Good Times or Bad for Local Radio?

I’m still subscribed to the internal email list at WCBN despite no longer being an Ann Arborite. The CBN dj’s have a lot to say to each other about music and such. (I also still listen to the station regularly–there’s a lot of killer community radio out there, especially in Canada, but WCBN really is one of the greats.)

A news story was posted to the list regarding enormous cutbacks at the Clear Channel corporate media empire. That article posits that commercial radio may get even more homogenous, as local content gets further replaced by centrally manufactured generic noise. Clear Channel pioneered the remote dj, and if they need to, they could probably supply every town in America with something like music using an .mp3 playlist tied to the Billboard Top 20, and a text-to-speech program plugged into an ID3 tag parser and a feed of the weather service. More homogenization? Shudder.

But Jesse Walker, Reason Magazine editor and current WCBN dj suggested this alternate gloss on the news:

“There’s another way to look at this: Corporate radio empires are tottering as their consolidation binge proves less sustainable than expected. In addition to these cutbacks, Clear Channel has been trying to offload hundreds of stations for the last few years, as have several other chains.

It’s a bad time for experimentation right now — ask the former fans of Indie 103 FM (RIP) in LA — but that could change if those companies get more desperate to sell off their excess outlets and station prices start coming way down. By that time, granted, most of the creative people who in past years might have wanted to buy the licenses may have given up on radio and migrated to the Web.”

I sure hope so. Anyone want to buy a commercial radio station with me? The time is ripe.

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