Radio Talk: Is It Time to Retire the Title “Program Director?”

When I was programming radio stations, I used to describe my job as program director this way: “Everything that comes out of the speakers is my fault.”  But the job actually required much more than that just, well, programming.

There was plenty of work to do with the sales department.  Tasks and jobs fell down from Corporate.  There were regulatory duties and community obligations.

Then the Internet began to take hold on radio.  Suddenly, the PD had to acquire the skills of a webmaster ninja.  Instead of worrying just about song rotations, the next promo and who’s gonna fill in for the morning show when they’re away next month, the PD was expected to know about stream bitrates, website wireframes, newsletter databases, heat maps for eyeballs, navigation strategies and a million other things.  And PDs were told that the website was every bit as important as what was coming out of the transmitter.  Workload doubled practically overnight.

By the middle 00’s, being a program director meant much, much more than shepherding the stuff coming out of the speakers.

Some radio companies have already retired the title, preferring to call their (former) PDs “brand managers.”  I actually suggested that name to a division president almost ten years ago.  Today, though, I don’t like the term.  It makes it sound like the (formerly known as) PD is selling laundry detergent.

So what’s a better title?  This article suggests “Director of User Experience,” a vaguely Silicon Valley-ish appellation.

And what would such a person do?  Check out the article.  If your radio career aspirations lead in this direction, don’t expect to get any sleep.  Ever.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Radio Talk: Is It Time to Retire the Title “Program Director?”

  • April 28, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I like term “program director” even more in the year 2014 because it has that vintage radio vibe. I agree, Brand manager works, and it makes sense, but sounds too stale.


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