Wired ranks Radio among 33 things that "suck"

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Wired ranks Radio among 33 things that "suck"

Posted on: 01/22/2008

From Wired‘s ‘Why Things Suck’: Unless you enjoy hearing the same insipid Fergie song a dozen times a day, chances are you loathe mainstream radio. And for good reason:
The FM band between 92.1 and 107.9, where commercial stations reign, is mostly a desert of robo-DJs and pop pabulum.

The sad decline of conventional radio is an Econ 101 lesson in the consequences of artificial scarcity — and a B-school case study on the limits of scientific management. The scarcity is the fault of the Federal Communications Commission… The FCC’s spectrum-allocation rules… limited the number of broadcasting licenses it granted in any one market.

By the ’70s… FM had become wildly popular. That made stations valuable properties — so valuable, in fact, that only large companies could afford to buy and manage them… The government could have eased this situation by allocating more spectrum for radio use and increasing the number of licenses… Instead, Congress chose to relax the rules regarding the number of stations any one entity could own.

That’s where the scientific management comes in. The biggest barriers to building a radio audience are the polarizing power of music and the plethora of choices on the dial. So, when corporations like Clear Channel started buying up stations in the late ’90s, they set about building a lowest-common-denominator product that would be attractive to the most listeners… The result: watered-down programming designed primarily not to offend.

So bored consumers are just tuning out. Listenership among 18- to 24-year-olds is down 20 percent over the past decade. Stations have responded not with bold programming but by cutting costs. They’ve also expended considerable resources to squelch competition from low-powered FM stations and Internet radio. Not that it has helped — 85 percent of teenagers now discover new music through sources beyond the FM dial. Even the biggest radio fans envision a grim future for the medium. One bright spot: The inevitable shift to digital radio could create more room for more types of content.

Read Wired‘s entire ‘Why Things Suck: Radio’ column online here.



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Comment

  1. It’s good to see you excluded the FM band below 92.1, where public radio stations reign, and there is a wealth of music,entertainment, information and DJs with personality.

    Gordon Bayliss · Jan 22, 08:35 AM · #

  2. The same thing is happening in the “minority market” Tejano music fm stations in Texas have all been bought up by Mexican investors leaving Tejano off the air, again shinking to the lowest common denominator, music targeted to the newly arrived immigrant.

    Daryl Quintanilla · Jan 22, 02:59 PM · #

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