I have my radio beside my bed set to a radio station out of Houston that promotes itself as an all news radio station. I have my radio alarm set to that station because the morning radio shows with all their stupid jokes, cackling disk jockeys, endless idiotic conversations and be-caller-number-99 contests do not put me in a good mood to start my day. The guy who reads the news and the weather/traffic reporter and the sports guy on the Houston news station all have pleasant voices which gradually wake me enough to drag my lazy ass out of bed.
This morning, the first thing I heard when the radio came on was, “Weather alert! Hail, damaging winds and heavy rains are expected…please insert twenty-five cents to hear the rest of the report.” Then an announcer came on and said, “Radio should be free.” It was a flipping commercial. A fake severe weather alert is no way to wake up an area of the country still suffering from post Hurricane Rita traumatic stress syndrome.
Terrestrial radio is still free, as are NBC, CBS and ABC. However, if you want choices and interesting programming, you pay for cable television and you pay for satellite radio. Yesterday, I heard Alan Parsons Project and Jo Jo Gunne on Deep Tracks (XM – Channel 40). When was the last time you thought about, let alone heard, Jo Jo Gunne?
Free radio is necessary for purposes of local news, weather and traffic. If they want to compete head to head with satellite radio musically, they need to add more variety. The vast majority of radio stations still program one music format per radio station. Surely the owners of those stations (and the advertisers) realize that most people do not listen to only one type of music. When a person tires of listening to country music, they turn to the 80’s music station or to the hard rock station. People are flippers.
There are stations popping up around the country that play a wide variety of music. (You can listen to them on your computer if you can’t catch them locally.) When a person listens to those stations, my guess is that they tend to stay longer partially out of curiosity as to what will be played next. The I-Pod generation is much more musically sophisticated than we could have ever dreamed of being when we were teenagers and they want to hear everything. We didn’t even have FM radio until I was in high school and then I had to use some sort of cassette player adapter in my 1962 Chevy (4-on-the-floor, mag wheels, dual exhausts…yeah, I was cool) to catch it.
I assume the ultimate goal of a radio station is to encourage listeners to not be flippers. If that’s the case, the solution is simple. We understand that advertising is necessary in order for terrestrial radio to remain free to listeners, so you can keep the commercials. However, please tell the disk jockeys we want the name of the song and who sang it, nothing more. Also, mix up the music and stop boring the shit out of everybody. Then, free radio might become a viable alternative to satellite radio