Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Radio Radio

XL Sun Spot
As a Musical Immigrant, radio has played a big part in my life. When I turned 10 (or 11, I can't remember) I received a transistor radio for my birthday. I listened to Buddy B on CKXL spinning the top 40 hits in the late 60s.

Since underground FM hadn't made it to my small city on the Canadian prairie, Calgary, I had to settle for the late night radio show on "XL" called Groove Yard. The DJ used to play longer and heavy songs like Hendrix which frankly scared the crap out of me under the covers at night.

Like many of my generation, radio influenced me to make music a priority in my life. When I got to high school I spun records over the PA system but I was too shy to use the microphone to DJ. I just wanted to share my music with the kids in the lunchroom. Frankly I don't think they could hear it very well with the tinny speaker.

The "pizza" logo from the 80s. 
Fast forward to university. The day I walked onto the U of Calgary campus, I also walked into the campus radio station CJSW. I worked up the guts to DJ and had a blast. Same in Windsor Ontario at U of W. Volunteered at CJAM.

Earned a communications degree and a journalism degree. I worked at two private radio stations as a news reporter then for more than two decades at CBC Radio Calgary, Edmonton, Windsor and Sudbury in many capacities, mostly as a current affairs producer and as a features reporter. I even got to produce a one hour radio documentary about Canada's travelling rock festival - Festival Express. I'm very proud of that.

So add it all up and radio was my life.

Now it's not.

I don't work in the business anymore so that, and digital music, has changed the way I consume radio. While in the news business, I only listened to news radio - CBC and our private competition to see if THEY were onto something WE weren't. 

Now I work in communications for a college, I am liberated from news/talk in the morning so I usually start with CKUA, Alberta's community radio station that plays an eclectic variety of music. I find some of their on air people insufferable and overly sincere and they work too hard to be clever but their taste in music is impeccable. 

I also flip to CBC Radio 2 which is Canada's FM service that follows a similar format to CKUA. I even tune into a clone of the old 'XL which is programming to my demographic but as soon as a commercial or DJ comes on I'm outta here. And, okay, I skip back to our local CBC station for news etc. but if it gets the least bit annoying I jump to music.

Of course we live in the world of time shifting and podcasting so you can listen to all these radio stations even if you're reading this blog in Bulgaria, which is extremely cool. As a musical immigrant I had the pleasure of listening to my late friend David Gold being interviewed on a Finnish radio station via my computer. That would have been unthinkable when I first met David about 10 years ago.

My big new radio passion is American public radio via podcast. I am captivated by Fresh Air, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and This American Life. I am a loyal fan and they make up my nighttime listening.

I used to think Canadian public radio was far superior to US but I am sad to say our radio service has been left in the dust. I'm afraid the slashing and burning carried out lately by the Stephen Harper Conservative government will put the final few nails in the coffin of Canadian public radio - death by a thousand cuts as we said when I worked for the Mother Corp. and this makes me sad.

As for the future of radio in general? For one thing, private radio will pretty much always remain crap. But radio will survive and maybe even thrive. When it emerged as a force in the 1920s, people predicted radio would decimate the magazine industry and movie attendance. When television's popularity soared in the 40s and 50s, people predicted it would be the end of radio and movies. They're all still here.

When new media (like this internet "thing") bump into old media, the old seem to simply redefine themselves. Also, I'd like to remind all the young 'uns that podcasting is pretty much time shifting radio. 

I feel both fear and excitement for young people who are pondering future jobs in the media - DJs, newsies, video shooters etc. Conventional media radio, TV and yes of course newspapers are all in flux. Fear because those jobs are disappearing. Excitement because they may end up running their own radio/tv/newspaper on the internet as a blog. Something I couldn't dream of when I was a 10 year old listening to my transistor.  

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