Category Archives: Programming

How Commercial Radio Broadcasters Can Learn More About Public Radio

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: Our MAB Digital Guru’s weekly post usually appears in our Web/DIgital/Social section of MAB NewsBriefs.  Again this week, however, I’ve elected to put Seth’s piece in our programming section.  -Dan Kelley

The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

The spheres of commercial radio and public radio are, for the most part, completely isolated from one another. Broadcasters don’t pay much attention to what their counterparts on the other side are doing. But as we move towards a world where on-demand audio is enabled by podcasts and voice commands, commercial radio broadcasters can learn a lot from public radio broadcasters. Sure, Bubba the Love Sponge is never going to need to run down the day’s stock market numbers like Kai Ryssdal; but there’s a lot of insight that can be gained by watching what public radio is doing.

For starters, the players in the public radio space are, by and large, much farther ahead when it comes to podcasting. Part of that stems from the fact that it’s simply easier to take a talk radio show and make it available on demand when there’s no music that needs to be removed. An episode of Fresh Air can be posted online without any major changes, while most commercial radio morning shows cannot. But public radio companies like NPR, PRX and WNYC have also made significant investments in the space. Every commercial radio programmer and on-air talent could benefit by looking at what they’ve done.

If you’re working at a commercial radio station, what’s a good way to learn more about public radio? Here are three places to start…

1. Listen.
If your primary exposure to public radio comes from their morning and afternoon drive news shows, it’s worth spending some time with their other programs you may not be aware of its breadth. Public radio’s offerings are incredibly diverse. Here’s a list of different shows to sample that I’ve selected because they show a range of different styles:

    1. This American Life: Led by Ira Glass, This American Life set the gold standard for storytelling journalism. Just as Howard Stern inspired a generation of shock jocks and Rush Limbaugh inspired a wave of conservative pundits, Glass has spawned countless disciples, many of whom have gone on into podcasting. After you’ve checked out This American Life, listen to the massive podcasting hit Serial, which is produced by the same team, and you’ll hear the stylistic influences.
    2. Death, Sex and Money: Lest you assume that all public radio programs are stuffy, Ana Sale hosts this podcast featuring one-on-one conversations with celebrities and other guests that tackle difficult topics that aren’t normally discussed in polite conversation. It’s NSFW but it will convince you that public radio broadcasters can be every bit as edgy as their commercial counterparts.
    3. Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!: Game shows aren’t just for television. This format offers a lighter take on the week’s news and can serve as an inspiration for commercial broadcasters who are more focused on entertainment than journalism. The show is also recorded in front of a live studio audience which adds to the fun and the complexity of the production.
    4. The Moth: This show is an excellent example of how radio broadcasters can crowdsource their material. It compiles recordings of storytellers from around the country. (It’s also worth going to a live Moth storytelling event. If you dare, get up on stage and share a story.)
    5. 2 Dope Queens: WNYC in New York has invested considerable time and energy into podcasting, often using the medium to showcase people from backgrounds that are otherwise underrepresented in radio. This show, hosted by African-American comedians Jessica Williams (former The Daily Show correspondent) and Phoebe Robinson, is a prime example. It’s been such a big hit that it’s now a television show on HBO.
    6. Up First: Voice-activated smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home are making it easier for people to consume audio at home. A number of media outlets, including The New York Times and ESPN, are taking advantage of this trend by offering short, daily podcasts that people can consume first thing in the morning. NPR’s Up First is a good example of a daily podcast that aims to build daily listening habits.

2. Learn.
The audio content that public radio creates often takes a very different form than what we create in commercial radio. I can hit the post on a Linkin Park song without breaking a sweat, but I’ve never used a shotgun mic to record B-roll audio in the field. How do public radio broadcasters do it?

Fortunately, NPR actually makes many of the secrets of their trade available online. Spend some time on NPR’s training website and you’ll refine your skills and even pick up some new ones.

