There’s no doubt radio, and companion television, have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 virus. The pandemic has inspired a sudden surge in listenership. It’s as if humans require a mortal voice to share time and space with during isolation.
Working from home is nothing different for many of us who have adapted our lifestyles to fit work demands the past few decades. Still, for those commuting and returning to a barren residence, the emotional toll can be devastating. Loneliness, anxiety and depression are as deadly a killer as the disease. This, to me, is where Radio finds purpose.
Radio is that voice, that oversized crowd in the room, that lone occupant – a real person, a sense that words hanging about were there to engage the listener. Television is too impersonal. It speaks to a broad, mostly unattentive audience. Radio tells the small stories and leaves plenty of room for imagination.
I’m drawn to those vintage 40s’ black and white photos of families hunkered around a finely carved wood cabinet sheltering a radio on a Friday and Saturday night, there to catch a favourite comedy special, music event or drama. I think of the many times I crossed North America during the 60s, 70s, and 80s and relied on a broken-down cassette player, and when it faltered, twisted the knob right to left and scanned for either a favourite track or plain talk. Oh, how the miles fade away when the spoken word addresses something of personal interest.
I recall this couple; the husband was our oil delivery man in the 80s’ who entered every CHUM-FM daily contest. He’d stand at the side of our house covered in soot and oil, hands and body stained – and eagerly recite the quiz on that calendar day. The wife was at home dialling, dialling and dialling – both possessed and frequently winners. I was suspect of his devotion, and one day asked about his listening habits, and he quickly recited the top forty list. He then told of his wife’s favourite plays. Damn, they were locked in!
Are we back there now? I have no idea, but I bounced the question to those most in the know – the pros – the radio folks. Enough with nostalgia – here’s where they stand.
David Bray – President of Bray & Partners Communications
As with many sectors of our society, the Covid-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented effect on the radio industry. In my over 35 years working with Radio, I have never seen anything comparable to this crisis. We still have no idea of how long this experience will last or what the full cumulative impact will ultimately be. I will briefly outline a few of the areas of impact to date.
Stations have anecdotally reported up to an 80% decline in revenue. At the same time, it is important to note that most radio salespeople work on 100% commission. These salespeople are working from home, making it nearly impossible to work their client lists. Of course, with many retail businesses closed, there is little to advertise. Some of these sales reps have been laid off. At some of the major broadcast groups, salespeople are being given 75% of their regular commission levels.
This is scheduled to last only three months.
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