Ken: I tend to like business news, consumer issues, science and medical news the most. For a long time I was a health beat reporter, and spent a lot of time in hospitals talking to doctors and other medical professionals. I never ran out of stories, because there’s so much to know when it comes to health, and a lot of groundbreaking research is being done these days.
Do you think that drama programs will ever return to radio like they had in the golden days, with new and contemporary themes?
Other than a few programs on XM Radio, Garrison Keillor's “A Prairie Home Companion” on public radio, the 5 minute daily soap opera on Tom Joyner’s Morning Show, ZBS Media’s “Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe”, and various independent internet podcasts, there isn’t much drama on America radio. However, “audio theatre” as it’s now called, remains popular in other countries. Contemporary plays can be heard regularly on Canada’s CBC networks, and on BBC Radio channels 3, 4, and 7.
What happened to all the radio networks? I used to be able to hear NBC, CBS, and Mutual news on the hour.
Ken: The decline of AM radio caused many radio networks to go out of business. During their heyday, AM stations offered a wide range of programming, including extensive news coverage. This often included network news at the top and/or bottom of the hour. When listeners began to migrate to the FM band in the 1980s, many AM stations reduced their news content to cut expenses. Local news staffs were let go, and a number of outlets began carrying brokered programs (pay-to-play infomercials and church shows) to increase revenue, squeezing out network newscasts. NBC, which was America’s oldest radio network, discontinued programming in 2003. The Mutual Broadcasting System, which had been in operation since 1934 and was the country’s largest radio network, closed down in 1999. The RKO Radio Network, became the United Stations Radio Network after an advertising billing scandal, eventually ceased all news programming. The UPI Radio Network was purchased by the Associated Press and was promptly shut down, so as not to compete with AP Radio. The National Black Network, and the Sheridan Broadcasting Network merged to become the American Urban Radio Network, but AURN doesn’t seem to have the power, influence, or coverage NBN and SBN had separately. Over the past few years ABC Radio has decreased the number of news services it provides to stations. All of this has occurred while the number of individual radio stations have steadily increased, however, few commercial FM stations carry news of any kind, choosing to focus more on music. Fox News Radio has quickly grown to prominence since starting operations in 2005, largely because it’s distributed nationally by Clear Channel. CBS which is now the nation’s oldest radio network remains in operation. So do the Associated Press Radio Network, CNN Radio, and USA Radio, and several other minor operations. Maybe digital radio with its improved sound quality will bring about a revival of the AM band.