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The W - Current Events & Politics - The Trouble with Coporate Radio
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Since: 2.1.02

Since last post: 4403 days
Last activity: 3270 days
#1 Posted on
from the NY Times. I have to give the discovery credit to Messenoir: "This Nytimes oped piece is what I've been saying about the media. It isn't liberal biased. It's corporate biased and lazy. I can tell you from personal experience it is impossible to get any media to cover anything we do fairly or completely."

The Trouble With Corporate Radio: The Day the Protest Music Died

February 20, 2003

Pop music played a crucial role in the national debate over
the Vietnam War. By the late 1960's, radio stations across
the country were crackling with blatantly political songs
that became mainstream hits. After the National Guard
killed four antiwar demonstrators at Kent State University
in Ohio in the spring of 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash and
Young recorded a song, simply titled "Ohio," about the
horror of the event, criticizing President Richard Nixon by name. The
song was rushed onto the air while sentiment was still high, and became
both an antiwar anthem and a huge moneymaker.

A comparable song about George W. Bush's rush to war in
Iraq would have no chance at all today. There are plenty of angry
people, many with prime music-buying demographics. But independent
stations that once would have played edgy, political music have been
gobbled up by corporations that control hundreds of stations and have
wish to rock the boat. Corporate ownership has changed what gets played
- and who plays it. With a few exceptions, the disc jockeys
who once existed to discover provocative new music have
long since been put out to pasture. The new generation
operates from play lists dictated by Corporate Central -
lists that some D.J.'s describe as "wallpaper music."

Recording artists were seen as hysterics when they
complained during the 1990's that radio was killing popular music by
playing too little of it. But musicians have turned out to be the
canaries in the coal mine - the first group to be affected by a 1996
federal law that allowed corporations to gobble up hundreds of
limiting expression over airwaves that are merely licensed to
broadcasters but owned by the American public.

When a media giant swallows a station, it typically fires
the staff and pipes in music along with something that resembles news
via satellite. To make the local public think that things have remained
the same, the voice track system sometimes includes references to local
matters sprinkled into the broadcast.

What my rock 'n' roll colleague William Safire describes as
the "ruination of independent radio" started with
corporatizing in the 1980's but took off dramatically when
the Telecommunications Act of 1996 increased the number of stations
one entity could own in a single market and permitted companies to buy
up as many stations nationally as their deep pockets would allow.

The new rules were billed as an effort to increase radio diversity, but
they appear to have had the opposite effect. Under the old rules, the
top two owners had 115 stations between them. Today, the top two own
more than 1,400 stations. In many major markets, a few corporations
control 80 percent of the listenership or more.

Liberal Democrats are horrified by the legion of
conservative talk show hosts who dominate the airwaves. But
the problem stretches across party lines. National Journal reported
month that Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, was
it difficult to reach his constituents over the air since national
companies moved into his district, reducing the number of local
from five to one. Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, had a
potential disaster in his district when a freight train carrying
anhydrous ammonia derailed, releasing a deadly cloud over the city of
Minot. When the emergency alert system failed, the police called the
town radio stations, six of which are owned by the corporate giant
Channel. According to news accounts, no one answered the phone at the
stations for more than an hour and a half. Three hundred people were
hospitalized, some partially blinded by the ammonia. Pets and livestock
were killed.

The perils of consolidation can be seen clearly in the
music world. Different stations play formats labeled "adult
contemporary," "active rock," "contemporary hit radio" and so on. But
studies show that the formats are often different in name only - and
that as many as 50 percent of the songs played in one format can be
found in other formats as well. The point of these sterile play lists
to continually repeat songs that challenge nothing and no one, blending
in large blocks of commercials.

Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin has introduced a bill that would
require close scrutiny of mergers that could potentially put the
majority of the country's radio stations in a single corporation's
hands. Lawmakers who missed last month's Senate hearings on this issue
should get hold of the testimony offered by the singer and songwriter
Don Henley, best known as a member of the Eagles, the rock band.

Mr. Henley's Senate testimony recalled the Congressional
payola hearings of 1959-60, which showed the public how
disc jockeys were accepting bribes to spin records on the
air. Now, Mr. Henley said, record companies must pay large
sums to "independent promoters," who intercede with radio conglomerates
to get songs on the air. Those fees, Mr. Henley said in a recent
telephone interview, sometimes reach $400,000.

