The future of radio

B.J. Snowden

By Larry Dalton

Professor B.J. Snowden runs the Cosumnes River College (CRC) communications media department and advises the student DJs at KCRC (which is webcast only at CRC’s is the only program in the region offering an associate’s degree in radio production, preparing students to break into the broadcast industry. We talked with Snowden about KCRC, the training program and what makes great radio.

What do you like about radio?

I like radio’s ability to inform, persuade and entertain. That is the hook for me, what I preach to my students all the time. Radio does all those things and so subtly. Everyone is affected by it, and almost no one realizes it. Whether it’s talk or music or sports, it is a medium that we all associate with. It’s in our home, our cars. It’s playing when we are waiting at the dentist’s office or in the grocery store. It’s everywhere, and its effect on society is huge.

Who’s doing the best radio right now?

I’m really excited about talk radio right now. Your Armstrong & Getty, your Rise Guys, all the local talk-radio programming. It’s really personality-driven. You have to be an honest-to-God personality if you’re going to stay on the air.

Probably one of the most exciting things to me right now is Talk City 1240 AM, the Air America station. The programs on there really stimulate your mind and give you an alternative perspective.

Wait, you like Armstrong & Getty and Talk City?

I listen to it all, because it’s all about informing and persuading. You know, a lot of people, though they may hate one side, they listen to it anyway. They might call and complain to Christine Craft [1240 AM] and say, “I don’t like what you’re doing,” but they’re listening. I listen because I enjoy radio, the talent, listening to people who can draw you in. It’s an art.

What do you hear out there that you don’t like?

Stations that make abrupt and dramatic changes to their format without regard to their listener base.

Gee. Who are you talking about right now?

I’m not going to name names, but if you live in Sacramento, you know. I just don’t think that’s fair to the listeners. I understand radio is a business, but we have a responsibility to the listeners, too. To just hit your fans with that, it seems cruel. Not to mention the talent and whoever else was working at that station.

The monotony of commercial radio bothers me, too. If I can hear the same song across five stations, I feel like that music is saturating the market too much, and your programming needs some diversity.

So, the program is really geared to get people jobs in radio?

If you’re a radio enthusiast, and you want to come and talk about the effect of War of the Worlds, we can do that in our history-of-radio class. We offer a radio-drama class some semesters. Students can write an original drama, like old-school NBC. And, if you want to come in and hone your skills to get a job today, we do a radio workshop, so you can come in and work on your radio air-check tape. So, students get a holistic education here. They learn how to write, how to do talent, production, how to organize the station and do all the paperwork. This is a fully functioning radio station, and everything is handled by students.

So, the station is webcasting, not broadcasting?

That’s right. It’s really the future of broadcasting, I think. The fact that you can e-mail your cousin in New York and say, “I’m going to be on-air at 5 o’clock your time. Dial in or log on and check me out.” Anyone who has Internet access can check out their show.

It changes the localized theory of radio. Radio has historically been a local medium. If you live in Phoenix, you get Phoenix radio. Today, radio is no longer that kind of medium. It has gone from localized to personalized. You can listen to whatever you want, anywhere you want, as long as you have the technology to access it.

So, you don’t have to worry about the FCC?

We still play clean radio. We abide by all FCC rules and regulations, though we don’t broadcast over the air. Our focus is to train people to work in the industry. We aren’t going to teach them anything but the industry standard.

This is a well-run, well-organized degree program. If you give it your all, you’ll get a job. I think other college radio stations look at radio as more of a hobby. We look at it as a career. If you want to get into the industry, you should come to KCRC.

And I have room. I am actively trying to get more people in and for the program to grow.