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Can Broadcast Radio Matter Again?

TALK RADIO (Hypebot) –
How Barack Obama Helped Make Radio Matter

During a recent trip to Charleston, SC my wife Katy and I spent time listening to WMGL FM – Today's R&B and Classic Soul. Our tastes trend towards Leonard Cohen and Ray Lamontagne, but we found ourselves riveted to WMGL because the DJ's mixed passion for things that mattered to their audience with the music.

This is not talk radio, but interest in the election and pride in the possibility of electing the first Afro-American president was evident throughout both local and syndicated shows. One DJ spent 15 minutes on a misleading ad by NC Senator Dole that called her Sunday school teacher opponent "Godless" because an atheist had sponsored a fundraiser. "I did not always agree with Libby Dole, but thought she was a fair and classy lady. No more", he declared. A steady stream of guests provided color and context to concerts, local events, record releases and the elections.

Broadcast radio stopped offering a reason to tune in. WGMT and some other Afro-American broadcasters are following a path ironically paved by conservative talk radio back to broadcasting that is not afraid to express a point of view and talk about issues facing listeners. For radio to matter again, it must:

  • Talk about subjects that matter. (the elections. jobs, health care)
  • Provide information that matters. (where to find cheapest gas, polling locations, government programs)
  • Play music that matters. (Kayne West connects. No one will care about Rhiannon in five years.)

    The audience must matter to radio, before radio can matter to the audience. – Bruce Houghton