“I’m thinking about getting out of radio altogether and focusing on a new career.”

I said it and I meant it. It happened during a casual moment just a few weeks ago. I was boating across a lake in the Adirondacks with a prominent young executive from one of America’s largest radio groups. The occasion was my 50th birthday. The question had been entirely innocent: “What would you do if you didn’t have Radio Ink?”

My friend was stunned with my answer: “But I thought you loved radio.”

My response was honest: “I do, but I don’t feel I’m making a difference.”

“What about NAB? With Eddie Fritts potentially leaving in a couple of years, wouldn’t you take that job?”

“Unfortunately, I tend to say what’s on my mind often at the expense of my own business. That’s not what NAB needs. I’d be kicked out of Washington within a week.”

“What about RAB? Gary Fries won’t stay forever. Wouldn’t that be a natural place for you?”

“RAB has a big board with differing agendas. Some want it to be a small-market support organization while others want it to support only the big markets. Some want it to be a sales training organization while others think its only purpose should be promoting radio to advertisers. Besides, Fries needs a successor in their late 30s or early 40s, a person who will be perceived as young and vibrant.”

“What about the FCC? They’ll be looking for a new chairman soon.”

“I like to break rules, not make them. If I were chairman of the FCC, I’d probably reorganize it altogether.”

“What about us? Can we hire you?”

“Nothing really happens until a board of directors decides that the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
“But radio needs you. You’re the conscience of the industry.”

Though I was flattered, and my ego was overly inflated for a moment, the discussion made me realize what it is that Radio really needs most: Young, passionate, irreverent voices that aren’t concerned about making enemies and are willing to question the status quo.

Are you willing to be one of them?

9/20/04 Radio Ink Magazine. By B. Eric Rhoads