Tuesday 27 Sep 2016

listening to radio, 1992
dr george pollard

Why do people listen to radio? Music? Commercials? News? Weather? Information? Absolutely. But, things aren't always what they seem. There's a lot more to radio listening.

Listeners want and need more than a steady flow of music, commercials, news, weather and information. These are the tip of the iceberg -- the 10% hiding the 90% that makes the difference. Your play list can be plagiarized, but nobody can duplicate how you satisfy less obvious listener wants and needs.

Less obvious, subtler wants and needs can be elusive and inadvertently neglected. Listeners don't volunteer such information to researchers. As the bulk of an iceberg lies below sea level, the subtler reasons for listening lie just below the threshold of consciousness, out of reach. Specific prompting is needed to learn about them. Most programming research doesn't reach such depths.

A generation ago, in a study for WMCA, New York, Harold Mendelsohn identified several subtle reasons or listening to radio. Subsequent studies confirm his findings, and add a few insights.

Mendelsohn showed how radio plays many important roles in the daily life of listeners. We all try, for example, to make daily life as routine as possible. Up every morning and to bed every night at about the same time sets a routine that helps us prepare for tomorrow. A daily routine helps manage stress. When stress is managed, we cope better and life is less pressured, more enjoyable.

Radio helps establish daily routines by bracketing the day. When what we face has a definite beginning, middle and end, we can deal with it much better. Radio sets, maintains and closes the day for listeners.

AM Drive opens the daily bracket. It helps reestablish contact with a world left hours ago for sleep. News and information satisfy basic security and curiosity needs. Leafs lost! The Constitutional Committee is in chaos. Mulroney overreacts. Nothing has changed. Weather, traffic and road reports help us prepare to face the outside world - overcoat, umbrella, long-way around to work to avoid rubbernecking on Whitemud Road.

AM Drive pacing establishes a rhythm that fixes listener mood and frame-of-mind. Over the day, radio adjusts tone and tempo to fit listener needs and help determine their mood. Across the dial are opportunities to maintain or change tone or tempo, and thus mood. Classical calms. Adult Contemporary and Urban enliven. Oldies comfort. News reassures. Talk integrates.

Late morning, mid-day and early evening (bracket maintenance) are a bridge to late night radio (close bracket), which is reassuring and pacifying. The snow came and went. So did he crisis at work. What Mulroney actually said was, "the Liberals are clucking faster." More stores are leaving Deerfoot Mall. What's political correctness? Exam written and only half covered with hives. The new mayor's husband says he must learn to cook. Is he being politically correct? For all listeners, late night radio confirms the day's tensions, anxieties and pressures were overcome.

Listeners are quick to recognize sound cues and respond accordingly. Out of bed, eyes open on order of General Grant. Dick Smythe news means breakfast is ready. The drive to work is timed against periodic traffic, weather or road reports -- "second traffic up-date, there's the Decarie, right on time." The key to sound cues is that radio time is real time. Unlike television time, radio time matches listener time: listener and medium move together. Bracketing and cuing amplify radio's versatility: an unequaled capacity to be many things to different people, often at the same time. Radio stimulates or relaxes, is intimate or formal, thrills or soothes, is serious or humourous. And it does it all, when listeners demand.

Radio is also a companion. For the rushed parent, whose environment is child and home oriented, concluded Mendelsohn, radio was an adult element that's companionable and diverting. The world is increasingly impersonal. Rudeness is a way of life. Computerization means more and more people work in isolation, at home or in a desolate office. Linkages with the boss, colleagues or clients are forged via modem and e-mail.

Radio is used as a diverting companion to fill voids created by tedious or routine tasks and a sense of isolation or loneliness. And, since radio is live, it, more than any medium, can be a companion. Radio responds immediately. There's no live-to-tape for later play. Radio is live-to-air. It's one-on-one contact, in real time.

Listeners view on-air staffers as good friends. High staff turnover doesn't allow for friendships to develop. It detracts from fulfilling companionship wants and needs and, ultimately, ratings.

Stability is equated with reliability and trustworthiness. Listeners prefer reliable, stable, trustworthy friends, on- and off-air. This explains the success of George Balcan (CJAD, Montreal), Ken Grant (CFRA, Ottawa), Wally Crofter (CFRB, Toronto), each in-place a quarter century or more; Rick Steele (60 years on WTIC, Hartford), Carl de Suze, who spent 40 years on WBZ, Boston, or three generations of Gamblings on WOR, New York. Nor does it apply just to AM Driver.

One of the rewards of friendship is finding about things you might never have the chance to do yourself -- vicarious participation. You likely weren't, for example, in the Middle East during Desert Storm, but a neighbour was. As s/he tells you about it, you come to view the Iraq, USA, Mid-East situation in a way that's different from others who haven't discussed it with someone who was there, and different still from those who actually there. Through your neighbour, you acquire knowledge of Desert Storm - an indirect or vicarious experience - and it influences your ideas about the world.

Listeners perceive radio as a dependable and trustworthy source of indirect experience, of knowledge-about issues, events and personalities otherwise beyond the scope of listeners. Radio news is a survey of the world beyond personal experience. Knowledge-of (vicarious participation in) events, issues and personalities is reassuring and helps manage stress, especially in a crisis situation.

Different kinds of news satisfy different wants and needs. Surveillance, for example, satisfies immediate wants. Is it cold? Do I need a coat? Who won? Will it snow? Who lost? Do I need boots? Who's in first place? Is traffic tied up? Where? Should I stay home? Are schools closed? Surveillance is important to listeners. But, in twelve minutes, they want more. It's fast food news - McNews.

