A Vacuum Of Content

The day after I started working from home, 19 days ago, the SARS-COV-2 virus was dawning on America. President Trump was demonstrating, once again that he has an uncanny knack for framing statements in exactly the wrong way, the governors were imposing lockdowns, and every minute of news was electric, new, riveting.

Within a few days after, though, the news outlets settled into their ordinary lack-of-something-to-say filibuster, and getting an idea what was new each morning had gotten tedious (again).

Newscasts are better than news channels. When a network intends to compose a 30 minute, or 1 hour daily journal of the situation, they get to the point sooner, and more often. Soon, however, the newscasts began to shrivel, and had precious little to say, to the point where they were repeating stories not only across multiple programs in a day, but doing verbatim repeats across 3 or 4 days. You could almost hear the suck.

Although I have preferred podcasts to radio stations for the last several years,  I started to listen to radio stations on iheart.com, from a different location each day. I was in Grand Forks, ND on  The Fox yesterday, today I’m in Gallup, NM on Rock 106.1. Both on these stations, and my local TV stations, have taken a keen interest in the 2020 US Census, which I thought of as altruism at first, but then it hit me — they’re not selling ads. Just a guess, but the evidence is there. When I was the overnight jock at WLZR FM Monticello/West Lafayette in the 1980’s, we used to clip ads out of syndicated tapes and use them to fill unsold commercial time. A radio station that plays all public-service announcements sounds pathetic, but when you play a Pepsi ad that you got from American Top 40, nobody blinks, and it sounds prosperous. But of course, local radio stations don’t sell ads to Pepsi, because Pepsi buys higher up the food chain, at syndication or network level.

Mind you – promoting the US Census is a big deal, and I’m sure they don’t leave it to stations to play PSAs when it suits them (4AM), so there probably is paid census advertising. But I’d also guess that all of those census commercials aren’t paid plays…

It may be that if you wanted to promote something, you would find your broadcast outlets having a fire sale on ad time. Just saying…

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