June 14, 2000
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By Terry Joseph
IF YOU ever wondered why all the electronic devices that search for intelligent life in the universe are pointed away from earth, let me suggest that it is because all the radio stations are down here.
Looking back over the ten years since the Robinson administration decided to open up the broadcast media, the granting of those 23 additional licences has done us little good. Standards of language and integrity have suffered serious slippage and greater access to the airwaves has not translated into measurable gains for indigenous music.
Perhaps because the hasty distribution of licences was largely inspired by fear of a repeat of what happened earlier in that same year, when the Muslimeen attempted a coup and commandeered one of only two existing stations, the knee-jerk reaction by the Government did not fully contemplate the current fallout.
So while no one group of insurgents can now take over communications as easily as the Muslimeen did, what has happened instead, is that a different kind of coup has been successful. In case you haven’t noticed, we are now under the control of some patently uninformed announcers, who continue to broaden their assault on our intelligence by bombarding us with inanities, generated at the speed of sound.
Now, we’re not talking about mere bloopers here. Given the rate at which announcers are required to think while on duty, anyone can make a mistake.
Internationally famous names like Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Tony Cozier are actually listed on a website devoted to such errors (good thing the webmaster does not monitor local radio). For that matter, syndicated radio DJ Kelvin O’Shea has said on air: “Conditions on the road are so bad this morning that if you are only now setting off for work, perhaps you should leave a little earlier.”
Bloopers like those are pardonable if they rarely occur, but we are not so blessed.
Of course, not all radio presenters are illiterate. For instance, there is Winston Maynard on FM 104 and a few others scattered around the bandspread, whose efforts should be counted as an attempt to rescue the local averages and win back some integrity for radio.
But Maynard and his pitifully small group can achieve nothing more than a Phyrric victory against the overwhelming phalanx of their peers, who either do not perceive for themselves an educational role in the execution of their functions, or are simply unable to deliver a more sagacious product.
To make matters worse, instead of the management of offending stations demanding that their presenters take courses in remedial language skills, it seems that they have now joined the conspiracy, by endorsing the garbage that is passing for on-air conversation.
After a recent survey designed to track public response to the 16 frequencies currently operating here, radio station officials took away those findings for “deeper analysis” and at the end of that exercise, more than five of them claimed to be “Number One”.
It has consequently become impossible to find a high-energy frequency on the bandspread that does not bombard you with “thanks for making us number one” and fluffy promises to keep on doing what they’re doing which—given what they are doing—is a merciless proposition.
Just who among us would want these presenters to keep on “shouting out a big-up” to their circle of friends, spewing inanities, perpetually screaming into the microphones, or trying to introduce green verbs as a socially acceptable style?
Lucky for them, Mrs Undine Giuseppi, local head of the language police, has obviously given up on the existing crop of radio presenters. Like the rest of us who would love to hear good radio again, she would have been mortified on Sunday night last, when the announcer repeatedly referred to one of his callers as “congtangerous”, in a context where he must have been trying to pronounce the word “cantankerous”. Nor was that an isolated case—even in the same programme. And don’t challenge them with unusual nomenclature either!
Yet, all these sub-standard announcers insist that we stay “locked on” to their frequencies, as though certain that every one of us has some kind of masochistic streak. They must also be convinced that we are equally foolish, if they have to repeat with such frequency, the fact that the announcer is “on the inside”; as though other stations actually attempt to produce programming with the DJs and presenters operating from locations immediately outside of the studio door.
DJs are a different breed altogether, speeding up songs to demonstrate their ability at mixing music and brighten tone, without any regard for those among us who know and love the key and pitch of the original version. Then there are those who host request programmes, but never have available the music that their callers would prefer to hear.
So if these are the stations that proclaim themselves as Number One, then they must ensure that what is coming through the radio does not sound like something a little lower on the numerical scale.
And don’t worry, guys (you know who you are), I won’t touch that dial—not with a ten-foot pole!