Local news and information helps integrate listeners into the community. It creates and reinforces community ties. Background, interpretation and analysis increase knowledge and awareness of community. This triggers a sense of belonging, of fitting-in, of being an essential part of the community. Back-ground, interpretation and analysis of regional, provincial and national news serve a similar purpose. International news fulfills a basic curiosity and is a chance to vicariously participate in events on the largest scale -- the Middle East peace process, Tianamen Square, formation of a Russian Commonwealth.

Radio news and information, including commercials, PSAs or seemingly idle patter, sets the agenda of interest and conversation for listeners. They think about what they hear on radio. They talk to other people about it. It becomes part of their frame-of-reference.

Agenda-setting effects are critical. Responses to public opinion questions ("How would rate the leadership of Prime Minister Mulroney?") are based more on news media coverage than direct, personal experience. Public opinion shapes policy and election results. The agenda set by radio has immense influence.

As it sets the agenda of listener attention and conversation, radio also acts a social lubricant. It can be advantageous to walk into the office and be able to say, "hey, did ya hear Balcan this morning saying he's 60 years old and endowed." ** Radio helps listeners bind themselves closer and more tightly to others through the common frame-of-reference and topics for conversation it provides. This is an unintended and unrecognized result of local surveillance information ("Did ya hear if it was going to snow?") and what only seems like 60 years of Balcan's dumb jokes at 7 am.

So, radio listening is more involved than it seems, at first glance. Radio plays many important roles in the daily life of listeners. It brackets the day, establishes a rhythm and provides opportunities to set maintain or change mood. Radio is a trustworthy, stable friend, helping listeners establish a daily agenda of what they want, need should know about, and indirectly allowing them to sample more of life than otherwise possible.

Female listeners actively use radio to satisfy of all these wants and needs. Women 40+ place more emphasis on satisfying surveillance, social lubrication, information needs more than other listeners. Women under 30 emphasize diversion and social integration.

Virtually all males over the age of thirty-five are news and information seekers. If the music is obtrusive, and it easily is for males 35+, they quickly go elsewhere. Males under 30 use music on radio to satisfy basic diversion and relief boredom.

No station can satisfy all wants and needs. So, listeners devise a matrix of stations. As Mendelsohn reports, switching around the dial is a quest for satisfaction of specific needs radio appears to satisfy effectively and one station can satisfy more effectively than another. One calms. Another enlivens. A third informs.


The crucial ingredient in any recipe to satisfy listener wants and needs is the announcer. His or her style - comical, energetic, business-like and mellow - shapes sound images and cues for listeners.

Nathan Stubblefield was the first radio announcer. In 1892, he broadcast two words, "Hello, Rainey!," across the fence that separated his backyard from Rainey'. J O. Cann hosted the first regularly scheduled musical program, on 20 May 1920. It was relayed from XWA, now CFCF, Montreal, to a meeting of the Royal Society of Canada, in Ottawa, and took a 100 share.

On 31 September 1921, Tommy Cowan went to the shack on the roof of a Westinghouse plant and began talking. Hour upon hour, he repeated, "This is WJZ, WJZ, WJZ, the radio broadcasting station located at Newark, New Jersey. Please stand by to tune." Thousands did, as sales of radio receivers skyrocketed.

To break the monotony, Cowan played a few records he borrowed, along with a phonograph, from Thomas Edison. The first record played was "Annie Laurie" by Anna Case. A few days later, Edison asked Tommy to return his phonograph and records. "If the phonograph sounded like that in any room, nobody would every buy it," said Edison. WJZ bought its own phonograph and records. Cowan continued to "jockey the discs through the air."

Al Jarvis was the first successful deejay. In 1932, he began playing re cords every night on KFWB, Los Angeles. He worked in a tiny studio he called, "The World's Largest Make Believe Ballroom." Between records, Jarvis read commercials and talked, mostly about music and musicians; his play list included requests mailed to him by listeners.

As the Michael Jackson trial captivates public attention, so, too, did the 1932 trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnap and murder of the infant son of aviator Charles Lindbergh. The trial was broadcast, world-wide, on radio. WNEW, New York launched a version of "Make Believe Ballroom," hosted by Martin Block, as filler during the Lindbergh kidnap trial.

The deejay was a windfall for KFWB and WNEW. By 1941, for example, Block was getting 3,000 letters a week. In its first month as a sponsor of Make Believe Ballroom on WNEW, Purity Bakers estimated donut sales increased by nearly two million.

WNEW took the idea of a complete sound environment - jock, talk, music and commercials - one step further. It became the first station to broadcast all night, every night, when it launched Milkman's Matinee, hosted by Stan Shaw. The show was another windfall.

The deejay was soon a fixture on radio stations throughout North America. Inexpensive and effective, the jock ensured radio's survival in the 1950's, when television threatened to replace it. The jock was the necessary and sufficient ingredient that let radio carve out its hyper-successful niche as a local medium. The record business wooed and cultivated jocks to revive dwindling sales. And they did!

The deejay qua announcer qua personality evolved into an integral component in the success of radio. A special friendship develops between listener and announcer, even though they've never met, face-to-face, and likely won't. Robert Snow found compelling evidence for the importance of announcers as companions. Roughly, 7-of-10 listeners sensed announcers tried to relate on a personal level; more than 3-in-5 listeners thought of announcers as companions and about sixty percent went as far as to claim that some announcers had a sense of their personal needs.

