Lamenting The Loss Of Radio And WAWL

Friday, December 12, 2008

As many of you may know by now, a near 30-year run of a non-commercial Chattanooga radio outlet, which has served as an on-air training and proving ground for Chattanooga State broadcasting students, has turned off the power. Many of those station alumni are today well know local radio personalities in the area.

This past Wednesday, WAWL “concluded another day of broadcast activities”, a statement some may remember from The Wall’s old sign-off message used each evening years ago, in favor of dead air.

Unlike the dead air that the station self-mockingly proclaimed as “nooo problem” on one of their many on-air promos used in daily rotation up until earlier this week, it will soon be reformatted by a new owner, Family Life Radio. According to the FLR website, their programming features various evangelical Christian music, preaching, and various talk shows such as Focus On The Family, already featured on three other local stations.

The contemporary Christian music is played on at least eight other local signals, two of which broadcast at the maximum power of 100,000 watts, as permitted by the FCC.

When more than a dozen AM and FM radio frequencies in this market are devoted to niche religious programming, which combined will likely never reach more than 7% of an ever-shrinking at-large radio listening audience; when a 20-year non-commercial staple in this market that provides programming not offered by any other outlet (nor has any other throughout most of its existence) is simply auctioned and sold to a special interest group, could this raise a question of the importance of radio serving the interests of the community?

This in particular was the purpose of the non-commercial frequencies, 87.9 FM – 91.9 FM, originally set aside by the FCC for the diversity of the public.

As many apologists for a total free-market approach to the allocation of our airwaves may regard serving the interests of the public as idealistic or even socialistic, who could look at the current state of radio in the US and make any assertion that those airwaves serve the common good? Furthermore, the deregulation, namely the Telecommunications Act of 1996, ultimately led to the current state of radio, homogenized and largely owned by three corporations. The landmark legislation has rendered AM and FM radio an endangered form of mass communication, when measured by today’s audience size or commercial viability.

Back in the early 1980s, the Canadian rock band Rush released a song titled “Spirit Of The Radio, hearkening the demise of the airwaves. The timely screed was heard on most “Album Rock” stations upon the invasion of consultants throughout the business, reducing music play lists to industry-wide uniformity, and tweaking advertising revenue. Nearly three decades later, any remnants of a soul that radio once had then has been eroded and used-up, like a removed Appalachian mountain top, strip mined for energy consumption. No longer viable, no longer useful, no longer relevant.

What happened? Weren't the intentions of the very corporations who lobbied for massive congressional reform years ago to increase their long-term profits via elimination of antiquated bureaucracy and regulations? Weren't we led to believe that this would serve as a means to increase efficiency within the private sector? After all, these venture capitalists were entitled to do with their properties and assets as they pleased.

But to what ends? Over two decades later, the complete dismantling of American radio has all but unfolded before our ears. An industry that once served as fertile ground for swaths of creative talent and exciting careers now lies in ruins, for all involved: the listeners, the broadcasters, and the shareholders. The end result has been an implosion of the entire forum, alienating a huge portion of its listeners, as long-term sustainability gave way to the short-term oriented whims of a small group of fleeting beneficiaries and “casino investment” hacks.

As commercial radio has lost its way, mostly cluttered with repetitive commercials and consultant-tested and approved music stemming from short play lists, the innovation and diversity featured on non-commercial and educational radio stations such as the former WAWL is needed more than ever. While WUTC (88.1) does a superb job in its music segments, Chattanooga now offers no station fully devoted to this type of format. The sale of WAWL is truly a loss to the community.

Paul Jackson
paulanddena@yahoo.com



What Is Conservatism?

 What is being a conservative really all about? Of late more and more of the news is talking about conservatives in D.C. wanting - urging really - for the country to embrace being a conservative.   I really don't know what that means. In the world around us those that speak the loudest are the few with money, lots of it. Koch Brothers, Mercer Family and even ... (click for more)

My Experience With The Assessor’s Board Of Equalization

According to the Hamilton County Website, the County Board of Equalization “hears appeals from citizens who do not agree with their property assessments.” That sounds good. I sure don’t agree with mine. It “exists to give every property owner a chance to be heard. The goal is not to be an appraiser, but to decide values based on consistency, equity, and evidence. When properties ... (click for more)

Witnesses Say 69-Year-Old Jogger And Alleged Rapist Were Both Bruised Up After 2014 Encounter

Witnesses said a 69-year-old jogger and his alleged teen attacker were both bruised up during their 2014 encounter in North Chattanooga. Diontae Smartt, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, is standing trial for aggravated rape in the courtroom of Judge Don Poole. He is free on bond. The male jogger took the witness stand at the start of the trial, saying he was attacked ... (click for more)

Mae Beavers Resigns From State Senate To Focus On Governor Race

Tennessee State Senator and conservative Republican candidate for Governor Mae Beavers has announced that she will resign her seat in the legislature effective Friday , Sept. 1,  at noon to focus on her race for governor .   She also disclosed key additions to her gubernatorial campaign team. “It is with mixed emotions that I am announcing that ... (click for more)

Notre Dame Gets Revenge With Boyd-Buchanan

The Notre Dame volleyball team may have felt they let one get away in the championship match of the Hixson Invitational Saturday afternoon against the Boyd-Buchanan Lady Buccaneers, but they were bound to not let it happen again. At least, not during a home match against these same Lady Bucs Tuesday evening in the rowdy confines of their Jack Steiner Sr. Gymnasium. The Lady ... (click for more)

Despite Sloppy Finish, Lady Raiders Sweep McMinn

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Cleveland High School’s volleyball team came close to completely satisfying its coach Tuesday. The Lady Raiders then got lazy. Coach Trish Flowers, who has another state tournament contender on her hands this season, let the squad feel her displeasure in the postgame huddle. “I was within just a few minutes of being in a good mood,” said Flowers, ... (click for more)