Which brings us back to the hypothetical pop song attacking George
The odds against such a song reaching the air are steep from the
given a conservative corporate structure that controls thousands of
stations. Record executives who know the lay of land take the path of
least resistance when deciding where to spend their promotional money.
This flight to sameness and superficiality is narrowing the range of
what Americans hear on the radio - and killing popular music.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company

Just some food for thought.


And Marking Out
Promote this thread!

Since: 11.7.02
From: MD

Since last post: 3438 days
Last activity: 1892 days
#2 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.29
Well...he hit the bullseye. Corporate radio is a bane of my existence because of the plethora of stations in the Baltimore/Washington are, eleven are owned by Clear Channel and half a dozen others by CBS/Infinity. Nothing like a load of radio stations that all sound alike. Thankfully, I like close enough to the Bay that I can pick up WRNR out of Grasonville, MD(where all the jocks from the old, famous WHFS went) to listen to something a little off base from the coporate stations.

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.
- Theodore Roosevelt, Ocotber 12, 1915
Enojado Viento
Potato korv

Since: 12.3.02
From: Your Grocer's Freezer, NC

Since last post: 2890 days
Last activity: 2162 days
#3 Posted on
Hear hear.

Ever since Clearchannel sucked the brains out of Central NC's ONLY rock station, I've had to go with one station that at least makes some overtures to local bands getting airplay (now if only they'd stop clogging the airwaves the rest of the time with rap-metal shit. . .) and NSCU's station which is, to be kind, a little schizophrenic and broadcasts at the same strength at a kid with braces eating a live cattle prod.

The rest of the stations are all-pop, but more importantly all-ads. And I've come to understand the only thing worse than TV advertising is radio advertising. Anyone else get the feeling those "continuous music blocks" every station boasts about are just a trick to shuffle around time to deluge you with ads?


"Yeah, well, the movie lied."

Since: 28.4.02
From: Pittsburgh, PA

Since last post: 543 days
Last activity: 470 days
#4 Posted on
Finally, common ground.

Pittsburgh used to have one of the greatest radio stations in the country - 102.5 WDVE. It played a mixture of classic rock and new music, never overwhelmingly obscure, but it stayed pretty current and stayed away from mediocre trendy shit. (Their slogan briefly was "Over Thirty Years, And Still No Country, Rap or F*@#in' Michael Bolton"). I believe they were the first station in the Pittsburgh area to start playing Pearl Jam and Nirvana in '91, ferexample. They also loved local rock, and had no problems bumping local bands to the top of their playlists. (Hell, thanks to them, a band you've never heard of called The Clarks sells out every show they play when they come home. And, incidentally, they're a band you should hear. Now. Go boot up your file-sharing programs that you would never use for any illegal purposes because I sure as hell wouldn't, and check them out.)

Anyhoo, eventually, there was another awesome station called The Revolution. This was our first alt-rock station and it was a great one. They actually used to mix in songs that weren't popular at the time, you know, like the actual definition of the genre, as opposed to most "alternative" stations nowadays who bleat out Limp Bizkit and Creed 24/7.

Then Clear Channel came to town, and bought up most of the radio stations, including WDVE. They lost all their cool edge, most of the local rock disappeared, and the majority of the air-staff was sent packing. Suddenly, if you listened to the station for a few hours, you'd start hearing the same songs over and over again. They still exist, but in this crippled form, and they're really not very cool anymore.

They also bought both country stations, and, seeing no need to own two country stations in the same town, changed the format of the less popular one to... alt-rock. The X was born, competing head to head with The Revolution. But the X was dull, the on-air staff vapid and annoying, and the playlist horribly repetitive (and loaded with fucking Bush. No, not that fucking Bush I hate, the other one. The one with Gavin Rossdale.)

Anyway, it was a losing battle, the local Davids were beating the big mean corporate Goliath, so... Goliath bought David. And turned him into a smooth jazz station. (The station of choice for high school art teachers. You ever heard Kenny G cover "My Heart Will Go On"? Have you?! Don't tell me about fear.)

(The former Revolution bombed under this format, so Clear Channel eventually did the only cool thing they've ever done - they made it an Old School Funk Station. So, of course, that didn't last either, and it's now a pretty typical R&B station.)

At this point, Clear Channel owns every major station in Pittsburgh, save the Top 40 station (which only plays shit by design anyway), and one of the Classic Rock stations (which, despite the obnoxiously right-wing tendencies of most of the on-air staff, is the only decent station left in the city. On a whim, they'll play two hours of Beatles songs, or all of "Born To Run", or other such cool things.)