Listeners with similar wants and needs, interests and desires, lifestyles and expectations come together through common focus on an announcer. This is the reason for the success of Balcan, Don Kohls (CKGB, Timmins) and Doc Harris (CIMA, Vancouver), for example, who are symbols, role models and opinion leaders for hundreds-of-thousands of listeners. A similar situation exists in every radio market, and not just for residents of AM Drive. Announcers in every time-slot satisfy the wants and needs of their listeners, and appreciated for it.

Announcer-to-listener communication mimics interpersonal communication, which is the most influential. Listeners see announcers as good friends. The information conveyed by announcers is as influential as that passed over the backyard fence or through the aroma of coffee. Announcers play an essential role in daily life of their listeners.

Very little is known about the men and women who befriend virtually every Canadian, and are relied on to help make daily decisions about what listeners want, need and should know about. These are critical decisions with far-reaching implications. As a result, all that can be known about those entrusted with this vital social role, must be known.

A 1991 national study revealed announcers in commercial radio stations are young, well-qualified and moderately professional. A meaningful female presence is absent on most stations. So, too, is a middle-age or older presence. Deep concerns were uncovered regarding the amount and quality of supervision and guidance, serious pay inequities and threadbare employee relations. Nonetheless, job satisfaction is high, fueled by a strong commitment to listeners and a fervent passion for radio. Many announcers perceive radio as a calling. Nonetheless, most indicated they would leave the occupation, if they could. Few, however, believe they have skills suited to other kinds of work.

These findings raise questions and concerns, and warrant greater attention. But, first, a word about how the study was done.

Study. In January, 1991, 695 questionnaires with 128-items were mailed to a random sample of all private sector radio announcers in Canada. The sample reflected basic workforce characteristics including language, AM, FM, market, region and gender. Names were drawn from the December, 1990 Matthews List, a triennial census of media employees in Canada. About 23% of Canada's 3,000 radio announcers received a questionnaire. By 31 March, 53.2% had completed and returned it.

A total of 370 responses means 19-of-20 times results based on the whole sample differ by no more than + 5% from what would be expected if every radio announcer in Canada had completed the questionnaire. If, for example, 50% of respondents said "yes" to a question, you could expect between 45% and 55% of all announcers to say "yes." As a result, this is the most extensive and intensive, reliable and valid source of information ever amassed on Canada's radio announcing workforce.

A typical radio announcer, if you can find one, is a 33 year old Anglophone male with 13.7 years of education. He's equally likely to be married or single. If he completed a post-secondary education, it's probably a community college radio-television (RTV) course, which he rates as satisfactory. He works a large market AM station in Ontario where he's one of seven full-time and 3.5 part-time announcers. He has held 3.7 announcing jobs over a 10.6 year career. He spent about twenty months in each of the first 2.7 jobs and six years in the current job, which pays $28,986. He earns $4,838 freelancing, which brings his yearly income to $33,824.

A 1979 study of the Anglophone sector of the radio announcing work- force found the typical announcer was a 28 year old married male with 13.4 years of education who was unlikely to have a post-secondary education. He had 7.4 years of radio experience, been an announcer for 6.4 years and with his current employer, a medium market station in Ontario that paid $16,762 a year, for about four years.

Women comprise 21.2% of the radio announcing workforce and 18.9% of respondents. In 1979, 95.4% of announcers were men. There's a definite shortfall in the availability of a female perspective on radio in Canada, today. The situation, however, is far better than in 1979.

Women announcers are just as likely as the men they work with to be in a small, medium or large market or on a small, medium or large announce staff. Moreover, women and men have about the amount of formal education.

There are several differences between female and male announcers. A third of the women, for instance, are Francophones compared to a sixth of men. And, women are younger than their male co-workers -- 30.5 and 34.1 years, respectively. Furthermore, women are 44% more likely to have completed a community college or university education and 48% more likely to have a professional (RTV, journalism, communications) education.

On average, women enter announcing about a year and a half later than do men -- 24 and 22.5 years old, respectively. Since they're younger and enter the occupation later than do men, women report less radio work experience. They've been in radio about half as long the men they work alongside, have about half as many years as announcers and have been in the current job about two-thirds as long. Women report about one less radio and half as many announcing jobs as do men. Moreover, women are most likely to have had a non- announcing radio job (copywriter, secretary, receptionist) before moving into announcing.

Ages range from 19 to 65 years. Average age is 33.4 years. Half announcers are over 31 years of age. Just 20.8% are over forty and only 6.8% are fifty-plus. The oldest segment of the workforce is in BC (36.7 years); the youngest is in the Atlantic Provinces (30.9 years).

There's a serious shortfall in the availability of a middle-aged or older perspective on radio. The situation is especially critical when you consider population trends. By 2001, 13.6% of Canadians will be 65+. The projection for 2021 is for an equal number of Canadians under 18 and over 65.

About 55% of the sample works in stand-alone AM stations, 23.8% in stand-alone FMers and 21.6% in AM, FM combinations. This approximates the known distribution of jocks by station type. Four-in-five announcers on the Prairies, 53.9% in Ontario and 55.6% in BC and the Atlantic Provinces work stand-alone AMers. Half of those in Quebec work stand-alone FMers. And, virtually all Francophone announcers work in Quebec.

Announcers, on average, have more education than do most Canadians. A typical announcer has 13.8 years of education; half have more than 13 years. Nearly 60% completed a post-secondary education and 63% of these graduated from a community college.

