News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 14, 2012

FLASHPOINT: Radio stronger than ever


Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It is embarrassing to read your paper and see such incorrect information regarding the radio broadcast world. Columnist Ronn Mott is obviously disgruntled over the end of his broadcast career and looks to live vicariously through your op-ed page.

The NAB meets every year for the purpose of discussing many aspect of our industry, including programming, convergence (digital media), to share ideas, and discuss government regulations and music industry relations. The notion that the two largest groups (Clear Channel and Cumulus) were not invited is absolutely incorrect. Many of their executives are members of panels and speeches to fellow broadcasters. The NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) is an organization that serves the broadcasters, who are an integral part of the organization.

As to the issue of “listeners leaving radio in droves,” this is also foolish and reckless. As of this year, radio still retains reach with 93 percent of the population. With the advent of so many other entertainment sources and delivery systems, that statistic is a proud banner for our industry. Look at the “choices” the public has now — hundreds of television channels, “on demand”, DVR, computers, the Internet, the advent of tablets, video gaming systems, smart phones and satellite radio. Radio has withstood the assault of other devices in the vehicle, from the days of 8-tracks and cassette decks, to the CD player and MP3 connections in the vehicle. The large TV networks, which used to command big shares and ratings just 20 years ago, now share that spotlight with the variety of cable channels and premium channels. Yet radio pushes on and delivers — because it is local.

The idea that the business is in the hands of control freaks is also patently absurd. Good programming delivers solid audience. We are a consumer-driven industry, so the way we deliver news, weather and music is from the feedback of the mass audience, not the ramblings of someone with an outdated view of how radio serves the local community.

I can’t speak for my competitor, but they are a part of the local community and now, with four stations, they are serving four very diverse audiences. In our operation, we are delivering very specific programming that is as individual as one can get. All of our stations reach a specific audience and serve them well. One of our newest formats is X 95.9 — there is no station like this for about 100 miles. Our company supports our operation but they want it local and they want it connected to the community. We do that every day — in many ways. We support all the meaningful outreach efforts of this community, from the Autism Walk, to Race for the Cure.

As for news, we have longtime local personality and anchor Frank Rush now providing news for all our stations and hosting the WIBQ Morning Newswatch each weekday morning. We provide sports coverage on WPRS in Paris for the high schools in the area. The point that Mr. Mott needs to understand is that the consolidation steps and the Telecom Act of 1996 went a long way to preserving our industry. The markets were flooded with way too many radio stations. The ability of less owners to operate multiple signals allowed those companies to share the variety the markets were craving. You wouldn’t get a station like X 95.9 if the old model was still in place. Many stations would have gone “dark” without this necessary step to keep radio moving forward, while also delivering diversity to an ever-demanding marketplace.

Radio has never been stronger, mainly because as an industry we evolved to stay in touch with a fast-paced and always changing landscape. I don’t know any operation in the radio business that has “fallen to the pages of a comptroller’s control.” What a ridiculous and outrageous statement. This business survives and thrives because of broadcasters like Duke Wright (president and CEO of Midwest Communications) who started as a DJ over 50 years ago and has built a great company with local service in every city that we have stations.

In a sea of “choices” for the consumer, radio remains strong — in Terre Haute, radio is red hot!

— Jack Swart

Market Manager

Midwest Communications