Every once in a while, a news item comes along that provides a perfect snapshot of the times -- that neatly encapsulates everything a culture is all about at a moment in its history. Out of Houston today comes a story like that, the kind of thing you can stick a pin in along our timeline marking the end of one epoch and the beginning of another.
Yesterday at 9am Houston's last remaining news radio station, 92FM, went off the air for good, ending its all-news format and replacing it with religious programming -- and that religion is Beyoncé. As in the station will now play non-stop Beyoncé. When I say non-stop Beyoncé, I mean nothing but Beyoncé. 92FM will play all Beyoncé all the time -- morning, noon and night, 24/7. Beyoncé, Beyoncé, Beyoncé and, in case you've just gotta have more -- Beyoncé.
The station cites a three-year-long struggle with bad ratings for the sudden, drastic change, with a 92FM statement coming right out and saying that the market hasn't shown "a sustainable appetite for news." (This is Texas we're talking about, after all.) In addition to the format switch, the station has had to lay off 47 people. I mean, how many people does it really take to basically play a recording of the same songs over and over again until the apocalypse mercifully arrives?
Whether this whole thing is some kind of bluff or oddball experiment, who knows? The mass staff bloodletting would seem to indicate that "News 92" really is history and given that Houston is Beyoncé's hometown the station probably figures that if a Beyoncé-exclusive format will work anywhere, it'll work there, but nobody can predict the future (not even Beyoncé).
At least for the foreseeable future, though, this is how it is: news is out and Beyoncé is in.
At this point, Beyoncé is such the singularly dominant force in our culture that if 92FM's new format can't be considered religious radio, it might at least qualify as state-run propaganda.