I was in broadcast radio for several years – first in college radio, then for a while at Schenectady radio station 3WD. And yeah, there are times when you accidentally play the wrong song or read the wrong public service announcement – i.e., a public service announcement about offering support for the blind, followed immediately by a Ray Charles song. Oops.
And I’ve chronicled when local radio stations go beyond and below the levels of common decency and good taste … in fact, I’ve called WFLY 92.3 to task years ago about their parody song three years ago about calling Albany a location for “haji-marts,” a crass pejorative and racist comment that stereotypes owners of mom-and-pop convenience stores as Middle Eastern immigrants.
But there are things I’ve learned since then. The local radio stations don’t give a shit about what offending people. All they care about is ratings. Ratings drive the sponsorship engines. And as long as those Arbitron or Birch numbers are nice and high … and they don’t mention any of the seven words that George Carlin says you can’t mention on television any more … they are in the clear.
Which leads us to yesterday’s WPYX morning broadcast.
See, yesterday there was a terrorist attack in a New York City subway, in which a suicide bomber tried to blow himself up. WPYX read the news report … and the first song they played out of the news break … was … this one.
Yeah. They played “TNT” by AC/DC.
Yep. Right after a news report in which someone tried to use dynamite and explosives to cause mayhem in a domestic terrorist plot.
One of my Facebook friends, Lisa DeGroff, heard the news report, and was offended by the song choice. She contacted WPYX and asked for an apology. None was given.
She later recapped the incident on her Facebook page.
“To say I’m disappointed is putting it mildly. Immediately following a news report of the explosion in NYC and the report of it being a pipe bomb. Morning DJs played TNT by ACDC. While I am surmising the music is queued up far in advance, I believe that more attention should have been paid in this situation. I refuse to believe the song was played intentionally following the news report but still insensitive nonetheless. I called the station and simply asked that an apology be issued. (I even noted in my call that I did not believe it was intentional) Rather than issue an apology with a statement to include that the music is set up in advance and that the playing of the song was not done on purpose the DJs refused to issue such an apology – rather stating that the music is “art.” I get that DJs can benefit from being controversial on their show as it can boost ratings but there are truly times where they can be a bit more sensitive to the plight of those around us. Are we really devolving into a society where it’s “anything goes” because it’s art? Are we really going to chuck out humanity and compassion in the name of ratings? I was originally saddened and disturbed by the music choice post news but now I am more said for the lack of apology and acknowledgment and the blatant disregard for the situation immediately unfolding in our state. The song was in poor taste but pales in comparison to the response. 😦 “
Now here’s my feeling about this. If this was an accident, then apologize and be done with it. But radio stations don’t apologize for gaffes. They keep on going and hope that people forget. The song runs out before the DJ turns on the mike? No big deal. Record plays at the wrong speed? Hey, you thought it was the Atlanta Rhythm Section, well it’s actually Stevie Nicks. They play the version of the song where the Steve Miller Band isn’t talking about those “funky kicks going down in the city?” Oh well.
And if a radio station does something tacky and tasteless like this, then it’s the same as being part of the “Morning Zoo” of “shock jocks” who will do anything for an extra ratings point. Trust me, I suffered through years and years of WGY’s afternoon drive shock jocks – Mike Gallagher, Mark Williams, JR Gach, Andrew Wilkow, every time these shit-stirrers were on the radio it made me want to shove Q-tips in my eardrums. It’s one of the reasons why, when I finally had the chance to do so, I switched from local terrestrial radio to satellite broadcasts. And I haven’t returned since then.
Trust me, all WPYX cares about is whether they have decent ratings and that advertisers spend their money for commercials. They don’t care about the listeners. Never have, never will.
Expecting WPYX to apologize is like expecting them to re-sign Mason and Sheehan for their morning crew duties. Not happening. Those days are gone and they’re not coming back.
And realistically, that’s said in and of itself. Does this surprise me about WPYX?
Nah. I’m only surprised that, after they announced the news about the fire that tore through Cohoes, they didn’t play tracks from Def Leppard’s Pyromania as intro music.
That would more more typical of PYX 106 than anything else, I guess.