Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Dec. 18, 2006 — Radio wars

As one who travels a lot in the car, I listen to a lot of radio. And if you’ve been listening to our podcasts and how they are composed and mixed, you can hear the narrative style inherent in public radio.

There’s been an interesting marketing battle going on between two public radio stations near the apartment. One station used to broadcast classical music all day except for a period between 3 and 7 p.m. when it would broadcast news and talk. The other would broadcast news and talk for most weekdays except between 3 and 6 p.m. when it would have bluegrass music.

The second station dropped its weekday bluegrass format after Sept. 11, 2001 and switched to news and talk on the weekdays. Meanwhile, the classical station began broadcasting morning news between 6 and 10 a.m., which broke the usual rules of collegiality between public radio stations which dictated that two neighboring stations shouldn’t compete with each other for the same listeners by scheduling programming to deliberately poach listeners by either counterprogramming or duplicating programming.

In March 2005, the classical station dropped its musical format almost completely in favor of a world news and talk format which brought a horde of new voices to the station. There was a wonderful daily talk program called “Odyssey,” which unfortunately was dropped by its Chicago host. Another daily program from the BBC is an hour-long call-in show which is more than just the usual “Bob from Baltimore” commenting on a particular subject, but having three or four people from around the globe in a conference call.

The bluegrass station pushed back in early December 2006, answering the classical station with some pretty deliberate poaching moves. It scheduled two programs to be on an hour earlier or later than its competitor — a very popular daily arts and politics talk show, and one weekend documentary program — and shuffled the broadcast of a two-hour weekend news program so that the listener wouldn’t be listening to the same hour of that broadcast if tuning into either station.

Meanwhile, a commercial radio conglomerate was still broadcasting classical music on one of its six stations until it partnered with The Washington Post to create a news/talk format radio station which was promised to be “public radio on caffeine.” The classical station previously on that frequency was shifted to two less powerful transmitters, and the “public radio on caffeine” station’s ratings slipped to about an 0.8 share in the ratings.

Now, one of the largest private businesses in the region, a professional football team, has been looking to purchase a more powerful transmitter to broadcast its games on the FM dial. A deal is being closed to purchase the transmitters of the classical commercial radio station.

At the same time, last week, the former classical public radio station outflanked station management and voted to reinstate the classical format the moment that commercial deal goes through.

A lot of folks have complained that new technologies such as satellite radio and the iPod have created a very fickle radio audience. But there’s no substitute for good radio. I’ll be interested to see what happens with the new format of the classical public station. I just hope that some of the voices I have come to enjoy will remain.

1 Comment»

[…] 23, 2007 — Unintended consequences Several weeks ago, I wrote about a miniature radio war near the apartment. Last night at 8 p.m., the public radio station which formerly broadcast mostly […]

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