3. Read.
If you want to find out even more about how public radio broadcasters practice their craft, there are two books worth picking up:

  1. Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production: Jonathan Kern, who spent years training NPR staffers, explains exactly how they do what they do in this classic tome.
  2. Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio: Jessica Abel, a cartoonist by trade, loved narrative radio so much that she decided to write a behind-the-scenes book about it in graphic form. It’s a unique way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of shows like Planet Money, Radiolab, and Invisibilia.

As commercial radio broadcasters, we rarely take the time to look outside our own market or format. But if you really want to excel at your craft, it’s helpful to look for inspiration outside of your usual surroundings from time to time.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

What Anthony Bourdain Taught Me About Radio Broadcasting

Seth Resler

Editor’s Note: Our MAB Digital Guru’s weekly post usually appears in our Web/DIgital/Social section of MAB NewsBriefs.  This week, however, I’ve elected to put Seth’s piece in our programming section.  -Dan Kelley

The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Seth Resler
Jacobs Media Strategies

Last Friday morning, we awoke to the sad news that Anthony Bourdain, the preeminent pioneer in the world of food tourism, had taken his own life. He was an icon. I was a fan. In many ways, Anthony Bourdain shaped my career.

Like many radio broadcasters, I have bounced from city to city across the country. Every few years, I seemed to pack up my belongings and find a new home. In the course of all my moving, I learned that every city is unique. Sometimes, I learned this lesson the hard way.

My radio career began at WBRU in Providence, in the shadow of the Boston music scene. I was a college student working at the station, and like most twenty-somethings, I thought I knew a lot more than I did. After graduating, I stuffed my belongings into a U-Haul and headed out to St. Louis, where I became the Imaging Director at 105.7 The Point. I was hired by Allan Fee, and every once in a while, we didn’t see eye to eye. I distinctly remember a heated discussion we had over a music imaging sweeper that I was creating. It was the early 2000s, and I thought we should include the song, “The Impression That I Get,” the 1997 modern rock hit by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Allan was opposed. I didn’t understand why.

What I didn’t realize at this early stage of my career was that my point of reference was distorted by my time in New England. Sure, the Bosstones could sell out five nights at the Middle East for their annual Hometown Throwdown, but that didn’t mean they were any more than a one-hit wonder hundreds of miles west in St. Louis.

Instead, St. Louis was in the midst of a long-term love affair with The Urge, a local band that could easily sell out a string of shows at Mississippi Nights. I only knew The Urge from their minor hit, “Jump Right In,” that we had played for a few weeks in Providence. But in St. Louis, they were gods. Looking back on that discussion now, I see it as an epiphany: This was when I first discovered how important it was for a radio broadcaster to understand and tap into the local culture. I realized that Allan was right, and I was wrong.

While sports has never been my strong suit, I quickly learned this was another arena in which it is vital for broadcasters to know their market. In fact, sometimes music and sports align. When I returned to Providence as WBRU’s Program Director, I embraced the Dropkick Murphys. If I were blindly following the music charts, I never would have touched this Boston punk band. Instead, we spun them more than any radio station in America. This paid off in spades when they released a song called “Tessie,” a re-imagining of a classic Red Sox anthem, just as the baseball team broke the Curse of the Bambino and won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. That song was not a hit anywhere else, but we had it in heavy rotation, because we understood the local culture.

Radio Terroir
The need to understand local culture extends far beyond just music and sports. Anthony Bourdain was one of the people who taught me that. During my brief tenure in St. Louis, I was exposed to a variety of regional dishes, including toasted ravioli, Imo’s pizza, and Ted Drewes ice cream. At the time, I didn’t recognize their significance.

But years later, I started a social dining group in Boston. This club introduced me to the world of local celebrity chefs. I saw surprising parallels between the culinary world and the world of rock and roll. On a national level, fans fawned over superstar chefs like Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck, and Gordon Ramsay.

But among them all, Anthony Bourdain was unique. His straight-talking book, Kitchen Confidential, read like a rock star memoir, filled with tattoos, scars, and drug addiction. (I highly recommend listening to the audio version, which Anthony narrates himself.)

