AFRTS tunes out consultant's call to eliminate talk radio shows
June 15, 2006
WASHINGTON — American Forces Radio listeners could hear some music changes in coming months but won’t lose their talk radio, according to the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for internal communications.
Allison Barber said officials won’t follow a media consultant’s recommendations that military radio drop Rush Limbaugh, National Public Radio and other talk shows in some markets in favor of potentially more popular music offerings.
A report from Lund Media Research commissioned by military radio officials had recommended breaking away from the one-music, one-talk format in regions with two radio stations, instead replacing it with two music stations playing more popular genres and dropping country music. The consultants recommended a politics/country music station only for regions with more than two stations.
But last week, Armed Forces Radio and Television Service officials decided not to make any immediate programming changes based on those suggestions.
“This research is a good benchmark for us … but there are recommendations that we’re not going to implement,” Barber said. “And the issue of taking political talk off of the radio is something that we’re not going to do.”
The Lund report, compiled over the last six months, noted that talk radio was less popular among younger troops and less useful for attracting new listeners than Top 40 and hip-hop music stations.
Barber said the talk radio offerings have already undergone major changes in the last year — officials added Ed Schultz, Al Franken and Sean Hannity in December — and officials need to see how the military audience reacts to those lineup changes before any other major decisions.
“We take a look every quarter at what new shows might fit our criteria, but for now that process for talk radio will stay the same,” she said.
She said that officials are considering shuffling the music offerings available worldwide, “mixing it up to see how the audience responds to some of those (report) suggestions.”
That could leave uncertain the fate of country music, which the Lund consultants identified as appealing to a smaller portion of the armed forces than hip-hop and pop.
The survey also noted that country music is more polarizing than any other music options — loved by some, hated by others — which makes it more difficult to mesh with other programming.
Barber said the current music stations are flexible in their programming, allowing officials to make incremental changes and see how the audience reacts. But no definite changes have been announced.
The analysis of the radio broadcasts, which included a survey of 1,125 military radio listeners, is the first major review of the over-the-air offerings in more than a decade.
The goal, Barber said, is to find the best ways to have important command messages interspersed in the radio shows.
Officials are also looking at other technology, such as podcasts, to get those alerts out. Barber said the Pentagon Channel podcast had about 181,000 downloads last month, showing it can be “a real tool for us to communicate with listeners.”