Thursday, July 26, 2007

Public Radio Sucks

[since this blog continues, much to my annoyance, to be rated "G" by the blog-rater thingy, I have determined to use more salty language in the next few posts. If you read this, Mom -- sorry.]

[this post goes out to MyDogIsChelsea, who is cruelly laid up with strep throat for the second time this summer. Lame! Way lame!]

After 30 years of listening to public radio, I have come to the conclusion that it sucks.

With that said, let me jump immediately into the qualifications:
  • Public radio sucks objectively, not comparatively. Indisputably, it shines like a precious diamond in the vile wasteland of ClearChannel-era commercial radio, not to mention television, newspaper journalism (with a couple of exceptions), and magazine journalism (with a handful of exceptions).
  • This American Life does not suck.
  • Michael Feldman does not suck.
  • Many individual public radio stations produce solid local content, or curate unusual or interesting content. I happen to listen, for my sins, to Oregon Public Broadcasting, which does neither well and thus especially sucks.

OK, moving on to the evidence. Here is why public radio sucks:

1. It is stuck in time. The hot new show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, is as old as the century. This American Life, though still lovely on a good week, can no longer be considered fresh and hip eleven years into its tenure. What I can expect to hear on any given Sunday is almost exactly what I could expect to hear when I entered graduate school in fucking 1991. This makes public radio essentially an oldies station. Ergo, it sucks.

2. It is not public. Programming is flagrantly directed by what can gain corporate sponsorship -- announced in a steady stream of commercial advertisements -- and by what can be funded through sucking up to grant-wielding foundations. Not that any of this craven behavior stops the agony of:

3. Fundraising Weeks. Talk about sucking. God. Public radio fundraising is embarassingly inept. It demeans all who take part and all who listen. Sucks! Sucks! Sucks! In recent years, it has taken me months to get back in the habit of listening to the radio after fundraising weeks. I think I am wising up.

4. It is devoid of surprises. Public radio cleaves to the notion that formula creates comfort, so its shows march through their formats in a dull lockstep. Now, this is all fine and good in pleasant fluff like Car Talk, which has broadcast essentially the same show every week throught my adult life. (Car Talk has more ritual incantations per hour than the Roman Catholic mass.) In news programming, though, it is kind of disturbing. It isn't too hard for a regular listener to predict what the news will be before turning on the radio -- which means that is ain't really news at all, doesn't it. And finally:

5. Liberal Bias. Where is it, anyway? I can turn to any other media outlet if I want the bland, reckless, willfully ignorant false moralities of conservative so-called thought rammed down my throat. From a medium that professes to a little intellectual rigor, I expect a bracing liberal perspective. But I ain't hearing it.

That is all.

Happy listening,



Jenny! said...

Is using the word suck your strategy for getting a PG rating??? I don't think I have ever listened to public radio!

Karin said...

He said "fucking" too.
(Sorry Michael's mom.)

Michael, I'm with you on all points. NPR and PRI are bright shining diamonds compared to anything ClearChannel has to offer. Then again, ClearChannel doesn't set the bar very high.

I started listening to public radio back in the mid-90s after I got back from Senegal, ever so much wiser, you see, and was looking for some news in my news.

At the time NPR seemed really liberal to me and willing to challenge the status quo, though I can't at all be sure if that was true and things have drastically changed in public radio since then or I've marched so far Left that public radio, from this vantage point, appears to be in the pocket of Big Brother/Big Business. I really don't know.

What I do know, is that more often than not they're not asking enough questions, not probing deeply enough. I listen to their interviews, my questions come up, some of which they ask and then bam--it's thank you very much for stopping by. I'm left thinking, "That's it?! No, no, no, no, no. You're only half done, here! If I can think of 10 more questions, surely you can, too, Mara Liasson." It always makes me wonder which sponsor they'd offend by asking those really juicy important questions.

What's even worse, they're often not even reporting on things I want to know more about. They're leaving out so much, but they'll spend 12 minutes on the social life of gnats.

Fucking brilliant.
(Will that help bump you up to PG-13?)(Sorry Michael's mom.)

Rebel said...

People are always asking if I listen to NPR and I don't & I've felt a little guilty about it. But from reading your post I guess I'm not missing much.

I listen to 94/7 KNRK which I don't think is owned by Clear Channel... no news but the music's good.

Anonymous said...

Hey! Thanks for the post! Sorry I didn't notice it until three days later! (if it's any excuse... I was in misery and permanently glued to the couch)

You make some very good points. I still listen to NPR, though, every morning. It's good background noise. And it's also a good clock. I know I'm running late if they're in the middle of the business news, but I know it's early if Carl Castle is still delivering the news from Washington.

OPB does suck absolute balls. It's truly inexcusable. I don't even know why they bother.

The thing that irritates the hell out of me is when they announce their sponsors—they make them sound like freaking Mother Theresa. "Cargill—eliminating hunger through research and technology" or whatever the hell the tagline is. CARGILL??? HELPS PEOPLE?!?!?!? How? By force feeding them genetically modified grains after running every local farmer out of business?

Jenny! said...

The word 'fucking' like the word 'and' to me, I don't even notice when it's used!

Michael5000 said...

@Jenny!: Yes, the plan is to use "suck" and also occasionally "fucking." It's working -- I'm PG, now. (Which is good enough for me. We can't all be the AWARD-WINNING Queen of NC-17.)

@Karin: Yes -- I've noticed the half-finished interviews, too. We'll call that Point #6. But no, it appears that naughty words in the comments don't count. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure my mom doesn't know how to get to the comments, so you can let that fucking shit-mouth language fly!

@rebel: NRK is surely a reasonable rock radio station. I just wish it was the fourth-best rock station in PDX and trying hard to catch up, rather than heads and shoulders over the others. Is that asking so much?

@MDIC: The Mother Theresa factor! Yes, you've put your finger right on it!! That's Point #7. As for OPB... this is the station that gave us the "Satellite Sisters." God, that's still a painful memory.

@Jenny!, pt. 2: If you don't notice a "fucking," maybe it's time to ditch your fiance! Zing!

@Mom: Um... You really don't read the comments, right?

fingerstothebone said...

Jenny -- so next time, you can say "what the and..." instead?

And Mr. 5000 -- you forgot to bitch (that's my contribution towards your R-rating) about Terry Gross. And yes, yes, Satellite Sisters...AAARGH...I tried to blot them out of my memory.

Michael5000 said...

@fingers: All right, then, here goes. Terry Gross is a perfectly adequate arts-n-letters interview host, and I think her show deserves a wide listenership in her home town of Philadelphia. Yep.

BUT -- there is no reason for every other town not to have an arts-n-letters interview show of its own, many of them more interesting than the merely pretty good Fresh Aire.