Lately, I’ve been listening to a decent amount of AM radio. These are the reasons:

1. I’m disgusted with FM radio. The personalities, the music, the lack of any form of quality whatsoever… I can’t stand it. Sure, maybe I just don’t like much of the new music that is going over the airwaves these days, but I’m not sure that is a bad thing. I hear enough bad music at the gym. There is nothing that is enticing me to turn on FM radio, much less travel to the record store.

2. I’m getting older. Perhaps something happens when you pass the age of 30, but I noticed that radio listening is part of an older generation. Before there was a television in every home (much less a television in every room), people listened to the radio. Boxing used to be broadcast over the radio. If you didn’t go to the ballpark in the olden days of baseball, you didn’t see the team in action.

3. I’m a musician and writer. The last reason will take up the bulk of this article.

Television rules the roost. There is no question about that. We have changed from an aural society to a visual society. The nature of education and teaching has changed to incorporate more visual imagery than every. Books are even making their way to screens. The history of tomorrow will be stored in newsreels and dramatizations, not passed down from a speaker around a fire.

Television, by its nature, requires less active participation from the audience. There is no need to visualize descriptions, nor is there much need to stretch your imagination. The image is there, you don’t have to make one up. For example, if you read a book, no matter how well a character is described, there is a process that must create that character in our mind’s eye. If you read the same description to a group of 10 and then had a police sketch artist draw each person’s description, there would likely be 10 different pictures (with similarities, of course).

The radio causes us to utilize our mind’s eye. If we are listening to the description of a game, we have to make the field in our mind. If we are listening to a commercial of two guys drinking beer, we are likely to picture our favorite watering hole.

Personally, I listen to National Public Radio (NPR) a good deal of the time. I started listening to it because they broadcast the BBC news. A British take on foreign affairs can be a nice alternative to US broadcasts. While this attracted me initially, I came to enjoy the various stories and radioplays. These usually consist of human interest stories, but can range from the humorous to the painful. Here’s a fantastic example from This American Life. Around the 8 minute mark is the beginning of a different take on the dysfunctional relationship that exists between Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. I’ve also become a huge fan of A Prairie Home Companion.

It’s very unlikely that shows like this would ever make their way onto television. First of all, the cost to hire actors, cameramen, cameras, etc… would probably be too high. Second, and joined with the first, is the fact that there probably isn’t a huge audience for this type of programming, so there might not be an outlet. Granted, This American Life has a program on Showtime, but as you can tell, certain stories would probably be cost-prohibitive to place on the air.

Back to my original point three. Because I write and because I enjoy using my ears (as a musician), there is something about the spoken word on radio that is entrancing. That and the fact that I really don’t enjoy too many programs on television.