CJAD continues laying down a path of destruction as they have axed Sol Boxenbaum’s show for the syndicated program Coast to Coast AM. In terms of quality, it’s a lateral move (take that however you want) but in terms of local content, it’s a huge blow. While Boxenbaum wasn’t the greatest radio host to ever grace CJAD’s airways, he was passionate about his job.
This is just yet another move by the station to bring down expenses by cutting local talent loose. The mp3 generation has hammered terrestrial radio. At first, it was the FM stations that took a hit because people were able to play their music collections from their computer or listen to them on tiny portable devices. It was turning FM radio into an obsolete platform. DJs were fired and playlists were played automatically using computers to save on costs. Stations have been able to keep their viewers by offering more contests and also using street crews to hype the station and give away prizes by using interns or volunteers from college radio stations. Back when I used to run a college radio station, I’d have the border stations and some Montreal stations call me at the beginning of each semester asking for volunteers to do free labour.
For the most part, FM radio is in a somewhat stable state although the landscape is much different than it used to be. No longer do most of the stations have a distinct voice; many are cookie cutter operations that rarely differ from one another. It seems like there are only four types of FM stations are: pop music, easy listening music, oldies/classic rock music, and talk. There may be the odd station on the dial that plays something different from these four choices but they’re few and far between. Also, media consolidation has made it that the stations from one city sound eerily similar to other stations in other cities. The Virgin Radio branding across the country is an example for this.
But FM was the profitable band. It sounds clearer and more portable devices pick it up than AM stations. News reports for years have said that there is no profit in AM radio. In fact, the rumour was that the only AM station in Montreal that was making any money was CJAD.
Enter podcasting. Before, it was just music. But then someone got the bright idea to record radio shows and make them available on the Internet. Podcasting has become big business for Internet sites. Some sites are able to charge subscription rates for their content and the only cost to them is relatively minimal compared to that of a radio station. Why would I want to listen to an inferior sounding broadcast about grooming armadillos that’s constantly interrupted by commercials on a radio when I can download a podcast about the same thing without the commercial interruptions and has great sound quality which I can listen to it whenever I want? The Internet is going to be the final torpedo to sink the boat of AM radio.
AM stations are doing what they can to stay afloat. Instead of strengthening their only advantage of being a beacon for local content, they’re throwing many of their local shows overboard and replacing them with cheap syndicated programming. It’s cost effective but it does nothing to increase listener growth; especially considering that most of these syndicated shows are broadcast on the Internet (or at least their broadcast on a radio station that also simulcasts their broadcasts on the Internet). If Montreal listeners wanted to get their hands on Coast to Coast AM, they could do so very easily without having to wait for CJAD to pick it up.
Why CJAD would want to pick up Coast to Coast AM is beyond me. It’s a horrible radio show. I’ve heard podcasts made by people who don’t know how to operate a microphone or a computer that have sounded better than that paranormal piece of garbage. The content is dumb. I’m not saying stuff about the supernatural is stupid (well, not always stupid) because Peter Anthony Holder has had guests on over the years dealing with that genre that was entertaining. However, the show feels amateurish even for a public access channel. I’m not saying I enjoyed Boxenbaum’s show but I’m pretty sure that on his worst night, he was better than anything George Noory would produce.
We’ve been hearing for years that radio (especially on the AM band) was in trouble. I think when Peter Anthony Holder was let go, people realized that the worst possible scenario was here. Indeed, CJAD is no longer the station it used to be. Even though Andrew Carter is probably the best morning man in the business right now, he’s on a sinking ship. Most Montrealers will fondly remember the likes of George Balcan, Melanie King, Gord Sinclair, Jim Duff, Peter Anthony Holder, Jack Finnegan, and Dave Fisher as being part of a stellar line-up that represented the voice of the Anglophone community (well, Dave Fisher is still at the station at least). It’s a sad shadow of its former self. Even though many of those people left the station to retire or pursue other opportunities, they were never replaced properly. Not because we wouldn’t let those that took over for them to have a chance (look at what happened with Terry DiMonte after he replaced George Balcan; he became probably more popular than Balcan) but because the station never got around to hiring quality talent. It’s a shame that CJAD has resorted to buying syndicated shows and kicking local talent (no matter how good or bad) to the curb.
At least I can still listen to my favourite podcasts. CJAD can’t cancel those.
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Monday could be interesting as Parliament gets back into session. Not because it will be the first time the House will sit since Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued government but it will be the first appearence for MP Helena Guergis in front of Parliament since her temper-tantrum at the Charlottetown airport last week. She has since apologized to the staff of the airport and airline staff but her remarks about calling P.E.I. a hellhole are still up in the air. Am I the only person in the country that wants to move to P.E.I.? I mean, sure it’s not Southern Ontario but at least it isn’t Southern Ontario.