Ah, the ‘things were only good in my day’ thread
Lot of the talk re: networking and localism ignores the fact that radio audiences are significantly smaller than they used to be and there’s more competition now than there ever used to be. More services vying for people’s attention.
People don’t want to listen to localism for the sake of it. They want to listen to good content. You can get localism in the palm of your hand now - local news, local traffic, local events, local conversations and discussion. You don’t have to wait for the top of the hour to get the news and you can react straight away to whatever you’re thinking about in the moment, without having to call up or wait for the talkback announcer to declare a free for all or talk about the topic you want to. And you can find the specific niches you like. You can have a Facebook group that only has 100 like-minded people on there. A radio station that only has 100 listeners is a radio station that is on the brink of collapse.
Radio has been forced to adjust, to change. It can never and could never be the same as it was when the family gathered around the radio, or when the only way, or at least the easiest and least-intrusive way you could have music in your shop or workplace was to have a radio.
Interestingly, the rise of in-home AI assistants may give rise to radio again - radio now has the potential to be back in the home, however it is now alongside podcasts, others music and audio content from around the globe, radio from around the globe, and there’s no barrier to entry (license fees and studio build costs) like there used to be.
Radio, in general, has been relegated to passive entertainment, and the content contained within is now accessible in many locations, further removing the need specifically for a radio.
As for me, as a member of a younger generation, I grew up listening to radio in the car. I remember going interstate and being excited about hearing the different content on radio stations, and how the vibe of the station would totally fit the place, and be part of the experience. I also recognised that I was the only one that would really pay attention to it, even as ‘long ago’ as the late 90s. I also remember listening to walkmans, cassette tapes and eventually MP3 players instead of, and in defiance of, my parent’s car radio choices. I now listen to podcasts and my own music via Bluetooth in the car on about a 70/30% split (70% radio, 30% not), but also recognise I’m in a minority of my friends in my age group as to the percentage of time I listen to radio.
Some of the content currently on radio has a future, I just don’t know if it’s future involves being broadcast via radio waves, or being surrounded by songs and audio ads, let alone the same songs and ads.
Even now, I often listen to British or American radio; I have friends who are of a similar age to me who work for major radio networks who prefer to listen to podcasts and Spotify than their own radio station.
As always, we should be careful not to over-romanticise the past, nor get too nostalgic. I don’t genuinely believe radio was better ‘back in the day,’ in fact the availability of nationally networked shows and therefore larger/pooled budgets for talent means we’ve probably got some of the best/better radio shows for our time on radio right now (some, not all). Radio was just a much bigger part of people’s lives ‘back in the day’ and it’s very easy to forget the realities and objectively compare.
It’s the same reason people who grew up watching The Simpsons every night on Channel Ten through Seasons 2-9 now think the new episodes of The Simpson’s are terrible. And the same reason some people complain about society being ‘too PC’ and pine for the ‘good ol days’ where you could say what you wanted, despite the fact that the ‘good ol days’ are demonstrably and objectively worse than the current day.