Entries Tagged as 'radio'

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.

with 235 stations, entercom doesn’t need to shout anymore

Entercom Logo change audioconnell

With the announcement on November 17 that Entercom Communications Corp. (“Entercom”) (NYSE: ETM) had completed its with CBS Radio Inc. (“CBS Radio”), the Pennsylvania-based media and entertainment company now boasts 235 radio stations in most of the biggest markets in the country. These include historic stations like WCBS AM/FM & WINS-AM in New York, KROQ-FM in Los Angeles and WBBM AM/FM in Chicago.

So with all these new stations, Entercom decided it needed to tweak it’s branding, in part, by redesigning its logo.

Gone is the stylized small “e” in the diamond and the all caps, italicized word mark, replaced by a diamond-less small “e” and a very basic sans-serif in upper and lower case. Purple is the main color now.

So what does this all mean?

Well in the grand scheme of things, not much. Except I think Entercom is changing its branding message.

Prior to the CBS merger, it feels to me like the old logo was saying “we’re a player, we’re a company that’s working to be a truly major player in media, specifically radio.”

Now, with all of these major new stations, totaling a whopping 235 radio stations across America, the simpler – actually more boring logo in my opinion, says “we ARE a player and we don’t have to shout from the roof tops…if you’re advertising in radio, you’re going to need (not want) to speak with us.”

Finally, just for some perspective, your gentle writer remembers (and worked in radio when) a broadcast ownership group could only have 7 AM stations, 7 FM stations and 7 TV stations…total! Times have changed and change is scary.

past radio glory in raleigh, nc

Former WPTF Studios, Raleigh, NCI have a strange habit when I am in a new area of checking out large radio towers to see where they lead.

This has something to do with my continued fascination with radio broadcasting. It’s a disease of sorts.

I am not the only person who suffers from it, though. Scott Fybush is but one radio person who loves radio towers so much, he has a calendar on them.

So as I learn my way around the Raleigh, Durham, Cary area in North Carolina, I was bound to find a radio tower that I had to investigate.

When I first saw the tower, I had other people with me and they wouldn’t go on a radio tower adventure (spoil sports!)

But this week, while at lunch I found it again and I went on the hunt. The hunt is not always as easy as you would think, because sometimes the overgrowth (sometimes intentional, sometimes not) makes getting near the tower tough.

This one was fenced off but to find the remains of the old radio station next to the tower was like Christmas in September! It was literally on the “other side” of a railroad track.

WPTF original radio station Raleigh NCWPTF was once an amazing station in this market. 50,000 watts back in 1941…just think about how far THAT signal travelled.

Programming changes in recent years evidently impacted it ratings in the market…but this building is NOT indicative of the station’s current status…it’s just the old building, which I think is really cool. The station still exists today, with its studios in a different location as part of a cluster of stations.

Now owned by Curtis Media Group, back in 1927 The Durham Life Insurance Company purchased the station (then called WRCO)  from the Wynne Company. They changed the call letters to WPTF for the company’s slogan “We Protect The Family” (oh, I also love radio call letter stories).

You can read about it’s history here

peter k. o’connell new hot ac radio imaging data

Peter K. O'Connell Hot AC Radio Imaging Demo

As a guy who started (and pretty much finished) my radio career working in a Hot AC format, it was probably about time that I fired up the microphone and recorded my new Hot AC radio imaging demo.

LISTEN TO PETER K. O’CONNELL’S HOT AC RADIO IMAGING DEMO BY CLICKING HERE

Peter K. O'Connell Hot AC Radio ImagingPeople in radio are familiar with the term Hot AC (AC being Adult Contemporary). For those not so sure what the format includes, HOT AC plays most popular mix of music from the 90’s through today. The Hot AC format is most often music-intensive, Top 40 radio for adults, without so much rap or heavy metal/hard rock. And of course, it features a great station voice…ahem.

There are a ton of popular musicians featured in this format which includes but not limited to Adele, Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Pink and of course Taylor Swift.

The big names in Hot AC when I worked in radio included Michael Jackson, Hall & Oates, Kenny Loggins and Sade. Man, have things changed since the 80’s. But that’s as it should be.

Let me know if you’re a radio station General Manager, Program Director or Production Manager in need of a new station voice for a Hot AC station or any radio format. Cause I know a guy….

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bbc greatness with mike cooper

Voice Talent Mike Cooper_BBC Radio

There were many great moments I enjoyed at VO Atlanta but one of the more unexpected moments involved a previously unknown (to me anyway) past life of one of my voice-over friends.

