Monday, December 10, 2012

What do you consume at breakfast time?


Before I start, a quick disclaimer.

Disclaimer:  Although I have worked in Radio for many years in an on-and-off basis, whether it was being the lead programmer of iHeartRadio for iPhone, or being involved in programming one of the largest US broadcaster EOC's that took part in the November 2011 FEMA EAS test.  I currently do not work in Radio, and these views are my own and nobody elses.

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It's with a lot of interest that I watch the media document the public backlash against the Australian radio DJ's that took part in the Royal baby prank hoax that ended with a nurse taking her life.  I'm not going to speculate on the nurse and her motives, because it would be just that… speculation.  Instead, I want to focus on the problem with radio.

Many people are not as lucky as I am to have lived in multiple countries and witness first hand how everyday life pans out.  My time in these places doesn't go to waste though, as I do pay attention and compare, analyse, and try to understand things.  

One place item that consistently disappoints is radio.  I also think I'm not the only one that's disappointed with it.  

Not too long ago, the BBC in the UK was shaken to it's foundation by a prank radio call.  In a nutshell, two overpaid idiots called up an old man and left lewd messages about his granddaughter on his answer phone.  Whilst the ensuing public uproar was going on, the basic response was "It was only supposed to be some lighthearted fun".  

This echoes of the childhood school bullies explaining to the teachers why Johnny has a bloodied nose, "It was only supposed to be some lighthearted fun", right?  The end result of that tasteless affair (known by many as "Sachsgate"), was a lot of people got fired, reshuffled and re-org'd, but the public was truly incensed.

Fast forward to the latest debacle coming out of the 2Day FM show, and we hear the same lame sentiment from Michael Christian (the male DJ involved) that we've heard ad nauseum: it was supposed to be "just a simple, harmless, fun call".

I fundamentally disagree, and think radio stations should wake up to the fact that in an age where success is a universally acknowledged phenomenon that is quickly forgotten whilst failure instantly turns you into an Internet meme that follows you around for years, belittling someone in public, for "entertainment" purposes is wrong.

You hear this prank call tripe coming from stations in every country.  It's the same format too:

1. Play whatever song the record company is paying the station's owners to keep in rotation.
2. Make some asinine jokes about something you read in the paper and have no idea about.
3. Invite a caller to tell a funny story that extrapolates on whatever just got poked fun at previously.
4. Make a prank call.
5. Go back to playing another song that a record company is paying the station's owners to keep in heavy rotation.

Sorry, but why is this acceptable?

First, you have the DJ's. Fire them. Any DJ should want to aspire to something more than that.
Second, you have the public.  What as a radio station are you delivering? (and do not answer "some lighthearted fun and entertainment", because we all know that's a lie).
Third, where's the regulation?  We stopped putting people in the stocks and publicly throwing vegetables at them centuries ago, but this hasn't filtered into breakfast radio yet.

Someone needs to get some testicular fortitude and put a stop to this endless cycle of tripe before another bit of "harmless lighthearted fun" causes untold problems for some other poor hapless person.