Radio Reinvents Itself

Pre-television radio ruled the roost.  It was “nationally oriented, broadcasting an array of recognizable entertainment program formats, populated by well-known stars and personalities, and consumed primarily in the home, typically with people sitting around the set” (Baran, 2010, p. 181).  family-radioNamed after a character in a radio soap opera that my mother listened to, I understand fully well the prominence that radio held in the lives of people prior to television.  As a child, I awoke to the sound of the BBC news at 7:00 am coming from a huge radio affixed to a wall.  A true colonial, my father set his watch by the BBC and considered it the only newscast worth listening to.  In those days there were only two radio stations on the AM band, 6.10 and 7.30 that provided a mix of music, news, sports, weather and talk shows.

However, “post television radio is local, fragmented, specialized, personal and mobile” (Baran, 2010, p. 181).  As a teenager, I looked forward to listening to American Top 40 with Casey Kasem every weekend religiously, and I would make mixed tapes of my favourite songs. download (2)  Today in Trinidad and Tobago, a small island in the Caribbean with a population of 1.3 million, there are over 32 radio stations each specializing in different genres. There is talk radio, urban, gospel, pop, jazz, soca and East Indian music (Radio Station World, 2015).  In the U.S., the “number of news/talk/information radio stations fluctuates between 1,900 and 2,000” (Vogt, 2015).  There is a station for everyone.

While people do not sit and listen to the radio at home any longer due to “the availability of online music and listener dissatisfaction with unimaginative programming and hypercommercialization – on average about 12 commercials an hour for a typical radio station” (Baran, 2010, p. 181), many are tuned on online and in their cars.  “More than half of Americans ages 12 and older have listened to online radio in the past month, according to 2015 survey data from Edison Research” (Vogt, 2015).  Interestingly, “Traditional AM/FM radio, meanwhile, continues to reach the overwhelming majority of the American public – 91% of Americans ages 12 and older had listened in the week before they were surveyed in 2014” (Vogt, 2015).  This percentage I believe, largely listens in their cars.

Since the 1960’s cars have moved from having eight tracks to cassettes to CD players.  However, today

“Those CD players are now disappearing as consumers prefer Sirius XM Holdings (SIRI) satellite radio and integration with their Apple AAPL +1.75% iPhone, Android powered smartphone or in some cases a Blackberry (BBRY) smartphone as the preferred way to listen to music, talk radio, podcasts and even books while driving” (Versace, 2015). download (3)

But what is most surprising is that despite all these technological advancements, people still want AM/FM in their cars.  A thousand people were sampled and “84% of respondents listen to AM/FM radio while relatively new systems like Sirius/XM, Pandora and Spotify came in at 22%, 18% and 7%, respectively” (Versace, 2015).  How we listen to the radio has changed, in that many of us listen to it online on our smartphones when we are not in our cars, but clearly radio still has an audience because it caters to specific niche markets.


Baran, S.  (2010). Mass Communication:  Media literacy and culture (6th Ed.)  New York, New York: McGraw Hill

Radio Station World.  (2015).  Retrieved from

Versace, C.  (2015, April 28).  Consumers Still Want AM/FM Radios In Their Cars.  Retrieved from

Vogt., N.  (2015, April 29).  Audio: Fact sheet.  Retrieved from


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