The following commentary was submitted by a programmer who wishes to remain anonymous
Today, I witnessed an event somewhere in the U.S. radio landscape that truly upset me and made me question if some of us in our business truly remember precisely why we are on the air to begin with. How many of us have been told throughout our career that our number one duty was to “protect the license of the radio station”? I would hope that each person reading this has been given that speech at least once, otherwise the rest of this article won’t make a lick of sense.
You see, we – unfortunately – live in a world where people make really bad decisions and do awful things, such as, in this case, abducting a three-week-old child from their parent’s car while they were inside of a small-town post office for just a couple of minutes. The “bad parenting” of that individual aside (“GASP! They should NEVER have left their child alone!”) and the event itself aside, the biggest thing that stood out to me in the aftermath of the situation was just how poorly certain radio stations in the surrounding areas reacted.
I took the time to look at the Facebook pages of all fourteen commercial stations licensed to the market, as well as the leading non-commercial (in this case, religious, not educational or community) station in the market, and was horrified by what I saw.
The incident occurred at approximately 8:15AM and the market’s newspaper had the story on their social media pages at 10:52AM. That alone, according to a University of Washington study that says that 74% of children who are abducted and later found murdered are killed within three hours of being abducted, is critically late in delivering information. The market’s radio response time, however, is enough to send ice cold water down the back of any parent in the world.
Of the fifteen total stations that I checked on, six of them – 40% – NEVER MADE A MENTION OF THE ALERT, PERIOD.
40% of the market’s radio stations failed to due their federally-mandated duties as trustees of the public airwaves. 40% of the market’s radio stations failed that time-tested advice of “Protect the license of the radio station”. 40% of the market’s Program Directors should take a very hard look at themselves in the mirror and question why they have their jobs.
Oh, by the way, one of the stations that made no mention of the incident? That would be the market’s “legendary” News/Talk outlet. Yep, the one station that you would think would be all over the story absolutely was not (the fact that this station NEVER posts content to their social media is another story for another day). That N/T station’s AC sister station – the one that is “the station that your family can agree on” and is in the top three of the market’s 12+ every ratings period – did not make any mention of the incident until nearly four hours after the market’s newspaper reported the story. Oh, but they WERE able to make a post about their major book promotion, which I suppose is SO MUCH MORE important. The other three stations in this cluster still, as of the writing of this article, have not said a single word in their social media.
The other seven radio stations that actually did their public duty and spread the word, well, they did so with mixed results. Six of the stations – four of which were one full group in the market – had the information posted to their social media within thirty minutes of the market’s newspaper releasing the story. One of the stations was the non-commercial operator and another was an Active Rocker. But, statistically, even this would have been too late, as the three-hour mark since the incident had passed. The final station that got the word out on their social media may as well have not even done so, as they made no mention until 5PM, over six hours after the story broke.
Folks, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that our industry is – and has been for awhile – under attack. As the weeks pass, more and more alternatives to our platform of content delivery are emerging and taking away our audience. How many times do we hear comments to the effect of, “Why should I listen to radio? It doesn’t play the songs that I want to hear, nor is it relevant to me in other ways. What can radio do for me that I can’t get from my Pandora, Slacker, iPod, or MP3 collection?”
Information. THAT is what radio can provide and should be providing that the alternatives simply can not. When a child’s life is potentially at stake, your advertiser’s sixty-second message that you have probably annoyed your audience with at least fifty times in the last week is irrelevant. When a child’s life is at stake, the fact that you just gave away a thousand bucks to Suzy Homemaker who says that she is going to take her kids to Disney World with the money is irrelevant. When a child’s life is at stake, you – as a personality (Wait, what is that? How many air talents actually know HOW to be a “personality” anymore?) – are irrelevant. Do your duty to the public as a broadcaster temporarily in control of a piece of public property and present information.
“Protect the license of the radio station.”