…that killed the radio star, it was crass commercialism. A few weeks ago I got a telemarketing call that I actually didn’t hang up on because the poor girl was struggling so hard with the script that I thought I’d give her a break. She was calling from bbm Canada (or, as they call themselves in French, “sondages bbm“) to see if I’d be interested in keeping a week-long radio log for ratings purposes. I agreed.
I got the log book in the mail yesterday. Starting Monday, I have to log all my radio listening activity for a week. That will be pretty easy, as my radio listening is quite predictable. Essentially, the only station I listen to is CBC Radio 1, because (a) there are no ads, (b) sometimes they have interesting things to say, (c) there are no ads, (d) they have decent international coverage, and (e) there are no ads.
That’s not entirely true. Sometimes, when I’m at home and I just want something mellow in the background I put on that lame classical station (CJPX at 99.5 FM). This is classical 101 — nothing challenging for the learned listener — but sometimes I appreciate a faint wallpaper of wonky harpsichord or twiddling flutes.
I also listen to CISM (89.3 FM) a lot, but only during the day when I’m at work in my glass tower. CISM is the Université de Montréal student radio station, and they have some really interesting music programming in the afternoons. Except for the jazz. Their jazz programming is atrocious — every day it’s the same experimental “blow hard on your reed until it bursts” crap that was interesting for about five minutes in 1973 and has been annoying ever since. Otherwise, their hip hop and ambient programming sometimes kinda works. And they have no ads.
Ditto CKUT (90.3 FM), McGill’s student radio station. As long as they shut up and play music, they’re great, but once they start talking it’s the same old carbon-copy, pubescent, straight-from-the-can, and utterly predictable so-called “radical” crap. Bless them and their alternative viewpoints, but damn, it’s not like they’re the only ones who’ve figured out that Henry Kissinger is a war criminal. But at least they have no ads.
And there is the crux of it. No ads. I cannot stand commercials on radio. No, it is not because I’m some kind of soy-sucking, Utne-fied, alternative-arts-supporting, PBS-watching, faux bo-ho. I just hate advertising on radio. It makes me cringe and puts me in a bad mood. It’s a gut reaction.
I also hate the dumbing-down effect that commercialism has on radio.
Look at CHOM and the various other so-called “hip” stations in Montreal. They’re as conservative as a White House bible study breakfast. Everything revolves around ratings and ad revenue, all centered on the lowest common denominator. The DJs are insipid, the contests retarded, the news reporting insultingly facile — everything is designed to be as unchallenging as possible so that none of those white-shirted downtown office workers with all their disposable income will be scared off by having to think.
Plus, they play the ads louder than the non-advertising content.
When I first moved to Montreal, I found myself driving around a lot, as part of my first job. In search of something interesting on the radio (which for me usually means talk) I found CJAD, a long-standing English talkie AM station. Whoa! Before long I found myself listening to CJAD’s journalists and news readers doing the voiceovers for furniture store and other ads. What the…? What if ‘Furniture Wholesalers’ got busted for tax evasion — would you read that on the news?
I just can’t listen to it. Not just on principle, but because the ubiquitous and endless ads make me angry and almost violent. It’s like a knee-jerk reaction — I literally want to smash the radio.
Forget that. Give me CBC Radio 1 any day (especially these days, now that Shelagh Rogers is off dealing with her blood pressure). Or give me Positive Vibes or even those silly Filipino girls on CKUT, or that damn Beethoven thing for the 9th time today on CJPX. Just don’t give me any more of that stupid commercial DJ banter, and please, for the love of gawd, don’t play that damn Tal Bachman song again!