Talking radio on the TV: A conversation with Bryan Broadcasting's Ben Downs

BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - Ben Downs, Bryan Broadcasting's vice president and general manager, has been elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame.

Downs appeared on First News at Four to discuss the honor and how he is working to secure the future of radion. Watch the full conversation in the video player above. A transcript is below.

News 3's Kathleen Witte: This is Ben Downs from Bryan Broadcasting, and he's just been elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame--and celebrating 50 years at Bryan Broadcasting. How does the Hall of Fame thing feel?

Ben Downs: You know what I like best about it? They didn't have to award it posthumously. I think that that's really important. I really like that part of it. It's great. It used to be the induction ceremonies were in Dallas or Fort Worth or Houston, but they moved them to Kilgore now because they put a museum there. So I figure well, whatever, we'll get the map out. You remember maps? Paper, drawings?

KW: You do, after 50 years in radio.

Downs: So yes, I've been doing radio for a long time, most of it, give or take, at Bryan Broadcasting.

KW: You've been in radio for a very, very, very long time--

Downs: Just "very long time" will be fine.

KW: I don't need five "verys" for each decade? So, you've been in radio. You've seen the past in radio. You are also highly involved in the future of radio. You do some work with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). What does that work look like?

Downs: Radio has always changed. That's what it's done. In the 1950s, the big radio stations even had studio orchestras. Well, we don't have those anymore. Things have changed so much. One of the things I've been working with has been to make radio more, to make it blend more into the digital age. Make it more of an on-demand sort of thing. But I've also been focusing on AM radio. It came out of left field, but all of the chargers, all of the flat screens, all of the computers, all kick up noise in the AM band. So, I've been working with the FCC to allow them to let us, if we want to, go digital on AM. But things take time. They're regulators. It takes a long time. You'll hear a lot of AM stations say "We're at 1150 and 93.7 FM"--that was one of the things that a few of us were working on, and got a few years back, where it allowed AM stations to actually make a transition to add an FM frequency.

KW: And why does that matter?

Downs: FM isn't as noisy. If you were to put your radio next to your iPhone charger in the morning, it would be really hard to listen to the radio if it were AM. FM is immune to that sort of thing.

KW: I think a lot of us in the news media, even TV, sort of the newest one, we still get told, "Ah, you're a dying breed." So I'm sure you hear that too. Where are your thoughts on that?

Downs: Changes. You just have to change. That's the whole thing. If you don't change, if you still look at doing it the same way, then they're probably right. Look at all the things that KBTX does. You guys do podcasting, newscasts and everything, and I think the four o'clock news is especially important.

KW: You're just saying that because you're sitting across from me right now.

Downs: It's true; I am. But same thing with radio. On-demand is a big thing. We have all of our podcasts. The biggest thing we can do is have people live, who are looking out the window at the same things that people in Bryan-College Station are looking at. You can have a computer run anything. But if you really want to get one-on-one with people, and make them remember who you are, and be a part of the community, you have to have real people there.

KW: Real people, and real local people. Obviously I'm biased on that point, but that's one of the reasons we love Bryan Broadcasting, and of course, that's one of the reasons we love what we do. Anyway--Ben Downs from Bryan Broadcasting and newly elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame--

Downs: And not dead yet.

KW: Congratulations on all those points.