Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Keep It On The Down Low – Underheard Radio

My birth radio station was WDAS, 148 on the AM dial. From 6 a.m. Monday to Midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning it was my station.

There were great DJ comedians who were clean but they made you fill in the blanks. Some of them made it their personal mission to make you late for school or work.

You knew what play was in town or what celebrity was plugging their concert at the Uptown Theater. We didn't need the Emergency Broadcasting System. We had DAS.

Flash forward 40 years. WDAS is now a Clear Channel station. Clear Channel owns hundreds of stations. They homogenize play lists. The stations are programmed to assume what the listeners want to hear. If there are live DJs at the station, they have firm instructions as to what can and cannot be said over the air.

In the Los Angeles area, many DJs have lost their jobs and have been replaced by an automated system. One DJ may service multiple radio stations across the country. The most recent addition, Jack-FM has no DJs. Jack picks from a list of 1,200 songs.

He (the corporate "he") really doesn't want listener input, other than to record "this is a great station" promotional announcements. They are not breaking any new ground; it is the usual suspects and then a surprise recording or two. I don't know from whom, they don't announce or back announce. Snarky.

There are still terrestrial radio (traditional radio as opposed to satellite or cable radio) stations that still try to connect with the local community. They think about the programming and their
mission.

Underheard.org collects radio programs and streams a selection of independent and community radio stations from across the nation. Some of them are small 500-watt stations; others are connected to colleges or are truly independent of mainstream media controllers.

*If you have a thing for Hawaiian music then KCSN in Northridge will take you far past Don Ho. (No disrespect intended).

*If you are looking for a Dub injection, you can swing over to WCSB in Cleveland.

*If you need more stories, documentaries or sound exploration WZBC in Boston's Magnetic Tape fills in the gap while you are waiting for the next episode of "This American Life."

You can go to these stations by visiting their web sites. Most have streaming or download capabilities. Underheard.org makes it easy to sample and experiment with various musical, informational and alternative formats – http://www.underheard.org

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