What made Bourdain stand out was his understanding of place. He was keenly aware of the fact that just like every city or town has a different music or sports scene, every locale has a different food culture. He loved using food as a gateway to explore different local cultures. He built a fascinating career out of it.

There’s a fantastic word in the culinary world: “Terroir.” It describes how the location where a food is grown impacts the flavor. It’s used most often in wine making. When the wines made from grapes grown on the shady side of a vineyard hill taste different than the wines that use grapes from the sunny side, that’s terroir. More and more, however, the word terroir has been adopted to describe food. With the rise of the local food movement, top chefs increasingly use the availability of fresh, local ingredients as a major factor when creating their menus. As a result, the place informs the taste.

More than anybody, Bourdain embodied that connection between taste and place. He showed the world why people eat breakfast tacos in Austin, banh mis in San Jose, and coneys in Detroit.

Several years ago, I produced a podcast called Taste Trekkers. It was a podcast for “foodies who love travel and travelers who love food.” I would interview culinary experts from different cities about their local food scenes. This podcast owed a bigger debt of inspiration to Anthony Bourdain than anyone else. He made me want to explore different cities through food in the same way I had explored them through music during my radio career.Today, I like to think about the concept of terroir applied to radio stations. The reason that Los Angeles radio still plays Dramarama, Detroit radio still spins J Dilla, and Bay Area radio continues to rotate Too $hort is the same reason that barbecue sauce styles change as you drive across the South. The place informs the taste.

From time to time, I’ll see a Program Director move to a new city to take over a radio station. They’re usually eager to put their stamp on the station immediately: change the logo, overhaul the music library, or alter the on-air lineup. In doing so, they make the same mistake I was making when I wanted to image a St. Louis radio station with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones; they’re ignoring the terroir.

Anthony Bourdain would never make this mistake. He always showed great respect for the local culture. I believe that if Anthony Bourdain were to take over a radio station in a new city, the first thing he would do is learn the terroir. He would want to understand how the place informs the taste. We should all strive to be more like Anthony Bourdain.

Thank you for the inspiration, Tony. You will be missed.

For more assistance on digital or social media, contact MAB Member Services at mab@michmab.com or 1-800-968-7622.

How to Manage Talents Who Hate Each Other!

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

Good news! You have a successful, well-rated morning team on your station. Bad news: They do not get along off the air. With so much emphasis on post-show events (promotions, events, appearances, social media), what’s a PD or GM to do?

I think we could all agree that on-air staffs and drama are synonymous. But what happens when there is real-life conflict? Here are some suggestions from programmers and managers who either currently have or have had this kind of problem.

Let’s start with a guy who works with morning shows all the time: morning show coach/consultant Steve Reynolds. He says, “Of course they need a relationship off-air. That’s crazy to think they don’t. The respect they have for each other, the trust they build, their ability to communicate and resolve issues is felt in their on-air chemistry. That takes work and commitment.”

John Gehron, COO at AccuRadio and longtime PD and manager, also has some sage words of advice. “If they are successful, then they are getting the job done on the air. That’s what counts. I don’t think it’s necessary to hang out off the air on their own time.”

Don Kellogg of Lagniappe Broadcasting in Louisiana shares this: “I have actually had to step in between talent before to keep a fistfight from going down. As the operations manager, I explained to both employees that they are both creating a negative work environment for those around them and that is not conducive to creativity and will not be tolerated.”

Country consultant Joel Raab comments, “I think if you can manage the dislike, it can enhance creative spark. Worked with a morning team that literally hated each other off air but sounded like best buds on the air — and had great ratings.”

Music Master’s Marianne Burkett has a good angle on it. “Sounds like an ‘old married couple’ issue. They probably just need to spend some time hanging out together — alone.”

