World Radio Day 2022

Longtime, regular readers of this blog know that the media is in my mental DNA. Radio broadcasting, in particular has provided me with many memorable experiences and acquaintances. On a more practical level, radio provided me with nearly all of the monetary means I needed to help me thrive throughout the years. This is the main reason why I celebrate World Radio Day each year. In my mind, it is a major red-letter holiday.

While contemplating the business end of radio yesterday, I remembered that the station that employed me for over three decades will celebrate a major anniversary this summer. WJAG-AM began regular service to the public on September 13, 1922. That was a century ago. The station was one of the first dozen commercial broadcasting stations in the U.S. I’m happy that I was employed by them for approximately one-third of their history.

Although WJAG took center stage in my life for several years, the company was not my only broadcast focus. I’ve been employed by other broadcast stations. Also, as I’ve mentioned a time or two in previous posts, I’ve been intrigued by radio since I was a five-year-old boy. Even in retirement, I still like to skim through various terrestrial frequencies–now, mostly shortwave.

I think I’ve earned the right to be nostalgic now that narrowcasting has largely displaced broadcasting. I fondly remember when going on the air was a really big deal. Now, with narrowcasting, anyone with a desktop or laptop computer and some apps can start a podcast or YouTube channel. Not that there is anything wrong with narrowcasting media; they are just different, more simple technologies.

There is a certain level of awe when one takes temporary control of a transmitter that emits thousands of watts of energy. Sitting at a mic, using the controls of the audio mixer, creating a show on the fly, in real time is an experience that never grows old. The creative process is different these days–with announcing being pre-recorded onto a server to be played back in the manner of an iPod. Canned, automated, or satellite syndicated programming are the primary sources for today’s radio.

The technical aspects of broadcasting remain largely unchanged from those developed 100 years ago, albeit more sophisticated and efficient. Powerful transmitters deliver their signals to tall towers that emit signals into the atmosphere. Anyone with a cheap, readily available radio within the broadcast area can receive the signal. Radio signals can go where Internet service is spotty or otherwise unavailable on Earth.

That said, I realize that traditional studio to transmitter broadcasting is a sunset industry. Its heyday was in the past. Like many other industries and retailing, the future will depend upon newer technologies and further narrowcasting. Yet somehow, radio will remain as a fallback for instant communication in many communities. Sadly, broadcasting used to be a great public unifier. Much of it was centered around public service. This has been largely lost in the struggle to find special niche audiences along with vanishing advertising revenues.

However, many people, including me, perceive terrestrial broadcasting as more “solid” and legitimate. That is because there is so much fluff, trivia, and divisiveness on the Internet. Much of the content on the Web seems false and invented. Once one gets past the rubbish, there’s precious little content that seems trustworthy. In my opinion, this will change as the Internet matures and conventional broadcasting continues to be less important to the public–just as mobile phones are more relevant than landline phones today.

On the other hand, there are still some worthwhile radio stations on the air. I prefer those with music and avoid news-talk stations. Sadly, WJAG is in the latter category. I’m OK with that, because they must adapt to a smaller market-share and adapt to an aging, older audience. I’m eager to continue to explore new forms of media. What will become of standard radio broadcasting in the future? I’m sure broadcasting companies will evolve and utilize other technologies to remain relevant as their audiences continue to age, diversify, and shrink.

All things considered, it was fun and rewarding to be a small part of radio broadcasting in its heyday. For that, I’m grateful.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes English essayist and writer, the late J. G. Ballard. “A reality that is electronic… Once everybody’s got a computer terminal in their home, to satisfy all their needs, all the domestic needs, there’ll be a dismantling of the present broadcasting structure, which is far too limited and limiting.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in cultural highlights, Entertainment, Hometown and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to World Radio Day 2022

  1. Alien Resort says:

    I remember helping the engineers install an STL antenna on the roof of the studio. I think it used a microwave frequency.

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