In 1998, KLZR, the FM rock station in my home town of Lawrence, Kansas was voted by Rolling Stone Magazine to be in the “Top 10 Stations that Don’t Suck.” Within a year the station was sold and the format was changed to sound like every other station on the dial. The radio staff was fired or quit in disgust. This scene was happening everywhere across the US . Small towns and large cities were losing their local voices because Congress had just made massive radio consolidation legal through the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Why is Jewel holding the number five? She was among five local musicians who were played in regular rotation on San Diego’s 91X. These were artists that were mostly unknown before they were given air-play (Jewel was homeless at the time). Radio built a local critical mass behind these acts that launched some of them to grace the rest of the nation. Radio stations were once adored by their communities for doing this. A local DJ could raise awareness for a local charity, a civic concern or a band all within the same show. The DJ’s voice is now limited with voice tracking and rules. Ironically, the local economy has lost a unifying voice.
FOLLOW THE MONEY — RADIOPOLY
How can a station make money if it continually fires its listeners? This question was brought to us by a veteran broadcaster who could not understand the mismanagement of the stations that he loved. The math did not add up. The price of stations was going up while the quality of the product was going down. There was a third party siphoning money out of radio. This third party was the real culprit that left us with crappy radio. The new player was a secret class of unregulated high financiers. Radio now exists to pay financial maintenance fees and selling fees to Private Equity firms as well as unconscionable debt service to the banks. Radiopoly is a finance game where the winner takes all and the loser is the listener and the community. We made this film because we see a way out of this.