Former radio producer, now mid-morning talent on Providence’s WPRI-TV Will Gilbert has a different look at the subject. “I’ve worked with both — teams that really do like each other or at the very least, deal with each other, and then teams that can’t stand each other. It’s tough to fake it on the air that much. Listeners are more and more media-savvy, and many who listen every day can read between the lines. For me, I could not be happier with my partner. Granted it’s TV and not radio — I truly could not have asked for a better ‘TV wife.’”

Sports radio consultant Tom Bigby has spent decades dealing with talent as one of the founding fathers of the all-Sports format. “You must be talking about most Sports radio talent. I’ve always thought a little bit dysfunctional group gets better ratings. And makes the talent more memorable.”

Longtime Boston-New England personality Karen Blake feels conflict may have a good place. “Also, a manager can really turn things around if he/she is truly a great manager. I can tell you firsthand that having a bad manager at times in my career has been very stressful, when you go to them for help and they do nothing. I’ve lost sleep many nights over a manager that has no balls. I will say, though, some of the best teams are the ones with a little tension. So it’s not a bad thing, but a good manager needs to keep an eye on the quarterbacks of the station and step in when needed.”

Of course, radio is not the only business that needs to deal with personality conflict, as Jim McKeon points out. “Simon and Garfunkel couldn’t and can’t stand each other. They found ways to work together, get along onstage, and achieve greatness. Offstage, separate ways, as Journey says!”

Bob Zamboni (Bob DeCarlo) has a unique perspective as a PD and on-air talent. “While I had a partner for 14 years in Tampa, I was the PD for eight of those years and had a cordial but not friendly relationship off the air. I was a polar opposite to him in manner but was a fan of his wit and humor. At times, we were at each other’s throats, but realized as a team we were doing something special. My philosophy was to accent the positive and keep apart unless necessary.”

How about when you’re married to your partner? On-air talent Kelly Cozadd shares these thoughts. “If they are highly rated and successful, then they seem to be managing it. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, or like them all the time. I did a team morning show with my husband for 25 years. We didn’t always like each other.”

Programmer Tom Calococci says, “Sometimes people lose perspective. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. If they’ve got a good thing going on the air, they should keep that in mind. Hopefully you all get it worked it out.”

Tom’s comments really bring it home: “Don’t lose perspective” and “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” This is especially important when you look at what has been going on in morning television. NBC’s Today Show and CBS’s This Morning both lost main anchors (Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose) and have not only rebounded, but ratings are up substantially since the departures. Everyone is replaceable.

Over the years, I have known many personalities who found themselves in this type of conflict. In most cases, when it’s all over, they regret the behavior. Many times it leads to dismissal, and they always say, “It wasn’t worth losing my job over.” Don’t lose perspective. Don’t blow a good thing. If it’s working in the studio, it’s working. Either way, if you value your position, it’s up to you to make it work.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

What I Learned From Buying a New Car…

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

My lease was up and after 10 or so years of driving a Honda (loved it), I decided it was time for a change. Cut to the chase, I wind up with a GM vehicle. Best part: it has an HD radio, which my Honda did not. I am now excited!

When the salesperson was explaining all of the bells and whistles of the new car, we finally got to the radio. Here’s how the conversation went:

Gary: Wow, it has HD radio.
Salesperson: Really?
Gary: Yes
Salesperson: I’m really not sure what that is.
Gary: Let me explain (and I do).

She looks at me and says: “I just thought it meant the radio sounded better.”

Needless to say, I love all the HD channels. New formats. New music choices. The audio is great and the signals are pretty solid. I just wonder how many people are out there and have HD in the car but are unaware of it. I guess you could say we have not done a stellar job promoting HD radio. There’s still time.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

10 Common Traits of Winning AC Stations

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

Have you ever looked at the ratings and wondered: How do certain AC’s always come out on top? Do a “programming x-ray” on the most successful and consistently high rated AC stations and you’ll quickly see the common elements that make them winners.

After many years of working with AC’s around the country, here’s my top ten list of the common traits of winning AC stations.

