Is bombast gone? And do they need to look good on screen too?

Bombast and other techniques in the old days of broadcasting are undergoing changes. New technology allows the radio talk show host not just to be heard but also seen. And engagement with the audience is speedier though there’s less voiced reaction from listeners.

The more telling change in the way radio commentaries are delivered these days is that talk show hosts are not just heard, they’re seen.

But then, in the late eighties going into the nineties, the requirement of voice quality was downgraded too. That was a big change in standards.

Voice timber and diction became less important than capacity to tackle public issues, along with the personality’s overall power to draw the audience.

Some of today’s top radio commentators benefited from devaluation of voice as factor for hiring. Many of them don’t have “the announcer’s voice” prized in the early days of radio.

Live streaming

Now looks may matter as well. The reason is new technology, which allows live streaming of images of the commentator as he talks in the announcer’s booth. The radio commentator is now seen live on Facebook and similar platforms. The host who looks good has the edge over the rival who doesn’t.

How much will the commentator’s live-streaming image on Facebook live affect audience attention? The voice has long mattered less to drawing listeners; it’s more on content and style of the talk show host. Would looks make a difference?

Or maybe not. If the interest of today’s viewer is just in the interesting or exciting, then the commentator’s on-screen image may not make much difference.

They’re still exploring the new facet of the medium. As a product, it’s still rough on the edges, no prop or frill, no direction or packaging that a TV production has. They may come around to doing that though.

Old style, new methods

The game is still getting the audience and doing whatever it takes, including new methods, to get the rating, which is more personality-oriented and quantified.

Radio commentators differ on style in drawing and engaging with their audience.

Some see the need to be hard-hitting most of the time. It’s a way for listeners to strike back at public officials who short-change them on service and steal taxpayer’s money. Others think bombast is “boring” and never existed at all.

The disagreement may be due to the failure to define the term. Does raising one’s voice, sounding angry, or using coarse words against a person on an issue make a commentary bombastic?

Some use canned laughter or “laugh-out” stinger, thinking it is infectious and complements what is said. Used indiscriminately though, which is often, it disappoints and annoys. A sad event cannot be laughed at; a dry remark cannot be made funny by fabricated giggling or howling. Worse, it may be used by a libel complainant as evidence of malice or ill-will when defamatory words are accompanied by snickering.

Engaging with audience

High-tech has made it easier for the audience to react to the talk show host: text message, Facebook Messenger, Twitter and similar carriers.

But most talk show hosts have dropped the phoned-in audience participation which in the past provided time for listeners to vent anger on the airwaves. For their own reasons: they need the time for their commercials or their own rant, with no interruption from listeners. And they can restrict or otherwise control public reactions.

‘Terrorizing’ on air

The sobering fact though that must disturb some radio commentators who used “to terrorize the airlanes” (to use the phrase of a disgruntled public official) is that aggrieved victims of broadcast attack can now hit back at tormentors in social media.

Radio commentators may no longer “terrorize” the air-lanes. Aside from the anti-cyber crime law, their targets of criticism already have speedier and less restricted means to hit back, the social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.

One city councilor recently lashed on Facebook at a radio commentator, using some of the vile he could muster. He got the short end of the exchange as the talk show host had more time and bigger audience. Still, it tells news sources that they have the means to return fire if they want a squabble.

Easier on libel

The other thing that should caution radio commentators is that news sources have learned how to prepare libel lawsuits without going through the ordeal of securing tape from the National Telecommunications Commission.

The Supreme Court showed them the way: the aggrieved party hires a person who knows how the recorder works to tape the defamatory broadcast and testify in court about how the recording was done. A series of recorded broadcasts may prove the defamation and the malice, even without the help of the NTC or the radio station.