David Bakin


I’m not sure if

this sneer is evidence of bias, or not: maybe they just fell

for the line peddled to them by the radio company; but explaining why satellite radio in your car is catching on in America they say:

“Often in rural areas the only choices were country music, religious output, or crackle.”

I have no experience driving through rural areas but I doubt this is true.

I too have never driven through rural areas of America, so I can’t say of my own knowledge whether the BBC’s view of the pre-digital airwaves in rural areas is fair or not. I suspect it is something the writer is happy to believe. What do readers say?

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47 Responses to David Bakin

  1. ilana says:

    I think you have to lighten up a bit – this is a just an attempt at humor.


  2. S.C. Schwarz says:

    Nonsense. I have lived and traveled throughout the eastern US, and a variety of stations are generally available. For example, there are a number of 50,000 watt clearchannel stations (WWVA, WOWO, WBZ, WCBS, etc. ) which braodcast fairly sophisticated programming over wide areas.

    True enough, reception can be limited in mountain areas, but this is a technical limitation, not cultural.


  3. Bill says:

    I;ll add to Schwarz’s comment as someone who’s driven about the west and midwest. I’ve only experienced the Beeb’s sneering example once, and that was driving across Nebraska on a sunday morning. While driving the same route in the opposite direction on a weekeday, it was top-forty, country, Rush Limbaugh, and crackle. And thank heavens, not one Dido or “Billie” pop single on the whole trip.

    I think they’re just jealous of our lack of limey bad taste. We yanks to kitch right!


  4. Bill says:

    to=do… lucky I’m not behind the wheel on I-80 right now (not that it would make me a danger to myself and the other two cars on the road).


  5. StinKerr says:

    Just another example of the beeb’s insular parochial view. I live in the midwest of the U.S. and there are lots of selections available on radio here, even in the most rural of areas. From classical to rap and every type of talk radio you’d care to listen to as well as those you’d not care to listen to. Our PBS TV stations even carry ‘BBC America’ to remind us of what boobs and hicks we are. Our “Progressives” seem to lap it up
    I wish you’d save your money and cancel ‘BBC America’.


  6. JimMerry says:

    I can attest to the fact that mostly in rural areas in the US there is absolutely nothing to hear on AM/FM radio other than country twang or religous talk shows. I travel constantly for work through out the US and have made the east-west drive 4 separate times. In a few places I have noted that if there is a third choice in remote areas, it is often satanic-leaning heavy metal. So, I would have to give the BBC some credit for accuracy.


  7. IceCold says:

    To my surprise and dismay, while there were ample choices of things I don’t prefer (including country and religious) in several drives up and down the eastern seaboard from New Hampshire to Georgia, there was almost always NPR. I say dismay because of the way NPR mangles so many important stories, and manages to provide that picture that leaves its devotees contantly surprised at real world events. The only other news was short hourly updates from the usual networks. I’m sure the BBC reporter would have been heartened to hear NPR, a breath of fresh delusion in a sea of folks so unsophisticated they actually understand the way the world works.


  8. rob says:

    Panorama (BBC1 7/3/04) – Future of BBC-
    ICM poll shows preferences about equal 3 way split –


  9. rob says:

    PS I don’t suppose the BBC will present above as “two thirds oppose licence fee”!


  10. Moira Breen says:

    Yeah, some rural areas are awfully heavy on the preachers and the country music – South Dakota stands out in my memory. I can’t recall ever being very long out of range of top-40, rap, metal, or NPR stations, though.


  11. John Hensley says:

    Schwarz, if you stick to the eastern US then you don’t know what rural is. You have to go west of the Mississippi River to see real open spaces.


  12. Susan says:

    OT but typical: the Conservatives have ousted the Socialists in Greece, who lost by a five percent margin. And how does BBC Online spin this (in their eyes) disaster? They have the conservatives “seizing” power in Greece! Yes, that’s right — win a democratic election fair and square, but if you are conservative you “seize” power.


  13. John Hensley says:

    OT Susan, I think this is just a case of a journalist trying to “sex up” his story. The new government is expected to be pro-EU and therefore can count on the good graces of the BBC.

    In related news, it looks like Joerg Haider will be governor of Carinthia for another term. While I don’t care for Haider’s anti-immigrant politics, almost everything the European press has said about him (BBC included) is a lie. I have to have some respect for a guy who can keep his cool when all of Europe is calling him the reincarnation of Hitler.


