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Radio Break

I had an interesting exchange on Twitter with a local talk radio host the other day. He tweeted concern for people suffering from anxiety during our current collective struggle with the Covid-19 virus, due to heightened concern in the community. I responded, noting that his station was broadcasting all virus all the time. He tweeted back, suggesting this was because the world is all virus all the time right now, and pointed out they had a mandate to inform the public.

I agree that our media outlets should be keeping the public informed during challenging times like this, but perhaps there is a difference between informing and obsessing. This station runs live programming about 18 hours each day and it’s been almost all virus-related this week. I wonder how much information is being given listeners in that 18 hours of broadcasting and how much was simply talking it up. Is there an hour of real information?

I heard one broadcaster with a panel of experts, ask them, who was more crazy, the basketball player who joked about the virus, made a point to touch all the microphones, then tested positive for the virus – OR – the shopper with the mask and gloves and a can of disinfectant spray, filling up the car with water, wet-wipes and toilet paper.

The same station has hastily put together their own corona virus theme music and tag line. I wonder if this kind of manic media coverage has contributed to the panic shopping and supply-hoarding which has been occurring this last week. I suppose this is a particular challenge for talk radio, since they have so much air-space to fill with words, so they jump on content like a dog on a bone.

Maybe during times of crisis, key public health information should be separated and consistent across outlets, much like an amber alert but without the noise, issued perhaps once or twice per day. When I’m at home, I often have the radio on in the background. Yesterday, I decided it was time for a break and shut it off for a while.

1 Comment so far

  1. Salvelinas Fontinalis

    Deep down, the cynic in me doesnt believe any media has a mandate to inform the public. In truth they have a mandate to make money and that is generally all that matters. In the radio business they do that by selling advertising. The more listeners they have the more advertising they can sell and the more they can charge. For them the name of the game is to both get listeners and to keep them tuned in once they turn on the radio. To get the listeners who turn on the radio and twirl the dial looking for something interesting they want the hot button of the day to be front and center to stop the dial twirlers in mid twirl and once they have them they will dance around the hot button for as long as they can. Mandate to inform? I dont think so.

    I call the ‘mandate to inform the public’ thing the big lie because it is. Perhaps the very best example of the big lie is professional sports. Consider the Blue Jays baseball team. The team president is always talking about how they are working towards building a championship team, always trying to improve. I flat out dont believe that and there is considerable evidence to support my opinion. Back when the previous president Paul Beeston left the Blue Jays were roughly losing as many games as they won and their annual player payroll was in the order of $160 million. The new president is spending in the order of $100 million and the team will win roughly as many games as they lose. Perfect. Win as many games as Beeston did and pocket $50 million in salaries. If the Blue Jays actually wanted to provide fans with a winning team they could revert to the $160 million salary budget and hire three 20 million a year stars and go for it. Would that win a world series for them? I dont know but I do know the team would be a hell of a lot better and the fans would be much much happier. But $50 million isnt chump change so as long as fans keep buying the $15 beer Rogers will keep fielding a team that cant win. I can not believe that when the club president sits down with his bosses at Rogers to set annual objectives that one of those objectives is win a world series. I just cant buy into that. Can they tell their fan base that they arent actually trying to win but rather they are trying to put 3.2 million fans in the seats buying beer and hot dogs while spending as little as possible on salaries? Well no they cant say that can they. So they trot out the big lie. We are building a long term winning team. We have a good team now and it will be even better next year. I might be just totally wrong on this but I think pro sports teams look for a sweet spot that maximizes revenue per dollar of salary spent while telling their customers they are trying to win. The big lie.
    And it isnt just in sports and radio that businesses do one thing and tell their customers something completely different. Just look at political parties and the last budget before the next election. We are doing everything possible to give our citizens a better life and a better country. The truth really is here are a whole pile of giveaways that are going to happen but only if you re-elect us. The big lie.

    Grocery stores. Buy $10 of corn chips and get 2000 points. I see that stuff all the time. The points turn out to be worth 20 cents while the product is overpriced by $2. Isnt that sort of dishonest? The fancy flyer… SAVE 50% on this product! Shop here and save big but when you get to the store oops sorry we dont have any of that product. We will have it back in stock next week at twice the price though. I need to go have a tea, Im getting worked up here.

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