CBS Corp. is poised to exit the radio business that it helped create.
Eighty-eight years ago, the company’s founder, William S. Paley, bought the nascent Columbia Broadcasting System, and those radio stations became the nucleus of a budding broadcast empire.
But on Tuesday, CBS Chairman and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said the company was exploring strategic options, including a sale or spinoff, of its entire radio division.
“The aim here is to unlock value for our shareholders,” said Moonves, who made the announcement during an investor day in New York.
The decision marks the end of an era and highlights the waning influence of commercial radio, which is no longer considered a growth industry. Young adults spend more time listening to digital music files, podcasts and subscription Internet radio services such as Spotify and Pandora. The shift has prompted major advertisers, including car dealerships, wireless phone companies and financial services firms, to steer more of their marketing dollars to digital platforms.
Amid all the changes in television and digital media, a report from Nielsen released Tuesday found that radio’s nationwide audience reached an all-time high during the second quarter of 2015.
According to Nielsen, about 245 million Americans ages 12 and up used radio during the that span.
It was a continuation of an upward trend for radio, which has seen its national audience swell to record highs in each of the last two years. In the first quarter of this year, radio eclipsed television as the country’s top reaching medium.
I miss the television snows of yesteryear. And I don’t mean easy nostalgia for the inevitable reruns of “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
I’m talking real television snow, a longing for static, ghost images and the picture endlessly rolling and flip-flopping. While we’re at it, I ache for well-used vinyl crackling like bacon sizzling in a skillet … and the eerie whistles and wheezes from terrestrial radio.
This eccentric pining for the primitive electric hiss and sputter of my 1960s childhood is an honest reaction to our modern culture’s unhealthy addiction to (apparent) perfection. We want it all, we want it now, and we want it sublime.
We not only demand our television, radio and music in unblemished HD on whatever device we choose, but also our weddings, children, houses and bodies. And in our heedless embrace of digital cosmetic surgery, we’ve forgotten that it’s the flaw that makes a thing all the sweeter — like the bruise on a peach.[…]
[Like TV, my] radio needed the human touch, too. As I listened to Boston Red Sox night games, I’d grip the radio like a vise, its hot, orange guts stinging my hand; my skin would lobster up, but I didn’t care, because I could hear the game better. (That radio, a yellowing white Sylvania, also hummed constantly, kind of like the ringing in your ears hours after a Metallica concert.)
Then there was the utter delight of reeling in a far-away station late at night: from Montreal, from Wheeling, from Nashville. Even more bewitching were the otherworldly soundscapes to be found between station stops: eeps and boops, trills and squeals, shrill dronings from the ether that maybe signaled an alien invasion, or first contact with another galaxy.[…]
The [The Federal Communications Commission] announced late Thursday that it would begin seeking public comment on numerous changes[.]
[…]Because of interference caused by consumer electronics, smartphones and the like, AM radio often seems to deliver mostly static. The AM audience has fallen to 15 percent of all radio listeners, down from 50 percent as recently as 1978. While the FM audience has fallen as well, it draws more than five times the audience of AM.
[Steps include] eliminating a regulation requiring stations to prove that any new equipment decreases interference with other stations — a requirement that is expensive, cumbersome and difficult to meet.
The F.C.C. has also proposed eliminating or loosening rules that govern nighttime transmissions by AM stations. Those regulations currently require many AM stations to reduce their power or cease operating at night to avoid interference with other stations.
[…]The current regulations make it difficult for AM stations to locate towers where they will not interfere with nearby stations at night. They also put conflicting requirements on stations, mandating that they still cover most of their broadcast territory even while operating at reduced power.
The proposed new rules, the commission said, aim at keeping more stations on the air at night.
[T]he F.C.C. said it was ready to make available to current FM stations what are known as FM translators — empty spots on the FM dial where AM stations can broadcast. Those are particularly valuable in urban areas, where tall buildings with steel frames or aluminum siding can block AM signals, degrading reception.
A portrait of Frank Conrad in 1921; holding a microphone in his hand (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Many thanks to Jeff Brady who shared this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. While this article focuses on Pittsburgh’s AM radio scene, it’s certainly reflective of a common theme throughout the US and in other countries.
By Adrian McCoy and Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Radio, as we know it, may have begun on a bet.
Frank Conrad, assistant chief engineer for Westinghouse in the early 20th century, wanted to see whether a new watch was keeping correct time. In 1912, he made a $5 wager with colleague Thomas Perkins. But how to verify his claim?
Tinkering with materials in his Wilkinsburg garage, Conrad created a small receiver capable of picking up time signals from the U.S. Naval Observatory in Arlington, Va.
He won his bet and went on to design bigger and better radios for Westinghouse. In turn, Westinghouse became a key player in turning the hobby of a few radio enthusiasts into an industry that changed the world.
Pittsburgh’s radio history is the history of modern radio.
For AM radio — and the radio industry in general — the hits just keep coming. Rapid technological changes, government legislation, aging demographics and a shifting media landscape have combined to erode AM’s once massive audience. Better clarity through FM, HD and satellite, and more diverse programming have resulted in AM leaning heavily on two formats: talk and sports.
Standing 201-metres tall with a 19-metre wide capacitive ‘top hat’, the 3WV mast in western Victoria stands out in the vast flat landscape that stretches below it.
Celebrating 75th years of service, the occasion of World Radio Day seemed a worthy time to pay tribute to this impressive technological structure.
“It really meant a lot to us. It must’ve been a big undertaking in 1936 to build it because cranes and things that are about today weren’t even heard of,” says long time Horsham resident James Heard.
And while the locals are proud of the trusty Dooen mast, its power reaches far wider than just this wide brown land.
In fact 594 AM has even been heard as far as Canada, Japan and South Africa.
The staggering reach is aided by the distinctive ‘top hat’ and the low frequency of the AM band. While obviously a success, the antenna was the first of its kind in Australia and acted as a prototype for other services.
“It’s the first solid-state 50-kilowatt broadcast transmitter installed for the ABC and it was the test bed for the installations across the rest of the country,” says Tim Hughes, Transmission Coordinator for ABC Victoria.
So whether you’re tuning in from snowy Canada or just down the road, thanks be to the 3WV transmitter.