  14. S. Morris says:

    On the topic of radio in the US. Traveling I-40 through Texas-New Mexico – Arizona at night, and trying to find a radio station to listen to in order to stay awake, it used to be mostly country western, religious programs and static. But now its all been taken over by call-in talk shows, where absolute morons call in and make fools of themselves. Religious programming is mild by comparison.


  15. Jeremy says:

    Yeah, I saw that “Conservatives Seize Power” line, but I saw it on the news section of Yahoo’s main page (which then leads to a BBC story).

    Anyway, I think most FM stations only have a range of about 40-50 miles in radius at most. So far from cities, you often do have limited choices. Often a small town only has one radio station that plays music, and it plays country, as that tends to be the most popular among people who live in small towns.

    Religious stations are fairly cheap to run, generally being low powered and AM, and earn enough via donations. You hear them everywhere.

    The real reason satellite radio is popular, IMHO, is that most markets, even large ones, only cater to a few types of music.
    (Of course, ironically, in commercials for sat. radio, there is always a top 40 song playing)


  16. Jim Miller says:

    What choices are available in the rural US? It depends very much on the area and the time of day. At night, in the Great Plains, you can pick up AM stations from what seems like half the country.

    Mountain areas will have fewer choices during both day and night. And in some of the really sparsely populated areas, parts of Montana, for example, there simply aren’t enough people to support many stations.

    OTOH, some of the rural stations can be quite entertaining. Some, for instance, run swap shows in which people call up to offer items for sale. Listen to them a while and you will learn something about peoples’ lives.


  17. rob says:

    OFF Topic
    BBC1 1pm News (8/3/04)
    Caroline Hawley reports on the signing of the interim constitution.
    Her report of this step forward could hardly be more negative
    1. The delay was an embarrassment to the Coalition. (We should be thankful that it was not a “humiliation”, BBC’s usual hyperbole). Have BBC journalists no experience of the process of negotiation?
    2. The Governing Council are US appointed & therefore the document is undemocratic. No explanation of the difficulties standing in the way of early elections.
    3. Does she interview any leading Iraqi figure? No she takes the usual stroll to the local market. There she finds a disgruntled stallholder (not difficult anywhere on earth). He complains that he knows nothing of this constitution. Hawley doesn’t ask why he never watches the many TV channels or reads any of the wide free press now available in Baghdad.


  18. billg says:

    A few locations in the U.S. are so rural you’re lucky to hear any radio at all. Mountains, of course, play havoc with signals.

    AM radio is dominated by talk: talk is cheap, literally. There’s more music than the quote implies: country, “classic” rock and oldies, and a bit a big band and nostalgia stuff.

    FM stations broadcast all the above, plus NPR and the college-operated stations that tend to carry jazz, indy, and other music. FM is also where to listen for contemporary music of any style.

    You’ll hear religous content on AM because it is another form of talk radio.

    Variety needs a large concentrated market base that pays for it via commercials or by donating to public radio. Rural populations can’t support it.

    Having driven around trying to find something to listen to in both the U.S. and UK, I wouldn’t argue that one offers more variety than the other for rural listeners. (Remember, too, that “rural” in the U.S. is typically a lot more rural than in th


  19. Sage says:

    I hate the BBC as much as anybody, but I know what they’re talking about here.


  20. ken says:

    Writing from rural Alabama (and having lived in Britain twice, suffering from the daily BBC sneers- radio and TV), I can say with confidence the BBC comment was not an attempt at levity. More of the same advocacy being spewed on a daily basis. And the problem is that Euro-puppet listeners just simply buy it and regurgitate it. No thinking. No analysis as to whether any of it is true.

    However, the comment about rural radio is indeed humorous. But as usual, I’m laughing at the British taxpayer who funds this trash.


  21. Barry Meislin says:

    Well, the BBC says it, and if the BBC says it, well it must be the truth….

    At least for those many, many listeners in the far-flung four corners of the globe, for whom the BBC is all too often the only (I would like to say “reliable,” and once would have, but can no longer) source of news….

    Mind abuse, pure and simple.


  22. John says:

    The BBC is essentially correct, and anyone who has driven long distances on U.S. interstate highways will agree.


