A STUDY OF RADIO STATION MANAGERS' ATTITUDES ON
STATION FORMAT CHANGES
A paper submitted to the
Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication
Media Management and Economics Division
Max V. Grubb
B.S.C. Ohio University 1979
M.A. Kent State University 1994
Doctoral Student Ohio University
10309A Porter Lane
Athens, OH 45701
Email: [log in to unmask]
RUNNING HEAD: RADIO FORMAT CHANGES
A STUDY OF RADIO STATION MANAGERS' ATTITUDES
ON STATION FORMAT CHANGES
The radio industry currently operates in a different environment from the
pre-1980s period. The drive for deregulation led to changes in the
of management and in the competitive environment. This study examines
dynamics of change management and radio station format changes. Force
field theory was used as the theoretical underpinning for exploring the
dynamics of radio station format changes. Personal interviews and a
questionnaire were the methodologies used for this study.
A STUDY OF RADIO STATION MANAGERS' ATTITUDES ON STATION FORMAT CHANGES
The radio industry has been operating under a regulatory atmosphere since
its inception over 70 years ago. Broadcast regulation originated with
Wireless Act of 1910 and the Radio Act of 1912 (Head, Sterling, and
Schofield, 1994, 156). The Radio Act of 1927 and the Communications Act of
1934 were enacted to establish that the airwaves resource be used as a
public trust and not as private property. Licenses were issued to
who made a commitment to operate and use this scarce resource in the
interest. The trusteeship approach to broadcast regulation was established
with this legislation. This trusteeship model would last until the
deregulation of the early 1980s (Simmons, 1978, 27).
Today, the radio industry operates in a different environment from the
pre-1980s period. The deregulation of the 1980s brought about
change for station managers. Deregulation included changes in the
of stations owned, the length of time of ownership, and the addition
radio stations. The drive for deregulation led to changes in the types of
ownership, the type of management, the number of radio stations, and the
competitive environment (Anderton and Sanders, 1992, 6).
One result of these changes is that radio station managers operated in
increasingly competitive conditions. To survive, radio managers needed
incorporate change as an integral part of the operations of their
organizations. Fierce competition for listeners and advertising revenue
resulted in the need for radio managers to adapt and change as their
Change certainly is not limited to the broadcasting industry. Many
companies have experienced change in today's business world. Buzzwords
such as reinventing, restructuring, and reengineering have been used to
describe businesses' response to change. Academicians and
have observed not only that businesses need to change and adapt to new
environments, but also that these businesses need to incorporate change
a fundamental part of their organizations. Radio station managers'
attitudes toward programming change is the focus of this study (Byrne,
1992, 62). LITERATURE REVIEW
Radio station format changes and change management were the main topics of
this research. This section contains a review of the literature
pertaining to these topics. It begins with an overview of the development
and changes in radio programming and formats. A review of the
and types of change are then presented. Concluding this section is a
discussion of change management.
Radio Station Programming
The terms programming and formats are often used interchangeably in
describing a radio station's over-the-air product. O'Donnell, Hausman,
Benoit define programming as "the placement of elements within the
broadcast day" of a radio station. They define format as that which
"pertains to the entire overall strategy of the station" (O'Donnell,
Hausman, and Benoit, 1989, 73).
Radio's programming 50 years ago was similar to television programming
today. No one in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s or early 1950s had a favorite
radio station (N. Anthony, personal communication, March 20, 1993).
people did have were favorite programs. People would choose to listen
comedies, dramas, mysteries, quiz shows, and musical programs on
radio stations. In this type of radio programming, commonly called
programming, the radio station used, for example, a comedy show for
wo-hour block, then would air either dramas, variety shows or musical
for the next hour or two. For their programming, most of the stations
relied on radio networks for delivery of these shows. Some independent
stations would program using local talent and have studio orchestras
local shows (Keith, 1987, 1-2). In the 1950s radio faced an
reality as television emerged and began offering the same type of
programming. In fact, many of the shows previously on radio had moved to
television, and so had the audience and advertisers. Radio networks'
to television of national advertising caused them to cut back programming
offered to affiliate stations. With their listenership declining,
radio stations started to play more and more records as an inexpensive
alternative to producing their own shows (Vivian, 1991, 185). As a
block programming, which depended on the radio networks, was abandoned as
a strategy for radio (Keith, 1987, 2).
At the time of the emergence of television, rock`n'roll also established
itself in the field of music. Hit playlists of record stores were
dominated by the new music (Keith, 1987, 2-3). Some radio stations
airing this new form of pop music. Anthony reported that during this
period the "all format" made its appearance in radio. Radio would play
type of music, for example, top 40 or country, all day instead of using
block programming. In his book, Keith observed that a new period had
It was the dawning of a new era, of program specialization and
selectivity. Radio broadcasters began to narrow their programming to gain
a share of the listening audience that would generate advertiser
interest. The day when radio stations could successfully broadcast in a
random fashion was coming to a close for all but a few stations
The first format to appear was a form of hit rock 'n' roll music called
top 40. The term was created in reference to the airing of the top 40
favorite songs as determined by record sales. Keith identified
broadcasters Todd Storz and Gordon McLendon as the young program innovators
of this format. This format had a pre-determined recipe for what music
was aired and mixed together. "No other format at the time adhered so
closely to a formula," Keith noted. Eventually Country, Beautiful Music
and Middle-of-the-Road formats would create niches for themselves
listeners. Block programming stations were becoming extinct. The
of radio was emerging from the 1950s with even greater strength
Competition grew as more licenses were issued by the FCC. While the
number of AM station licenses continued to increase during the 1960s, FM
lagged behind. Up to this point, FM had been considered the
band. According to Keith, AM owners treated their FM stations as weak
sisters. Despite its superior stereo quality, FM was largely ignored
during this time. One reason was that very few people had FM receivers.