About 45% of announcers have a professional education (RTV, journalism, communications), most likely from a community college, institute of technology and so on. Announcers in medium-sized markets most likely completed a professional education. Those in large markets likely began, but didn't complete, a professional education.

Announcers with a professional education were asked "on a scale of 1-to-10, where '1' is very unsatisfactory and '10' is very satisfactory, how would you rate your [professional] education?." Half said 80% or higher.

Four survey questions dealt with professional experience. Specifically, "how many years have you worked in radio," "how many years have you work as a radio announcer," "how long have you been with your current station" and "how many different radio announcing jobs have you held."

Radio and announcing experience ranges from less than a year to more 47 years. On average, announcers report 10.6 years of radio and announcing experience. Half of all announcers reported more than 9 years of radio and announcing experience. Only 20.5% have more than 16 years of professional experience and only 9.3% have more than 22 years.

Typically, announcers have been with their current station 6.1 years, half for more than 4 years and 14.5% for 10 or more years.

The number of different radio announcing jobs held over a career range from one to twenty. A typical announcer has had 3.7 different jobs. Half of all announcers have held more than three different radio jobs over their career.

Small market announcers are most likely to have had one or more non-announcing radio jobs before moving into announcing. They report, on average, 9.6 years of radio experience, 8.7 years as announcers and 3.2 different announcing jobs. Announcers in large markets report 13 years of radio, 13 years of announcing experience and 4.1 different jobs.

Regionally, announcers in BC, who are the oldest, report 14.5 years of radio experience. Those in the Atlantic Province are the youngest, report 9 years. Elsewhere, announcers report 10.7 years in radio. Years as an announcer range from 12.3 in BC to 8.7 in the Atlantic Provinces, about ten on the Prairies and eleven in Central Canada.

Time with current employer averages 7.7 years in BC, 5.6 years in Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces and 6.1 years in Ontario and on the Prairies. Announcers in BC report the most different announcing jobs (4.6), whereas those in Ontario and on the Prairies report about 3.8 different jobs. Those working Quebec or the Atlantic Provinces report having held 3.2 different announcing jobs over their career.

No surprise, announce staff size varies by market, and by region, too. In small markets, there's an average 4.8 full-time and 2.9 part-time announcers. Medium market stations have 5.6 full-time and 3.1 part-time staffers. And, a typical large market station has 7.3 full-time and four part-time announcers.

Regionally, BC stations are characterized by 5.2 full-time and 2.7 part- time announcers. On the Prairies, there are 6.4 full-time and 2.6 part-time announcers at each station. In Ontario, 6.3 and 4.2, respectively. In Quebec, there are 5.2 full-time and 3.7 part-time announcers per station. And, in the Atlantic Provinces, a typical station has 6.2 full-time and 2.8 part-timer staffers.

Monthly salaries range from $650 to $21,500. Average monthly salary is $2,242. Half of all salaries exceed $2,000 a month. Extra monthly income, from freelancing and related activities, ranges from $15 to $7,500. Average extra income each month is $749. Half of all announcers report earning more than $300 extra each month. Total annual incomes range from $7,800 to $258,000. Half of all announcers earn more than $26,400. Average annual income, from all sources, is $35,077.

Regionally, incomes range from $29,148 in the Atlantic Provinces to $50,000 in Quebec, which is more intensively unionized than the rest of Canada. Unions tend to increase average earnings. Incomes range from $25,100 in small markets to $51,288 in large markets. Women earn about 65 cents for every dollar earned by men. Gender differences, however, disappear when professional experience is removed from consideration. Generally, announcers working small markets have less professional experience and earn less.

Income is affected more by work experience than gender or market. Professional experience, specifically years as an announcer and number of different announcing jobs held over a career, influence pay more than anything else does. The more professional experience, the more pay. Women announcers, although they are as likely as men to work a small, medium or large market, tend to have less professional experience and thus earn less.

In sum, announcers, today, are older, have more experience that is pertinent and, in terms of jobs, are more stable than in 1979. A female presence is more evident on radio, in all regions and markets, than a dozen years ago. This is encouraging. Ideally, the trend will continue. But, are women getting prime-time assignments? Or is a pink-collar ghetto, of sorts, being created in secondary dayparts?

Similarly, a middle-age and older presence is absent from radio. This is especially troubling in light of the aging Canadian population. Listeners treat announcers as best friends, opinion leaders, role-models and confidants. Does enough common ground exist to convince fifty year old listeners to invest time, energy and emotion in developing a strong friendship with 25 year old announcers? Perhaps in exceptional instances.

The Meaning of Work. What does work mean to people? For some, it's a means to an end. The paycheck's the means. Life off the job is the end. For others, work is the end. Their life is their work. Most of us fall between the extremes.

Several questions were asked to find out what work meant to radio announcers. How satisfied are they, for example, satisfied with their work, job and future prospects in radio? What's most important? Responsibility, challenge and autonomy? Or pay, prestige and position? Are they involved in music and staffing decisions? Are their duties reasonably well laid out? Is someone always checking to see if they are obeying the rules? Are they reasonably free to be innovative and creative? Or do they have check with someone before they try anything new? Does someone else, the PD for example, make all the decisions for them?

Job Satisfaction. One question asked, "if you could make the decision, again, to take the job you have now, would you decide against it, take the same job or aren't sure?" About 4-of-5 said they'd take the same job again. Those who are married, those who completed a post-secondary education, males, generally, and males with a professional education (RTV, communications, journalism) are so sure they'd take the same job.

