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Badly in Need of QC

Trying to operate like a grocery store on volume instead of having a quality on-air product is no way to win listeners and influence advertisers.

Re: Jim Jenkins’ March 25 letter (“Live Radio, Indeed“):

Having been mostly at arm’s length from it for nigh on 16 years, let me comment simply as a consumer of radio. It stinks — everywhere, big city, small city — with only a few exceptions, and that’s where live radio exists, not just for morning and afternoon drive, but live and local for the greater part of the day.

Dare it be said to the general manager (he’s probably called a vice president) of a local cadre of stations that radio in your fair city is bad; he launches into a diatribe of denial: “Why, we have a talk station, a Spanish station, a rock station, a ….” And he calls that “serving the community.”

No, what I’m talking about is what I hear: 20 minutes of a telephone (or some kind of) hum, only to be interrupted by network news, a few local spots and a return to hum for another 20 minutes; syndicated programs cut short because of out-of-sync clocks and computers; two audio sources being broadcast at the same time; part-timers who pull a three-hour stint as a morning gab fest host with little preparation; a music major from the local university who can pronounce the names of classical composers with ease but, hired as a reporter, can’t handle the name of a town a few miles away and who, in general, seems to read for broadcast at a third-grade level.

I realize that today’s radio environment isn’t what it was when I first fell in love with it 48 years ago as a sophomore in high school. And I have never worked on the high-management side. But for goodness’ sake, I know that trying to operate like a grocery store on volume (in this case, number of radio stations, number of hours on the air, number of per inquiry commercials for questionable goods and services) instead of having a quality on-air product is no way to win listeners and influence advertisers.

An acquaintance of mine, enamored with the CBS Radio of old, once rejoiced at the return of such an affiliate to his city; he seems to live for the on-the-hour “bong” he grew up with, although the broadcast that follows it is far from what it once was.

Recently, he told of his distress that for two weeks the station was running the programming of a sister facility. He decided to take action.

A call to the station brought a conversation with the receptionist and a period of being on hold. No, he was told, the station is on the air. Yes, he replied, but it isn’t carrying the shows that it should and it’s been that way for two weeks. Another period of silence. Then a “thank you” for calling and a promise to look into it. A short time later, he was able to hear his beloved “bong” again.

“How can they let something like that go on for two weeks?” he groused to his wife. “Because, dear,” she said, “you’re the only one listening.”

Ahh, the wisdom of a wife. I hope some managers and owners are reading this tale, for therein, with your canned programming from far away, lies your future, if not your present.

Bob Cockrum
Lubbock, Texas