Should donations to public radio AND taxpayer dollars support canned content on substandard HD radio? At the expense of our local deejays and shows? What's going on with public radio: the wrong turn.
Radio, in general, is in freefall, and radio executives everywhere are desperate to find a way to reverse the trend. Enter HD radio and the unholy alliance between iBiquity (aka iNiquity) and NPR. (But this also includes car manufacturers, who have invested in the whole scam and are now trying to force public acceptance by including HD radio in their high-end models — or asking the public to fork out extra in the more base models.) NPR, through grants of 75-85k from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to stations to help fund transmitters (that’s taxpayer money, folks), plus discounts and mega-deals on many other items, and iBiquity, which has just lowered the going rate on its subscription fees, have pushed the idea onto hundreds of public radio stations. Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning of the expense for the stations that have signed on…
In an era of unfettered growth, this didn’t seem a problem, but as public radio listenership and support have flattened out over the past decade or more, it forced major budgetary changes. What NPR offers is buckets of canned content. With a whole network of HD-compliant stations, it can shore up its bottom line by selling, along with the BBC and PRI, shows to all of its subsidiaries and filling all this dead air. But its effect on local programming has been devastating. In Austin, at KUT, they downsized two overnight deejays and replaced them with a canned jazz show that costs them all of $3,000 a year. After forcing out longtime station stalwarts, KUT is filling two HD stations with mass-produced product. And this is happening in city after city across the nation. To the business-management types who control our “public” radio stations, hey, what’s not to like? They no longer have to pay salaries or benefits to on-air personalities, but rather can see their stations basically run out of a closet, ultimately. That’s where all this business acumen is taking us.
And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the HD radio scam itself, to which a separate category will be devoted. A particularly good website for information is hdradiofarce.com (link on right), which details the skullduggery behind the captains of industry foisting this off on the public.
This site is the first move nationwide to link listeners outraged by the actions of the unholy alliance in taking the public out of public radio. We’ve joined an alliance of our own with, initially, five cities, and we’re working to identify folks in dozens of others whose stations have been ravaged in the HD radio scam, where national, canned content has overridden local control and sensibility. The call to action will soon follow.