Also, FM was associated with the highbrow culture. It was described
some as the egghead band, radio for the cultured. Hence, most
and listeners focused on AM and left FM in limbo (Keith, 1987, 3-4).
In 1965, the FCC ruled that AM/FM stations could no longer simultaneously
broadcast the same programming. Prior to this, a number of AM
broadcast the same programming on their FM stations. The FCC considered
this an inefficient use of broadcast frequencies. This ruling
applied to cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Thereafter, FM
started to attract a listenership with its own programming (Keith, 1987,
However, AM enjoyed tremendous success during the 1960s and early 1970s.
It was not unusual for an AM station to air 18 to 20 minutes of
time per hour. In fact, to squeeze more commercials into a hour, AM
operators were playing 45 rpm records at 47 or 48 rpm to shorten the
Having few listeners, FM could not sell its commercial inventory and thus
had few commercials. By the mid-1960s, people began to listen to FM
because of its limited number of commercials, no-talk policy, and stereo
quality (N. Anthony, personal communication, March 20, 1993). By the
1960s and early 1970s, FM started to achieve listenership ratings that
attracted the attention of station managers and advertisers (Keith,
FM listenership continued to grow in the 1970s. FM ceased to be the weak
step sister. In 1978, for the first time, it attracted 51 percent of
radio listening audience. By the mid-1980s, FM would leave AM far
with 70 to 75 percent of the listeners. Today FM radio garners 90
of the radio listeners (N. Anthony, personal communication, March 20,
In the 1970s, undeveloped FM stations were bought and moved closer to
major markets to capitalize on growing revenue possibilities. A 1961
ruling had provided operators considerable flexibility in moving
transmitter sites. However, the strict administration of FCC rules kept
the pace of station development slow. Then, in 1984, the FCC
Docket 80-90, which allocated new FM channels and issued new rules
"greater flexibility to alter existing FM technical facilities to
penetrate larger nearby markets" (Anderton and Sanders, 1992, 5). Docket
80-90 also included a use-it-or-lose-it provision. FM stations not
operating at full power for their class were given three years to build up
to minimum levels or be permanently downgraded. This provision, along
the rest of Docket 80-90, changed the FM environment. FM's growing
audience and revenue potential, coupled with the use-it-or-lose-it
directive, further fueled FM station expansion (Anderton and Sanders, 1992,
Radio programming in the late 1970s and early 1980s focused on creating
smaller niches in the audience market. This occurred in markets where
radio stations encountered competition from other stations. Stations
started to narrow the focus of the music to reach a specific listener
target. For example, now there were three different Adult Contemporary
(AC) formats. One station would have Soft AC, another a Hot AC, and
another a Middle-of-the-Road AC, splitting three ways what had been the
broad Adult Contemporary listenership (N. Anthony, personal
March 20, 1993).
It was during the 1980s that the demise of the trusteeship approach to
broadcasting occurred. The deregulation environment of broadcasting
started this process. Docket 80-90, which added new FM frequencies, was
just one part of it. The early 1980s brought about a different
the public interest. Government regulators now viewed licensees as
marketplace participants rather than holders of a public trust. The
marketplace approach is based upon the view that, in order to profit,
entrepreneurs must provide to consumers goods of value and utility. This
entrusts the entrepreneur to maximize fulfillment of societal needs.
Zaragoza states, the entrepreneur is:
led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his
intention but which, in the course of pursuing this own
interest[.]...frequently promotes that of the society more
than when he really intends to promote it (Zaragoza, Bodorff and
Those who advocate the marketplace approach stated that the trusteeship
model prevents the broadcast spectrum from reaching its best and
use, which can be only achieved through competition (Zaragoza et al.
J. T. Anderton noted in his book, LMA Handbook, that operators in the
early 1980s developed stations in markets with few or no stations and
showed huge profit margins quickly. The financial community was
The buying and selling of stations accelerated during the 1980s as more
money was invested.
Station prices were based on very high multiples of cash flow and the
assumption that advertising revenues would continue to grow as they
had. Thus stations were bought and sold on their business potential.
stations were heavily leveraged to fund and capitalize acquisition and
development creating heavy debt burdens (Anderton and Sanders, 1992,
Thus, in the late 1980s, as new station owners had to pay this debt and
interest, they faced more competition with much greater financial
than heretofore experienced.
For example, where a $4 million radio advertising market once had four
stations receiving $1 million each, there now might be eight stations
obtaining $500,000 of the radio pie. According to Anthony, 55 percent of
the radio stations lost money in 1992. Many markets were saturated by
radio signals and formats, and numerous stations were heavily in debt.
Advertising revenues remained static and actually decreased slightly in
early 1990s (N. Anthony, personal communication, September 14, 1993).
