The Auteur vs The Committee

Which works best in the real world?

It doesn’t seem like that long ago, does it?

I’m talking about when every major market had at least one great radio station, and the largest markets often had two. Literally dozens of stations you couldn’t wait to hear because each was unique, and each was really great!

Now it’s difficult to come up with 5 truly great stations in every market combined.

Why is that?

I think it’s because most stations in our consolidated times are the product of programming by comittee, rather than the singular vision of one person.

I’m not saying that Greg Strassel or Jon Zellner or Pat Paxton aren’t great programmers; I think they are.

I just think it’s much more difficult to create great products when every idea has to clear a committee of minds.

This article from the NY Times explains why:

The quality of any collaborative creative endeavor tends to approach the level of taste of whoever is in charge.

Consider Apple versus Google.

One vision, one (admittedly genius) eye to please versus Google’s committee of super-smarts. Steve Jobs inarguably had “the eye.” His taste in design was proven and trusted.

And I don’t think it’s debateable that Apple has produced more great products than Google.

That example may be unfair, but it presents a pretty stark contrast that may be useful in our current circumstances.

Look, it’s undeniable that there are fewer truly great, unique, radio stations today.

And while we may disagree on the cause, how could it hurt for CBS and Entercom and Greater Media to test the theory on one station in one large market.

It would require some internal juggling of egos, because the local PD would have to be given autonomy to work without input and feedback from the SVP of Programming. We already know what it sounds like when they’re part of the loop.

S/he might have to report directly to the company President to underscore the freedom and confidence they enjoy.

Or, put Greg and Jon and Pat in charge of one station for 1 year and let them make it great. Their vision, their ideas, their butts on the line.

The NAB or RAB could make it a contest with a big cash prize for the winner as decided by a panel of great programmers. Think of the worldwide media attention upon being named The Greatest Radio Station in America!

It would need a budget designed to build a great product, for air and production talent, and for promotion and marketing. (That probably automatically excludes CC and Cumulus, but I’d love to see them accept the challenge.)

No group-think. No programming decisions by committee where “all” have to sign off on every idea. No mandates.

No having to protect your back from whispered judgment and worried doubt.

Imagine the challenge: Create a great radio station!

I know a lot of programmers who would be up for that.

Tell you what…

Let’s do the heavy lifting for the corner offices and build a list of programmers, markets, and the stations they could make great within 12 months.

I’ll kick it off in the Comments section below. Feel free to share and care.