Recently, Jon Accarino wrote a piece for RadioWorld about a new survey that asked listeners what they want from radio deejays:

The numbers reveal radio is still very much powered by personalities. A full 86% of respondents prefer radio hosts who “feel authentic,” rather than perfectly polished. Additionally, 73% favor DJs who go beyond just introducing songs to “share stories” and insights that bring deeper meaning to the music. And 68% like on-air talent to use a casual, relatable “everyman” communication style reminiscent of speaking with a friend, rather than a distant celebrity.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of music radio stations don’t let their on-air people have much personality outside of morning drive time. Over the last two decades, the amount of time they’re allowed to speak has been drastically reduced because management considers it clutter, not entertainment. Talk segments are often limited to a couple of times an hour. Even when they’re permitted to crack open the mic, it’s only to spew some promotional message (“That’s Carrie Underwood and I’m Mickey Parker. Tomorrow morning at 7:20 on Z93, Dickie and Diane will give you details about when Morgan Wallen tickets will go on sale!”) or give you a weather report that’s so in depth it lasts a full seven seconds.

Even the traffic reporters can’t tell you about more than one problem spot because they have to read so many sponsor messages. With only a pre-recorded intro (i.e. nothing live from the DJ), the traffic reporter might say, “In the O’Reilly Auto Parts traffic center, this is Ellen Adams with an update brought to you by Subway, where you can buy one footlong and get another one free! On highway forty, there’s a slowdown as you approach the 170 interchange. Remember, when you need new patio furniture, go to Jimmy’s House Of Outdoor Stuff, now open until 9pm!”

Does Mickey count as a radio personality even if he never shares stories or insights about the music? Does Ellen, who is very good at reading commercials out loud? Would you consider either of them relatable?

I’m sure the survey respondents are being honest about what they want from the radio stations they listen to. After all, if they merely wanted wall-to-wall music uninterrupted by human voices, they could listen to Spotify or Apple Music or any other streaming service. Unfortunately, corporate radio owners either aren’t paying attention or don’t care, so what the public says it wants and what it gets are too disparate concepts.

The survey also included a question about AI. Nearly half of those polled said they do not want to hear artificial intelligence voices on the air — not that there are many broadcast outlets using that technology. Just the concept of an “AI voice” turns people off, until you remind them that’s what Siri and Alexa are.

Here’s a topic that was not brought up in the survey, though it reflects the reality of so much music radio today: “How would you react if you found out the disc jockey you’re listening to is not actually in the studio right now because she recorded all of her voice segments at nine o’clock this morning, and they’re being inserted in between the songs and commercials by a computer? What if you knew she doesn’t actually live anywhere near you, but after she did her segments for this station, she then did the same thing for five other stations the company owns in other cities she doesn’t live in?”

That has nothing to do with offering listeners what they want, but everything to do with the economics of scale, corporate efficiency, and — most of all — greed.