An option that radio station managers are choosing to make their stations
more competitive and profitable is to change format. According to
Unmacht, editor of the M Street Journal, 40 to 45 format changes by
stations nationwide are tracked in his newsletter each week (R.
personal communication, December 14, 1993). This means that between
to 2,340 radio stations, approximately 23 percent of the 10,022
radio stations in 1995, switch formats annually (Broadcasting & Cable,
Rooster Rhodes, Operations Manager and Program Director of KCAQ-FM,
Oxnard, California, indicated in a interview that a format change by a
competitor might lead another station to switch its format (R. Rhodes,
personal communication, April 1, 1994). Long-time broadcaster Kim
Colebrook said "movement by someone else," in other words, a format change
by a competitor, might lead a station to change its format (K.
personal communication, April 5, 1994). However, broadcast consultant
Jerry King stated that in his 25 years of experience he has seen this
response to format changes happen only twice in two markets (J. King,
personal communication, April 4, 1994).
Radio stations operate in a dynamic environment. To remain competitive
and profitable, radio station managers have had to change and adapt to
shifting conditions. Programming niches have divided the listener base
resulting in advertisers having numerous groups of listeners from which
choose. Stations fiercely compete in an over-crowded market for the
programming niche and advertising dollar. Anderton stated that "the
of these conditions is a far higher-than-normal station failure rate in
the industry"(Anderton and Sanders, 1992, 6). To survive, radio
managers had to change and adapt to this new environment. The most
change is to the station's format.
Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Barry A. Stein,
and Todd D. Jick stated that change is hard to define. They adopted
contemporary idea of change as being movement between distinct states,
which they characterized as discrete and fixed. Discrete and fixed
are identifiable and separate from each other and are stationary.
is described as motion between "state 1 at time 1 and state 2 at time
This movement is seen as ubiquitous and multidirectional. Kanter,
and Jick described planned organizational change:
Deliberate change is a matter of grabbing hold of some aspect of the
motion and steering it in a particular direction that will be
by key players as a new method of operating or as a reason to
one's relationship and responsibility to the organization itself,
creating conditions that facilitate and assist that reorientation
(Kanter, Stein and Jick, 1992, 9).
Howard Carlisle stated that to understand the complexity of corporations
and change, it is important to have a systems view of organizations.
Systems theory assumes that nothing exists in nature that is unattached.
To truly understand an organization, one needs to know the
that contribute to its existence. Carlisle observed that "a system is
entity consisting of a composite whole formed of interdependent parts
elements involving relationships that contribute to the unique
tics of the whole" (Carlisle, 1982, 62).
The emphasis is on the organization as a whole and the relationship among
its constituent parts. Relationships that exist among the elements
studied and understood by the unique characteristics they give the
and by their cause-and-effect interdependencies. Corporations are
composed of such constituents as owners, managers, employees, vendors,
competitors and customers. Changes in any one component will affect the
relationships among all the other elements in the organization's
(Carlisle, 1982, 59).
Leon Martel identified two basic kinds of change: structural and cyclical.
He defined structural change as a "fundamental transformation of some
activity or institution from a previous state" (Martel, 1986, 32).
Structural changes are almost always permanent and prompt other changes in
the environment. The transformation of the government's approach to
broadcast regulation from the trusteeship approach to the marketplace
would fit Martel's structural change definition (Martel, 1986, 39).
Martel described cyclical change as having a temporary nature. Cyclical
change does not cause any transformation in the structure of
or activities. The duration of cyclical change is limited, which
that adjustments to it is temporary. Martel used economic growth rates
an example of cyclical change. He noted that a country will enjoy
annual rates of growth and then later realize a downturn in growth
Radio stations provide good examples of cyclical change. Stations often
have periods where their format was popular and the economy strong.
listener's tastes change, a new competitor emerges with a better
the economy becomes weak, often causing the station to lose money.
Organizations operate in an atmosphere of change. Whether the change is
structural or cyclical, businesses need to change and adjust to their
environments. To accomplish this, companies need to analyze the current
environment, identify a need for change, and follow a process that
implements planned change. The following section presents and discusses
the process of change management.
According to Edgar Schein, Kurt Lewin is the father of planned change.
Schein felt that it was most useful to start understanding planned
by going back to the model first proposed by Lewin (Schein, 1980,
Lewin developed a way of examining change called force-field analysis.
According to Lewin, change is not an event, but a "dynamic balance of
forces working in opposite directions" (Hellriegel, Slocum, and Woodman,
1986, 590). Lewin observed:
In discussing the means of bringing about a desired state of affairs one
should not think in terms of the "goal to be reached" but rather in
of a change "from the present level to the desired one. The discussion
thus far implies that a planned change consists of supplanting the
force-field corresponding to an equilibrium at the beginning level L1 by
a force-field having its equilibrium at the desired level L2. It
be emphasized that the total force-field has to be changed at least in
area between L1 and L2 (Lewin, 1951, 224).
His theory originally was derived from a physics concept. For example,
Einstein theorized space as a system of distributed gravitational and
electromagnetic forces. The distribution of such forces in an
"determines what an object with certain properties will do in that
environment" (Riordan and Riordan, 1993, 86).
Lewin's force-field theory asserts that the "properties of any given event
are determined by its relation to the system of events of which it is a
component" (Riordan and Riordan, 1993, 86). That is, a change
involves moving from a current condition to a desired condition. This
situation is thought of as a field in which "forces are facilitating
and forces are hindering change." This theory assumes that most
situations are held in equilibrium by these two opposing forces (Conner and
Lake, 1988, 90).
