In modern society, radios are common technology—in the car at home, and more recently on our cellphones. In fact, in today’s world, it will be hard to find someone that has not ever heard radio, regardless their age. However, this was not always the case. When radio was born in the late 1800s, it took many years before they went mainstream and became what they are today. The history of the radio is a fascinating one and like any other type of media, it keeps changing daily. Radio became much more than Marconi ever imagined, and traditional radios and radio broadcasting have become a thing of the past. Instead, radio has steadily evolved to keep up with the current technology, with satellite and streaming internet stations gaining popularity.
In addition to news and music, radio talk shows have also become a popular option for many. John Oakley is one of the most respected and experienced broadcasters in Toronto. Oakley hosts “The John Oakley Show” which is heard on Toronto’s leading news/talk radio station, AM640. His show is number one among Adults 25-54 on the competitive AM radio band in Canada’s largest radio market. One of the show’s main characteristics is to make “controversial radio mixed with a healthy touch of humour”. John started in radio in the early 1980’s and worked at stations from Montreal and Toronto, and is passionate about Canadian art, comedy albums and antique radios. You can hear him from 4pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday.
Milénio Stadium: How do you choose your media channels? Where do you consume your information (TV, radio or online)?
John Oakley: All three plus newspapers (online mostly).
MS: Who listens to radio nowadays? What about your show?
JO: Talk radio is relevant to people who want greater depth to their local news, issues or stories. My target audience is 35 to 64 years old.
MS: What are the ingredients to having a good radio show in Toronto?
JO: It is important to reflect local concerns, give a voice to people who want to engage in debate and discussion, be provocative or challenging, especially to consensus opinions and political correctness. It’s equally important to have something unique about your presentation, either in style, approach (the guests or characters or subject matter should be novel, interesting or controversial). I always try to find an interesting spin even with the obvious story to create some kind of emotional response. Having a solid well defended opinion is paramount.
MS: Podcasts changed radio. What makes them a good product?
JO: Podcasts are just talk radio in longer form and depth without commercials and broadcast regulations. Other than that, it is still an interview or conversation but on a different delivery platform. The ability to go into much deeper discussion due to lack of time constraints and for an audience to access the podcast whenever they like i.e., flexible scheduling, gives the podcast its attraction. On the other hand, live radio allows for calls with audience participation and the ability to present breaking news immediately in real time.
MS: What is your relationship with social media? Do you recognize the importance to your work or not really?
JO: Social media is here to stay and will continue to fragment and create a wider field of options for users. Right now, it is dominated by a handful of major corporate players who are increasing mediating content. As a source for information or opinion, that really depends on who is providing the content. Much of social media depends on the credibility of the messenger. One has to be wary of misinformation.
MS: What kind of media will we have in the future?
JO: With the increased democratization of media, meaning anyone or everyone can communicate a story, message or opinion, corporate or legacy media (some would say mainstream media), will continue to erode without government intervention or legislation. This is really about supporting legacy media and jobs rooted in the belief that the legacy media is more reliable and credible. So the government is picking winners and losers. In the end, the media that survives and flourishes will be that which attracts an audience and can be monetized. Only financial viability will ensure the survival or prospects of any media operation. The real question of concern is whether objectivity, fairness, truth, honesty and integrity will be the hallmarks of any future media or will devolve into something manipulative and self-serving. So much of media today is already going there. And that does not bode well for the future of media and by extension society. Therefore, a rigorours discipline must be imposed upon all media either within the industry or by society.