1. They understand their listeners music taste. They know that if the music is not right, their ratings will not be right. To them, music research is like a utility bill. It always gets paid. Successful AC’s don’t want their “lights turned off”, so they do the research (you know what I mean!)

2. The golden rule is “Win at Work.” Everything rallies around 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sure the other day parts are important, but 8-4 is where you will get the majority of your ¼ hours. When the book comes in, that’s the first place they look to see how they did.

3. They are “brilliant with the basics” and understand how to combine them with a fun, congenial atmosphere. They don’t “read” liners. They deliver them in a warm, natural, friendly way so the listener feels good about listening to their station. They do an amazing job of making sure their listeners ALWAYS know who they are listening to whether it’s a PPM or Diary market.

4. Winning AC’s have personalities who are more concerned with being likable than funny. In sales, the line is “People BUY from people they like.” In programming “Listeners LISTEN to people they like.” Are your personalities “likable”?

5. AC winners follow a conservative road. “When in doubt, leave it out” is their rule. Whether it’s a bad spot, or bad lyrics, they don’t overthink it. They just leave it out. Remember, “You only get hurt by what you play.”

6. They position themselves with true listener benefits. They ask their listeners why they listen and they mirror that. They forget the useless language (We Love You, You’re The Best”). They sweat the small stuff. Like not talking about listening at work at 5 p.m.

7. High performing AC PD’s are not concerned with “content” as much as they are with “companionship.” The big AC’s have personalities who understand what it is to be a listener’s friend. To a listener, having their favorite, comfortable AC station on is as important as anything in the work environment.

8. They have a phone app. It’s tough to buy an AM-FM radio these days. If you don’t believe me, go into a Best Buy and look for one. The world revolves around the phone. If you’re not there, well…. you know the rest! Get that app today!

9. They make effective use of Facebook and Email marketing and do not abuse it. Successful AC’s know that Facebook is still the 500 lb. gorilla with their base and they post often with information that is useful to their base. Listener emails always contain a strong reason to open and read it (like secret contests and giveaways only for them).

10. Consistency is job #1. Day in and day out, they sound the same. Always smooth. Always warm and friendly. Everyone does formatics the same. Its smooth. Winning AC’s are like the restaurant that has mastered great service, fabulous food and a great environment.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Are your personalities ‘Difference Makers’?

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

 

There’s a lot of noise out there in radio-land these days. Digital. Internet advertising. Podcasting, Apps, Alexa and many others. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that’s all important. Very important. But, we may need to slow down for a second and look at an area that is a key reason listeners listen and that is the on air personality. Whether you have talk show hosts or DJ’s on a music station, listeners enjoy and more importantly want their local radio stations to have personalities.

The other day I was scanning thru Rick Sklar’s “Rockin America”. It’s the story of what is arguably one of radios most successful radio stations ever, WABC in New York. In his book, Rick details what made WABC so successful. He devotes a full chapter to the air personalities and how important they were the station’s success.

I would like to share just a few of his quotes from Rockin America. After you read them, ask yourself: How is my station with our on air people? Would my listeners think of our personalities like New York listeners thought of WABC’s? Could this be the missing link for greater success on my radio station?

From Rockin’ America…

  • The impact of WABC cannot be summed up in a corporation’s profit and loss statement.To the listener, radio is a personal medium.
  • During the dozen years of its heyday, WABC, its music and its air personalities became an intimate part of the lives of tens of millions of people who lived in the Northeast.
  • Mornings without Herb Oscar Anderson or Harry Harrison, afternoons without Ron Lundy or Big Dan Ingram, evenings without cousin Brucie were unthinkable to WABC listeners.
  • Those voices, each so unusually amiable and delivered with the warmer than life resonance of the WABC sound, were friend, family and counselor all in one.
  • The songs they played were so popular that they became the national hit music for America. Their appeal crossed every demographic barrier.

Think about it. Can you say these things about your on air personalities? I believe that on music driven stations we sometimes focus too much on content and not nearly enough on how our jocks sound and come across to the listener.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

Are We Doing A Good Enough Job Promoting Our Apps?

