Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Radio Magnates Need Their Own Shakeup

Radio is so personal. I grew up listening to CFRB because my mother was such a fan. A friend introduced me to 1050 CHUM when it played new music, not oldies or whatever pathetic thing the CTV conglomerate has reduced it to, as a prelude to destroying the iconic landmark CHUM building on Yonge, I'm sure. I then discovered Q107 when all the cool, hip people listened to it before it too degenerated into oldies or old rock or whatever. The thing about those stations was that they listened to their listenership. They took calls -- you could call in and make requests sometimes or just chat with the DJ. They were local -- you knew the sound was coming from familiar buildings in Toronto and they were speaking to Torontonians. They were live. That much was obvious, especially listening to Scruff Connors (am I dating myself or what?!). And they moved with the times, hiring female DJs for weekday duties.

But things have changed. A lot. Harsh economic times have always been with us, and so I don't buy the argument that the recession made them do it. We've experienced deep recessions and soaring interest rates before, and this recession here in Canada is pretty tame compared to previous ones. It may be global, but locally I've seen worse.

On the other hand, the Internet is relatively new. It has played havoc with the music industry and television, but it can play nice with radio. No longer does a listener need a short wave radio to catch shows playing on the other side of the planet. We can find a station on the Internet, click the live streaming button, and listen to how other people live, talk, think. But that goes out the window when the local station becomes less local, doesn't reflect the populace, is only live some of the time, ditches DJs for 24-hour music, and in short listens to the scrabbling and scratching sounds for money coming from the conglomerate owner. And, as far as I'm concerned, those sounds hide the fact that these owners don't have an effing clue how to run a radio station or how to attract listeners and keep them.

CFRB has just announced -- AGAIN -- a program shakeup, which is really just musical chairs in order to fit in a new guy John Tory and to get rid of Michael Coren and the one female host -- co-host of The Motts actually cause, you know, you can't trust a woman to run a show all on her own when people are listening. The program shakeup doesn't address the fact that CFRB programs its talk shows as if we still live in the 1970s. I remember eons ago when Q107 started putting female DJs on during the day; Dusky I think her name was who did the 9 am slot. While women's voices populate the air waves on FM, reflecting the fact that women comprise 52% of the population, like listening to like voices, make purchasing decisions, and are as susceptible to advertising as men, CFRB remains resolutely stuck in the misogynist age. The only 21st century move they made with this new program change was to hire Liza Fromer even though she's pregnant and then set it up so she can jump in every now and then on the new John Moore morning show from home. But she ain't even a co-host like Carol Mott was.

CHUM FM was decimated by the CTV buyout. I stopped listening. I can't even see Marilyn Dennis on TV anymore. CTV, I'm sure, used the recession as a reason to ditch her show-in-development. But geeze, who believes that? Did CTV go belly up in the 1990s recession? 1980s? No, they have a habit of not sticking with good daytime Canadian hosts. Of course, they didn't find many. But Dennis is a gem; viewers are still crying out at this loss. With it's all-things American focus, CTV couldn't care less. The stupid thing is their fixation on American TV above anything Canadian is costing them in the pocketbook. They are such US bootlickers that they sacrifice the one thing any media conglomerate must do -- make money -- to get their lick fix.

Meanwhile Astral Media -- those guys who look after Toronto's trash cans and TTC shelter ads -- has looked over at CTV's ways and thought, hey, great idea. So they've turned their FM station to a foreign brand with foreign programming. Every time I turn on 99.9, now Virgin Radio, I hear British voices or American programming. Gag. I want to hear local or national, but not foreign on my radio, thank you very much.

Rogers completely f'd up CISS 92.5 with its stupid JACK FM idea, but recently they've relaunched the station with a new format. I turned it on this morning at 9 am and discovered wake-up kind of music, not the American pap alternating with the offensive-to-the-ears music CTV brought to CHUM FM, and lo and behold a woman's voice spoke between songs. Best, they said they run 54 minutes commercial-free. So I'll give them a try. I've also been listening to PRIDE FM when need to get jazzed up to write. The DJs are a bit, uh, precious and I haven't heard a woman's voice yet, but they're definitely local and live.

As for AM talk-style radio, I'm back on the hunt. I've tried listening to CBC, but it's just not my style first thing, later maybe. Podcasts are hard to listen to when I'm still in the twilight zone and I need the radio alarm to wake me up. I tried to look for local radio apps for my iPod, but only CBC has a good one, and it's free. Sigh. Will I ever find radio bliss again?

1 comment:

lou josephs said...

Loved your post. I used to work with George Johns who created the old CFTR and also worked with the Magic Christian who worked at CFTR. Worked in radio in the US and internationally for about 20 years. Jumped to IT in the 90s.
Try listening to internet radio stations..sweden, russia, bbc, local station are neat. And the music isn't the same over researched junk you get in the US