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on April 25, 2008 at 8:50:31 am


 Practical Applications:


Gatekeeping in Radio


There are a wide variety of practical applications for Gatekeeping Theory with regards to the radio, and these applications exist at a number of levels. The primary Gatekeeper at a radio station is the Program Director. The PD makes decisions regarding content, which may include any or all of the following, depending on the format of the station: music, news, traffic/weather reports, live remote broadcasts, promotion of upcoming events, content of advertisements, and any other peripheral content that goes out over the airwaves. It is the responsibility of the Program Director to set the tone for the station and to provide a vision as to how the station should sound. The PD controls the on-air experience of the station from top to bottom. A good PD will increase listenership (measured through a ratings system), which in turn should result in increased profits for the station.


Of primary concern to the Program Director is the target demographic for the station. A lot of time is spent studying and researching demographic information, and the style of a radio station is greatly affected by the type of audience it is directed at. A style that is geared toward the 19-to-25 year-old crowd would not be very effective, for instance, on a station that features an oldies format.


With regards to content, the same idea of a target demographic applies. The Program Director, for instance, can try to emphasize or avoid playing certain artists on their station that are a part of their format, but if they stray too far from what people want to hear, they will likely lose listeners, especially if competing radio stations are playing what people want to hear. Since it is the target demographic that dictates what 'should' be played, a good PD pays very close attention to what that demographic wants.


When it comes to advertising, it is once again the Program Director who is responsible for the production of the spots that air on his or her station. The PD enlists the help of a Production Manager to aid in the actual manifestation of the ad, but it is the PD who works with the advertising copywriter and the talent in order to make the spot sound a certain way. It is the Program Director's hope that the advertisements and promotions carried by the station will entertain listeners while provoking them to act.


Many radio stations feature news reports at various times throughout the day. Some stations even carry an all-news format. In either case, it is once again the Program Director who figures out which stories will make the airwaves and which will not. As the PD is responsible for everything that goes out over the air for the station, he or she works very closely with the News Director to put things together precisely and accurately. This part of the Gatekeeping process can have a profound effect on the listening audience, as different PD's will have different ideas on what people 'ought to know'.


Most radio stations on the FM side of the dial feature shows - particularly during the morning commute hours - that aim to entertain and inform their listeners. Howard Stern may be one of the more well-known radio hosts of this kind, but every major city in the U.S. features on-air talent whose job it is to keep their listeners company as they start their day. It comes as no surprise that the Program Director is also responsible for the style and content of these shows, which can be highly influential. If enough people are listening, for instance, a morning show might spark conversation and/or debate amongst peers, co-workers, friends, family, etc. all throughout the day. 


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