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

I am having some work done on my house. The other day one of the carpenters walked into my office and said, “I hear you’re a big shot radio guy.” I replied that I was not a big shot, but I was in radio. He is 35 years old and is clearly a music fan. He also likes radio. Here’s how the conversation went. I will refer to him as “John.”

John: I love music, but these days, I get everything I need off my phone. Straight music and no commercials. But I do like listening to the radio too, but I don’t have a radio. I’ve got to think that between phones and the Internet, radio must be hurting.

Me: Well those things (Internet, satellite) have definitely created more choices, but…have you tried downloading radio station apps on your phone?

John: What? (key reaction)

Me: Yes, many of the radio stations have apps and you can download them for free. Then you can listen to any radio station on your phone.

John: Wow. I did not know that. Can you show me how to do that?

Me: Sure.

We then went to the App Store and put in one of his favorite stations here in Detroit. And like magic…it downloaded!

John: Wow, this is great. Can I do this for all the stations?

Me: Yes.

John: Wow. This is great, and it’s free too!

So what does this brief but telling conversation mean? Here’s what I get out of it. As an industry, we have not done a good job in letting our listeners know that these apps are available. We have not communicated that “if you’ve got a phone, you’ve got a radio.” Now John can easily listen to his favorite radio station. I never thought that as an industry we did a good job promoting what HD radio was. Apps are different as, unlike HD, everyone has a phone and we have a world of listeners out there…as long as they know how easy it is to listen to us.

As for John, when he came back the next day to finish his work, guess what? I heard THE RADIO in the background, loud and clear (on his phone)! If you have an app, let’s ramp up the promotion of it. I’m not sure listeners are hearing it or getting the message.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

‘Content’ or ‘Companionship’

Gary Berkowitz

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

By: Gary Berkowitz
Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting

OK, I’m going to say it. “Companionship” is more important than “Content.” Sure content is the buzzword these days but it takes a special something to be considered a “companion.” Yes, its great to have both but nothing causes more occurrences of listening on a daily basis than being a “companion” that the listener enjoys spending time with day after day. Content may get em sometimes. Be their companion, and they will always be with you.

Why is so much radio content “low hanging fruit”? Radio seems to always go for the easy to find, not always compelling material. One of the PD’s I work with refers to bad content as “low hanging fruit.” If you’re going to do content it must not only be compelling, but of high interest to your demos and listeners. After all, can you imagine “The Today Show” doing “This Day in History”? Not gonna happen! Unless you have killer content, another song will serve you better.

Do you have a “relationship” with your P1 core? The #1 and most important element to getting consistently strong ratings. You can play all the right songs; have all the right sweepers and the best jingles in the market. If you’re missing that hard to describe link that bonds the listener to your station, the ratings will most likely not be there. This is where your personalities come into play. They are “The Secret Sauce” between the music.

In sales they say “People buy from people they like.” In programming its “People listen to people they like.” Is your station likable? Think about “content or companionship.”

New Music is weak right now with AC’s biggest “feeder format” CHR. Don’t fall prey to “we have to freshen up.” Playing proven, familiar music still wins out every time. Discipline is needed now, and yes, this can change at anytime.

Gary Berkowitz is President of Detroit based Berkowitz Broadcast Consulting, specializing in ratings improvement for AC radio stations. www.garyberk.com

With April Fools’ Day Coming Up, Plan Your On-Air Pranks with Care – Remember the FCC Hoax Rule

