In Tom Taylor's great daily emails (Taylor on Radio-Info), he makes the point that all of radio may end up paying for "the perceived sins of Clear Channel." All of that negative press about voicetracking, pay for play, corporate playlists, and macho corporate behavior have probably led to this new FCC proposal that will force full-time live staffing.
A couple of key points. First, Clear Channel was tone deaf to the criticism - for years. This is how negative perceptions are allowed to form, grow, and fester - when you're not in touch with your brand, and the actions of your executives. By the time Clear Channel figured out they had a PR problem, the perceptual toothpaste was well out of the tube. Even today, consumers and Congressmen alike refer to the "Clear Channelization" of radio.
Second, is having to staff radio stations on a full-time basis such a bad thing? Of course, everyone inside radio is horrified by the prospects of having to actually pay for night and overnight DJs. (Given the hundreds and hundreds of blowouts in this month alone, voicetracking during middays and afternoons has gone up as well.) Perhaps if broadcasters are forced to staff their stations around the clock, they will finally have to integrate younger people into the mix - an element that is so sorely lacking at most stations today. And as radio veterans know, some of them will have good ideas, some of them will go on to program stations, and some of them may actually invent new formats, new web applications, and new business models.
Jeff Smulyan stated in Tom's same edition that radio will need to reinvent itself. Finally, the veil of denial is being lifted and CEO's are beginning to start talking the talk. But to walk that walk, the industry needs new blood. There will not be a successful reinvention if radio's plan is to simply slash staff and expenses as its main antidote. For a change, the FCC may actually be doing radio a favor it never intended to do.