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By Kenlo Ann McGowan

FM radio gives listeners a voice as well as an earful

FM radio is constantly changing, expanding services that reach a wider audience. Whatever the target audience may be for any particular venue, FM has a way to capture their interest and hold it fast.

Many may remember when FM was the purveyor of "progressive rock" music, album cuts that were much too long for the mainstream AM or newly budding "Top 40" FM stations. Semi-controversial radio shows, on-air live concerts and time slots devoted to varying musical genres all became the norm on FM in the mid 70's. Tastes that ranged from classical to avant garde new bands could be satisfied by budding FM stations, with reception that often improved in the late hours of the night or wee hours of the morning. Listeners could and still can relish in the fact that the on-air DJ at any given moment was someone they knew in person and with whom they could discuss the prior nights album cuts in detail over coffee.

What to expect from FM radio

FM still provides 24-hour per day music, music news, or editorials from local disc jockeys as well as international news programs. Night owls of all persuasions have more choices for late-night feedback and all-time, real-time information. Rural communities are in touch with the world and all it has to offer in the ways of art, music, politics and religion with the turn of a dial. Want to listen to jazz at 4 a.m. and not the farm seed germination report, and also find out about that new bagel place on the corner? Chances are, FM will give you all that and allow you to give feedback in a variety of ways.

FM was ahead of others in the way of technology. Before there was the means for the audience to interact directly with the announcer/DJ/reporter in real time, the voice from the airwaves could induce healthy debate and encourage listeners to call in at specified times, even if the conversation was not able to be aired live. There were many philosophical offshoots from FM stations based around what is now known as "classic rock" format. Perpetuating 1960s college-style debates, leading to action in the community was often instigated by listening to radio news shows or guest announcers with differing views on current hot topics.

Even stations that cater to one particular style entice listeners to tune in to future programs because of a smorgasbord of offerings. And because FM tends to link on-air shows with live community programs, or hold their own events that often create celebrities out of announcers and DJs, people tune in to hear the opinions of those they meet, and tend to give local experiences a try. There is not much better advertising than a personal affirmation from someone well-known and well-loved; also sponsoring the fun adds "street cred" to local businesses while giving them a boost.

FM continues to grow in all directions. Whether it be nostalgic listeners or younger folk with custom ear-buds, the message is loud, it is clear and it belongs to everyone.

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