A Question about Demographics

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    I keep hearing about how the 25-54 Demo is what advertisers crave, I’ve heard it for decades.

    So my question is, why are do many radio hosts, particularly syndicated ones outside the Demo?

    I can’t think of any big names comfortably INSIDE the demo? Anyone have any insight? Have advertisers given up on radio or has radio given up on advertising?


    OK, I’ll take a shot at this one.

    Radio talent has been on the decline now for atleast 20 years. Andy will tell you it started in ’96, feel free to explore his many, (but accurate) posts on this subject. (I used to argue with him about this, but he was right all along.) Deregulation certainly was a turning point in how companies (I won’t mention names…Clear Channel) handled talent.

    So here we are 20 years later and the only talent remaining are now closer to Social Security than the prime demo. Doesn’t mean they can’t do their job well, but it does mean that there are few younger talents in the biz. Heck, even Ryan Seacrest is now out of the top40 demo, but yet he is the voice of IHeart, formerly Clear Channel, in their top40 division. If Casey Kasem aged out of the demo, so has Ryan, despite his younger sound.

    “Have advertisers given up on radio or has radio given up on advertising?” DanOregon asks.

    Neither. Both are still fighting for the spilled food from the dog dish. Some more successfully than others, but it doesn’t look good. I have never been so negative about an industry that has been my income-producer for 35+ years. While I have great memories and great recollections of what radio could be, I have lost it in today’s context. I am not predicting radio is going away anytime soon, but it certainly will never be what it was due to simply changing times. Oh, yeah, kind of like it has done before, in 1950 with the advent of TV, and 1972 with the advent of FM, and 1996 with advent of deregulation, and the 2000’s with the advent of the Internet.


    The problem is, there is no longer a “farm system” in which to learn the craft.

    Andy Brown

    Actually, Paul, it really started when Reagan began the deregulation of ownership in the early 80’s when he lifted the national ownership limits from 7 to 12 and market limits from 2 to 3. It was the first step with plans to raise limits again in 1990.


    It took until 1992, but the limits were raised again to 18.


    Then in 1996, The 104th Congress, the first Republican House in forty years, proceeded to push for and vote consistently for a conservative agenda. This includes expanding the rights of the haves and diminishing the rights and chances for improvement of the have nots. The Telecommunications Reform Act, a dream Republicans had for years, became reality. If you look at any and all graphs of employment in radio broadcasting, the big nosedive began shortly thereafter. The jobs were already on the downturn due to the rise of duopolies (two on one band usually paired with one on the other band for the max of 3 in a market), but the big black hole didn’t open up until 1997.

    The LPFM scene provides an outlet for young folks looking to play college radio beyond their college years but it is not really a “farm system” either because there is no longer a huge base of disc jockeys that are in demand. To get a radio job, the inexperienced need production skills more than voice skills and they certainly don’t need to understand, appreciate nor know anything about music. In fact, it has been written by others that radio and music had a trial separation in the 80’s and it ended in divorce in ’96.

    What caused this to happen, in reality, was the rise of the cell phone. The definition of competition became two players in the market. The FCC moved the upper UHF TV stations to lower UHF channels and had a lottery to decide which two companies would get the licenses on that first mobile cellular band. They raised all kinds of money. They decided they would use the lottery system for Docket 80-90, a big expansion of the FM radio dial that opened up lots of Class A FM stations into already crowding major metropolitan markets. It was a mess. (Portland gained 94.7 and 107.5). The FCC decided to drop the idea. It went back to its comparative hearing system for mutually exclusive applications after the smoke from 80-90 cleared, but new allocations in demand attracted many applications and litigating through dockets with 20 to 35 applicants were a huge drain on FCC resources. In the second round of cell phone proceedings the FCC decided to switch to an auction style format instead of a lottery with a fixed price. They made a fortune. That’s why the government decided to throw out the broadcast comparative hearings system and go to an auction system and wrote that into the 1996 reform act including the lifting of all national ownership limits and raising market limits to 8 in the largest markets, 7 in the next tier, etc. (see 73.3555 http://tinyurl.com/zoagpt9 )

    So that’s a brief overview of what got us here. I understand why Paul and others rejected the notion of a sinking ship for the first decade after the ’96 Reform Act because it took that long for the problems to begin to become visible to the main stream. The entire radio broadcast model began to break down in the ’00’s. Two Bush recessions, the iPod, Napster and downloads also began to have an effect on people’s desire to tune in to radio, a service in decline. Clear Channel grew too big too fast and fell into debt problems around then and layoffs and automation came in and swooped all the jobs away. After a decade of that, there is little left but a carcass with mostly bones and a little grizzle.

    And here we are. I was lucky but I’m 65 now so I have great memories of great radio done by great people where the community was served, jobs were created, and the industry thrived. I worked in AM, FM and TV and was an applicant in a comparative hearing for ten effin’ years that ended up straddling the ’96 rules change and ended up in an out of court settlement that could only be settled if Clear Channel got the property. But it sort of worked out in the sense that Clear Channel paid 21.5 million dollars to get 105.9 in Portland and now it’s worth maybe 4 to 5 million. CC did this kind of crap all around the country and spent tens of millions of dollars over market value for a lot of what they bought up which explains why they now have 25 billion in debt. The sad part is that it has been at the expense of the industry.

    So you can blame any one of these ‘factors’ in the history I’ve just reported on, but the real reason is that the government is greedy and when it is run by Republicans in Congress, no industry is safe from deregulation and redistribution to the wealthiest players.

    Did I leave anything significant out?

    It is my opinion that current listenership numbers in the younger demographics are being inflated to save the industry’s face because there are no faithful radio listeners among them.

    If there is an onus, it’s on Reagan. He hated the FCC and deregulated many industries during his reign as king. The conservative movement still embraces many of his notions most of which were incorrect. Of course, today’s right wing morons can’t even process all this detail oriented stuff, but they are just the sheep. It’s the greed of the mainstream GOP’rs that has sustained the destruction of the radio broadcast industry up until now.

    It all adds up to the poorest programming the radio dial has ever seen. Commercial radio is a corpse that has stunk up the dial like F&Bacon and dork stink up this forum.

    Sorry to drag the veterans through this story again, but I can write this in my sleep.


    Reagan might have hated unions more, but that’s a different website. In short, Reagan left the country in chaos when he left office.

    Andy Brown

    Many of those deregulated industries are still struggling and many have seen huge losses of jobs with stagnant or lower wages. Wage stagnation now has a 35 year history and it all points at St. Ronnie.



    I get a little perplexed when I read here that Reagan is responsible for killing radio. It reads more like he gave broadcasters what they insisted they needed to thrive. These corporations then made a long series of corporate decisions rooted in their own newly granted right to be smart, or greedy. Broadcasters chose greedy. They made all the wrong decisions and sealed the bloody fate of their own business.

    Corporate radio is on life support. Fortunately listener-supported stations like KRVM have no board of directors in Atlanta to keep happy.

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