Another question asked, "how well does your current job measure up to the job wanted when you took it?" Answers were on a scale of 1-to-10, ranging from "not much" to "very much." Announcers report their current job fits nicely with what they expected when they took it. Average rating is 76%. Half say the fit's better than 80%.

Announcers with a post-secondary or professional education report the lowest fit between job expectation and reality (73%). Announcers working small markets also report a low fit between expectation and actual job (73%), while those in large markets report the best fit (80%). Overall, the fit's very good.

A third question dealt with announcing as a line of work, "if you could choose any type of work you wanted, would you choose work different than you now do, to retire from working or the same work you now do?" About three- quarters said they'd pick the same kind of work again. A quarter of announcers who completed a post-secondary or professional education, AM staffers, generally, and 42.3% of women working AM stations, said they'd choose a different kind of work.

A fourth question asked, "if a good friend said s/he was interested in a job like yours, would you advise against it, have doubts or strongly recommend it?" Ten percent would advise against it. The rest split down-the-middle on "having doubts" and "strongly recommending."

Women have more doubts about recommending this line of work than do men. Regionally, men working Ontario and Quebec have doubts while those in BC, the Prairies or Atlantic Provinces strongly recommend. By market, announcers in medium markets strongly recommend announcing as a line of work, those in large markets have doubts and small market announcers are split between having doubts and strongly recommending. Lastly, males with a post-secondary or professional education are likely to have doubts about recommending announcing as a line of work.

Another question asked, "overall, how satisfied with your line of work?" Answers could range from "extremely dissatisfied" to "extremely satisfied." Most are very-to-extremely satisfied with their line of work.

Announcers working the Prairies or Atlantic Provinces are most satisfied. Those in Quebec, especially Francophones, are least satisfied. And, consistent with the pattern evident in responses to the first four questions, announcers with a post-secondary or professional education report less satisfaction with announcing as a line of work.

A sixth questions was, "overall, how satisfied are you with your current job?" Most reported they're very satisfied with their current job. Again, announcers with a post-secondary or professional education report less satisfaction with their current job than do their other announcers.

There is a high level of work satisfaction among radio announcers -- 3-of-4 would choose the same line of work and same job again. There is a good fit between the expectations they had about their current job and what the jobs really like. A 1986 study suggested the expectation, reality fit wasn't quite so good for radio newsworkers.

Announcers with more education are less satisfied than the workforce, as a whole. This is in line with research findings from other occupations, which suggests more educated workers have a higher set of expectations about their work that aren't always met. The implication is that announcers that are more educated may experience greater work-related frustration and anxiety than their co-workers.

There's a sharp split about recommending announcing as work. If announcers are so satisfied with their work, why waffle on a recommendation? The same pattern is found among newsworkers. What is it about the work that makes announcers and newsworkers equally likely to strongly recommend, as have doubts about recommending it?

It's hard to put a finger on the exact reason for this response pattern. But, on the five studies I've done since 1979, I sense announcers and news-workers see themselves as a special breed. They're sure they can handle the work, warts and all. They have what it takes to put up with the long hours, relatively low pay, disruptions of family life and so forth. But, they aren't so sure if others could or should. So, they hesitate to recommend announcing as a line of work.


Another set of questions looked at work satisfaction in a more traditional way. These questions involved satisfaction with income, current job, amount and quality of supervision and guidance, prestige of radio and announcing, recognition for work, radio and announcing as a line of work and career and future prospects in radio, announcing and current station or organization. The items were combined to create an overall picture of work satisfaction.

From the traditional perspective, the level of work satisfaction is also high. The exceptions involve supervision, guidance and recognition for work. More and better supervision and guidance is sought by announcers. So, too, are non-monetary forms of recognition for their work. Most satisfied with their work are males with no post-secondary education who have been with their current station longer than six years and work a medium or large market in BC, the Prairies or Atlantic Provinces. Least satisfied are those working Central Canada, those who completed a post-secondary education, professional or otherwise, and females, generally.

Six of the questions about work satisfaction were asked of announcers in 1979. In thirteen years, there has been little change in the level of satisfaction with income, quality of supervision, current job overall and announcing as a line of work. Today, announcers are less satisfied with the prestige of their work than they were in 1979. And they're less optimistic about their future prospects in announcing, than in 1979.

No matter how you look at it, announcers are satisfied with their work. Certain parts of the job aren't what they'd like them to be. That's not unusual. Most of us like some of things involved in our work, and not others. Nevertheless, comments volunteered by announcers imply less satisfaction than the data suggest. We'll pick-up on those comments later.


Professionalism. Announcers are an important ingredient in any recipe to attract and hold listeners by satisfying wants and needs over the long-term.

Listeners with similar wants and needs come together through common focus on an announcer. A special relationship, a friendship, develops between listener and announcer. Announcer-to-listener contact mimics interpersonal contact. Listeners perceive announcers as friends and confidants. The information passed-along by announcers is as influential as that from a best friend.

This is the key to the success of George Balcan (CJAD, Montreal), Morrissey Dunn (CHNS, Halifax), Ken "General" Grant (CFRA, Ottawa), Fred Bouillabaisse (CFUN, Vancouver) and Pete Griffin (CHEQ, Smiths Falls) among many, many others. In every market, large and small, announcers are friends, symbols, role models, confidants and opinion leaders for listeners. Each plays an essential role in daily life of every listener.

As employees, announcers have a responsibility to contribute to the success of the station they work, to be a team-player. The nature of their relationship with listeners gives announcers considerable power to influence listeners. Typically, such influence is accompanied by a sense of responsibility that compels practitioners to act in the best interest of patient, client or parishioner, not their own.

