Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Take My Board Op, Please!

I've been listening to a ton of talk radio over the past few years...just another sign I'm turning into my Dad a little more each day. I swear, I'm "this" close to going out and buying some Rockport shoes, just to get it over with.

So I'm listening to talk radio, and often (at least in my city), hearing these awful (and blatant) errors when it's time to play local content (stopsets, etc.) And not just a two-second mistake, but often two spots playing over each other, in their entirety, a local liner from the syndicated host absolutely buried under loud bumper music, and a cornucopia of other screw-ups that would drive any PD in the 90s to storm the control room to personally hand-deliver a pink slip to the board op.

The problem today...there are no board-ops.

Now here's what I don't get. Follow me on this kids. Once again, yes, I know it's a "cost" thing. But wait! Stations are still spending tens, often hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve their sound. Tower moves, tower height increases and transmitter upgrades, heck, the fancy audio processing in the rack room alone racks up tens of thousands of dollars alone, if not more...and all to make the "sound" of the radio station great, right?

So we agree that stations are still spending money on their "sound," right?

Well then let me ask you, what sounds worse than two commercials running over each other for three whole minutes, local and national feeds cut off in mid-sentence, and music beds that trail on for minutes after the announcer finishes talking? Why and how is this "sound" problem that is so glaringly obvious overlooked? Heck, I remember getting hotlined from PDs if I had a bad segue.'s like, who cares?

If a "hum" suddenly appeared in the audio chain, I guarantee you the station would pay for an expensive piece of equipment that would fix it, if need be. So why wouldn't they spend some cash to eleviate the "butchery" taking place in so many un-manned studios (and I'm not talking about lesbians).

If a company will still spend tens of thousands of dollars on "equipment" that improves the sound of a station, why wouldn't they spend eight bucks an hour on a "human" that improves the sound of the station? I don't get it.


  1. Because radio thought automation was supposed to replace people when in reality it is a tool to make people's jobs easier.

    Most automation systems are sufficient for music programming, but you are correct -- Talk-based programming is a constant mess without a human in control. It's a regular, daily problem here, too.

  2. While I agree with you, sometimes the double audio is human error, (i.e. spots being too long/not long enough to talk to the automation, misplaced cue tones etc.) And that's exactly why there should be board ops, other humans to catch the first round of human errors.

    We run the 49ers here on a station in my building and there is a person behind the console at all times. It wouldn't work otherwise.

  3. Yup..thats what happiend here..But not because of not wanting to do a show..But no part timers..Its about money and lack of staff! I was the guy when I first got into radio that did it all!! Yes Radio of todaY SUCKSASS!!

    Rich Donovan

  4. Board-op? But the computer saves us a whopping $10 an hour.... oh wait... I think the 2 spots that overlapped this hour, and will now have to "make good" ended up costing us more than $10.

  5. I remember hearing a station right here in PPM MARKET #19, that would cut off a song in the middle, air morning show imaging and then air another song... It drove me crazy. I agree with the article Dub. I also think that by hiring these it would help boost un-employment just a lil' bit?

  6. Maybe they can hire someone to proof read my posts too!

  7. Quality needs to enter back into the equation! There are some stations now that just have board op as PD and they have no experience, but they find that "warm body" willing to take home the $8 an hour ... but ultimately the stations get what they pay for, and then wonder why in a few months they go dark... Keep their feet to the fire R Dub!

  8. Here's my take. The problem is endemic to America at the moment. It works like this; there are two ways to make a profit. The first way is to innovate a better, more amazing product that people just gotta have. The second way is to make something cheaper. Which do you suppose has been the guiding ideology in radio management?

    There was a recent program on the History Channel's "Modern Marvels" that highlights this problem. There are two kinds of coffee bean in the world. One is called Arabica. It's an awesome, expensive bean, but it produces the kind of taste that most of us think of as "good coffee." There is a second type of bean called "Robusta." Robusta is cheap, grows fast, and tastes like a boiled sock.

    In the 1960s, coffee companies like Folgers began using an increasing amount of Robusta beans in their coffee. As they did, the profits soared because the crap is so cheap. The amount of Arabica beans in the coffee of all major US coffee companies dropped. They did this slowly, and as they did, the American consumer didn't notice. Where did the idea that Robusta should replace Arabica come from? It came from managers and accountants at those companies who cared nothing about the quality and taste of coffee. They only knew how to to make money by playing with numbers. Eventually, Folgers and the others began to lose market share because after removing almost all of the Arabica beans, consumers began considering other caffienated beverages, like energy drinks and soda.

    Enter Starbucks. Starbucks offers 100% Arabica coffee and you won't find a Robusta in the house. Starbucks started small, but focused on one single thing that radio stations have managed to forget.

    Today, Starbucks has almost put Folgers and the others out of business. When was the last time you bought Folgers, Maxwell House, or any of the other old time coffees your parents used to drink? How did Starbucks succeed? Think about it, and you'll have the answer to what radio needs to do, and must do, if it is to remain even marginally relevant in the new landscape of media choices.

    It's time to flush the bean counting, scum sucking bottom-liners before they destroy themselves. Any idiot can make a product cheaper, fill it with low cost ingredients, and make a dollar. Real genius begins with innovation.

  9. As the creator and moderator of this forum, I try my best to stay out of the "comment" section and leave the visitors to their own, but jeeze Charlie, that is an incredible post. I may use it, alone, for a future blog topic.

  10. Because there are people that board op that make 8 dollars and hour and have a college degree, does not seem right, board ops in some areas manage 5-6 stations overnight, and eight dollars an hour does not seem right. maybe 10-15 dollars an hour because they are the ones that make sure overnights go as scheduled.....