I'm not being negative about radio, says Steve Penk

In the past week I have been accused, by some, of being negative about an industry I have loved and been part of for over 30 years, Commercial Radio.
I feel it necessary to make it clear that I’m not being negative, I have said what I said because I passionately care about its future.
Commercial radio is not changing, and to just keep on arrogantly doing the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year, is a recipe for disaster.
Yes there are a few, and I do mean very few shining lights dotted around commercial radio (Bam Bam, Robin Banks, Christian O’Connell, Geoff Lloyd) but there’s nowhere near enough.
I made the point that my 2 youngest children (17 and 14) never, and I do mean never, think to switch the radio on, it’s simply not on their radar, it offers them nothing they can’t find elsewhere (YouTube, iTunes, Podcasts). So many people have contacted me this past week to tell me their kids are exactly the same, they never listen to the radio.
I can’t tell you how sad this makes me feel.
Fast forward 5 – 10 years. A whole generation having grown up with radio meaning very little to them, or worse…..nothing at all.
At the moment I appear to be a lone voice expressing my concerns, others may agree but are too worried to voice their own concerns and opinions for fear of upsetting those in positions of power who might blackball them in the future.
We all know how pathetic and insecure some of these people are.
Quite frankly, I couldn’t give a shit which delicate ego I might offend expressing my concerns about an industry I love (Commercial Radio). Some of them are so self obsessed and arrogant that they believe they couldn’t possibly be doing anything wrong.
Arrogance is a dangerous thing in any business. What I hear as I flick around the dial, is an industry that has been stuck in a rut for 10 years or more. It’s time to give it a damn good shake.
We are not investing time and money in finding and nurturing new talent, encouraging them to take risks, and protecting them when they do and it goes wrong. Talent is the future lifeblood of the radio industry, ignore that fact and the industry will die.
Simply filling slots with TV talent is not the answer.
Some are good (Jonathan Ross, Stephen Mulhern) but most are truly dreadful on the radio. We cheapen our industry when we do this. Good Radio is an art, don’t cheapen it.
Slowly advertisers are finding other ways to spend their money (TV/On line) wake up as an industry and address that problem or the future will be bleak.
There are no strong programming leaders in commercial radio at the moment, most in positions of power are failed on air talent, promoted far beyond their abilities, or they’re nothing more than puppets, with the puppet master pulling the strings. We have a ludicrous situation in most cases where Programme Directors at most commercial radio stations, never made it as on air talent because quite frankly, they weren’t good enough.
Here’s my problem with that. WHY is their opinion and decisions of what makes good radio suddenly so right when they become a Manager/Programme Director, but their opinion and decisions of what makes good radio was clearly so wrong when THEY were on the air. It’s madness, it’s a classic case of the blind leading the partially sighted.
We need strong programming leaders, finding and nurturing new talent, we need fresh ideas, and risk takers, we need to make commercial radio exciting again, not only for the listeners but for the advertisers and sponsors. That can only happen with talent lead programming.
Simply filling a radio station full of marketing gimmicks (Who’s on Heart being the worst) is not enough anymore.
Listeners aren’t stupid.
Commercial Radio I love you, that’s why I’m writing this, please wake up before it’s too late.

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