entertainment for men, women and children of all ages, interests and tastes; be drawn from local, regional, national and international sources; include educational and community programs; provide a reasonable opportunity for the public to be exposed to the expression of differing views on matters of public concern.”

For the uninitiated, it should be noted that the “Canadian broadcasting system”, as described by the act, refers to the entire broadcasting industry in Canada and not to the CBC.

Radio Television Broadcaster Bob Bowland

“Broadcasting should offer “information and analysis” and be “drawn from local and regional sources”.

It is my opinion that radio is missing the boat by not continuing to have strong news departments. Those departments would be manned by competent people trained in broadcast journalism which are still being churned out by universities and community colleges. However, my guess is that these journalists are not being gobbled up by the broadcast industry and are instead going into PR, becoming giddy flap mouth disc jockeys or driving uber cabs.

The big broadcast company bean counters and lawyers will argue the industry is losing money and they have to find ways to save. Flinging people out the door and putting giddy vacant minded disc jockeys on the air seems to be the preferred method of saving money these days. Those same people will also argue that they are providing varied programming when they appear before the CRTC for licence renewals and applications to purchase more stations. Yes they are. It’s varied in the markets where they own more than one station. Usually a talker, what we used to call a middle of the roader and maybe a rocker or country station. But, in the single or even two station markets, it’s just different music formats.

Music is available from so many other sources that it doesn’t make sense for people to want to continue to listen to radio for it with the added irritant of commercials. Let’s face it, the kind of radio being done in small town Canada can be done with a machine and voice tracking. Much of it is. So why be so proud of the fact “we are live” when the listener can’t tell anyway.

Back to the Broadcasting Act. Broadcasting should offer “information and analysis” and be “drawn from local and regional sources”.

Let’s put the “live” into gathering news, information and opinion in the station’s own back yard. I think the bean counters would be surprised at the ratings. And ratings generate revenue. The audience of a station is its only product.

— Bob Bowland worked as a newscaster at CKNX AM/TV Wingham and at CKVR-TV in Barrie. He was the original Operations Manager of CHAY-FM in Barrie, playing a major role in developing the station’s extensive regional news coverage delivered by a well staffed news room. He has chaired various radio industry committees including assuming many roles including Chair of the Radio-Television News Directors Association of Canada. He later purchased an AM station in Parry Sound and built the property into a successful 50,000 watt FM station known as CKLP-FM. Bob is also an expert in CRTC regulations.

Related Story – What On Earth Is Happening To Local Radio News and Information?

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