Radio as Cultural
by Marty Ronish
speaker Bob Hurwitz to closing speaker Evans Mirageas, AMPPR 2003 challenged,
informed, and even inspired. Two dichotomous ideas percolated through the
conference in multiple guises: (1) that the quality of our programming
is key and a clear reason to subscribe to satellite services and (2) local
content and connections are crucial to a station’s–and community’s—health.
On the issue
of quality, opening keynote speaker Bob Hurwitz, veteran of the recording
industry, said record producers in the past relied on their instincts to
produce some of the greatest recordings of all time. They didn’t try them
out on focus groups first. Quality and freshness were the keys, and if
they sounded good to trained ears, they would do well in the marketplace.
The courage of convictions.
Geller, a well-respected media consultant, was a powerful proponent of
personality radio, of making a human connection with the audience, particularly
with the 30 percent of Americans who live alone. She convinced me that
QUALITY and PASSION are good; BORING is bad.
of National Public Radio has been a constant positive voice for classical
music on the radio, defending it continually at NPR against the encroachment
of news/talk and reminding us in the field that what we do is NOT dying.
He gave upbeat reports about the growth of public radio in general, and
also about the numbers of people who use classical radio.
joined by his statistics guru at NPR, Benjamin Robins, who revealed solid
and amazing statistics compiled by NPR, which are unfortunately proprietary
now director of Media Arts at the National Endowment for the Arts, made
strong comments about quality in the media. On the positive side, he advocates
increased funding from the NEA for good classical radio. On the negative
side, he slammed what he perceived to be the poor quality of the PRPD Classical
Core Values study. The word he used was “execrable.” The NEA will be funding
a new, broader study about classical listening.
comments were ably challenged the next day by PRPD president Marcia Alvar.
However, if PRPD, the NEA, and NPR are all charging about collecting the
same statistics, maybe some of that money could be better spent. Is it
time for a summit among these three organizations?
of quality also came up in the session on reaching a new generation of
classical listeners. A few quality children’s services are now available
over the air and on-line, and panelists were unanimous in voicing their
sincere desire that all stations would carry programming for younger listeners,
but only if it is the highest quality available.
host of NPR’s “Performance Today,” Judith Krummeck of WBJC, and Alan Chapman
from CPRN demonstrated first-hand the qualities of great interviews.
Using the Internet
joined researcher Dr. Alfred Eckes in an examination of globalization and
how technology is changing the delivery of content. And an acrimonious
session about internet streaming left more questions than it answered about
the cost, value, and reporting requirements of internet streaming.
who directs the CPB Internet Assessment project gave the most cogent explanation
I have ever heard about the benefits and drawbacks of stations’ use of
the internet. Fuerst concluded that current best use of the internet is
to support stations’ broadcast services.
the conference, speakers called attention to the recent Knight Foundation
report that “radio is the dominant mode of consumption of classical music”
In my opinion,
this one dramatic conclusion from the Knight study should appear in all
your literature, on your website, in your dealings with all arts organizations,
as you talk to funders, in persuading politicians, and as you defend the
classical format against corporate takeover.
days of rhetoric—some of it very convincing—about bigger and better, and
despite his personal interest in national programming as head of CPRN,
Evans Mirageas in his final keynote address advocated passionately for
local content and connection.
connection to your audience and importance in your community is the strongest
argument for more local content. The arts organizations cannot survive
the master calendar, you convince listeners to go to concerts, you answer
their questions, you are their constant companion.
economy of scale; i.e., you reach more people for less cost than all your
local arts organizations put together. According to Mirageas, you don’t
need to find some magic pill. You already ARE the cultural leader in your
Marty Ronish is the producer
of Sweet Bird Classics “Boombox Classroom."