Thirty years ago Fredericton had three radio stations. It was the ‘80’s and a band called Buggle declared video had killed the radio star.
The city now has over a dozen stations and I work at one of them. Clearly, radio didn’t get the memo.
So what has happened? Why, in a culture that is fascinated with the “newest thing” is a traditional medium like radio, not only surviving, but flourishing?
Tom Blizzard is the manager of 105.3 The Fox, Capital FM and KHJ. Blizzard has seen radio change drastically in the 33 years he has been working in radio in Fredericton.
“It’s an adaptive medium,” he said.
“We used to mostly use vinyls, with some tapes, everything was analog,” Tom recalled. “Now everything we use is digital.”
He said not only has the technology changed, but the methods as well. The broadcast station that Blizzard manages hosts three stations that deliver three genres: KHJ hosting country, Capital FM playing pop, and the Fox specializing in rock, both new and classic.
“Before specialization, we had what was called Block Programming, all genres were offered on the same station. But now, separate stations cater to different genres and tastes.”
As much as the radio’s technology has evolved, the culture and personality transformed, too. Gone are the over-the-top hosts and their exaggerated personalities. Today the personality of the radio is more refined. I am regularly coached to make sure that there is a strong sense of companionship for the listener. As radio hosts, we strive to make a genuine connection to the community that we serve.
“These days people demand honesty,” Blizzard said. “They don’t like a ‘falseness in people.”
Even though a radio host broadcasts to hundreds of people, the dialogue is comparable to a conversation. A one-on-one atmosphere is preferable to having someone simply spitting sweeping generalizations. The goal of radio is to be a much more intimate medium.
Radio thrives because it is flexible. Many would consider it to be threatened by the Internet, but radio has embraced this bold change in format. Andrew Jenkins, a third year student at UNB, regularly streams radio shows online, preferring it to FM radio.
“It’s not nearly as censored” he said. “Jason Ellis and Howard Stern can discuss things you can’t [on FM radio].”
FM stations have added features such as online streaming as well as playlists that update as new tunes come on. No longer do you have to guess as to who is singing what song: it’s all online.
The radio’s ability to flex and shift with the ebb and flow of today’s world has brought it successfully into the 21st century, but where does it go from here?
“I think the delivery will change,” Blizzard said. “The signal will no longer be terrestrial, but a move onto online. We’re doing that already.”
“Because radio not only serves the community, it works to unite them as well,” he said. “There will always be a place for radio.”
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