I received a very passionate letter recently, from reader Evelyn in Sylmar:
“First, understand that I am a true OLDIE. That includes taste in music. However, what I miss terribly is not radio music of ANY kind. What I miss is something other than music and news!
“In my old listening days, L A's radios offered interesting and intelligent and purposeful TALK. Like, for instance, Clark Howard and Dave Ramsey, and going back even further, names I can no longer recall (which could be said about almost anyone' s name nowadays). So now I have only KFI's Saturday morning legal beagle to look forward to....and I DO.
“You appear to present only a music (if it can be called that) profile. Is that because you are still too young to appreciate entertaining and practical information? Well, not all of us out here with home radios are that young and cold to the sound of a speaking voice: Why do we not have any of these choices available to us?”
Interestingly, I have the same lament as does Evelyn... one of the reasons I tend to gravitate toward music more and more these days is the dearth of what I consider informative talk radio programs. For a time I found political talk radio interesting, but I’ve grown tired of the constant negativity, and in many cases the truth-stretching and occasional outright lies stated by some hosts to further their agenda. And no, I am not referring to Rush Limbaugh.
But the question is one I have as well ... what happened to the informative brand of talk radio, as opposed to what you might call Agenda Talk? Bruce Williams ... Hilly Rose ... well, the good news is that there are still shows around like that; you just have to search for them.
You mention a few. Bill Handle’s morning program on KFI (640 AM) is superb, though I know you are actually referring to his Saturday morning Handel on the Law program that airs from 6 to 11 a.m. KFI weekends, in fact, are full of entertaining non-political shows including Leo Laporte (technology, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays) and Ric Edelman (investments, 2 - 4 p.m. Sundays).
Dave Ramsey and Clark Howard can still be heard on KEIB (1150 AM) 3-6 and 6-9 p.m., respectively.
Phil Hulett can’t be heard on local radio any more, but you can catch his “Phil Hulett and Friends” talk about almost anything but politics via his online feed at philhulettandfriends.com. Recent topics ranged from dinosaurs to relationship skills to lemonade stands.
I’ve noticed that these and similar shows seem to have a buzz about them as of late, and I personally believe they will be the future of talk radio. Not that political talk will completely go away, but I can see an era in which we return to more generalized, informative shows on stations that tend to be more balanced in perspective. Stations dedicated solely to politics just don’t cut it with audiences any more.
But it will take a while and it will require stations to do some real marketing and promotions to let people know about the programs ... does anyone else find it interesting that radio stations do such a bad job promoting themselves when they are in the business of promoting businesses through their advertisements?
All Digital Radio
The National Association of Broadcasters released a white paper that discusses the feasibility of an all-digital broadcast service on the AM band, looking at the engineering problems involved. In general, the study found that all-digital can work, can reduce interference compared with today’s analog or analog-digital hybrid system, and can increase fidelity.
The problem, of course, is that moving to all-digital would render millions of radios obsolete.
Much of the paper was technical, so I asked one of my engineer friends to comment. His reply could have been written by me: “My personal opinion: AM owners and engineers need to realize that most of the problems with AM aren't technical, they're programming problems. Look around the country ... if there's some compelling programming on an AM radio station it still gets ratings.”