WBIA didn't always suck. Once it had a major impact on my career and life. In late summer of 1969 -- a week after Stonewall -- I crashed for awhile with a radio pal of mine who was a grad student at Union Theological Seminary. His apartment at 106th and Amsterdam had no furniture except an FM radio which was constantly tuned to WBAI. Bob Fass, Steve Post, Larry Josephson and WBAI changed my entire perception of what radio could be. I am forever grateful.
Here is clip of Bob Dylan on Bob Fass' Radio Unnameable early New Year's morning January 1, 1966:
To learn more about the late, great Bob Fass and check out the film Radio Unnameable at http://www.radiounnameablemovie.com/
Ann writes: A
station I used to work at is in a financial crisis. I don't use that phrase
capriciously. Membership has plummeted, the [ratings] indicate that
statistically, no one is listening and the… programmers [are] caught up in
petty discourse defending the value of their shows and lamenting the lack of a
marketing budget to promote the programming.
Sound familiar? What she says applies to many community
stations. She continues:
volunteer comes in to do his or her show playing bluegrass music, then another
volunteer comes in to host a half hour public affairs show about Central
America, and then another, and another. Each program is its own universe, but
unlike the real universe there is no unifying stardust to make sense of the
program schedule as a whole. In short, they cannibalize a station's
mission by putting their show first.
To me one of the biggest problems is
that many community stations use the *toxic* Pacifica governance model,
particularly when determining programming.If you follow Pacifica’s programming system your station may be doomed
to Pacifica’s fate: an embarrassment to all of us working in public media.
SOLUTION: FIRE YOUR PROGRAMMING
COMMITTEE & HIRE A QUALIFIED PROGRAMMER
Let the programmer focus on serving listeners, not on mediating internal turf wars and political purity.Give the
programmer the time and ability to make changes unhindered by committee
approval.Measure the progress over two
or three years. Hold the programmer accountable.
To me, the most valuable session at the recent Public Radio Programming Conference in Portland was CONNECTED CARS by Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media, and Larry Rosin of Edison Research. I drive a 1991 Honda Accord with AM/FM and a cassette deck, so I felt like a cave man when the presentation started. While I've been cruising in my retro ride, digital has invaded vehicles. The impact on radio listening has started -- connected cars are on the way to becoming the "new normal."
Here is a brief except from the presentation that provides the basics:
Courtesy PRPD/Jacobs Media/Edison Research
The good news for radio is that content still drives listening no matter what the platform. After the "Oh Wow" phase, listeners settle back into channels that are of importance to them. If you want to learn more about CONNECTED CARS check out the upcoming DASH conference: http://www.dashconference.com/
The CBI - College Broadcasters Incorporated - the brightest star in the college radio world, just announced the student participants in this year's NPR workshop via their blog:
This project is a collaboration among the CBI, NPR, NPR member stations
KUOW and KPLU in Seattle, Milwaukee Public Radio, Michigan Radio and
WGBH in Boston, which will provide six students the opportunity to learn
from professional journalists during a week-long program at the CBI
National Student Electronic Media Conference (NSEMC) in Seattle, Oct. 20-25.
You can see list and other conference info at: http://askcbi.org/seattle/next-gen-radio-great-learning-opportunity/ CBI is where the smart college radio folks hangout. Keep them on your radar.
This is the first of an ongoing series about the new
generation of American community radio stations – stations that seek to connect
with listeners rather than talk only to themselves.
In September, while I was in Portland for the Public Radio Programming Conference, I
debuted my new programming and management workshop at at XRAY.fm in Portland, Oregon.
(KRXY-FM) signed on in March 2014. The talk/music ratio on XRAY.fm is about 50/50 and the
schedule includes progressive talk from Portland’s Thom Hartmann, lots of
strains of groovy music and lifestyle programs that reflect the diversity of the city.XRAY.fm airs none of the typical community radio “war
Because this workshop was a beta-test, I decided to center
my effort on critiques of air checks of three willing XRAY.fm hosts. I played
audio clips to demonstrate strengths and weaknesses of the shows. I listened to
lots of XRAY.fm programming and developed easy improvements that will help
everyone involved with station.
XRAY.fm needs to build STATIONALITY – the sense that each
program is part of a greater vessel – XRAY-FM.Enhanced value leads to increased support for the station.To do this every host needs to be talking
periodically about XRAY.fm and the need for listener pledges.
One of the participating shows was Popaganda, a fascinating
“girl power” weekly magazine that could be This American Life’s youngest cousin.
But, on XRAY.fm, you can listen to a half-hour Popaganda without hearing the phrase ‘XRAY FM."Popganda is produced as a podcast, not as a radio
program.It is likely many noncommercial
stations are experiencing this same situation.
There are many common traits between podcasting and
broadcasting but there are also important differences.Podcast listening tends to be purposeful and
linear; radio listening is most often occasional and random.On broadcast radio, you have to keep
introducing yourself because listeners come and go. On average, people
listen to less than ten minutes per tune in.
I also noticed that XRAY.fm hosts seldom cross promote other
programs, an essential part of STATIONALITY.
PROVIDING A REALITY CHECK & SOLUTIONS
I had the feeling that none of the three hosts had ever
experienced an air check critique session.There was a bit of embarrassment at first – the participants were
“naked” (so to speak) in front of their peers.Because my approach is kind and my criticisms are specific, the
conversations focused on common sense solutions.
A case in point was Thank
You Democracy hosted by Jefferson Smith, one of the founders of XRAY.fm.
Jefferson Smith XRAY.fm http://xray.fm/shows/tyd
is a free form talk and interview show that focuses on a wide range of local
issues. Jefferson Smith does a solid job hosting the program but he seemed to
forget about an essential component: the listeners.
On one of the clips, Smith was caught flat-footed on-air
waiting for a late guest.I recommended
that Smith and his producer (who also was in attendance) build an archive of
evergreen segments for such situations.Key lesson: Always consider what listeners are hearing and ask “would I
listen to that?”
I asked Smith for his thoughts about my critique of his
"Ken Mills ripped my show with little
regard to human life. It was largely deserved, and I appreciated it."
Mission accomplished. Most of my advice at the XRAY.fm workshop
remains proprietary.Thank you the staff and management at XRAY.fm.
I am looking for
more stations for workshops.Please
contact me at publicradio (at) hotmail dot com.