For example, Corbett and Norman used force-field analysis to identify
individuals' positive and negative perceptions when a company introduced
change in the form of new computer technology (Corbett and Norman,
11). Stokes also stated that force-field analysis is a good
tool for information systems professionals to use to identify
and restraining forces when trying to attract users to their systems
(Stokes Jr., 1989, 31). Nicholas further identified force-field analysis
as a "technique that can be used to investigate which forces act on a
current project or which might influence an upcoming project, and to
determine where emphasis is needed to increase a project's likelihood for
success" (Nicholas, 1989, 38).
Hellriegel, Slocum and Woodman assert that using Lewin's model has two
major benefits. First, it requires managers to analyze the current
situation, and second, to identify factors that can and cannot be changed.
"Managers often waste a great deal of time considering actions related to
forces over which they have little, if any control" (Hellriegel et
1986, 591). For example, a radio station manager desiring to improve
profitability must analyze the current situation. Forces for and against
the changes needed to improve profitability would have to be
understood. The radio manager may need to change the station's format.
However, there may be many forces opposing this change such as owner's
dislike of proposed format, advertisers desires, and competitive
Instead, the manager chooses to reduce station expenses which has fewer
and weaker opposing forces.
As Lewin observed: "To decide how best to bring about such an actual
change, it does not suffice to consider one property. The total
circumstances have to be examined" (Lewin, 1951, 224). The concept is
useful in that it identifies and describes these forces, thereby
facilitating management strategies to best manage change.
To initiate change, management must change the equilibrium of the forces.
Hellriegel, Slocum and Woodman observed that a manager might attempt
a) Increasing the strength of the pressure for change.
b) Reducing the strength of the resisting forces or removing them
c) Changing the direction of a force --- that is, change a resistance
into a pressure for change (Hellriegel et al., 1986, 591).
Lewin's Force-field Theory: A Three-Step Model For Change
Kanter, Stein and Jick noted that most change theories are typically
modeled after Lewin's three-part process of change whereby an
is moved from a flawed current condition to a desired condition
al., 1992, 375). Lewin's theory is composed of a three-stage model of
change with the steps being: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing
1951, 228-229). Kanter, Stein and Jick explained that the three-part
process of change embodied:
1) The company must be awakened to a new reality and must disengage from
the past, recognizing that the old way of doing things is no
2) Next, the organization creates and embraces a new vision of the
future, uniting behind the steps necessary to achieve that
3) Finally, as new attitudes, practices and policies are put in place to
change the corporation, these must be "refrozen" or
(Kanter et al., 1992, 375).
The unfreezing step is the first stage of change and usually involves
reducing the forces that seek to maintain the status quo. Hersey
it as a "thawing-out process in which the forces acting on individuals are
rearranged so that now they see the need for change" (Hersey and
Blanchard, 1988, 387). The goal is to motivate and prepare individuals or
groups for change.
Hellriegel, Slocum, and Woodman described the moving, or change, step as
the development of new behaviors, values, and attitudes through
organizational structures and processes (Hellriegel et al., 1986,
Hersey asserts that the change process occurs by one of two
identification and internalization. Identification occurs when role
are provided from whom individuals can learn new behaviors.
Internalization occurs when individuals are placed in an environment
demands new behaviors of them if they are to operate successfully in
setting (Hersey and Blanchard, 1988, 382).
The third stage of the change process, refreezing, is described as the
step that "stabilizes the organization at a new state of equilibrium"
(Hellriegel et al., 1986, 591). This is often done through supporting
mechanisms such as organizational culture, norms, policies, and
The concern with this step is that the new behaviors of the individual or
group do not disappear over time. (Hersey and Blanchard, 1988, 382-383).
Lewin's force field theory explains how forces initiate the process of
change. Change is described as movement from a current condition to a
desired condition. This environment is characterized as a field where
there are forces facilitating change, and forces opposing change. Most
situations are held in equilibrium by these two sets of forces. As
earlier, some broadcasters suggested that a competitor's format change
might lead a station to change its format. According to the framework
Lewin's theory, this would imply that a competitor's format change is
facilitating force. This study examined a competitor's format change
possible force that motivates radio station managers to change a
THE RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
An examination of the materials on broadcast regulation, radio programming
and formats, change, and change management resulted in the development of
a research hypothesis and related questions. Earlier it was observed
when one station in a market changed formats it led another station in
market to change its format. This observation suggests that one of
forces acting on the equilibrium of a station operation is the
competition's current format.
A review of the literature suggests that the hypothesis for this study is:
Radio station managers will cite the format change of a competing station
as a primary force for considering a change of their station's format.
researcher's definition of primary force was that the factor is observed
as the first or second reason to consider a station format change;
that it be evaluated as a strong force and likely to influence a
manager to consider a station format change.
Lewin's force-field theory suggests that there are many forces, pro and
con, that maintain an organization's equilibrium. While not directly
related to the study, two related questions were investigated on a
preliminary basis for future research. They were:
How will managers evaluate a set of possible forces, in terms of their
importance, for changing a station's format?
How will managers evaluate a set of possible forces, in terms of their
importance, for opposing a station's format?
