Friday, December 08, 2006

Talk radio trends recognised - you read it here first

I don't begrudge those who come late to a party - I just give them a beer and tell them to pull up a chair.

For months, Offal News and the Bond Papers among others, have been remarking on the changing quality of the local talk radio scene. Among the many posts on this subject, you'll find a fine Bond Paper discussion here while Offal News has chimed in here.

So when the Telegram finally provides mainstream media confirmation and approbation in recognizing this trend in this editorial; what can we say but better late than never.

These shows (Open Line, Back Talk and Night Line hosted by Randy Simms, Bill Rowe and Linda Swain respectively) call themselves a cornerstone of democracy and a forum for public debate on all issues, large and small.

But that's not the case anymore. Talk radio has become an extension of the partisan political battlefield where partisan irregulars fight it out on the public airwaves. Government internal policy and procedures now require constant monitoring of every word uttered. Public servants, paid by taxpayers, are paid to listen to every minute and immediately notify the Premier's Office or relevant Minister when a political issue within their purview gets mentioned*.

And when somebody pops up on any show to question the Premier, his ministers or government policy, the government proxies are issued their speaking points and pushed towards the phone to do public battle with the enemies of government.

Polling periods are of particular interest to the government and these government proxies. As previously noted by Bond here, the belief that more calls to talk radio influences polling results is taken as an article of faith within this current administration.

Whether it's true or not (pollsters say no, government denies doing it), there is no doubt that the government and their proxies certainly act as if it could and they call accordingly.

Lately it's become hard to miss that when the political pressure and temperature goes up, the referees of this game, the show hosts, are now dragged in as combatants because their evenhandedness towards all sides is resented by the powers that be - if you are not with us then you are ag'in us.

All of this has become obvious over the last months and years.

Here's the question of the day: Are the days of Talk Radio coming to a close?


*Even a casual listener will note the sheer volume of calls from government ministers and their proxies prompting some to dub VOCM as Voice of the Cabinet Minister.

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