It’s all gone horribly wrong – time for radio to lead the way back

Staff Writer

It seems not a month goes by lately where some broadcaster doesn’t bring the industry into disrepute.

We all know of the numerous indiscretions of a prominent Sydney FM jock. His AM counterpart is constantly evoking visceral reactions (mostly from those that have never heard his program) and that prank call has made international headlines.

More recently, another presenter with considerable form has lost his job over some distasteful questions posed to the former Prime Minister.

Whilst this latest incident has continued a politically contrived, sexism debate, more often than not when one of these on-air gaffes is perpetrated, we hear cries of “It’s 2013, you just can’t do that anymore!” but is that really true?

Plenty of people, especially from within, will blame the “media” for being a bad influence on society, but isn’t the media, and especially radio with its more intimate connection to its audience, just a reflection of society?

We live in a day and age where we’re bombarded with gratuitous sex and violence on our television and movie screens. Respect for authority has diminished and the general level of behaviour has degenerated. Personal responsibility also seems to have fallen by the wayside. So is it any surprise that the content of radio broadcasts has taken a moral dive?

The reality is that radio more so than any other medium is a reflection of society – not the other way around. The do-gooders and hand-wringers of the pseudo-intellectual left will lament 1950s attitudes, but sixty years ago we had more respect for each other, authority and our work. So the truth is that “it’s 2013 and we do do that”.

The sad part of that equation is that as broadcasters, we should be leading our audience in pursuit of higher values, rather than following society in a downward spiral. Our opponents will overplay our influence as will our individual egos, but in the race for ratings and attention, we’ve become reactionary and subsequently the quality and originality of our product has suffered. As broadcasters we wax lyrical about responsibility, but do we really believe it?

The answer is, we should! Individually and as an industry, we have to start leading by example and that largely means not getting involved in the debate about the state of radio itself. If we just do our jobs, do them well and strive to do it better every day, maybe we’ll reclaim the respect of our peers and listeners. Maybe then, society might start to reflect us.

Stephen Cenatiempo is the host of Hunter Valley Today, weekdays 9am – 1pm on 981 2NM in the Hunter Valley. He graduated from AFTRS in 2010 with a Graduate Diploma in Radio Broadcasting and named Best Newcomer On-Air – Country at the 2011 ACRAs.

Read a previous article from Stephen, 'Resurrection of a radio dream', here.

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