Entries Tagged as 'radio'

doing SOMETHING is better than feeling helpless – radio edition

It was interesting to be at a Starbucks yesterday, doing some work on my computer, when word came out about the horrendous fire at Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris).

People talking about it were very shaken. Like, amazingly so. Various people noted how tragic it was…then the spire fell. That shook folks. Was it a terrorist attack (seems not, as of this writing) or accident (at this time, it seems so).

It went beyond Catholicism for these folks – who in fact, in my overhearing, didn’t even bring that up – it was about the art and the history…that was more the impact on their spirit than religion. Perfectly valid perspectives on such a religious AND historic place, especially if you practice a different faith or don’t believe in any religion.

Suffice it to say, listening to conversations and reading social media, many people were sucker punched by this terrible incident and felt pretty helpless.

I felt the same way…then I realized there WAS something I could do. It wasn’t much but it WAS something.

Catholic 540-AM Divine Mercy Radio Raleigh Durham NCI have, for some time now, volunteered my voice work for a few Catholic radio stations. Most Catholic radio stations are 501(c)(3) non-profits and most are run completely by volunteers. When I lived in Buffalo, I donated voice work to The Station of The Cross Catholic Radio Network. When I moved to Raleigh, I began helping with production and programming at Catholic 540-AM • Divine Mercy Radio.

Late Monday afternoon, as this was all unfolding in Paris, I was in the parking lot of my son’s school waiting to pick him up.  There, I was struck with an idea. What if Catholic 540-AM put together just a brief prayer for Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, it’s parishioners, staff and friends. No big production, just something simple we could play on air for the next few days so listeners could, if they wanted, offer up their private prayers too while they listened.

This type of community remembrance is something radio (no matter the format) has always done exceptionally well.

OK…but then I had to figure out what we’d do.

Well, Notre Dame is French for Our Lady, referencing Mary, the Mother of God, someone incredibly important to Catholics. So the prayer needed to be the Hail Mary. Then I decided we’d need to do that prayer in French for it to be both respectful and impactful. So I called a Frenchman.

Liz de Nesnera Voiceover Talent

Bilingual female voiceover talent Liz de Nesnera

Well, actually a French Lady…and while she is French through heritage, she hails from New Jorseey. But she’s awesome and Liz de Nesnera did not hesitate when I asked her to voice the Hail Mary in French. She carries the whole piece and it worked out so nicely because of HER. She even offered to share her prayer with all the EWTN affiliates for them to create their own prayer.

LISTEN TO THE PRAYER CATHÉDRALE NOTRE-DAME DE PARIS (Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris)
PLAY HERE

It’s very simple. Heartfelt. Not fancy. But not nothing. And that’s something.

a taste of radio makes you hungry for it again

audioconnell radio production studioIn the past when I traveled, I used to bring my portable rig, build a pillow fort, hook everything up and try and make a good recording in a crap environment. For the most part, it worked out OK.

The best result was that it would sound OK. That’s pretty much it.

Folks who don’t travel alot, like I do, think it’s kinda fun to put all that stuff together. After years of doing all that, you find out it’s monotonous. From the actual fort building and jerry-rigging to getting a shot-gun microphone through airport security without TSA pooping their collective pants (reasonably so as a Sennheiser 416 mic looks very suspicious under the x-ray machine) it gets to be a pain.

Bottom line, if I don’t HAVE to bring a travel rig, I won’t.

Instead, I use recording studios in the cities I visit. You meet new people, make new contacts and generally enjoy much better recording conditions. Except for that recording session outside of Dayton, OH that got postponed because there was a drug-related murder that took place across the street just before I was set to arrive.

And by postponed I mean I cancelled it. Just to avoid the possibility of me getting eternally cancelled.

So recent on one of my trips, I was in need of a studio for a rush audition. It was inside a large radio station and being in the station’s production room was like a joyful time warp for me.

From the board to the desk to the Electro-voice RE-20 microphone (the same type I used in the 80’s when I worked in radio) it was a wonderful place to be.

People who used to work in radio (and there are tens of thousands of us) will rightly complain that we were poorly paid, over worked and undervalued. People of work in radio now may say the same thing.

But pay and some lousy bosses (and/or owners) aside, it brings most of us real broadcasters to our happy place. Playing the music, mixing the stop sets, the radio station jingles, banter, callers, on-location events – it was all so fun and yet professional. There were and are many very good people in radio. We were serious about doing a good job, being creative, working to make sponsors happy….it could be a good business to be in.

This isn’t a gauzy, romanticized remembrance for me…radio had many good parts to it.

But by the time I finished with it, the bad parts outweighed the good parts. That’s just how life goes.

I completely understand why people stay in the radio business (even for less than stellar wages) and why even a few of my VO friends have gone back into it.

Being in that radio studio for my recent recording, it was my brief happy place. And all we all want is to be happy.

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….

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.