Entries Tagged as 'broadcasting'

The FCC Begins 2018 By Failing To Protect Local Communities

FCC LogoOn January 8, 2018, the Federal Communications Commission will remove the almost 80 year-old rule that required broadcasters to have a physical studio in or near the areas where they have a license to transmit TV or radio signals.  With that rule no longer in place, the FCC has issued a likely fatal blow to the tradition of local broadcasting in radio and TV.

I’m not talking about the syndication of a program, which has been a profitable and long standing broadcast practice (that’s how the world first heard about Oprah Winfrey). Rather, with the elimination of the rule requiring broadcast owners maintain a main studio in or near the local coverage area of their license …owners can rent an office somewhere, sell ads locally, while all non-network broadcasts emanate from one central location…some place else, anywhere else really.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who took a leadership role on this ruling, said “Continuing to require a main studio would detract from, rather than promote, a broadcaster’s ability and incentive to keep people informed and serve the public interest.”

Chairman Pai’s professional background is that of a lawyer, administrator and bureaucrat. He had only a brief career as a lawyer in the telecommunications industry. His resume references no work in broadcasting. None.

The only winner with the elimination of this rule is anyone with a large broadcasting company (about ½ dozen or more companies) who can now create centralized hub studios any single place in the country and simply send out a signal to a city or town’s transmitter.

If you go to the web site of your local TV and radio station, you’ll see the station’s corporate owner name. Click on the web site link…see how many other stations they own and where.

Then think about how much money they will save their company by shuttering all their local TV and radio stations, laying off a sizable portion (if not all) of their local staffs at those stations, putting their stations’ local sales departments in small rented local buildings while all broadcast operations emanate and are transmitted from a far-away US city.

They will try and make the broadcast look and sound local, maybe, but (as an example) a Los Angeles broadcast hub for scores of stations isn’t going to be able to truly share the local news and community feel of (say for example) Sioux Falls, SD or insert your town or city name here.

Cost cutting at local stations has been happening for some time at broadcast stations. Some radio stations broadcast only satellite programming, with maybe someone reading local news in the morning and a local TV meteorologist pre-recording a weather forecast throughout the day (or just using a national weather service…again, not local).

Many TV stations within an ownership group have their news programs actually directed from a regional production hub nowhere physically near the station. And in some markets, a TV station in one city or state will actually create a newscast in their city for a station and viewers in totally different and unrelated city…sometimes fairly far away. Or TV stations just forego a news operation all together. Too much time, effort and money….you understand.

Some will ask why it matters to have a station physically in a market. The Internet, YouTube, and iPhones have changed how we all consume news and programing. Satellite radio is more popular than ever as are Internet radio outlets.

I understand all that but…BECAUSE of those new channels — the need for local coverage is more important than ever and cannot be executed effectively by well-meaning people in a building hundreds or thousands of miles away who have no ties to a community.

A Winter Storm Whips Across Lake Erie South of Buffalo, NY

If you’ve ever been through a tornado, blizzard, forest fire, flood or other horrible disaster, that would be just one prime example of how news…live and local, will be almost completely lost either immediately or over a slow, imperceptible transition to viewers and listeners. Local meteorologists? Oh, they can just put those weather computers any place and see the readouts.

Oh, and the job losses at all these local stations? Well those are a big part of how ownership groups will save money, which is why broadcast lobbyists put immense political pressure on the executive and legislative branches of the US government (and thus the FCC) to get this rule eliminated. Just because they own broadcast outlets doesn’t necessarily make these TV and radio station group owners true broadcasters. Owners answer to revenue and profits and it matters little how those are achieved.

I understand and respect cost savings as a business owner. I get it.

But as a broadcaster, who understands the immense value that a radio and TV station bring to a community, I see a dangerous and probably irreversible change. Change whose resultant problems will be dramatically felt at a local level while its national implementers are safely ensconced in their vaults.

It may be a slow demise, but it will likely be local broadcasting’s demise nonetheless.

giving newbies a chance in broadcasting and voiceover

Susan Hunt Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame 2016This poor woman. She had no idea what she was about to unleash onto the world of broadcasting over 35 years ago.

This woman’s name is Susan Hunt. Yesterday it was announced that she is being inducted next month into the Buffalo Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame.

