The results of those ratings will have a speedy
effect if it is shown that public radio talk rates up with
the ranters as perceptions of what the audience want will
have changed. That, however, may not have that much effect
on commercial stations should the demographic that public
radio appeals to is shown to be predominantly elderly in that
this demographic is considered less attractive - presumably
they spend their money more carefully, even if they have more,
and are less swayed by trite messages and images.
Thus successful public radio that appeals to the elderly is
likely, in our view, to attract sponsors and underwriters
to public stations - maybe taking some funds from commercial
ones - but not change talk on commercial radio.
If however public radio talk were found to have significant
appeal to the desired younger demographic then we foresee
more likelihood of changes in commercial radio.
To begin with it will diminish the perceived value of the
partisan ranters - most of the right-wing talk hosts in our
view being in this category as are many Air America hosts.
It will thus strengthen those on right and left who offer
a more considered viewpoint - ones who spring to mind from
limited listening include Bill Bennett from the right and
Ed Schultz from the left.
Likely effect on
The effects on immediate perceptions
will take a while to be translated into programming changes
whilst the bean-counters get out their calculators, work out
how much money is at stake and what changes would cost and,
probably even more significant to begin with, how far tinkering
with the existing can allow them to avoid any major changes.
That would be part of an evolutionary progress rather than
revolutionary change but the end result could still be similar.
From our initial headline it will be clear that we regard
much talk as anything but intelligent and to those who would
disagree, we suggest recording some programming and then researching
the topic that was under discussion: We would expect that
this will produce a much better informed listener, one who
is more sceptical of the pronouncements of oracles whom even
a little knowledge will show to be either ignorant or wilfully
bigoted or both.
Even without people going to the trouble to do research -
something we consider valuable in itself anyway - should programming
start to swing away from the strident to the more considered
and allow intelligent consideration of more than one option
as opposed to simply leading to party-partisan and strident
propaganda, the changes will have been valuable.
And if there is
Even if little changes, either because
ratings show that not enough people want to learn and challenge
their prejudices but would rather have them confirmed by listening
to the like-minded or because the finances of change are not
attractive, nothing is lost.
At the same time nothing is gained. That would in our view
be both a pity for any society and a shame for one that terms
itself a democracy.
We rather hope that the ratings do show a greater audience
for more considered and less strident talk and maybe even
lead to some changes in approach from various hosts.
The overall effect of including the non-commercial in the
ratings whatever the end can but be a plus in giving people
more information on what they should base programming decisions
- and if you don't like the results you either have to accept
that as the current reality and try and change things or do
an ostrich act.
Roll on the inclusion of satellite in US ratings!