Commercial radio rebirth?


I went to the One Hundred Club dinner this week hosted by one of my mentors, Norman Knight, honoring Peter Smythe. Smythe is Prez & CEO of Greater Media operating 20 radio stations around the country; one of the rare small to mid-size radio groups that didn’t get gobbled by Clear Channel. Knight was a colleague/contemporary of my radioman father, Don Schardt. My father and Norman are from the “innovation” era of commercial radio…when it was run by people who knew the power of the medium, made interesting programs, and who also carried a deep sense of public service. Smythe reflected on these values from the past and how they affect his present work. While I wouldn’t go so far as to characterize his speech as a rallying cry, I did get a little tingle up the spine while he was at the podium and in conversation with him afterward. I was pleasantly surprised, too, when Phil Redo stood up to give a dedication. Redo was, until coming to Great Media less than a year ago, Vice President of Station Operations and Strategy for New York Public Radio. He and Smythe have a long history and, as it turns out, is also a mentee of Norman Knight. He told me thought he’d finished with commercial radio for good awhile ago, but has been reinspired by Smythe and the work of Greater Boston Media. He’s tossed his hat back into the ring, and it’s got me thinking more about the possibility of a commercial radio rennaissance. What would it take to snatch back all that airspace from the money-mongers; turn it back to those who really understand the power of the medium?