Lewin's theory observed that the change of the strength of a force would
alter the forces maintaining the equilibrium and thus cause change to
occur. The researcher hypothesized that a format change of a competitor
one of the forces that influence a station manager to consider a station's
The concept was operationalized through depth interviews and a survey
questionnaire. The depth interviews were conducted with individuals from
different parts of the country, with various market size backgrounds,
who had radio format change experience. The survey questionnaire was
conducted by telephone with a census of radio station general managers in
Akron, Canton, Cleveland, and Youngstown.
The researcher used methodological triangulation for this study. This
strategy permitted the researcher to explore, gather information, and
construct a questionnaire on the topic with depth interviews. The survey
was conducted to measure the factors discovered in the interviews.
strategy was not intended to show corroboration, but rather to better
and understand the attitudes of radio station managers and the dynamics of
radio format changes.
A purposeful sampling method was used for the depth interviews in
selecting information-rich cases for study. For the qualitative part of
the study a snowball sampling method was used to recruit subjects for
interview (Patton, 1987, 56). The survey questionnaire used a census of
four Northeastern Ohio markets for study. A census of a small
was used since the survey questionnaire did not utilize established
measures and was untested (True, 1983, 83). Thus, one outcome of this
study would be a questionnaire that has been tested and is capable of
used to conduct future research with a larger sample.
The population surveyed in this study included radio station managers in
the Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown metropolitan markets.
managers were selected from radio stations reported in the Arbitron
rating surveys. Radio station managers from stations reported in the Fall
1993 Arbitron, from the markets listed, formed the census . The total
size of this census was 31. A total of 23 individuals participated in
research, 7 from Akron/ Canton, 9 from Cleveland, and 7 from
(Arbitron, 1993, III).
The Qualitative Research: Depth Interviews
The researcher used depth interviews, a qualitative approach, as the pilot
component of the study. Wimmer and Dominick observed that depth
interviews give investigators the opportunity to use broad questions to
gain information on a subject (Wimmer and Dominick, 1994, 154-155).
depth interviews also were used to assist in constructing a
for the survey. The researcher interviewed eight individuals for this
study. These information-rich cases included persons with the following
backgrounds: 1) a vice president and executive sales director of a
medium-market broadcast company, 2) operations manager and program director
for a small-market radio station, 3) a vice president and general manager
of a radio station, 4) a radio broadcast consultant of a major
consulting firm, 5) a vice president and general manager of a major
advertising agency, 6) a president of a national radio broadcast
firm, 7) a vice president of a national group of 13 radio stations, and 8)
a president of a multi-media corporation owning 15 radio stations.
The Quantitative Research: Survey Questionnaire
The researcher constructed the questionnaire for this study so that each
radio station manager's attitudes were measured using two Likert
(Singletary, 1994, 84-85). In this study, respondents evaluated
that were identified in the depth interviews as motivating and
forces for a radio station's format change. On one scale, respondents
asked to evaluate factors on a scale from 0 to 10 with 0 as `not a reason
at all' and 10 `as the strongest possible reason' to make a format
Since the survey was conducted over the telephone, it was easier for
respondents to remember and use this scale in their evaluations.
The researcher then used another Likert scale to examine the same
variables. Participants could respond to factors with either highly
likely, likely, neutral, unlikely, or highly unlikely. The results of
approach assisted the researcher in gaining an understanding of the
factors under examination and provided information for more extensive
Babbie notes that the ultimate validity of a measure cannot be proven. It
is difficult to say that a measure truly reflects a concepts meaning. As
for this study's measure to test if a competitor's format change is a
that influences other station managers to consider a station format
change, it has face validity.
Since this study did not use any established measures and the survey
questionnaire was untested, there is no way to assess the reliability of
this research (Babbie, 1992, 130-131).
Inductive analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data. Patton
identifies inductive analysis as one method of organizing themes and
patterns in the data. Once data is collected, the formal analysis begins.
He identifies inductive analysis as a method whereby "patterns, themes,
and categories of analysis come from the data; they emerge out of the
rather than being decided upon prior to data collection and analysis"
(Patton, 1987, 150). There are two kinds of patterns that materialize
the analysis of the data: (1) the categories developed and articulated by
the participants in the study, and (2) the patterns which people did
label "and the analyst developed terms to described these inductively
generated categories" (Patton, 1987, 150).
Univariate analysis was used by the researcher to study and interpret the
meaning of the data collected through the survey questionnaires. The
analysis of the data involved descriptive statistics that examined
frequency distributions, measures of central tendency, and measures of
dispersion of the data (Babbie, 1992, G3).
Data analysis was accomplished using the Statistical Package for the
Social Sciences (SPSS release 4.1) through the Kent State University
mainframe computer. The following section details the results of the
analysis of the data collected from the depth interviews and survey
questionnaire (Norusis, 1983).
Motivating Forces for Changing a Radio Station's Format
The researcher conducted the depth interviews during the first two weeks
of April 1994. The researcher questioned participants and probed for
reasons or forces that move radio managers to change the formats of their
radio stations. Out of this path of inquiry, the researcher
nine factors that possibly act on radio managers to make a station
change. The factors include slippage in station ratings, lack of
revenues, competitive moves such as format changes, the development of
hot new format, ownership change of a competitor, ownership change of
station, station research, marginal profits, and anticipated format
of a competing station. None of the participants cited every item
above. Each of the respondents noted three or four factors. When
combined, a list of nine potential factors was developed to determine what
leads radio station managers to consider a radio station format
These factors were slippage in ratings, lack of sales revenues,
moves, the development of a hot new format, ownership change of
competitor, own station ownership change, station research, marginal
profits, and anticipated format change of competing station.