Now, as far as politics goes, I have wondered that, with so many people opposed to war in Iraq, opposed to Bush's domestic policies, and essentially opposed to Dubya in general, and with so much of the entertainment industry feeling this way - Where is the protest song?

Nearly, every song I've heard dealing with 9/11 and the aftermath has been either wistful (Alan Jackson's "I'm So Sad I Need Your Money", Bruce Springsteen in general) or asinine (Toby Keith "I'munna Stick My Boot In Your Ass USA! USA! USA!", or whatever the hell he called that). Hell, I've heard a grand total of one pissed-off-at-the-government song, "Combat Rock", by Sleater-Kinney that, needless to say, never came anywhere close to the airwaves.

Of course, the best example - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Now, I don't think Petty's ever had trouble getting airplay for one of his songs. I'd venture to say Tom Petty's had more radio hits than any other artist from his era. ("American Girl", "Breakdown", "Free Fallin", "Don't Come Around Here No More", "I Won't Back Down", "You Don't Know How It Feels", "Don't Do Me Like That", "It's Good To Be King", "Into The Great Wide Open", "Listen To Her Heart", the list goes on and on.)

However, his newest CD, "The Last DJ", openly criticizes corporate radio and the music industry in general. The title track, the first single, was particularly strong, and clearly aimed towards Clear Channel itself:

As we celebrate mediocrity, all the boys upstairs wanna see
How much you'll pay for what you used to get for free

The song didn't reach heavy rotation on one Clear Channel station in the country, not even the once-cool WDVE.

(And don't even get me started on that list of songs they "banned" after 9/11 until people started laying into them...)

"Contrary to popular belief, there are no good wars, with the following exceptions: the American Revolution, World War II and the 'Star Wars' trilogy."
-Bart Simpson

Since: 11.7.02
From: MD

Since last post: 3438 days
Last activity: 1892 days
#5 Posted on | Instant Rating: 7.29
Just furthering my desire to own a hard-rock/right-wing talk station(whaddaa MEAN that they contradict each other?)

Seriously though, I'm fortunate that we have 98 Rock out of Baltimore still. Sure, it is owned by the Hearst Corporation, but it has been locally operated since 1977 and still palys, you know, rock n' roll. I think OFB's point about local radio in Pittsburgh has been played out all over the country. All of our stations in Balt/DC used to do local music programs. 98 Rock still does. But DC101 and HFS do not. Hell, HFS used to drop a local song right in the middle of their 7-12 shift to expose the bands to a wider audience. Now, it's Creed and Limp and Korn and all of the other bands that sound the same, voice-tracking and "The Sports Junkies" in the morning which is just a pathetic joke.. That's not an indictment of all bands played on corporate radio(some are still pretty good).

Is XM any better and worth the money?

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.
- Theodore Roosevelt, Ocotber 12, 1915
Brian P. Dermody

Since: 20.9.02
From: New York, NY

Since last post: 3106 days
Last activity: 2528 days
#6 Posted on
I hadn't realized that all that crap got deregulated in '96. Makes a lot of sense though. After all, that's when my beloved WFNX really started to bring the suck.


Modern Humorist

Since: 2.1.02
From: The Las Vegas of Canada

Since last post: 1794 days
Last activity: 187 days
#7 Posted on
But...but...I thought deregulation made everything better?

The Most Bitter Place On The Net.

The current artist tickling my fancy: Brenda Weiler

Boudin blanc

Since: 6.1.02
From: Brooklyn, NY

Since last post: 289 days
Last activity: 198 days
#8 Posted on | Instant Rating: 6.73
You know, it actually did OK with phones. With every other utility or quasi-utility it's been a nightmare.

It seems that I am - in no particular order - Zack Morris, John Adams, a Siren, Janeane Garofalo, Cheer Bear, Aphrodite, a Chihuahua, Data, Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel, Amy-Wynn Pastor, Hydrogen, Bjork, Spider-Man, Boston, and a Chaotic Good Elvin Bard-Mage.

Since: 8.1.02
From: Modesto, CA

Since last post: 5644 days
Last activity: 5638 days
#9 Posted on
Having worked in corporate radio for years in the 90s, I can say that I share all of your pain. Radio has become *extremely* corporate, complete with nice shiny buildings and lobbies. It just sucks all the life and fun that use to exist in the business when you have computers playing all the music, and more than half of the time on what you THINK is your local radio station is a "voice-tracked" DJ who recorded all his crap days ago, and you can forget about calling the radio station because the computer will not pick up. And that is if you're lucky and are not forced to listen to a syndicated show which is being piped out of some larger market outside of your area.