Acting in the interest of patient, client or parishioner is the essence of professionalism. Doctors, lawyers and clergy are expected to cure, protect and save, not enrich themselves. This is the ethical standard of public service. Listeners expect no less of announcers and newsworkers than of their doctor or lawyer or clergy.

Unlike medicine or law, announcing isn't a professional occupation. It fulfills few, if any, of the requirements of a profession. Perhaps like newswork, announcing shouldn't be a professional occupation.

Individual announcers, however, can approach their work in a professional way. It's quite likely many announcers approach their work more ethically and with greater professionalism than do many doctors, lawyers and clergy. So, while the announcing occupation isn't a profession, announcers can be professional, highly professional, given how they approach their work.

To find out more about professionalism among announcers, fourteen questions dealing with work-related attitudes were asked. Each question dealt with an idea generally thought to reflect either a professional or a non-professional orientation. Respondents were asked how important ideas, such as community service, full use of abilities and a chance to acquire new skills, were to them. All questions had been used in fifty or more studies of professionalism among media workers, conducted since 1964.

Generally, announcers exhibit a moderate level of professionalism, about the same as in 1979. On a scale of 1-to-100, where "100" is the highest possible level of professionalism and "1" is the lowest, announcers score 61. Newsworkers scored 73 on a similar scale, in a 1990 study.

Women announcers exhibit, as do women newsworkers, more professionalism than do the men they work alongside. Men more than women emphasize three, traditionally non-professional items -- "a job my family is proud of," "being able to enjoy what's involved in the job" and "a job that provides excitement and variety." Women think it's more important to have "a job that provides the chance to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge," which is indicative of professionalism, than do men.

Regionally, announcers in Quebec exhibit the most professionalism and those in BC the least. Announcers working the Prairies report three professional items to be most important -- "the chance to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge," "a job that makes the station different in some ways because I work in it" and "getting ahead in my professional career."

In the Atlantic region, three non-professional items are most important -- "my job being as permanent as anyone's," "earning enough money for a good living" and "a job my family is proud of." Announcers working BC think two non-professional items are most important -- "job family is proud of" and "a job that brings me in contact with important people."

And, announcers in Ontario rate one professional and one non-professional items as most important -- "job family is proud of" and "a job that makes the station different in some ways because I work in it."

Given the differences in professionalism exhibited by announcers in different regions of the country, it's not surprising to find Francophone announcers, 90% of who work in Quebec, are more professional than their Anglophone counterparts.

In small radio markets, announcers place the most importance on two professional and one non-professional item -- "a job that's valuable and essential to my community," "my job being as permanent as anyone's" and "a job that brings me in contact with important people." Medium market announcers say "a job that brings me in contact with important people" is most important to them.

Announcers who are most satisfied with their work tend to have a more professional outlook. As well, those who would take the same job again and those who aren't satisfied with the prestige of radio as work tend to have a more professional outlook. In 1979, more work satisfaction also meant more professionalism.

Typically, announcers that are more professional have less radio and announcing experience than do their co-workers. This finding is consistent with the 1979 study, and several other studies of professionalism among media workers. It suggests that over time professionalism may be eroded by the reality that radio is a business and the professional ideal of public service is a luxury. This may be one reason announcing careers are so short (11 years) and only 1-in-5 announcers are over 40 years of age.

Announcers that are more professional are paid about $11,000 more a year than their colleagues. A public service ideal has its rewards. Most studies report more professional employees earn less than their co-workers. Among other things, professionalism encourages independence and high standards of public service. Some workers willingly exchange independence and public service for pay. It's reassuring and encouraging to find announcers in Canada can seemingly balance the business and professional needs of their work.

The 1979 study suggested education had an impact on professionalism -- announcers with more education tended to be more professional. In 1991, education has no impact on professionalism among announcers.

Among newsworkers in all media, post-secondary education contributes to greater professionalism, especially if it's a professional education. This may be an upshot of the widespread availability of newswork education in Canada. Equally likely, it's a result of the intense ethical standards and public service tradition implicit in a professional newswork education.

Announcer education isn't treated as seriously as newswork education. It's often seen as unnecessary ("practice reading the newspaper out loud") or relegated to commercial trade schools, which may have goals other than providing a professional education. Based on respondent comments, some post-secondary RTV programs aren't much more than industry-focused trade schools.

Comments from respondents with a professional education suggest RTV programs follow the industry. Unlike many other occupations, there's no hint of leadership from post-secondary institutions involved in professional announcer education. Course offerings reflect industry expectations and standards. Most courses, as a result, focus on craft skills. Students aren't encouraged to take conceptual courses, such as political science or economics that enhance under standing and overall effectiveness because they're not seen as directly related to employment. Employability, of course, is the gauge of success for RTV programs.

These are basically the same issues raised by Everett Dennis and Stuart Adam about newswork education in the USA and Canada. There seems to be a crisis in the professional education of communicators, everywhere.

Overall, announcers approach their work professionally. It's reasonable to assume most announcers try to act in the listener's best interest. More professionalism is possible and desirable. Professional education programs could increase the emphasize on the ethical dimensions of the work, the need for social responsibility and the implications of an erosion of professionalism among announcers. As well, there could be a more extensive and purposive integration of craft skills and conceptual courses.


Perceptions of Organizations. Radio work is organizational work. Announcers are salaried employees of organizations. While there are many freelancers, few make a career of it. Those who turn freelancing into a career do so by creating an organization.

