Current FM radio stations stagnate with topics, tunes

Today, it’s no secret that radio is stagnating. Bogged down in a mire of sleaze and pointlessness, radio struggles to maintain cultural relevancy and has little to no creative impact on its audiences.

Throughout the Great Depression and World War II, former President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the American people through the radio with his “fireside chats.” These programs updated average citizens on the state of America and progress of various policies and events. Modern politicians rarely use the medium in such a way anymore, choosing instead to interact behind the screens of their Facebook or Twitter profiles.

In the 1960s, freeform radio formats were born, hosting DJs like Jim Ladd who had free reign over their programs, playing whatever they wanted. While Ladd can still be found on Sirius XM doing the freeform shtick, such a program wouldn’t be found on mainstream FM radio these days.

What used to be the go-to source for news and entertainment has become a medium for low quality advertisements and the same songs coming from established musicians who don’t need the airplay.

Music is art, but what the wealthy pop stars and plastic bands of the day are spewing out is another form of commercialized crap.

What’s sad is that there’s good music out there not getting the recognition it deserves. An intelligent and creative DJ could really make something of his program if he made the effort and was willing to stray from the popular path to instant money.

For example, 94.5 The Buzz calls itself “Houston’s New Rock Alternative,” and at first listen, could seem to be distinguishing itself from other radio stations. But one hour will show that the format at The Buzz is the same on any channel.

Not only does it play a repetitive list of song, but the station’s attempts to be edgy and alternative result in backwash sexism and a feeling of revulsion akin to watching a kid go through puberty.

The premier show on 94.5 is the Rod Ryan Show. Rod Ryan talks to his co-hosts about Houston, music, girls and whatever else comes to his mind while also playing a tiny amount of music. He has become a local celebrity; yet all he succeeds in doing is connecting with people who share his dullard, frat-guy style attitude.

His favorite conversation topic seems to be attractive women, but he rarely acknowledges anything else about them, such as their intelligence or skill in their respective fields.

And to top it all off, the home page for 94.5’s website displays an ever-changing photo gallery devoted to women in skimpy outfits.

Nobody ever said 94.5 was a bastion of culture and creativity, but it could be. If Ryan and the other DJ’s would make the effort, art could slowly begin resurfacing in the radio business; of course, that would probably mean harder work for less money.

Hope for the future of radio lies in services such as Sirius XM, where subscribers pay for no advertisements and a plethora of options when it comes to programs. There’s also online radio station Pandora, through which the listener becomes listens to randomly selected songs within their chosen genre or artist, with ads that are easy to ignore.

FM radio is far behind when it comes to art, culture, class and innovation; in its current state, the death of good radio looms.

Opinion columnist Henry Sturm is a print journalism junior and may be reached at opinion@thedailycougar.com.


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