Radio unlike television has not changed much in 100 years. TV began in black and white, then colour, 625 lines then High definition, terrestrial to satellite but radio has changed little. But an ever increasing phenomenon is now encroaching on radio broadcasting and not for the better.
Radio allows the listener no matter what show they are listening to, to use their imagination. During the golden era of radio in the US in the 40's and 50's, the sound effects person was as important if not more so than any of the inter changeable actors. The listener had to make use of their imagination to picture the scene being created by the radio soundscape. If you were listening to sports on the radio the commentator had to tell you that a team was playing from left to right to help the listener as they closed their eyes and visualized events unfolding on the field of play.
There are times when on a TV show or in person we have met the person behind the voice on the radio and our perceived image of what that person looked like as related to their voice bears little reflection to the person we can see before us. It is this factor that plays such a vital role in the hit TV show 'The Voice' where the judge is unable to make a decision based on a singers looks and must rely on their imagination to associate the voice with a face when the voice is the USP.
This mystique has served radio well but now it is under threat and a threat that should be tackled if radio is to survive undamaged. THE STUDIO CAM.
Many radio stations are now installing studio cameras so that not alone do you hear the voice behind the microphone but you can see them as well. Radio allowed a balding, over weight, cross eyed, pimple faced to entertain their listeners as long as they had the voice for radio. That reassuring lilting voice that took us to a different place but that magic is gone when we can see the presenter. This is now a visual art not a radio/vocal art. That line has been blurred.
Studios now employ set designers to make sure their studio looks good on camera. Advertising is attached to the wall behind the presenter and just like in the early days when presenters were required to put on suits before they 'appeared' on radio, today's presenters must also be fashion conscious, that a female presenters isn't showing too much cleavage or that a male presenter is cleanly shaven.
The blurred media lines are expanding like a shockwave. A TV station produces more written news content on the web than a traditional newspaper. The newspaper is abandoning 'paper' for a web presence and 'people' journalism on social media is replacing NUJ memnbers. But the simplicity of radio and it relative cost effectiveness of the medium should be cherished. While it is true that the fragmentation of how a radio station is broadcast and received is continuing, the content of the programming is not. Drama may have migrated to television although not totally, radio still provides music, news and sports just like it did not the very first radio stations in the 1920's.
When television was being first advertised it was 'pictures by wireless'. Early US television stars were initially radio stars and without radio we would not have had the likes of Bob Hope, Jack Benny or Abbot and Costello. Many early TV programmes simply filmed radio plays and shows but television and radio then separated and both mediums found their loyal audiences. Shock jocks like Howard Stern in the US or even Adrian Kennedy in Ireland create a better more effective product is they do exactly as they say on the tin, broadcast on the radio. Howard Stern encourages web cam viewers by interviewing naked women in his studio, is this radio or television? It cannot be both.
A comparison of listening to radio and watching can be made by listening to an episode of 'A Prairie Home Companion' show with Garrison Keillor and then watching an episode of it being recorded in front of the TV cameras. If you have not seen Garrison you may recognise his voice from some recent car commercials but as you listen create a mental picture of the voices you hear and then watch the show. Make your own conclusions.
I will leave you with this. It is a one minute radio serial from the US and as you listen close your eyes, enjoy the experience and remember that this is radio and you can listen to radio while you drive but you cannot watch television.