Most people, in fact, work for smaller organizations. In 1986, a typical employer had about 12.6 workers and 91.8% of Canadians worked in organizations with less twenty employees. Radio stations are smaller organizations. While there were stations that employed more than 100 people, in 1986, the typical station employed 21.6 people.

Smaller organizations are usually less formal than are larger ones. Out of necessity, for example, one person may be boss and co-worker. It's hard to treat employees formally and impersonally, and not sympathize with their concerns, if you work beside them and share their world.

Workers often do many different jobs in smaller organizations -- announcing, newscasting, copywriting, production, traffic. So, they acquire experience that might be denied them in larger organizations, where duties, responsibilities and authority are narrowly defined and territory closely guarded.

Smaller, less formal organizations, as a result, aren't as consumed by the paper chase as larger, more formal organizations. There are more personal contacts in smaller organizations. Personal contact begets familiarity. Familiarity leads to understanding. Understanding leads to awareness that boss and worker share the same goals. And shared goals are the basis of compromise in decision making.

As a result, direct orders are less frequent in smaller organizations. The boss is more open to talking about decisions. Workers have more say and freedom in deciding how things are done. And the organization is relatively more effective.

If radio stations are typical smaller organizations, announcers should report less rather than more decision involvement and strict rule enforcement along with more freedom to carry-out duties that are reasonably-well defined.

Sixteen questions were asked to find out if announcers thought the stations they worked fit the mold of the smaller organization. The questions dealt with how often announcers participate in on-air and music staffing/policy decisions, how much reliance on formal lines of authority is thought to exist, how clearly work-related expectations are spelled-out and how strictly rules are enforced. Workers in many different occupations have been asked the same questions.

Announcers report involvement in on-air, music staffing and policy decisions about half of the time. Participation is highest in BC. It's lowest in Quebec, which is intensely unionized and, by implication, jobs more narrowly de fined.

Announcers who are more satisfied with their work also report more decision participation. Decision involvement contributes to work satisfaction.

It's no surprise to find the more radio and announcing experience, the more decision participation. More experienced announcers generally have more to contribute to on-air/music staffing and policy decisions. And, as Warren Breed found among newsworkers, older, more experienced newsworkers have forged strong bonds of friendship with colleagues and editors, which makes it harder to exclude them from decision making.

Announcers working small and medium markets participate in on-air/music policy decisions more often than those in large markets. In large markets, staffs are bigger, the work more specialized and jobs more narrowly defined than in smaller markets. As a result, not everyone can make a meaningful contribution to every decision. Involvement of workers in decisions they know they can't meaningfully contribute to leads to frustration, anxiety and discontent, which raises the ante for management-worker conflict.

In BC, announcers are most often involved in decisions to hire new on-air staff and adopt new music policies. Announcers working the Prairies are most likely to be involved in decisions to promote on-air staff.

A 1990 study of the daily news media reported newsworkers are seldom in on staffing or policy decisions. Radio newsworkers, however, did report more decision participation than those in TV or on daily newspapers. This was due, in part, to smaller radio newsroom staffs -- 7.4 newsworkers compared to 12.4 in TV and 40.7 on daily newspapers. Smaller radio newsrooms offer more chances to include. Moreover, small staffs mean more personal contact between news director, for example, and newsworker, which helps forge stronger bonds among workers that, in turn, contribute to greater decision involvement.

There's little indication of undue reliance on formal authority. The consensus is, announcers have the freedom to take the initiative, most of the time. A similar situation was reported by newsworkers in a 1990 study.

Women report they can usually do as they wish in their work and generally make their own rules. In 1990, women newsworkers reported a similar situation. They must check their decisions with the PD, as do virtually all less experienced announcers. The implication is decisions are verified, not made, by the PD. As well, decisions are slightly approved or modified through compromise, most of the time.

Small and medium market announcers are more likely to need the PDs okay for their decisions than are those in large markets. These men and women are generally the least experienced segment of the workforce. Announcers in large markets typically have more experience, a track-record of success and are expected to take full responsibility for their decisions, there's often more riding on the decisions of large market announcers and, as a result, their decisions are assumed to be made more judiciously. So, there's less need for formal approval of all decisions.

In Quebec, announcers believe they can do as they please in their work and make their own rules. Those in BC say how things are done is up to the person doing the work and, along with announcers in Ontario, indicate there's no need to check their decisions with the PD.

And more professional announcers report they're relatively free to do heir job and can usually make their own rules.

Announcers who are generally less satisfied with their work report greater need to get every task approved, first. So, too, do announcers at the lower end of the pay scale and, interestingly, those with a professional education.

The 1990 study of the daily news media found newsworkers on daily papers and in radio newsrooms have a stronger sense of being their own boss and making their own rules and decisions than did those in TV. TV newsworkers reported more management involvement in newsroom activities. This may be a by-product of complex, costly TV technology, which requires hands-on management involvement in newsrooms processes and maximum control of assignments and scripts, for example, to ensure resources are used most efficiently.


Two questions asked how strictly rules were enforced. In a nutshell, not much. Rules exist, an effort is made to enforce them, but small staffs and a heavy workload preclude strict enforcement. In a 1990 study, the consensus of newsworkers was the same.

Announcers who are less satisfied with their work, don't have a lot of announcing experience and work a small market think rules are strictly enforced. In the Atlantic Provinces, announcers report they are always checked for rule violations and are over-supervised. More professional announcers are less inclined to believe they're always watched to ensure they obey the rules.