It is a deserving honor. Not because of the television work she has done for HGTV, PBS, Discovery, The Travel Channel, ESPN, HBO and the Golf Channel among others. That work is terrific and worthy of recognition.

However, Susan Hunt deserves to be in the Hall of Fame because she gave me Buffalo Broadcasters Hall of Fame Class of 2016my first job in broadcasting. It was an internship but for me it was a start. Given what she had to work with when this high school junior walked through the radio station door back then, though, she should receive something more like a medal. With any luck and maybe some therapy, she’s long forgotten the experience.

The year was 1980 and my brother Michael knew Susan and her family. He also knew of my budding interest in broadcasting and he knew that she was making her own way in broadcasting, at that time as the morning radio news anchor at WFXZ-FM (Foxy 93….I know, it was the 80’s).

Anyway, one night my brother and Susan got to talking. He told her about me, his younger brother still in high school, who wanted to get into broadcasting. She needed an intern in the morning. A contact was made, a deal was struck: I’d intern at the station, the station wouldn’t pay me and that’s broadcasting in a nutshell.

I knew nothing about journalism, radio news or even broadcasting. If there was a way to measure “less than nothing”, that’s where my media knowledge at the time would’ve really ranked.

And my high school was barely any help in this internship matter. The media teacher there, who would go on to be my business partner for a time and a groomsman at my wedding, tried to put something together resembling an internship but the high school guidance office was used to “forming” doctors and lawyers, not broadcasters. At the time, school alumnus Tim Russert wasn’t “NBC’s Tim Russert” yet (and he was a lawyer by trade anyway).

But in I jumped, with both my inexperienced feet, getting up at 4:00 am to get dressed and get the bus and be at the station by 5:45 for 2 or 3 times a week (I think). It was my first time listening to the farm reports on the radio (that’s how early in the morning it was – only me, farmers and chickens were awake). To give you a sense of when all this took place, the night before my first day in the Foxy 93 newsroom was the night John Lennon was assassinated.

Newsroom is a rough term, almost as rough as the term “radio station”. This place was a run down 2 story house at Main and Summer streets in what was, at the time, not the nicest of neighborhoods.

I could not have cared less about the building or the high school course credits. I was working at a radio station – learning the hard way – from somebody willing to give a newbie a chance. And that made all the difference.

The chance that Susan Hunt gave an ignorant. 17-year-old kid in 1980 helped clarify for him what he wanted to do with his life. That’s a pretty cool gift.

A communicator, a broadcaster, a voice over talent – it would take time, trial and error. But the success I’ve enjoyed might not have come as quickly or at all without that chance.

We all need that chance in our careers.

Likewise, for every chance we are given, we each should remember to offer that chance to someone in return.

Thank you, Susan, for my chance.

a quick note in support of steve harvey

Steve Harvey

I have neither watched the Miss Universe Pageant – for so many reasons – nor have I watched the show clips (consistently described as awkward and painful to watch) of host Steve Harvey’s mistake in announcing the Pageant winner.

I know that time will heal the embarrassment for all parties involved but that’s not today. Today, a woman had her dream given to her and snatched away and a man would give back an awful lot to get just one very public moment back.

Live broadcasts and social media don’t offer do-overs.

I cannot fathom, as I have heard some speculate, that this mistake was intentional and was a way to garner ratings. I think it was a simple, thoughtless mistake. On a public stage. Oh that familiar sting.

If you have been on any public stage (literally on the stage as a host or emcee), as I have been, and said something you regret, something that had unintentionally hurt someone (as I also have) it is an awful feeling. Awful. And it stays with you.

Even if the stage for a public mistake wasn’t world-wide, if you’re the one who made the mistake, it FEELS world wide.

So tonight while people rally around the young lady from Colombia, whom I also feel bad for, my thoughts are with Steve Harvey.

He has and will continue to apologize for his error on social media and in upcoming interviews. Fortunately the media frenzy will pass and the world will move on from this unfortunate situation.

But if Harvey is any kind of broadcaster (and he is a very talented broadcaster) this moment, this mistake, will stay with him. Bother him. Fester within him. It should not, but it will. Jokes will be made, probably the best ones by him in the future, but the ache of the memory will be there – lessened by time.