It really surprises me how any of these stations continue to get ratings...haven't listeners caught on yet as to how crappy and boring this all sounds? Maybe they haven't, or maybe the corporation doesn't care so long as it gets various and smaller cuts of the general public from all the stations it owns so the EVIL advertising agents (and yes, all advertising agents, including radio ones, are satanic beings) can make all their money and make WAY more than all of the on-air talent who want to make radio a fun and entertaining thing.

::DEEP BREATH:: Sorry, had to get that out. With that said, I think corporate radio is only partly to blame for why we don't see "60s protest music" much anymore. You have to look at other historical factors: Americans lived through that, and Gen-Xers in general rebelled against their hippie parents by being a little more laid back and laxed about issues through the 80s and 90s. After all, we had Ronnie, and then Bill in the White House and everything seemed pretty much ok. There really were no major national tragedies, and the Gulf War under Bush was relatively painless. I think it would take a great deal more social tension in modern American society before we would be up in arms about the war on terrorism. Like others, I think more terrorist attacks *could* have that effect.


"Darwinists sometimes find confirming evidence, just as Marxists found capitalists exploiting workers and Freudians analyzed patients who said that they wanted to murder their fathers and marry their mothers. They find further instances of microevolution, or additional examples of natural relationships, or a fossil group that might have contained an ancestor of modern mammals. What they never find is evidence that contradicts the common ancestry thesis, because to Darwinists such evidence cannot exist. The 'fact of evolution' is true by definition, and so negative information is uninteresting, and generally unpublishable."

-Phillip Johnson, *Darwin on Trial*
Lap cheong

Since: 1.8.02
From: Huntington Beach, CA

Since last post: 3484 days
Last activity: 884 days
#10 Posted on
I gave up on FM radio years ago-

I mean, I occasionaly listen to Jim Ladd on KLOS in the LA area, because he still does true "free-form" radio, but he never really plays anything new (not that there is a whole lot of popular new stuff that is any good)...

It is totally true that music, well, the most popular and widest heard, has become totally corperate. And while I think this is a bad thing, I hardly think that it is something that needs to be regulated in any way. Sure, anti-trust laws should still apply, but unless a single company has control of every radio station in a city, there is no real cause for "legal" alarm.

I registered my distate with the current "style" of FM radio by not listening. Yeah, it amazes me that they still get ratings, and that the clones all go out and listen to that garbage like good little sheep, but hey- that is Capitalism for you. They must like it in some way or they would not listen. Let them have it.

I am doing just fine sticking to talk radio, and getting my good music from "alternative" music sources.

Not that restraint when posting in a "public" forum isn't a good thing...

Downtown Bookie

Since: 7.4.02
From: USA

Since last post: 1176 days
Last activity: 866 days
#11 Posted on

    Originally posted by spf2119
    But...but...I thought deregulation made everything better?

Just my opinion, of course, but deregulation is a good thing...a very good thing...if it breeds real competition. That's what deregulation did with long distance which, as Moe alluded to, made the world a better place in which to talk to far away friends. Unfortunately, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was designed to decrease competition. By increasing the number of stations that any one entity could own in a single market it practically guaranteed that the total number of entities owning radio stations would eventually decrease (and, as we've seen, decrease drastically).

Fortunately the problem has a relatively simple solution (that is, about as simple as a solution can be when dealing with an industry as massive as radio): repeal the Act, or, at the very least, significantly modify it. That is, of course, presuming that those in power see this as a problem, rather than as a primary aim.

Consider, if you will, the plight of the newspaper industry, which has a problem similar to that which is being discussed here with regard to radio; that is, fewer and fewer publishers nationwide, creating less and less diversity of coverage.

Those who live in the New York City area probably cannot conceive of such a thing as a shortage of daily newspapers. After all, there's The New York Post, The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Bergen Record, The Newark Star-Ledger, etc. However, for most of the rest of the United States, the choice of daily newspapers is:

1) The USA Today;
2) One local paper, most probably owned by the same people who publish The USA Today.

The net result is identical to the problem under discussion as regards radio broadcasting, that is, there is no diversity of coverage, all news gets served out of the same cookie cutter format, and anything deemed too far from the center in either direction never makes an appearance in ink.

