How Radio Automation Replaced Theater of the Mind
SacTV.com "Video of the Day" review by
Alex Cosper on March 17, 2012
Tony Cox and I talk about something that was a strong foundation of radio's heyday. It was a programming
orientation called "theater of the mind," which was used by many stations from the 1960s through
the 1990s, allowing radio personalities artistic freedom to do whatever they wanted on the air.
The Telecom Act of 1996, sadly, handed radio over to big business, which restructured the industry
to favor cost-cutting measures that eliminated a lot of creative talent. The result was less live
spontaneity and more pre-programmed voice-tracked computer automation. Ironically, the industry
may have saved money in salaries in the short run, but in the picture, radio lost more money than it made the past decade,
due to a mix of competing new technology and a less exciting radio presentation.
Cox gives us several examples of how he used his own ideas to drive his radio shows on KROY in the 70s and 80s. These days it is
rare that radio operators are allowed much freedom beyond paraphrasing liner cards in their own words and
throwing in short tidbits that anyone could've come up with. What was once a compelling medium that
had people hanging on the edge of their seats, has become redundant channels of predictable corporate
programming with strict rules. Cox explains the nature of how theater of the mind captivated listeners
and how radio, at its most powerful peak, was the most consistently live medium most of the time.
Every moment of air time was potentially a surprise.
This video was taped on April 28, 2000 at Tony's recording studio and produced March 17, 2012. Read more about the history of KROY and other
Sacramento radio stations at Playlist Research.
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