How Awful Is the Radio in Your City?
Take This Simple Test

by Dave Mandl

Listen to local radio for four consecutive hours (come on, you can do it!), randomly changing the station every so often. Start with 500 points, and add or subtract points as indicated for each occurrence of an event listed here. Then check your city's score against the scale below--the lower the score, the more awful.

Each advertisementsubtract 2
Public station: Pseudo-classy "underwriting" ad by prestige-seeking corporation or foundationsubtract 10
Any straight-faced claim that station is "the best" ("The Best Music," "San Diego's Best Rock," etc.)subtract 20
Purportedly "non-stop" music that is in fact interruptedsubtract 25
The word "relaxing" used in description of station's formatsubtract 20
The phrase "Classic Rock" used in any waysubtract 20
Contest requiring listeners to embarrass themselves by answering their phones with asinine promotional slogansubtract 25
Station giving out 900 number for requests, polls, or anythingsubtract 25
Violation of FCC regulations (obscenity, failure to air legal station ID when required, etc.)add 20
(If obviously deliberateadd an additional 10)
Live in-studio interview with band or author that is not trying to sell anything (tour, new record, book, etc.)add 30
Interview with really stupid band with nothing to saysubtract 25
(If they take calls live on the airsubtract an additional 15)
Kids' show actually produced by kidsadd 30
Any song you've heard played on the radio in the past three dayssubtract 20
"Stairway to Heaven," "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Won't Get Fooled Again," or any other '70s stadium-rock anthemsubtract 30
Any song or other recording featuring sounds of people having sex, but only if it includes menadd 25
Any song by Nick Drakeadd 30
Any piece of music from a Touch cassetteadd 30
Piece of non-Western music played for no reason (i.e., not part of a special or specialty show)add 25
Any Beatles song except "Old Brown Shoe"subtract 25
"Jesus Was Way Cool" by King Missilesubtract 50
Any record not easily purchasableadd 15
Any piece of music longer than six minutesadd 20
Any piece of music longer than 14 minutessubtract 20
Song so bad you have to change the station before it's oversubtract 30
(If intentionaladd 10 instead)
Song promoting shoplifting or other blatantly illegal actadd 35
Heavy metal song that actually frightens youadd 20
Cynical attempt to feign affinity with wage-slave listeners ("Thank God it's Friday," reference to Wednesday as "Hump Day," etc.)subtract 40
Bona-fide pirate station receivedadd 45
(If station plays any record you've heard on a commercial station in the past three weekssubtract 30 instead)
DJ coughing, sneezing, etc. on micadd 20
(If trying to be artysubtract 25 instead)
DJ reading poetry on the airsubtract 20
(If DJ's own poetrysubtract an additional 15)
A half-hour or more of continuous music without bragging about itadd 20
Patriotic remark of any kindsubtract 30
Anti-Cuba remarksubtract 25
Pro-Cuba remarksubtract 25
Racist remark or jokesubtract 35
Anti-American remarkadd 35
(If DJ is a Third World Nationalist typesubtract 30 instead)
Anti-cop remarkadd 35
Use of the expression "politically correct" by right-wing talk-show creepsubtract 30
Anti-music business remarkadd 20
(If by someone selling "alternative" productsubtract 25 instead)
Any anti-drug remark or advertisementsubtract 40
Advertisement read personally by DJ (unless comically flubbed or deliberately sabotaged)subtract 25
Any discussion of the weathersubtract 15
Jazz shows only: Excessive time spent reading personnel or session information for a tracksubtract 4 for each minute over 1 minute
Approving references to Satan or Satanism by anyone 15 or youngeradd 40
Approving references to Satan or Satanism by anyone older than 17subtract 25
Self-promotion by DJ of his/her own book, record, or other projectsubtract 4 for each minute it goes on
Use of the pretentious non-word "musics"subtract 20
DJ referring to what he/she is doing as "radio art"subtract 25
Prank phone call made live on the air, if it's entertainingadd 30
(If to a government or corporate officialadd an additional 25)
College stations: DJ talking about self for more than two minutes consecutively, unless it's really funnysubtract 20
College show underwritten by local "hip" record storesubtract 25
College DJ mispronouncing person or place name during news readingsubtract 25
Gratuitous reference to fellow DJs by name, or other "in" station referencesubtract 20
Joking or bantering with station colleague who is off mic (i.e., inaudible)subtract 5 for each 5 seconds it goes on
During public station fundraising drive: Excessive repetition of pledge-line numbersubtract 5 for each mention more than 6 per half-hour
Denunciation of people who listen but don't pledge as "ripping the station off," etc.subtract 30
Either of the following offered as membership premiums: coffee mug, tote bagsubtract 20
Anything at all that makes you laugh uncontrollably (I'm assuming this isn't easy to do)add 50
Each Christmas song played during Christmas seasonsubtract 1/2
("Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" by Bruce Springsteensubtract an additional 15)
Any holiday song played during the wrong seasonadd 25

-500 or lower: Even worse than I thought
-200 - -499: About average
-1 - -199: Not bad at all
0 or higher: Check your math

[Previously published in the book "Radiotext(e)" and "Zingmagazine"]

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