One of the most cited factors for changing a radio station's format was
the lack of sales revenues. Six of eight people noted the lack of
revenues in the current format as a very strong reason to change
Another most cited factor for changing a station's format was slippage
station audience ratings. There were five respondents who cited
audience ratings of a radio station's current format as a strong
The most cited factor for changing a radio station's format was
competitive pressures. All eight participants described competitive
pressures as a force in deciding to change a radio station's format.
Respondents noted that competitive moves such as format changes, changes
a hot new format, or attacks by a competitor in a similar format would
lead them to consider a station format change. It is important to
however, that only one of the individuals cited this as a very strong
reason to change formats. Two participants noted it as their secondary
factor, and the remaining five people stated this as a third or fourth
lesser factor in contemplating a station format change.
Opposing Forces To Changing a Radio Station's Format
Upon completing the discussion on forces that might lead the participants
to change a radio station's format, the focus switched to factors that
lead them to reconsider their decision. The question was framed:
that the individual was contemplating a format change, what then would
factors or reasons to reconsider changing a station's format?
The following factors were identified by the participants as reasons to
not change a format: ownership dislike of the proposed new format,
station advertisers, current loyal listeners, being unique in current
format, the cost of changing a station's format, weak sales force to
new format, station research, consultant's advice, and deep pockets of
competitor. Unlike the forces for changing a radio station's format,
was no factor that was identified by a majority of the participants. Some
factors received mention by three respondents; all the other factors were
observed only once.
The forces against change identified by three participants included the
station's current advertisers, current listeners, and station
The loss of current advertisers was noted by both the small-market
manager and the president of the company owning several stations. The
president of the broadcasting company observed that anytime a radio
changes format, it starts from ground zero and will need to build another
listener and advertiser base. His comment was that too many radio
underestimate the loss of business that occurs when changing a radio
Another factor identified by three individuals was current listener
loyalty. Participants observed that current listenership might lead the
manager not to change a station's format, particularly if the
audience for the proposed format is questionable. One respondent
that often it is a matter of studying the current listeners and
determining if the station can encourage them to listen longer, and during
other days and dayparts. Improvements are then made to the current
which then leads to an increase in the station's ratings.
the station avoids changing its format.
Station research was another factor identified by three respondents as a
reason to not to change a radio station's format. They noted that
may reveal that potential listeners, advertising revenues, or both for a
proposed format may not be as great as first thought. In addition,
research may reveal that improvements in the current format would build
more listeners and advertising dollars than making the costly move of
changing the station's format. The remaining force identified by three
participants was the cost of changing a station's format. All three
individuals noted that this is not a strong or primary force, but it is a
consideration that might make them not change the format.
One comment worth noting is that it all comes down to what can be
described as the risk vs. benefit ratio. All the risks and all the
benefits have to be weighed and examined before changing a radio station's
format. His thoughts were that the factors mentioned to changing a
pro and con, need to be weighed against the potential benefit of making
that change. Are the prospective revenue benefits worth the risk of
Changing A Radio Station's Format
In exploring radio format changes and change management, the researcher
asked the eight participants to describe the process of changing a
station's format. All the respondents observed that format changes
dependent on the condition of the station and its market. No two
situations are alike. In their observations, planning, timing, and staff
changes would be different for each station's format change.
Six of the eight people stated that once a decision is made to change a
station's format, it is usually executed quickly. The six respondents
indicated the timing of a format change from when a decision is made to
implementation is between one and four weeks. They felt the timing was
important because they feared the decision would leak out and give the
competition time to gear up a combative marketing campaign. Two
individuals noted that they had changed a station's format in three to four
days, although it is something they would not recommend. In one case, the
respondent observed that a station was offered a large amount of money by
a competitor, with a similar format, to drop and change its current
in two hours. The station agreed to do it, and in two hours dropped
current format. For three days the station played the songs of one
from the new format until a new music library arrived.
One participant said that when the station changed its format, he had
hired telemarketers to handle calls from listeners. Telephone calls
screened so that positive calls of praise were passed on to the
Negative calls were taken by telemarketers who listened, probed for
reasons of dissatisfaction, and offered information to the
on how the format change improved the station's ability to serve its
listeners. The unhappy listener was then offered a dinner for two at a
nice restaurant if he or she would listen, try out the station's new
format, and then call with feedback. The respondent noted that this
approach was extremely successful in handling and converting irate
listeners from the old to the new format.
The census was comprised of 20 males and 3 females. Twelve of the 23 had
greater than 15 years of radio management experience, 7 had between 10
15 years, 1 had between 5 and 10 years, and 3 respondents had less
five years of radio management experience. Seven of the 23
were general managers of group owned stations. The other 16 were
managers of radio stations that owned no other stations outside their
market. The ages of the respondents ranged from 22 to 74. The median
was 49 with a mean age of 48.7. Four respondents refused to provide
Seventeen of the 23 participants had changed a radio station's format.