  23. Susan says:

    I once traveled through a mountainous area where the local station was broadcasting old Jack Benny radio programs from the 1950s. It was utterly charming. I’ve never found anything like it in my metropolitan market.


  24. Joe says:

    I have sirius radio, but it’s for two reasons:
    1. travel. I hate fiddling with the radio to find another station every 15 minutes.
    2. They carry the BBC world service – that way I can monitor the enemy…

    Just kidding!


  25. peter says:

    More and more I’m starting to think that what the BBC reports about America is pure laziness and not so much bias (although it exists). Reports just write things that they believe to be conventional wisdom. They never dig deeper. Their editors never question.

    Now, here’s a list of NPR stations across the US (to the uninitiated, the US’s rough equivalent to BBC – a left-leaning public affairs broadcaster). Note that there HUNDREDS of stations. For example, in Montana, about as rural and right wing as you can get, there are 12 NPR stations.


  26. peter says:

    here’s the list —



  27. Royston Benito says:

    This is incontestably, absolutely true. I have driven through 41 of the Continental 48, and have noted, for vast swaths of the southwest, midwest, and deep south, there are no radio radio station other than those mentioned in the quote.

    I love how people love to talk about things of which they have no knowledge or experience of whatsoever.

    “I don’t believe this because I don’t like to think that it might be true!” Wow. What a stunningly well reasoned argument. Call me convinced.


  28. billg says:

    Rob, before the BBC starts slanting their reports about Iraqis trying to put together a constitution, they might ask their listeners to mail in copies of the famous constitution of the United Kingdom.


  29. Rob Schneider says:

    Radio in America has become homogonized into low-cost radio (talk, religious, call-ins, taped music, etc.) due to financial pressures by the very few very large corporate entities that own the vast majority of stations (Clear Channel et. al.). Before the takover of radio by corporates, even in urban areas there was rich radio diversity. Now all the channels are same.

    Satellite radio will enable more the broadcast of more diverse programming country-wide across multiple channel.

    It’s not an issue of rural vs. urban. Satellite radio has a strong future.


  30. billg says:

    Rob Schneider:

    I’m old enough to remember U.S. radio before the corporate buyouts, and there really was not “rich radio diversity”.

    What was there? A lot of stations that were independent or were owned my a regional business, one of the local newspapers, etc. What was their format? Music, usually rock and roll, played by a live DJ who made $8k a year and lived in a local apartment. Five minutes of wire service news at the top of the hour; maybe some fire and accident local reports. DJ’s supplemented their income by hiring themselves out for for parties and dances. If the town had professional or college sports, one station had the contract.

    Maybe I wasn’t listening to the right stations, but I don’t recall all that much diversity.


  31. Angie Schultz says:

    I have to agree with the Beeb here. Last time I drove across southern Illinois, this was true. Or true-ish. One of my cousins who grew up in southern Indiana called it Radio-Free Indiana. Of course, that was about twenty years ago.

    I like country music, so its ubiquity was not much of a problem for me. What got me were the incredibly cheesy locally-produced radio commercials, all apparently featuring the same talentless, nasally announcers.


  32. Dwayne says:

    “The BBC is essentially correct, and anyone who has driven long distances on U.S. interstate highways will agree.”

    “I have driven through 41 of the Continental 48, and have noted, for vast swaths of the southwest, midwest, and deep south, there are no radio radio station other than those mentioned in the quote.”

    These two quotes of analogious evidence are [email protected] To come to the same conclusions these two individuals have reached, I would have had to stop searching for a station on the first pass through the dial. You just can’t give up after a few minutes hunting.

    Put that radio of scan and let her rip – stop when you hear a song you like.


  33. Matt says:

    I’ve also driven across the deep south and the midwest many times.

    I never had any trouble finding rock, (many varieties) rap, country, etc.

    Can’t speak to the southwest…


  34. Rob Schneider says:

    to Billg

    Re the diversity … I’m thinking of an era which may be my imagination, but it is what I recall … in the midwest in 50’s/60’s listend to the many 50,000 watt a.m. stations … ranging from WJR Detroit to CKLW playing ‘motown’ in nearby Windsor. Other big stations in other cities were there too. WJR unique as it had diverse programming through day. Moving near New York in 70’s I found more stations (now on FM) than in midwest. Many formats/programming. Now when I return to NYC the bands feel full of talk radio. I don’t live in USA anymore so what I experience when in USA is now as a visitor and it just feels homogonized.

