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  • Writer's pictureMatt Cundill

Radio's Summer of Discontent

Coming off the heels of a positive vibe at Radio Days North America, the radio landscape is flooded with bad news regarding 1300 layoffs, 6 Canadian AM radio stations being closed down entirely, Canada's Bill C-18 leading to the throttling or complete shutdown of news on Google and Facebook respectively, Bell asking the CRTC to reduce its local promise of performance and the launch of Futuri Media's Radio GPT on Portland's KFFX leading to some inner-industry outcry. Matt Cundill once again has some thoughts on all of it.

In this episode you will hear Matt talk about the buzz around AI Ashley, the new rules for talent to negotiate their contracts with radio stations, he deciphers how we got here, and then unpacks as much as possible with Bill C-18 and Facebook blocking news in Canada. Matt also suggests that if Canada really wanted to take a stand, they would simply tax digital advertising to foreign entities.

Matt also made reference to never buying an AM radio station and rebranding it Sound Off Radio - because he would have difficulty airing this episode of Writing Class Radio and this episode from The Blue Hotel.


Did you catch AI Ashley's Appearance on Newsnation?


I also mentioned that we will aim to get Phil Becker on our show. He is the Executive VP of Content at Alpha Media and shared his thoughts on Radio GPT and some best practices on his new podcast.



Matt Cundill 0:00

Welcome to the 2023 radio summer of discontent. You know summer got a head start with AI making his radio appearance on Alpha media radio in Portland, Oregon with AI Ashley, whose full time job is actually in Michigan. We also had mass layoffs in Canada with bell unloading many of its staff and also shattering once famous radio signals, Bell decided to close down 6am signals and are selling three others. They're not to be outdone by themselves, Bell filed some paperwork with the CRTC asking for relief on their local broadcast promises. Plus Bill C 18. Past causing Facebook to turn off news in Canada. So there you go. We're off and running with the summer of 2023, three and a half big stories before school's even out.

I'll address each of these stories individually with my very unpopular thoughts starting with AI Ashley. Ashley, by the way, is Ashley Elzinga, or Ashley Zee. Ashley, by the way, is Ashley Elzinga. And it will be doing the midday show at live 95 Five in Portland, Oregon. Unless, of course, Ashley wrote and program the show, then I would feel compelled to say that she will be doing the midday show at live 95 Five in Portland. And I'm using that obnoxious pronoun reference as my point. If you're a performer, you immediately have to start thinking about the usage of your voice as AI. For instance, after you get fired, how long will the station be able to use that AI data after your departure? And what exactly is your licensing fee going to be for them to use your voice in the form of AI? Will that data be erased at any point in time? You see, these are the kinds of questions that are already being asked right now by voice over talent. And it's also the reason that writers are on the picket lines in Hollywood. The minute that AI hit the airwaves and radio means that you are now officially in the licensing business. And you should probably have a lawyer look over all your deals. Back in 2017. On the show, one of the smartest people in radio, Sherry Lynch pointed out that talent needs to be negotiating and thinking about their digital rights. And along with your Facebook Lives, your IG lives and podcasting. This must now include the usage of your voice and AI. So go ahead and be aI Johnny or AI Kathy. But make sure the company that you're working with deletes your voice the day that the real Johnny or Kathy gets let go. And by the way, if they do accidentally use your voice on the radio, in the days after you're firing, make sure that that day becomes the new start date of your severance. I think AI voices are going to be good for radio. I've said that a few times in the show. I can't tell you how many atrocious voice track breaks I've had to endure over the years. Hopefully AI gets rid of them. But now let me flip it around a bit. What if you own the station? What's your responsibility to let the listener know that the voice they're listening to is AI? The answer is yes. You gotta let them know. And alpha media already does this. And just if we're keeping score at home, Live 95.5 is a CHR that is less than a three share in the Portland market. It is sitting 15. And they are only replacing the voice tract Ashley with AI Ashley feels like an upgrade for Ashley, the radio station and the listener. I think for radio. It's not the arrival of AI or that it exists at all. It's going to be how it's used. And for radio talent is going to be how you negotiate it. I mean, you should already be doing this with your social media in mind, who in fact owns that podcast you're recording in your basement about basket weaving? And how's your content gonna get used in the future? By the way, someone I've wanted to have on the show for a while is Phil Becker. He is the executive VP of content at alpha. And he has released a podcast, the show was called philosophy. And the title of the one episode in the feed is will AI ruin or revolutionize radio? I gave it a listen. It's a pretty good episode. And Phil has some great takes on this experience thus far. With radio GPT and AI. My final thought on it. I hope it replaces all the shitty voice tracking I've had to endure for the last decade actually make that two decades. Radios demise reminds me of an iceberg melting cracks have it fall off bit by bit. It's rather noisy. We identified radios erosion with the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in the USA, followed by Napster radios failure to embrace digital in the 2000s and later social media in the 2010s. And then what about the rise of Spotify? I mean, at some point radio execs had to have seen that the only difference between them and Spotify is the ability to be local and personalities. So why were there so many layoffs invoice tracking. It's been pretty much the same story in Canada with absolutely no regulatory action taken. And now we have radio stations being shut down. If we could see this coming, why didn't anybody do anything about it? airwaves is supposed to be public trust. And that would fall upon the licensor and the licensee for its care and its state. So how did we get into this shit show? Anyhow, I'm not going to spend too much time criticizing bell for turning the station's off, because frankly, I would not buy an am signal for $1.