There's a consensus that what stations expect of announcer -- work-related duties, responsibilities and authority -- could and should be more clearly spelled-out. On a scale of 1-to-100, where "1" means expectations are as poorly stated as possible and "100" means as well stated as possible, the clarity of duties, responsibilities and authority is 45.

Women think their jobs are more clearly spelled-out than do men. This is especially true if they have a professional education. Regionally, announcing jobs are best defined in BC and worst in the Atlantic Provinces. Moreover, management at standalone FM stations are better at letting announcers know what's expected of them than do standalone AM or AM/FM combinations.

Older announcers report their jobs are not well spelled-out, as do those with more radio and announcing experience. More professional announcers and those in larger markets are satisfied with their understanding of what's expected from them.

In the 1990 study of the daily news media, newsworkers generally thought their jobs were well-defined. Everyone knew what was expected.

The overall impression is that announcers think radio stations are good laces to work. Decision involvement is generally high, especially for older announcers with more relevant work experience and those in smaller markets. Formal authority isn't relied on, too much. Checking with the PD, rather than she making all the decisions, is typical and decisions are modified through compromise, not decree. Rules aren't strictly enforced. And, while duties, responsibilities and authority aren't spelled-out as clearly as most would like, it's a nuisance, not a problem, for most announcers. More professional announcers who are more satisfied with their work report the most conducive working atmosphere. Overall, radio stations, it seems, fit the smaller organization mold reasonably well.


Attitudes Toward Work. The deejay qua announcer qua personality evolved into an integral component in the success of radio. Management, today, expects a lot from announcers. Good announcers conduct themselves well on-air, think, prepare, enjoy their work, are aware of what radio-as-a-business requires, help promote the station, are team players, generally fit into the organizational structure and meet the needs of the station. To management, good announcers are successful announcers.

The 1991 study of radio announcers in Canada included questions dealing with the attitudes implicit in what management thinks makes a good announcer. To these were added questions about the influence of audience feedback and perceptions of audience wants and needs, co-workers, heroes and so forth.

Women announcers, more than their male colleagues, emphasize listener influence on their air work, believe personality is most important in success as an announcer, care most about what the audience thinks about them and their air work, and model themselves after other announcers on the station they're working.

Men more than women take pride in their on-air production skills, think listeners prefer a cool, detached style, model themselves after jock's heard in their youth, believe it's important to be treated professionally, and think there are unwritten rules that must be obeyed. 

 Announcers in large markets are most likely to think they have star qualities, their air-shift isn't adequately promoted, ratings are overemphasized, and rely on the PD's suggestions more than their counterparts in other smaller markets. 

Medium and large market announcers agree personality is the most important ingredient for announcing success. They tend to model themselves after others on the station they work. 

Small and large market announcers are equally proud of their on-air production skills. Those working small and medium markets indicate promotional appearances are okay, model themselves after announcers on other stations, think a good air-shift is most satisfying, and do not want their own air-shift to outshine others on the station they work. 

Announcers in Ontario think their voice is well suited to radio, they have star qualities, their air-shift isn't adequately promoted, and audiences prefer a cool, detached style. 

In the Atlantic Provinces, jock's report announcing is a business to them, listeners influence their on-air work, a good air-shift is most satisfying, they stick to station guidelines to avoid penalties, don't think listeners will accept an air-shift that's too slick, model themselves after announcers on other stations, and would like to keep their current job indefinitely. 

Announcers on the Prairies take pride in their on-air production skills, think there are unwritten rules that must be obeyed, and model themselves after jock's they listened to when they were young. In BC, announcers report humour services help them prepare for their air-shift. 

Announcers working Quebec are inclined to eat, sleep and breathe radio. They also prefer to do things the company way. They try to use correct speech on-air, see themselves as a cog in a well-oiled machine, care most about what the audience thinks, believe it's important to be treated professionally, don't want their own air-shift to outshine others on the same station, think personality is most  important to a successful announcing career and extensive preparation is best. 

Less professional announcers think their voice is well suited to radio and they possess star qualities. They says contests are clutter, there isn't enough emphasis on ratings, care just for the success of their own air-shift, radio is a business, there are unwritten rules that must be obeyed. They stick to company guidelines to avoid penalties and would like to keep their current job indefinitely. 

More professional announcers say they'd take a pay cut to work their dream station, audiences don't prefer a cool, detached style, extensive preparation is best and a good air-shift is most satisfying.


Summary. Radio listening is more involved than it seems, at first glance. Radio plays many important roles in the daily life of listeners. It brackets the day, establishes a rhythm and provides opportunities to set, maintain or change mood. Radio is a trustworthy, stable friend, helping listeners establish their daily agenda of important news and information and indirectly allowing them to sample more of life than otherwise possible. 

 No one station satisfies all wants and needs. Listeners rely on a mix of stations. They move around the dial seeking to satisfy specific needs. They know one station can satisfy certain wants and needs more effectively than another. 

The crucial ingredient in any recipe to satisfy listener wants and needs is the announcer. His or her style shapes sound images and cues for listeners.  

A special friendship develops between listener and announcer, even though they've never met, face-to-face, and likely won't. There's compelling evidence that listeners believe announcers attempt to relate to them on a personal level and have a sense of their personal needs. 

Listeners with similar wants and needs, interests and desires, lifestyles and expectations come together through common focus on an announcer. Announcers, in every market and daypart, are symbols, role models and opinion leaders for hundreds-of-thousands of listeners. 

Announcer-to-listener communication mimics interpersonal communication, which is the most influential, and listeners think anno

dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.

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