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Squeezing Radio's Cash Cow

Radio stations have a new tool for getting more commercials into the same amount of time. The digital technology, called "Cash," removes the pauses between words and even syllables, leaving more time for commercials - sometimes as much as four extra minutes an hour.

According to The New York Times, 50 radio stations across the country are using it.

There have been ways to eliminate pauses before, both analog and digital. What makes Cash special is that it can do it with live events, such as talk shows.

WABC-AM in New York used Cash to compress Rush Limbaugh's daily talk show, until he complained about it during a broadcast.

"I think it is potential doom for the radio industry," he told The Times. "Nobody in his right mind is going to listen to a radio program where 30 of every 60 minutes is advertising, and no advertiser wants to be sandwiched in between six other commercials."

"But, of course, to the technology nerds, this is a fascinating device."

Station owners seen it as a potential boon for the industry.

Limbaugh says he uses pauses for effect, and Cash squeezes the juice out of his style.

Michael Harrison, editor-in-chief of Talkers magazine about the talk-radio industry, calls it a syndrome of our times.

"We have no patience for anything that might seem superfluous," he said. "We're at a time when we're so caught up in speed and greed that we have no qualms about bastardizing artistic integrity."

Advertising executives complain there is already too much clutter on the dial, making each commercial less effective, and adding more commercials each hour isn't going to help.

With the end of Federal Communications Commission limits on the amount of commercial time permitted each hour, stations have increased their commercial loads, from about a dozen commercials an hour to 20, according to Duncan's American Radio, a consulting group. At the same time, radio listenership has decreased 10 to 12 percent.

"We are throwing 'way too many commercials at our listeners," Cincinnati consultant James Duncan told The Times. "I think stations will slowly realize that there is a maximum that listeners can stand, and if they don't, they will seriously downgrade their listenership."

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