    I happen to think there is a market for diversity and if using Satellite get’s the unit costs down to make it profitable to broadcaster, they will find listeners and therefore success.


  35. billg says:

    Rob, I agree that most of the 50,000-watt stations sound much the same today, whether or not they’re owned by the same company. Commerical stations always have an impetus to play follow-the-leader toward the most popular format, even without mixing in the corporate buyout feature.

    A counterweight to that, perhaps, is the growth in FM since the ’70’s, especially non-commercial FM. .

    Truth is, this is all mostly anecdotal, beyond the fact of corporate conglomeration. Someone driving in the daytime through parts of the West — northern Nevada, say — isn’t going to find many stations or much variety, while someone driving down I-95 between New York and D.C. is going to be awash in stations.

    Most of my listening these days is to two jazz-format local university stations, but I’d certainly consider satellite if the content was attractive.


  36. Rob Schneider says:

    Absolute true. Completely anecdotal (except for corporate conglomeration).

    Satellite radio (and the Internet) is analogous to the cable in Cable TV … diversity will increasingly become possible and is not necessarily “better”.



  37. Pamela says:

    The Beeb overlooked the farm futures reports.

    It is true there are fewer selections in rural areas but it’s NOT just a technical issue, it’s economic – a limited number of advertisers and financially able to reach a relatively small audience.


  38. Anthony says:

    Off topic, but how is the BBC playing the John Allen Mohammed verdict?


  39. billg says:

    When I lived in the UK, I don’t recall ever being out of range of some form of BBC radio. Presumably, that’s a requirement tided to the licensing fee. Correct? There’s a lot to be said for ensuring everyone, everywhere, is within range of at least one station.

    FYI, while AM broadcasters in the U.S. are required to limit their transmitter output to 50,000 watts, for several years in the 1930’s AM station WLW, in Cincinnati, operated at 500,000 watts on 700 kHz. It had an actual clear channel on that frequency; unlike most so-called clear channel stations today, no one else in the U.S. broadcast on its assigned frequency. Advertising itself as “The Nation’s Station”, it could literally be heard, at night, throughout the lower 48 states. Well-substantiated reports had local folks hearing the station coming from their bedsprings, appliances, and even dental fillings. A listener at Buckingham Palace is said to have called in a request.


  40. Susan says:

    There are still many parts of the US that are relatively undeveloped especially in contrast to Europe. Europeans often seem to have a hard time understanding that many of us live in places where alligators, bears, mountain lions and coyotes, etc., are still roaming wild. Many of us are only two or three generations from the frontier. We haven’t been traveling the same roads and living in the same towns for 500-1000 years like they have been.

    They tend to look down on us as “backward” without understanding the reality of where we live, just because we are also the world’s leading industrial power.


  41. Anthony says:

    Another off topic question — how is the BBC playing the death of Abu Abbas?


  42. Susan says:

    “Died in US custody” is the current headline. Take from it what you will.


  43. billg says:

    >>”…many of us live in places where alligators, bears, mountain lions and coyotes, etc., are still roaming wild. ”

    Miami suburbs, eh?


  44. John Hensley says:

    What you’re seeing in radio has nothing to do with evil designs by conglomerates. It’s a result of modern technology. Stations used to go all-out in their programming during prime-time, when people would be close to their large, expensive radios. Now TV owns prime-time, and people take their radios with them for background noise. The business model for that situation is to play cheap but popular programming throughout the day.


  45. Stan Brin says:

    Radio programming was always a factor of time of day.

    At night, 50,000 watt “clear channel” stations always pop out at
    you on the AM band, and they have virtually national coverage. At night, they are mostly talk, talk, talk, mostly from the extreme right.

    The alternative is BBC world service on NPR and other public stations.

    You thus have your choice of extreme right and extreme left.


  46. Parker says:

    The real tragedy here is that I have never been recognized for my pioneering work that led to the development of ‘Crackle’, which was inspired by the Mississippi basin ‘Static’ movement of the 40’s.

    I get no royalties, having had to sell the rights to maintain my stable of pet gerbils in the style to which they have become accustomed.

    The artist always gets the shaft…

    – Blind Mississippi White Boy ‘Pig Feets’ Parker