The other six people had no format-change experience. Of the 17 who
five individuals had experience changing a radio station's format
people had changed formats two times, three people had changed formats
three times, two participants had changed formats four times, and one
respondent had changed a radio station's format seven times.
The following sections provide results of the attitude measurements of
factors for and against changing a radio station's format. Data
involved descriptive statistics that included frequency distribution,
mode, and standard deviation.
Possible Forces That Influence a Format Change
The researcher had the respondents evaluate potential factors that may
influence a radio manager to change a station's format using a 0 to 10
scale. A score of 0 meant the factor is not at all a reason and a score
10 was the highest possible reason to change a radio station's format.
The results of the survey questionnaire appear to support the results of
the depth interviews. The factor, a competitor's format change,
mean score of 3.565. At first glance this would indicate that radio
general managers in the census rated a competitor's format change as a
low reason to consider changing their station's format. However, the
standard deviation is large, 2.761, which indicates the scores were
distributed from the mean. The range of reported scores was a minimum
with a maximum of 8. The mode value was 0 with a frequency of 5. The
values 2, 3, 5 and 8 had a frequency of 3.
While the results indicate that radio station managers in Akron, Canton,
Cleveland, and Youngstown cite a competitor's format change as a weak
motivating force for a station format change, the range and frequency
distribution of the scores may indicate that the strength of this factor
varies. Five of the radio station general managers evaluated this
with a 0, but the other 18 respondents measured the factor between 1
While the mean score indicates this is a weak factor, the range and
frequency distribution of each of the scores exhibit strength that varies
between 0, not at all a force, to 8, strong.
Radio station general managers in the census were asked to evaluate nine
potential forces in the survey questionnaire. Evaluations were
accomplished using the same 11-point Likert scale. Slippage in station
ratings, lack of sales revenues, marginal profits, and station research
received mean scores of 7 or higher in measurement. But the standard
deviation for each of the factors mean scores was large. This indicates
that the scores were widely dispersed. However, the frequency
of each score showed that the majority of the respondents evaluated these
factors as 6 or higher.
The next segment of the survey used a another Likert scale to measure the
attitudes of radio general managers toward possible factors
station format change. The scale used was 1 `highly unlikely,' 2
`unlikely,' 3 `neutral,' 4 `likely,' and 5 `highly unlikely.' An
examination of the results of the second Likert scale measurements indicate
that a competitor's format change is unlikely to lead a station manager to
change a station's format. The mean score was 2.304 with a standard
deviation of 1.063. In this census, radio station managers observed that
it is unlikely a competitor's format change would lead them to
station format change. However, the standard deviation is somewhat
exhibiting a wide dispersion of scores. The mode was 2 (unlikely)
frequency of 8. The range and frequency distribution of each score
from a score of 1 (Highly Unlikely) with a frequency of 6 to a score
(likely) with a frequency of 4. There were 5 respondents who cited
value of 3 (neutral) for this factor. Overall, 14 respondents rated
factor at least unlikely, but 5 cited neutral and 4 responded with
Evaluations were made for the other motivating factors that might
influence a radio general manager to change a station's format. The
measurements exhibit the clearest results for lack of sales revenues with
mean score of 4.652 and standard deviation of .714, marginal profits had a
mean score of 4.130 and a standard deviation of .968, and station research
had a mean score of 3.783 and a standard deviation of .736. The results
indicate that the radio station managers in the census evaluated these
factors as likely to motivate them to consider making a station format
change. Slippage in ratings also received a mean score of 4.087, but
standard deviation was 1.240. The frequency distribution though
that 18 of the 23 respondents rated this factor likely or higher as a
The other factors of competitor's format change, hot new formats,
anticipated format change of competitor, ownership change of competitor,
and own station ownership change received mean scores that rated the
factors unlikely to lead the radio station general managers in the census
to consider a station format change. However, the factors' mean
standard deviations that were large indicating a wide dispersion of
Possible Factors Opposing A Format Change
In the final segment of the survey, respondents, using a Likert scale,
measured possible factors that might influence radio sales managers to
reconsider a station format change. The same Likert scale was used
1`highly unlikely,' 2 `unlikely,' 3 `neutral,' 4 `likely,' and 5
likely.' The score reflected a radio station manager's attitude
potential factors that may cause a decision to change a station's
be reconsidered. The results of these measurements were inconclusive. M
ost of the mean scores for these factors had large standard deviations
indicating a wide distribution of scores.
The intention of this study was to examine one specific force that may
influence radio station managers to change formats. As it was, the
size of the census limited the ability of the research to examine the
hypothesis. What this study does find is that there are a number of
that influence change, as noted by Lewin. However, due to the study's
limitations, the exact nature and strength of those forces are unknown.
The results of this study do not support the research hypothesis. The
data collected from the depth interviews identified a competitor's
change as a potential force in influencing a radio station's manager
consider a station format change. But most of the eight individuals
interviewed noted the force as a third or fourth reason. Analysis of the
data gathered through the survey questionnaire showed that radio
general managers in the census do not cite this factor as a primary
A competitor's format change was evaluated by the census as a weak
influence in the consideration of a station format change. However, the
dispersion of the scores indicate that the presence and/or strength of
force varies among the participants in the census.
