Here's a guest blog from Mike Stern, former R&R News/Talk Editor, and major market programmer.
"It’s no surprise to me. I am my own worst enemy.”
While I shadowed a class at a local broadcast school, the instructor excitedly told his class about a guest speaker coming to their next class; a PD and talent from the early days of Top 40 radio. Back then, the instructor explained, program directors actually had influence.
“If this guy liked your record and put it on the station, it had a good chance of becoming a hit,” the instructor said. “Now all of that is handled by consultants and the corporate offices. Program directors don’t really select music anymore.”
The instructor is a veteran talent who is very passionate about radio. He wasn't being bitter; he was simply sharing his perception of the industry with his students. Unfortunately, it amounted to one of radio’s biggest fans reinforcing one of the worst stereotypes about our business to a group of young people who actually WANT to work in our industry.
Similarly, a story was related to me by a talent who fought with his parent company to retain the rights to his podcasts in a new contract. “He knows the future is about using his show to promote other things,” explained the person telling me the story. It appears that through cutbacks, restrictions and lectures about “mic flight,” we are telling young radio talent that the medium is not a viable entity for building a career.
When I was a programmer, I tried to never offer criticism without an accompanying suggestion to improve the situation but this time I’m stumped. I don’t know how to change the negative perceptions of radio that persist even amongst fans of the medium. One place to start, however, may be better P.R. with the people who are the future of the industry.