WUNC, NPR, and Local Radio

The seperlative Jack Benny
The superlative Jack Benny

I am nearly convinced that the editorial board at the Daily Tar Heel is nuts.  I mean, the DTH editorials provide enough material for daily posts.  A recent one about radio stations of all things didn’t make me to laugh (my usual reaction) but rather to simply sit in sad astonishment.  I do not want to sacrifice my enjoyment of reading the DTH for this level of stupidity even if it does offer me subjects for posts.

The editorial begins (I forsake the formality of their weird paragraph breaks): “There is nothing like listening to the new irresistible song of the summer on the radio. But those stations need our help if they’re going to keep providing the sound track for lives.  Of course, now we all plug our iPods into our cars and search for any song we want to hear on the Internet. But an iPod can’t replace the familiar voice of your favorite local disc jockey, and Pandora won’t play a live, in-studio concert of a local up-and-coming band.”

Um, yes we do, and no they can’t.

The DTH editorial board goes on to make a plea for money for local radio stations consistent with the level of hysteria often associated with feeding starving children. They remark, “North Carolina Public Radio-WUNC, which relies mainly on contributions from listeners, is feeling the strain of the economy and soliciting donations.  They are not alone.  Even National Public Radio is feeling the crunch, not to mention the radio stations that specialize in a particular genre of music, ranging from classical to hip-hop.”  Yes, what would American public radio do without hundreds of millions of dollars of tax money to play with?

Then we are told that of course “It’s true that we’re all trying to be a little more frugal in this economy.  But it’s in the interest of the whole community that we try to cough up a bit of money to support these types of public services.  Even students can spare just a few dollars.”  Okayyy, two things: one, I think the sufferings of local families shouldn’t be thrown into the train for the sake of public propaganda radio, and, two, students can spare a few dollars?  I think the editorial board should publish just how much money they have contributed to NPR, maybe that will motivate me more than an authoritarian, absolute statement such as that.

The DTH goes on to explain that “Most of us are guilty of using the Internet for all our media needs.  We go online for the news, for the fake news, to sample music and to stream our favorite shows.”  They are aware that they have a website that offers these services, no?  Or perhaps the DTH is referring to websites such as WUNC’s, NPR’s, or any number of other local radio stations that offer these same services.  And the problem is?  Is the DTH so opposed to competition that it is in favor of banning the internet?

Radio is, to me, one of those stupid passions that one has which, to others, seems childish and uncouth.  I love radio. The fantasy of television cannot compare to the fondness I hold for the lucid, piercing voices of long-forgotten radio stars.  Whether it be the hilarity of a Jack Benny or a Red Skelton, the blood-curdling scream of a guest on Suspense, or the drama of Orson Welles’s unsettling eloquence.  Nevertheless, television does exist and radio programs of the thirties and forties went by the wayside.  The stars adapted and evolved, and life goes on.

I am thrilled at listening to live, local radio.  Around here I am entertained and informed daily by the distinct styles of Keith Larson, Rush Limbaugh, Tara Servatius, and John Hancock on the “colossus of the south,” WBT.  I also enjoy classic oldies on WRBK, The Ride, and The Fox.  I tune into local, Christian programming on New Life 91.9, and BBN.  Guess what? None of my favorite stations get government hand-outs.  The Christian stations take donations, but, other than that, the radio stations thrive without them.  If the stations didn’t get listeners they would be out of business.  Period.

In closing, I enjoy radio very much.  I want it to survive.  But, subsidizing failures will not aid in its necessary evolution.  NPR and every other local radio station  should have to compete with everyone else (some of the programming certainly warrants air time).

I like radio but I also like dictionaries; that doesn’t mean I think people shouldn’t use online dictionaries and donate to Webster.

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