Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Outsider's View of a Radio Station

From TechNet Blogs by Harold Wong:

Every once in a while, I get a chance to visit a facility that can be categorized as “pretty cool”.  A couple of weeks ago, I had such an opportunity and thought I would do a quick blog post on it (meant to get this out sooner).
I had a chance to visit Blake Handler (an MVP in Los Angeles) on Monday, April 11th at his work. Blake happens to work for CBS Radio and he was able to give me a quick tour of their facility. I’ve always wondered how things worked in the radio business and this was definitely an eye opening experience.
In the “old” days, music was stored on cartridges that were inserted into the DJ’s console and so the DJ actually had to do some work during the show. Today, everything is pretty much computerized so the songs are all stored on a server and then streamed out. The DJ has a computer screen that shows the list of songs that will be played as well as where commercials will be aired. Other than acknowledging the next song to be played, there really isn’t a whole lot for the DJ to do. To be fair, this does depend on the format of the program. If it is a talk show, then the DJ is definitely responsible for hosting guests that are there in person or on the phone and guiding the conversations that take place. For non-talk shows or news programs, it didn’t seem like the DJ had that much to do.
Also, for news programs, I found that most of that is somewhat scripted and approved before the newsperson reads it over the air. I say “somewhat scripted” because it is usually the news person who writes the initial piece and the editor may make minor changes before it is approved. Ultimately, it is still unique information, but I always thought it was totally ad-lib and off the cuff. Now, I know it is highly regulated.
Another interesting thing is that the FCC has strict rules on how many times in a given period a single artist can be aired. Example – it Is not allowed to air all 60 continuous minutes of songs from Phil Collins. There are rules for how often a song can be played as well as how often different songs from a single artist can be played.
Since a lot of radio stations are also being broadcast over the Internet, the coordination of commercials seems like a science. As an example, if the franchise owner of a McDonalds paid for a commercial in the Los Angeles area, but not in the Irvine area, then the station has ensure the commercial is only aired for the area in which it was meant. This also means that a different commercial would air over the Internet since that could be heard in Phoenix and therefore the commercial would mean nothing to me here in Phoenix. This is definitely a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.
I really enjoyed the tour and am glad Blake was able to take time out of his day to give me the personal tour.

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