News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 29, 2012

RONN MOTT: Changing Radio

Ronn Mott
Special to the Tribune-Star

---- — At the recent NAB meeting a few days ago, a group of national broadcasters got together. That in itself is not unusual. What was unusual was the fact the two largest companies owning and controlling thousands of radio stations were not invited to the meeting.  

That’s the rub, you see. Broadcast owners can own thousands of radio stations. They can sit atop their money pile, throw it into the air and shout for joy. So what is wrong? It is the fact that listeners are leaving radio by droves. And the meeting of all these owners was to discuss that problem.

Well, I know what is wrong. I’ve known it for years and no owner or ownership wants to listen. So here it is in cold, black and white. All of these companies are control freaks. There’s no room for individuality, there is no room for creativity, and God forbid any spontaneity.  

Radio used to be known for its outstanding personalities. Some were downright crazy. Some were funny, some were obscene, and not a single one of them would be hired today by the organizations that want to control everything. So, all of those aforementioned things — spontaneity, creativity, etc. — have fallen to the pages of a comptroller’s control. Radio stations today are struggling. It isn’t that they’re not making money, it’s simply a struggle to maintain an audience they once enjoyed. Or, maybe they took for granted.

The Terre Haute stations and the two in Brazil are now controlled by two ownerships. To say this is better for Terre Haute radio is a gamble. With just two ownerships, you will get what is happening in every major market in America. No individuality, no creativity, and almost a total lack of variety across the dial. Things like news, which has always been expensive compared to the money it makes, will be cut back. I have not yet heard a sports broadcast this year other than weakness in the effort. It’s just not very good. Here again, sports is expensive compared to the total listenership and the money it takes in.  

Radio prices, i.e. the advertising rate, rarely ever goes down. It almost always goes up. Now, with radio audiences diminishing, the question will remain: Will all of these multiple ownerships be good for our country, our cities, and the hinterland? The obvious answer is … no.

Ronn Mott, a longtime radio personality in Terre Haute, writes commentaries for the Tribune-Star. His pieces are published online Tuesday and Thursday on Tribstar.com, and in the print and online editions on Saturday.