I knew Mike Cooper was from the UK (the accent was a clue) and I knew he worked in voice-over there before immigrating to the states a few years ago and making a home with his family in Asheville, North Carolina.

But up until he and I were speaking at VO Atlanta, I had NOT known that Mike Cooper – voice-over talent HAD BEEN Mike Cooper – news voice for BBC News. What?!!

There will be some reading this who think ‘what’s the big deal?’

bbc newsThose are folks who probably never listened to a short wave radio and listened to BBC News, long before the internet or before NPR started playing BBC World Service broadcasts on the overnight.

Listening to BBC News at that time made the other side of the Atlantic come alive to this young and future broadcaster.

Nothing in the US on TV or radio sounded anything like BBC News – not the stories (always more focused on the world than we are here) not the cadence and certainly not the enunciation. Oy, these people were (are) good.

Listening to the BBC sounded like you were listening to your well-bred cousin who went to the right schools and knew all the right people.

So at VO Atlanta, at one of the after parties, I was speaking with Marci Polzin of Artistic Talent and Mike Cooper when Mike shared this news.

I radio-geeked out a little bit. Kind like Brad Venable at any Comic-Con.

So I immediately made him announce some news, right there in the middle of the party in front of me and Marci. Mike looked at me like I had 6 heads but I said he had to do it. And he did. It was like I was in the booth at Broadcast House. Totally awesome!

So as an added treat, I few weeks later Mike was kind enough to send me a copy of his final BBC News broadcast, a portion of which I will gladly play for you here.

LISTEN TO A SAMPLE HERE

When I grow up, I want to sound that cool.

female voice talents – there may be an opportunity for you

npr_logo

News from All Access today reported that National Public Radio is dropping their current underwriting voice talent. They have one in the interim but it sounds like they may be willing to audition other voices. They seem to want a female voice. Go get ’em, ladies (and no I don’t know where to send you — you have to do SOME work here).

Now while you ladies are practicing saying “This is NPR. National Public Radio” I’d like to address this change of voice talent at NPR.

The long time underwriting voice talent for NPR was a gentleman named Frank Tavares, who had been the underwriting voice talent for a reported 31 years. He was great but a change was made and that’s showbiz.

The network’s idea, it would seem, was to insert a cost-saving move while also vocally changing things up a bit by adding a female voice. OK, no problem there.

Auditions were held and the winning voice talent was an actress named Sabrina Farhi, who started on NPR in October 2013.

Her NPR underwriting reads were awful. Dreadful. Like nails on an angry chalkboard.

And none of the bad NPR reads were her fault. Repeat, NONE of them! I can prove it.

I’d heard Sabrina’s underwriting reads and could not get past the horrible, robotic read she voiced. This was the winner? Didn’t anyone else hear how tone deaf and unlistenable these underwriting reads sounded?

So after a while, during the few times I actually listened to NPR, I just switched away during the underwriting reads. Not what the network wanted, I’m sure. But I assumed it was just my professional ear not being able to grasp what the network was looking for. Maybe I was missing the musicality of it all. Certainly, I’d been wrong before (I told myself) and maybe I’m wrong on this.

Well, given the announced change, I guess not.

However, after reading tonight’s news on the change at NPR, I went to Sabrina Farhi’s web site and listened to her commercial voice-over demo. I couldn’t figure out how this voice got hired!

Upon further investigation, I rule as follows:

Sabrina Farhi has a wonderful voice which offers a clean, thoughtful interpretation of copy. The voice I heard on the TIAA CREF commercial was NOT the read I heard for the NPR underwriting voice-overs.

This woman is a talented voice actress with real chops who, if she was directed to use that TIAA CREF voice on the NPR underwriting reads, would and probably should still be employed today. On a side note, she like me has terrible trouble pronouncing the word “statistically”. And so if she’s anything like me, she’s an amazing voice talent! 😉

So my professional experience leads me to believe that it’s not the voice talent that’s at fault in this case, it’s the producers.

Yup, somebody either in underwriting production or in the underwriting department directed Sabrina to read in a monotone, cold and oblivious way that was evidently unlistenable to more people than just me.

The underwriting voice for NPR has to have a certain authority to it, yes, but NPR (more than any broadcast network) has a kind of humanism attached to it (in my opinion, anyway) that needs to be conveyed in the voice of the radio network. Frank did a great job doing that and Sabrina probably could have too if someone was directing her correctly.

So now it’s been announced that voice talent Jessica Hansen will serve as NPR’s underwriting announcer in a trail run beginning this month. Here’s hoping that she gets a new director who better understands voice-over direction, voice talents in general and the NPR brand.