When Radio Really Mattered, a Familiar Story

Broadcast Legend, Stirling Faux, is celebrating 45 years in radio broadcasting, with 40 years on the air on Canada’s west coast in the lower mainland. He was interviewed by Shaw TV’s Fiona Forbes on The Rush recently.

Stirling Faux has enjoyed an amazing career in media.

His resume is very similar to the resumes of so many broadcasters from his era. He started out playing radio in his house as a child, moved on to get that coveted first radio job away from home, sent out tiny reel-to-reel demo tapes with resumes, and moved up the radio dial station by station.

He rose to the top of his profession when personalities mattered. Radio stations were built around creative people who could perform, and in turn, those people built a following, the audience. Radio announcers were entrepreneurial presenters, constantly and instantly adjusting what they had to say without being nailed down to corporate consultant talking points.

Let’s take it a step further. The audience numbers of a radio station built by the creative programming components provided the product sales people could sell to advertisers … a winning formula that has been abandoned by the big corporate ownership groups that now control your radio dial and online listening devices.

The formula works on old media, new media, and any media in-between. (there are some very good web sites playing new music with terrific spoken word and presentation)

Good programming is good programming on any device. Heck … if your toaster could provide the audio for a well programmed morning show it would build an audience before the bagel popped!

So many of the corporate broadcasters have all but eliminated budgets for programming. It shows.

Faux pointed out that the fun days of working for a family owned radio station are gone. He said what any of us who have experienced the “corporate takeover” environment already knew, that corporate ownership doesn’t know who you are any more. There are no more family barbecues where the radio station employees would meet the owners and everyone would mix, mingle and enjoy each other’s company.

While Faux spent most of his career on the west coast, you may remember listening to him on Toronto’s 680 CFTR when it was a southern Ontario powerhouse back in the 70’s.
Click Here to listen to 680 CFTR again!

Those were the good old days!

Is the hitline ringing?

The latest programming “trick” no doubt created by a corporate deep-thinker with a company sticker on his golf bag has radio stations playing a whole bunch of songs and then going directly into a long commercial break without having an announcer handing off from the last song to the first commercial. No announcer. This also happens during times when there actually is a “live” announcer on the air so as to make the listener think this is the shiny new way to program, but that announcer has been scaled back on what he or she is allowed to say.

Sorry … this doesn’t work either … it makes the radio station sound like the announcer has nodded off or locked herself out of the building.

An untrained Shih Tzu (say it out loud for full effect, it’s a radio thing!) could push a button to trigger a bunch of songs to play all in a row and then a bunch of commercials to play all in a row and more songs and more commercials … but no live announcer and certainly not a news cast … ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh … turn it off!!!

What is the hook to keep the listener? There isn’t one. The programming just drifts away into oblivion, song after song after badly over played song … and then the corporate giants say they have to cut staff because sales are down. What is there to sell any more?

Some say the internet is killing traditional radio. Rather than use new media to promote great broadcasting, radio web sites have become some of the worst sites because they are all the same, filled with fluff and no local creativity … more corporate whitewash representing a complete misunderstanding of how media programming works. Go to an independently owned radio station’s web site and you’ll see something much better!

When radio programmers stop doing things a person can easily do themselves on their iPhone, radio listening will begin to rebound.

Cue the comeback!

Paul Richards is a retired broadcaster who obviously thinks radio still has a chance to climb back to the top! He is also the author of this web site.

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