The pursuit of this research produced two related questions: what are the
motivating forces that influence a station manager to consider a station
format change?, and what are the opposing forces that influence a
manager to reconsider a format change? The depth interviews
nine potential motivating forces. These forces were slippage in
ratings, lack of sales revenues, competitive moves, the development of
hot new format, ownership change of competitor, own station ownership
hange, station research, marginal profits, and anticipated format change
The evaluations of radio general managers from the census exhibited the
clearest results for lack of sales revenues, marginal profits, and
research. These factors were identified as forces that would likely
influence the managers to consider a station format change. Slippage in
station ratings was evaluated as a likely force, but the dispersion
measurements for this factor showed the evaluations varied widely.
The other factors of competitive moves, hot new format, anticipated format
change of competitor, ownership change of competitor, and own station
ownership change were rated as unlikely to lead the census to consider a
station format change. However, the evaluations were widely dispersed
all these factors. This means that the strength and/or presence of
forces varied among radio managers in the census.
The depth interviews identified ten possible forces opposing a radio
station format change. The forces identified were: ownership dislike of
prospective new format, current station advertisers, current loyal
listeners, being unique in current format, cost of changing a station's
format, a weak sales force, station research, cost of operating new
consultant's advice, and deep pockets of competitor. Measurement of
these factors in the survey questionnaire were inconclusive. The
dispersion of the scores made the results unclear. Conclusion and
Although the initial results of this study failed to confirm the research
hypothesis, this conclusion would be premature. The distribution of
scores from the survey questionnaire showed that the strength of a
competitor's format change varies in its ability to influence radio station
general managers in the census to consider a station format change. One
possible explanation for these results is that the size of the census
surveyed was small. This could affect the ability of the descriptive
statistics to provide clear results.
Comments offered by some of the respondents offer another interpretation.
In evaluating the forces of change, one respondent stated that "it depends
on the corporate strategy" of what would lead a station manager to
consider a station format change. Another individual from Cleveland said
that the only way his station would change formats "is if it got
because the station is focused on serving the ethnic community with
The comments suggest that one possible element influencing the
distribution of survey scores in the evaluation of forces is the mission or
goals of each station. Lewin stated that change is movement from a
current condition to a desired condition. The researcher suggests that
component not considered in the study is the radio station's current point
of equilibrium and what, if any, is the desired point of equilibrium. The
desired equilibrium in the example of a radio station may be defined as
its mission or goals.
The goals may range from a level of profitability to serving the needs of
a specific listening audience with specific information and
The respondent with the ethnic-centered programming served the ethnic
community. This station's mission was to serve this specific audience.
factor, according to the participant, would lead the station to change its
format except if it is sold. Another radio station general manager may be
influenced to change a station's format if its level of profitability
dropped below a certain point.
An additional explanation for the results of the survey questionnaire was
that participants were asked to evaluate and rate potential motivating
opposing factors individually. One respondent commented that "it's a
combination of things that lead a radio general manager to make a station
format change. A participant from the depth interviews stated that
dynamics of radio station format change are complex. Lewin observed
forces have various strengths and that the sum of these forces
equilibrium. Thus evaluating and rating each factor separately may be
unrealistic and out of context.
While this study did establish that a competitor's format change as a
possible motivating force among the participants in the research, the
strength of this factor is still unknown. A better question would be:
is a competitor's format change a significant force in influencing a radio
station manager to consider changing a station's format?, and what is its
strength in relation to other factors?
The implications of this study: the presence and strength of forces that
act on radio station managers are dynamic and complex. The findings
suggest that station managers do not have identical forces with identical
strengths acting on them. There appears to be other variables that
determine the forces which create equilibrium for a station.
There are limitations to this study that need to be noted. First, the
results of the depth interviews cannot be generalized. The nature of
qualitative methods makes it difficult to generalize results.
inquiry is excellent for observing and gathering information on the
experiences of participants. Patton observed that the term generalization
in qualitative research gives way to extrapolation. Extrapolations
mild speculations on the likely applicability of results to other
situations. They are thoughtful,logical, and useful when based on
collected from information-rich sources (Patton, 1987, 168).
Data collected by the survey questionnaire is limited in its ability to be
generalized. A census of radio station general managers in Akron, Canton,
Cleveland, and Youngstown was surveyed. Their input provided a better
understanding of the topic. It is unknown how this census reflects the
attitudes of radio station general managers in the U.S. Thus, the
can be generalized to the population of the census, but nowhere else.
The final limitation concerns the questionnaire used for the survey. The
questionnaire did not use established measures and was untested.
it had face validity, there is no way of evaluating the reliability of
This research serves as a pilot study for gaining familiarity with the
subject of radio station format changes. The results indicated that
dynamics of radio station format changes are complex. The researcher
recommends that future studies investigate how the station mission or
goals determine which motivating and opposing forces influence a station
format change. In addition, other variables such as market size, type
ownership, and the general manager's experience should be examined to
determine if there are any significant relationships that decide the
influencing or opposing radio station general managers to consider a
station format change.
Future research needs to be conducted concerning the second part of
Lewin's force-field theory of change in relation to station format
The first part of Lewin's force-field theory requires managers to analyze
the current situation and identify which forces can and cannot be changed.
The second component, which involves Lewin's three stage process of
change, was not within the scope of this study. However, during the
interviews the researcher did query participants on how station format
hanges were implemented. Information collected did indicate support
Lewin's three stage process of change, but further research is needed.
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