Monday, June 29, 2009

We won't take no static at all

Did radio even cross your mind when Michael Jackson died?

Did you turn on the radio hoping to hear a tribute to the "King of Pop"?

If you had, would you likely have heard one?


I'M BETTING that for most people nowadays, the answer was No, No, and No. No, Michael Jackson is dead and radio isn't feeling so good itself.

Over at Inside Music Media, longtime radio man Jerry Del Colliano
called bulls*** on radio's performance during a "made for radio" moment last week -- just as he's been calling bulls*** on the corporate raiders who've been killing an industry for almost a decade and a half now. An excerpt:
Late last week when Michael Jackson died suddenly at his Los Angeles home, the radio industry was caught with its pants down and voice tracking up.

This is not to say that some stations did not respond -- the ones programmed by real live individuals and/or those who actually had control of their company's voice tracking did the right thing for their listeners.

For too many, radio was caught sleeping while new media was feeding the need of the public to know, mourn publicly and appreciate the talents of this great iconic performer.
TMZ broke the news and owned the story from start to finish.

That's TMZ like in gossip website -- no matter that it is owned by Time Warner.

CNN, New York Times, LA Times and other more "legitimate" news publications hedged in the name of caution (which is not on its face a bad thing) but then dropped the bomb on a public that had already been able to do what they couldn't do -- confirm a breaking story.

Thank you cell phones, Blackberries, iPhones, the Internet, social networking and the services that are growing up in or around them.

Radio stations really didn't see this type of thing coming.

When John Slogan Hogan, Lew Tricky Dickey and Fagreed Suleman embraced voice tracking and syndicated programming to help them save money, they apparently gave little thought to what happens in an emergency. I mean -- this was the death of a major performer.

What happens, God forbid, if a world leader dies or if North Korea actually fires a missile at Hawaii or if Iran attacks Israel?
WHAT HAPPENS is you're screwed if you're not online. Or if you can't afford to be online. Or if you're just a retro, "throwback" kind of person.

Trouble is, the suits running radio don't care that you're screwed. They're too busy running themselves into bankruptcy . . . and chasing away listeners.

What to do?

Well, if you're presently without a profession because of these people -- or if you're worried that splintered, online demographic "tribes" may not be the healthiest civic substitute for the communal experience of free public media -- you probably have run out of options for "working through the system."

After all, "the system" has its. F*** you.

THAT LEAVES the "'60s Option." Public protest . . . direct action . . . raising hell and grabbing attention.

What if, for example, all the skilled and talented people thrown away by the radio industry since Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (which allowed conglomerates to swallow an industry whole) decided to single out a single station in every Top 100 market, mark a single date on the calendar, then stage "sit-ins" at those stations?

Better yet, what if all the fired, laid-off and chased-off radio people forced their way into those 100 radio stations across the country, barricaded themselves inside and staged "radio-ins"? A "radio-in" is just like a 1960s-style sit-in, only the participants take over the station and actually commit radio . . . as opposed to what the Clear Channels of the world are calling "radio" nowadays.

I wonder how long they could keep it up before the SWAT team hauled them away -- or before the suits had their engineers turn off the transmitters? Just make sure you invite the TV reporters and YouTube mavens along for the ride, however short.

THINK OF IT . . . if all the castoffs of an entire industry took it back -- or at least part of it back -- for however long and then (again, for however long) began to put an entertaining product on the air while overtly operating in the public interest, the corporate suits suddenly would be put in the position of having people jailed for doing what those stations' federal licenses say they ought to have been doing all along.

And after the last paddy wagon had rolled away -- filled with folks who had just been trying to serve the public interest and make a point -- those 100 stations would go back to business as usual.

Business devoid of very many live people on the air.

Business devoid of meaningful news programming.

Business devoid of much up-to-date information like, for instance, the correct weather. Or the correct time. Or the fact that the biggest recording star since Elvis and John Lennon had just died.

The difference would be apparent. And striking

Power to the people. Now.

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