By Howard B. Price
ABC Television Network
Director, Business Continuity
If you were online, or near a TV, or fortunate enough to be within earshot of one of the country’s 31 all-news radio stations on June 26, (and perhaps many news/talk stations, too), you were very much aware of what was going on.
You heard history being made at the Supreme Court as same-sex marriage became the law of the land.
You heard the president lead thousands in “Amazing Grace,” as he eulogized the nine souls murdered by a racist assassin, in oratory so stirring even some of the president’s critics acknowledged it as some of the best of his or any other presidency.
You heard about not one, not two – but THREE bloody terrorist attacks in three different countries.
And you heard about the dragnet that cornered and killed one of two murderous escapees from a maximum-security prison in northern New York State.
But if you were listening to many music stations, and even some spoken-word stations programmed almost exclusively via satellite and with no local or network news service – you may have heard little or nothing about any of these major news events.
This atypical summer Friday was followed by a typical summer weekend…and I found myself travelling in New York’s Southern Tier, where few commercial stations had any news at all about the capture of the second escapee in that northern New York jailbreak. Nearly 200 miles from New York City…I DX’d a New York City AM all-newser — the only station I could pick up along the rough terrain surrounding Route 17 that was providing a steady stream of live updates on that story.
And because there was no local station in that region telling me this story was breaking – I learned about it first…on the Internet.
So tell me again, radio industry, why we need the FM chip activated on our smartphones — about all that public service stuff you say argues for it. Sure, I support activation of those chips – but they’ve got to deliver more than music and marketing and commercials. Which means radio has to deliver more than that, too – every hour of every day.
At almost every radio conference I attend, one of the common bleats is “what can we do to improve our weekend programming?” How about starting with something simple…like adding hourly news updates – and the capability to launch breaking news coverage quickly and sustain it as warranted? And if you really, really, REALLY can’t afford that – how about something even simpler, and less costly: hourly network newscasts? (By the way, you know you can sell news at a premium, right?)
And for the cynics out there scratching their heads over my dyspepsia and wondering what the local interest might have been in the recapture of a murderous escapee hundreds of miles from New York’s Southern Tier, the person the escapee was doing time for killing was a Broome County Sheriff’s deputy, whom he shot 22 times. And that’s where I was driving – Broome County.
Think it’s a local story now? Now think about what YOU’RE going to do to cover stories like this – stories that impact YOUR local market — on the next typical summer weekend.
Howard B. Price, CBCP/MBCI is director, business continuity for the ABC Television Network. He can be emailed at Howard.B.Price@abc.com or phoned at 212-456-1073.