All of this talk about the troubles and travails the print media are experiencing…We would be remiss not to notice what’s happening to local radio.
Today, WRIF—the longest-running (single-format) rock radio station in the country—announced a departure with its venerable icon, Arthur Penhallow. To Detroiters, this is big, big news. It is the microcosmic version of Howard Stern leaving FM talk.
Last year, the station went through a bitter contract dispute with its morning drive personality, Drew Lane, which also resulted in the talent’s departure from the radio. A few months ago, local sports-talker WDFN The Fan announced that all local content (except headline updates twice an hour) would end, all on-air talent would be dismissed, and all programming would be national syndication. Two other local fixtures, J.J. Johnson and Lynne Woodison, were recently dropped from their gigs hosting a morning show on classic rocker WCSX-FM.
I’m sure this is not unique to Detroit. In fact, I know it’s not. As the industry experienced consolidation by major conglomerates over the course of the past several years, the notion of “local” radio has lost meaning, and is now facing the same fate as local print newspapers. For radio, it is homogenization that is the culprit, as Detroit radio (once the bastion of FM greatness in all the land) is indistinguishable from Philly radio, or Miami radio, etc. Heavy playlists, gradual phasing out of on-air talent…virtually no personality.
(There are some beacons of hope amidst this sea of homogeny, such as Ann Delisi’s Essential Music, but that’s public radio, which has always been long on ingenuity and short on influence. Shouldn’t be.)
Similar to the way the Web is robbing print newspapers of eyeballs, there has been some migration of radio listeners to satellite radio, though those formats are struggling financially as well.
Sigh. I grew up in the greatest radio market in the country. And I don’t even recognize it anymore. Or care to. Will local radio go the way of the dodo altogether? Time will tell. But I wonder who will notice.