I mean, what would I do with it, rebranded his sound off radio, the hydro bill and transmitter maintenance would make life expensive. But moreover, I wouldn't be allowed to air any of the content that we make here at my company. Last week alone, we released a podcast episode called outsourcing my orgasms for the show writing class radio. And then we have the blue hotel, they had an episode called Three's Company, which sounds very tame. But if you look at the description, Georgia and Lennie longed for more and in Caleb, that's exactly what they find in this mmf threesome. Yeah, I don't think I'm going to want to put this on the radio. But if you are interested in the content of those episodes, you can find them right now at sound off dot network. My point is radio should have been working with federal regulators to deregulate content years ago. It's not just about F bombs and offspring songs. It's things like creating subscription, radio innovating brands, moving viable and brands to FM and working on new ideas for AM. Instead though, we're just letting AEM go. Now you've got Congress in the United States introducing a bill to keep am radios and cars. At this point, I think we should just let this go. There's either a use for am radio or there isn't. We're really never going to know how useful AEM can be in this era unless we hand it over to people who want to innovate. And it's clear that the current license holders aren't not interested in that. And by the way, if you take a look around, there's still some viable and products on the air across North America right now. Anyhow, the shuttering of 6am signals in Canada a few weeks ago was sad because it was preventable. However, there is likely more at play because Bell also asked the CRTC for an amendment to their promises of performance because they, like many in journalism these days, are finding that delivering the news is not a very profitable venture. Listen, Belle's a Smart Company, and are very good about showing good returns to their shareholders, no matter if it takes 1300 layoffs, selling three stations and closing six stations just to show them. But in terms of creating a future for the radio business and upholding journalistic integrity for a better democracy, it doesn't appear they have any interest in that. And other companies in Canada are also feeling the pinch. And I think they would rather get out of the news business altogether if they could. This brings me to the last thing I want to talk about. And that's Bill C 18, which passed just before Canada's Parliament broke for the summer. Like they literally pass this bill and play that song as they headed to the lake. The bill is designed to level the playing field between Canadian news organizations and companies like Facebook and Google who have taken their traditional ad revenue as the bill reads. And as the stories go, news organizations want to charge these tech companies for using their links, links that are used to redirect traffic away from their platforms. And back to the news organizations website, where you and I, as the listener are gonna get bombed with 3/32 ads before seeing 30 seconds worth of content. And there's no limit. So expect a news organization to hire a million social media people to litter Facebook and Google with links in hopes of fleecing these companies for money. It's a massive scam. In response, Google has been throttling Canadian news for certain users and Facebook, will they just turn the tap off. So if I share something from a Canadian news organization on my Facebook page, maybe some Americans might see it, but but it will be severely suppressed in Canada. Facebook claims that only a small percentage of their shared content is news anyhow. So they're just happy to get rid of it altogether. So a big congratulations to the Liberal Party of Canada and Pablo Rodriguez, you have now made it harder for news organizations. You basically created a loss of big tech would have to fund Canadian journalism. By the way, all this should sound vaguely familiar to Canadian radio, people who were around when Ken Kahn came into play. Radio has been legislated to spend a lot of money to fund the Canadian Music Industry many different ways since 1971.

This, my friends is an old strategy. But if Canada's Liberal government, we're serious about this. They should steal this idea. Why not put a thick levy on foreign digital advertising. That money could be used to fund Canadian journalism. And you'd be good to go. It's no different than putting a levy on say, steel, sugar ketchup. But that would bring a lot of Canadians into the discussion. A lot of people would get engaged and figure out that the whole thing is a big scam. And the conclusion is mixing government and journalism funding is not healthy. And I don't want you to misconstrue that things like the BBC. CBC are bad things. They're actually good things, but to fund an entire industry, no facts. So I wish the Liberal government of Canada good luck with your smoke and mirrors trick, Facebook and Google don't care about your problems and probably won't pay you. Your best case scenario is the Australian model where the tech companies negotiate their own deals with each organization, a model which comes with its own set of flaws, including making it hard for startups to get going in journalism. That's it for this week. There's a lot more in the episode page over at sound off If you have anything to say about this episode, feel free to write me the address is Matt at sound off dot network. Our voice imaging talent for the show is done by Tara Sands, whose job is now to tell you the rest of the show credits


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