He will be forgiven over time by those most directly impacted. But what I hope for him is that he forgives himself. The mistake wasn’t the end of the world no matter how much it feels that way today. Today and for a little while, it’s going to be one day at a time.

It WILL be OK soon, Steve. It will. It really will.

living “on air” by joe cipriano with ann cipriano

livingonair_joe cip

Today is the day, November 1, 2013. The release date for Living On Air by Joe and Ann Cipriano is today and you can buy the book here.

In the book, Joe details:

* The in-studio wrestling match Joe had with Orson Welles over the Gallo Wine commercial auditions. Orson wanted the line to be “We will sell no wine before it’s time.” Joe wanted the line to be “Taste Great, Less Filling”. Orson won the audition and the wrestling match and Joe still has a bad back from Orson sitting on him (voice-over is a very physical business).

* Joe’s longtime affair with Theda Bara, one of the most popular actresses of the silent film era, and one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols. It was a unique relationship because they never spoke to each other but, rather, had staffers hold up giant cards with comments for the other person to read. Tres romantic!

* How very, very early in his radio career, Joe was in the studio late one night, talking off air on the phone with a listener named Mary who had a very sexy voice. A few hours later, Mary came over to the station and rang the station door bell. Joe looked through the peep hole and saw “Mary” was actually a fella named “Murray”, a 32 year old unshaven midget wearing a sundress and stilettos. Joe never opened the station door that night nor did he even leave the radio station for the next 30 days. To this day, Joe won’t work with any client named Murray. Joe still has nightmares.

So these (not really) and other (real) stories will be featured in the book that I of course haven’t read because da book hasn’t been released yet. Cause it’s today…the day you can get the book.

Joe’s likely forgotten more interesting voice-over stories than any of us could collectively ever tell because of Joe’s amazing broadcasting and voice-over career.

So buy the book.

And don’t tell Cip that you heard about the book here. Tell him Courvo told you about it.

I only met Joe once but I think he had a weapon. He’s a tough cookie. Ask Orson. 😉

game changer OR too little too late?

AFTRA_SAG_merger

The headline screams: “American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and Screen Actors Guild Reach Agreement on Merger Package for Recommendations to SAG and AFTRA National Board of Directors”.

Tip of the hat to Mercedes Rose for the heads up on Facebook.

Read all about it…this merger WOULD impact professional voice over talent in either union or a VO considering joining the new union.

In years past, these two professionally aligned unions couldn’t really get out of each others way in contractual disputes with studios and production companies and finally each other. People have realized for years that there is no need for TWO unions doing basically the same thing. Finally in the most recent elections, those supporting a merger were elected and now it seems, if the plan is ratified by the memberships, it will happen.

Will anybody outside of New York and Los Angeles care?

I’m not asking that in a snide way, I mean it as a real question: Has the non-union train left the station, not only for the people who join the performing unions but for people who hire the talent?

While talent outside of NY and LA question the value of agents to bring them substantial new work, those same people will debate the value proposition of what a union can really offer in calculable ROI for dues memberships. The performing world operates differently than it used to operate.

If this merger goes through (and I would be surprised if it didn’t) the resultant organization will have a LOT of work to do, I think, to encourage non-members to see significant value in becoming a member. It can be done…but that’s going to be a tall wall to climb.

What do you think will happen following a proposed merger?

wben buffalo adds a frequency and maybe a new logo

So word came down on Twitter today (isn’t that where all news comes from that isn’t already on Facebook…what newspaper?!!) that heritage AM station WBEN/Buffalo was going to be simulcast on another station in the Entercom cluster, WLKK-FM (107.7). The Lake, as the station was known, hadn’t really moved the needle among listeners or advertisers.

So now WBEN will be heard on AM 930 and FM 107.7 – with this news came what seems to be a new logo. Variations of the old WBEN logo have been around for a decade or more.

The new logo – if it is indeed the final version – is bad. Vague city scapes and big call letters (meant to infer how the station covers or engulfs the city with its coverage) never work. They also reproduce badly in newspaper ads and on the web.

I listen to the station and I don’t have to look at the logo so I suppose I shouldn’t care – except it’s a logo and I notice these things. You’d hope a station group as big as Entercom would have a bit more graphic moxie to produce (or even steal from another one of their stations in another market) a logo better than this one.

Maybe this new logo is just a draft.

Kinda like this one I whipped up pretty fast: