Friday, April 16, 2010

Fun...Or Meanness?

By Frank Absher

It seems that, for as long as radio has existed, there have been pranks. Many were good. Some were nasty.

A station would adopt a new format to target another station in the market. A bouquet of dead roses would be delivered to the program director. Let the games begin.

While I was always one to appreciate a good gag, I never quite got destructive or nasty stuff, and that sort of thing has been around for decades. Here in St. Louis in the ‘30s, one station’s engineer cut the wires of a second station while both were at the same remote. It ended up in court.

Many years later, KADI was trying to stay in the AOR fight with KSHE, and at the latter’s annual kite fly in a local park, KADI’s owner hired a plane to circle the area trailing a banner that said something to the effect of “Get Higher With KADI.”

And there was always the stunt at station concerts, where a competitor would send interns to the venue to hand out the competitive station’s bumper stickers.

This sort of thing, to me, was good for the business and for listeners. When you have a fun radio battle, listeners seem to benefit from the competition. Sometimes the jocks did too, when talent raids and bidding wars occurred.

I really miss a lot of that, and for the sake of the future of the business I’m glad most of it stayed within reason. Just last week I was doing some media research and came across the following account of just how competitive things were during the newspaper wars in St. Louis.

(From Catfish and Crystal by Ernest Kirschten:)

“Political candidates then [the 1850s] could establish a newspaper as readily as they now subsidize a campaign biography. Opposing editors caned each other in the streets.”

Discuss on the STL Media Message Board. (Registration required)