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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Radio Notes

It's been a while since I went off on the radio industry, so here goes.

There are a few radio stations here in our area that have gone "all Christmas."  Some started around Thanksgiving.  As a listener, I can't stand it.  I'm in the minority.  I can't speak for what happens locally, but nationally, "all Christmas" stations usually see a ratings bump.

There's a dirty, little secret.  Most DJ's don't like Christmas music!  I've been there.  There are a few good songs.  It's nice to hear the classics, but that gets old fast.

Things have changed.  Back in the day, you'd have to sit in a a little room for hours and play the same songs over, and over again.  Technology has given us "voice tracking."  DJ's record their breaks, dump them into a computer, and what used to take hours now takes minutes.  It sounds live.  It's not.  At least, it spares the DJ's from actually listening to what they play.

Speaking of "live," allow me to swing off into another "geezer moment," the second of the day.   As is my habit, I drop by Marywood's radio station, WVMW, when I'm on my way to the Christmas tree lighting.  I enjoy keeping an eye and an ear on my alma mater.  The radio and TV area of the media center used to be a beehive of activity.  There'd be an air person and a news person on duty at the radio station.  Someone was always working on a project at the adjacent TV area.  Some of us who just loved the business were always hanging around.  When I dropped in last week, there was one student, sitting on a couch, playing with a smart phone.  The place was dead, and it made me sad.

As noted above, radio people are now more computer programmer than disc jockey.  Thanks to laptops, you can edit audio and video anywhere.  You don't have to be physically in the media center.  Times change.  I always enjoyed peering at the teletype to see the latest news from the Associated Press.  Thanks to smart phones, we now have AP in our pockets.

I do have a new favorite radio station.  It's AM 1640 in the Scranton area.  The owner?  Penndot.  Most of the time, it simply re-broadcasts the National Weather Service around the clock.  It's nice to get constantly updated weather, something the commercial stations rarely do.

Now, the big one-- the prank a couple Australian DJ's played on a worker at the hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated.  The nurse believed she was talking with the queen.  She wasn't.  The nurse was so horrified, she took her own life.  It seems like a harmless joke, but we don't know if the nurse was punished by her hospital, or incurred the wrath of the royal family.

If I was a radio executive, and the DJ's came to me for permission, would I have given it?  Yeah, probably.

I do read some radio industry on-line newsletters, and many allege the prank horribly damaged radio's reputation.  Tragic as it is, this one will fade away in time.  Radio does more damage to itself by the continuing loss of most local programming, and the local programming that remains is bargain basement stuff.

I do not want to gloss over the tragic loss of a life here.  She was a wife and a mom.  The woman worked at a hospital, and I'm sure counseling was merely steps away.  Something apparently so harmless would up being so awful.

Always remember this, Pennsylvania has a wiretap law, and it applies to radio as well.  You cannot be recorded without your permission.   The prank probably wouldn't have happened here, and if it did, there would be hell to pay.