David Oxenford - Color
David Oxenford

By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP,
BroadcastLawBlog.com

With April Fools’ Day falling on a Sunday this year, perhaps the potential for on-air pranks is lessened. But, then again, who knows what weekend talent may be planning? So, as we do every year about this time, we need to play our role as attorneys and ruin the fun by repeating our reminder that broadcasters need to be careful with any on-air pranks, jokes or other bits prepared especially for the day. While a little fun is OK, remember that the FCC does have a rule against on-air hoaxes. While issues under this rule can arise at any time, broadcaster’s temptation to go over the line is probably highest on April 1. The FCC’s rule against broadcast hoaxes, Section 73.1217, prevents stations from running any information about a “crime or catastrophe” on the air, if the broadcaster (1) knows the information to be false, (2) it is reasonably foreseeable that the broadcast of the material will cause substantial public harm and (3) public harm is in fact caused. Public harm is defined as “direct and actual damage to property or to the health or safety of the general public, or diversion of law enforcement or other public health and safety authorities from their duties.” Air a program that fits within this definition and causes a public harm, and expect to be fined by the FCC.

This rule was adopted in the early 1990s after several incidents that were well-publicized in the broadcast industry, including one case where the on-air personalities at a station falsely claimed that they had been taken hostage, and another case where a station broadcast bulletins reporting that a local trash dump had exploded like a volcano and was spewing burning trash. In both cases, first responders were notified about the non-existent emergencies, actually responded to the notices that listeners called in, and were prevented from responding to real emergencies. In light of this sort of incident, the FCC adopted its prohibition against broadcast hoaxes. But, as we’ve reminded broadcasters before, the FCC hoax rule is not the only reason to be wary on April 1.

Beyond potential FCC liability, any station activity that could present the risk of bodily harm to a participant also raises the potential for civil liability. In cases where people are injured because first responders had been responding to the hoaxes instead of to real emergencies, stations could have faced potential liability. If some April Fools’ stunt by a station goes wrong, and someone is injured either because police, fire or paramedics are tied up responding to a false alarm, or if someone is hurt rushing to or from the scene of the non-existent calamity that was reported on a radio station, the victim will be looking for a deep pocket to sue – and broadcasters may become the target. Even a case that doesn’t result in liability can be expensive to defend and subject the station to unwanted negative publicity. So, have fun, but be careful how you do it.

David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).

There are no additional costs for the call; the advice is free as part of your MAB membership.

The Robinson Report – Different

Editor’s Note: The views and opinions of this article do not necessarily reflect those of the MAB. Contact the MAB for information on the MAB’s official editorial policy.

Kevin Robinson

By: Kevin Robinson
Robinson Media

“The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.” – Albert Einstein

Coffee – Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts.

Smartphone – iPhone vs. Android.

Religion – Protestant vs. Catholicism

None of the above is “better” than the other, only different.

The “better” is determined by the end user, not the designer.

The human brain has seven slots of short-term memory (give or take two slots) at any given time. As brand marketers, our job is to grab just ONE slot and then print it to long-term memory.

Often times, “professional copywriting” is tremendously “same” and not different. The result washes over the end user and never “prints” in the “seven slots.”

While re-watching the historic and elaborate Naptown Rock Radio Wars, it’s clear that WIBC against WIFE was about who was  different. When WNAP came to morally disrupt Indy radio history it was clearly different and messy – far from “better.”

So do something about it.

Listen, read or see the brand you shepherd.

Of course you think it’s better – you designed it.

But is it ‘different’ – from your competition.

Are there aural activators, unique talent and surprises that create “differentiators”?

Different  is the new “better.”

A word of caution: being “different” carries a heavy tax.

You’ll initially be on an island, alone.

And sometimes that’s what makes it “better.”

Kevin Robinson is a record-setting and award-winning programmer. His brands consistently perform in the Top Three of the target – often times as the list leader. In his 35 years of radio, he’s successfully programmed or consulted nearly every English language radio brand. Known largely as a trusted talent coach, he’s the only personality mentor who’s coached three different morning shows on three different stations in the same major market to the #1 position. His efforts have been recognized by Radio & Records, NAB’s Marconi, Radio Ink and he has coached CMA, ACM and Marconi winning talent.  He lives in Indiana with his wife of 32 years, Monica. Reach Kevin at (314) 882-2148 or robinsonradio@aol.com.