Air Waves
by Laura Nachman
September 22, 2005

Philadelphia Metro


The red cockaded woodpecker, the songbird, and the Philadelphia radio disc jockey.  The first two are endangered species.  Could the third join the list?


WBEN 95.7-FM hasn’t used a live voice since it switched formats in the spring.  The WSNI 104.5-FM morning show only uses a news/traffic/weather person, and WBEB 101.1-FM just took its live DJ off the air for overnights. 


In today’s hostile environment for radio personalities that includes the internet, the iPodization of America, and syndication, does the DJ stand a chance? Are disc jockeys an endangered species?


According to Bob Burke, vice president of the radio trade publications “Friday Morning Quarterback,” not yet.


In an email he wrote, “In most cases not having a on-air DJs is cost effective, BEN will more than likely employ some air personalities at some point. You can't be a jukebox forever.


Research has always shown that DJs talk too much, so there's no harm without them leaving time for more music. The real problem is the lack of available talent that's compelling and delivers great content. It's not always how much you say, it's what you say. Radio listeners still want companionship and excitement from their station. Playing just the right mix of music isn't a long-term solution. While "Playing Anything We Want" seems more effective nowadays then another "18 Songs In Row," it's what is between the records that can also make a difference.”


Voice over artist and former Philadelphia disc jockey Tom Richards added, “Radio is reaping what it’s sown.  After years of telling DJ’s to just shut up and play the music, they’ve created a generation of jocks who don’t know what it means to entertain a listener.  Aside from the rare experienced mega-performers – (Howard) Stern, Rush (Limbaugh), even Art Bell and Larry King – we’re left with voice tracking button-pushers without imagination, without vision…the Stepford DJ’s.  We get the radio we deserve.  Heaven help us.”


In the end, the way to keep DJs alive, is to support stations that let people be people and show personality.


Time will tell whether the disc jockey will survive