Why Does FM Radio in South Florida Suck?

Why Does FM Radio in South Florida Suck?
IkeHayden / Shutterstock.com
Why is South Florida, the eighth-largest radio market in the nation, not providing a listenable station anywhere on the FM dial?

When was the last time anyone told you: "Hey, I just heard the greatest set of music on such-and-such FM"?

Never! It just doesn’t happen in South Florida. It's rather depressing to look at this vibrant international melting pot and discover that no station provides exciting, educating, multicultural, international, fun, and mature programming we can be proud of (except public radio, WLRN).

Living here for 17 years, being peripherally involved in the music scene, traveling a bit, having an open mind, and having been exposed to and grown up with fantastic music, I'm saddened to think this area hasn't found a way to incorporate its Latin, island, and international flair into a locally based station. We need a station that gives a bit to everyone while opening the eyes of those who have never been exposed to anything other than the pablum generally thrown at the citizens of South Florida.

A poll this past August by the firm IPSOS, a French market research company, confirms consumers want AM and FM radio to remain the heart and soul of their in-car entertainment. Asked about their car-audio preferences, 91 percent of 1,000 adults sampled said they desire typical car radio, and 9 percent prefer an app-based system. Per the data, 84 percent of respondents listen to AM/FM radio, while most others use apps such as SiriusXM, Pandora, and Spotify. The main reason cited for listening to streaming services is the lack of choices and diversity in traditional FM offerings, in addition to excessive commercials and repetition of music.

The fact that corporate radio has decided South Florida deserves nothing better than the same songs played ad nauseam, interrupted only by screaming commercials, shows a lack of regard for the sensitivities and cultivated taste of the population. How has iHeartMedia, which owns almost 900 stations and reaches 245 million listeners per month, changed radio, and why should you be concerned? Music is an important part of our everyday lives. It relaxes us in traffic jams, it empathizes with our last breakup, it pumps us up for a night on the town, and it helps celebrate memorable moments. It also exposes us to music we might not have been aware of. The homogenization of such a large group makes for boring radio.

I’m not just talking about baby boomers; I’m also speaking on behalf of my 22-year-old daughter, who, along with her friends, agrees there is nothing for their age group on radio. However, the baby boomers are still the largest demographic with the most expendable income. As baby boomers continue to retire and set roots in South Florida, their taste and listening habits will have them searching for something that certainly expands their worldview while bringing back the nostalgia we all long to feel.

That feeling is not being provided for in South Florida. I grew up in the Northeast and was exposed to fantastic music from day one. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Tampa. Each of these cities had stations that provided a place for me to be exposed to music I had not been exposed to before and that have since become important parts of my personal soundtrack.

Where do I turn in South Florida to hear blues, reggae, good Latin, rock, world, and well-chosen picks of the various genres I am not versed in but deserve to be exposed to? Where can I hear something spiritual (gospel?) Sunday morning? Where am I able to listen to the explosion of Latin reggae coming out of South America? Why, with a chosen son from right here in South Florida, Jimmy Buffett, with a portfolio of hundreds of songs, do I only hear "Margaritaville" for the 10,000th time? Is there no one with even a thought of providing a community-based station that takes advantage of a market where both visitors and full- and part-time residents would feel such an allegiance for their local station that they would take it back to wherever they are from?

The answer to all of those questions: The listening public will tire of being underestimated and will seek other outlets (Pandora/SiriusXM?). This gives South Florida radio an opportunity. As in many other parts of the country, some independent stations in major markets have not thrown in the towel but have offered an alternative.

You might ask, why is this not being done in South Florida? The answer is fear — fear of doing something different — and complacency: If it’s working out OK, why muddy the waters? The answer to that question is because South Florida deserves something better!

I believe there is a fantastic opportunity to build a standout station. South Florida has an unequaled history of incubation of some of the biggest names in music through Criteria Studios (Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Bob Marley, the Allman Brothers, and the list goes on). There is also the storied history of Henry Stone Music, which brought us the Florida soul sound and KC & the Sunshine Band. And Deep City Records changed the landscape of sound in South Florida. The breadth of great venues, as well as the depth of local and worldwide talent, demands that the region provide a radio station that honors these treasures. Where do I find the great Yeshiva’s music here other than seeing her live? Other major markets offer these options. There is no reason South Florida cannot offer them too.

The region lacks radio stations that treat their audiences like adults. Why can’t the DJ just play the music and tell listeners in a mature and playful manner that they need to put on their dancing shoes or grab their significant other or just turn it up 'cause they're gonna love it? People always want to be educated. Music is the best way to teach them.

Martin Luther wrote, "Beautiful music can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us."

Note to radio station general managers and program directors: You have to take a huge risk to see an amazing return. This one is not even a risk. This is just plain smart.

What we need is a station that will respect and appreciate listeners and not treat them like sheep. If there are any owners, GMs, or program directors interested in making their station number one in the market, I believe so strongly in this directive that I’m willing to make some guarantees about market share.

Let’s talk. South Florida deserves it!
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.