(In the interest of rambling, errr, I mean thoroughness, I should point out that the situation isn't completely identical. While competition in the radio industry died at the hands of a Congressional Act, competition in the newspaper industry was killed by economics. Publishing a daily newspaper simply became too expensive to be profitable. In other words, there are still basically the same number of radio stations as there were, say, twenty years ago; they are simply owned by fewer people. However, there are a lot fewer newspapers published in the United States then there once were, meaning that in order to increase competition you could not simply change the owners of existing outlets; you would have to create new outlets from scratch. Therefore, there doesn't appear to be a ready-made solution to increase the number of entities publishing daily newspapers in the US).

OK, time to tie all this up in a small package with a moral at the end: It's not just radio, but all media outlets that are not so gradually being controlled by fewer and fewer entities, and if the American people allow this trend to continue, the consequences will be much more severe than simply having to listen to crappy music. At least, that's my opinion.

Patiently waiting to be Stratusfied.
Peter The Hegemon
Lap cheong

Since: 11.2.03
From: Hackettstown, NJ

Since last post: 7 days
Last activity: 1 day
#12 Posted on
If you think it's bad to have the station you listen to taken over by Clear Channel, imagine having it happen to the station you *work* for.

Yes, your station has just been bought--and the new owners have instructed the managers to lay off some people before they take over. Sure, you could contact one of the other stations in the area, who would certainly be interested in a veteran DJ who has a longstanding following in the area--except, whoops, those stations have been bought out by Clear Channel, too! Well, there's one station that hasn't--but they simulcast an out-of-town station, so they have no local personalities at all.

But, hey, it's the free market, right? Wrong, because if this were any other business, you could just start your own competitor--but space on the radio dial is limited, and there's no way that the FCC is going to shoehorn more stations into the area (even when it would be feasible, which it sometimes would be).

Yes, all of this is pretty much exactly what happened to me. I did find a station in a nearby area where I've been able to get a part-time spot (and I do something else to pay the bills), but it's frustrating. It's one thing to lose a job because someone is better, or because you weren't doing your job well, or because the company wasn't doing well. It's quite another to lose it because when there is a very limited number of competitors, and one company can own several of them, it's easy to cut back on service and quality.

Since: 17.11.02

Since last post: 1185 days
Last activity: 907 days
#13 Posted on | Instant Rating: 2.74
This reminds me of my next door neighbor, Bill. He's an older guy, about 60 or so, but he loves his Days Of Our Lives and he's glued to the tv every day to watch it.

Well, about 3 months ago, he stopped getting Time Warner (BASTARDS!) cable because he's on a pension and he thought he needed food more then cable, but he really only watched daytime stuff and drank heavily at a local bar at night, so he said that as long as he can still watch his 'stories' he didn't need to pay the $24.00 a month for cable.

Guess what, when they cut the service to his house, he wasn't able to get ANY stations what so ever. He bought some rabbit ears but it was still very shitty reception, he said it was worse then when he was a kid. Anyways, he calls up Time Warner and asked how come they block the local programing, and he was told because it was through THIER lines and if he wanted to watch TV, he'd have to get his service back... and it was gonna cost MORE now, because he'd been a customer with them for 20 years back BEFORE Time Warner bought out Jones Inter-Cable, and he was still locked in to the original package deal. Now he's paying $50 like the rest of us.


Cerebus: Barbarian, Prime Minister, Pope, Perfect House Guest.

"Graft is as necessary as throwing up when you drink too much."

Since: 8.1.02
From: Modesto, CA

Since last post: 5644 days
Last activity: 5638 days
#14 Posted on
Peter, again, I feel your pain. I never worked full-time in radio, but part of the reason I worked to get *out* of radio shortly after entering it is precisely due to that lack of job security you are mentioning. It really is the entertainment business, and if you aren't good, or if someone decides you are not with it anymore, you're out, just like that, and in a very cold way too. I just couldn't stomach the "town to town, up and down the dial" lifestyle that I knew radio would give me. And yes, corporate radio is perhaps making this a bigger issue by gobbling up a bunch of stations, firing people, and bringing in its own people. (I found out quite early on that if you want to get into radio, making a program director your VERY CLOSE FRIEND, if at all possible, helps alot.)


"Darwinists sometimes find confirming evidence, just as Marxists found capitalists exploiting workers and Freudians analyzed patients who said that they wanted to murder their fathers and marry their mothers. They find further instances of microevolution, or additional examples of natural relationships, or a fossil group that might have contained an ancestor of modern mammals. What they never find is evidence that contradicts the common ancestry thesis, because to Darwinists such evidence cannot exist. The 'fact of evolution' is true by definition, and so negative information is uninteresting, and generally unpublishable."

-Phillip Johnson, *Darwin on Trial*
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