Archive for the 'broadcasting' Category

I want this cool gizmo!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

This will no doubt have very little interest or meaning to anyone who has never been an audio journalist or reporter, but I’m going ga-ga over this product. It’s the HHB Flashmic, a professional-quality microphone with an integrated digital recorder. To put this in perspective, consider that long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a radio station where in addition to my disc jockey duties, for several hours a day I was also a fresh-faced gung-ho “cub” news reporter. Yes, our station manager was really that cheap. Anyway, an important part of my job was to go out and get actualities (more commonly known as “sound bites”) to spice up our station’s otherwise droll reading of the day’s news stories. It might be a simple comment or statement from someone newsworthy, a man-in-the-street reaction to some event, or perhaps a full-blown interview with a local politician or celebrity. In any case, it required packing a heavy and complex assortment of electronic equipment including a cassette tape recorder, spare cassettes, a microphone, headphones, several sets of batteries, and a variety of cables. The possibility that any of these items might malfunction and ruin the interview was huge: a wire could break inside a connector, the cassette used in the recorder could be bad, the batteries could crap out, etc. And then there was the old standby, “operator error”. I once did an entire 20-minute interview with a local marine expert on the health effects of Florida’s notorious “red tides“, and neglected to push the “record” button on the tape deck. Duh.

Worse yet, if something did go wrong, it wasn’t usually discovered until back at the station when the intrepid reporter begins to edit the tape looking for that one, succinct, pithy 10-second comment to be used later in the station’s newscast. When the News Director asks “so, whaddya got?” and you proudly press the “play” button to hear nothing but a loud buzzing sound, or nothing at all, this is the time when an alternate career in the fast-food or waste management industries begins to seem like a fairly good possibility.

Having suffered this ignobility, this gizmo is pretty darn appealing to me. (The fact that I no longer am a news reporter is irrelevant; I still think it’s cool.) The recorder part is built into the microphone itself — no tape, or cables, or other bulky apparatus to lug around. Simply whip the mic out of your pocket, press one button, and flawlessly capture up to six hours of sound in its full digital glory. Even better, all sorts of future improvements could be implemented: the ability to transmit the audio over an 802.11 wireless network, for example, would allow broadcasters to easily send audio from remote locations without using long cables and expensive microwave relay links. I salivate over these possibilities the way some people do over a juicy steak, which should remove any remaining doubt that anyone may have concerning my geekiness.

Now if they could only do something about the “operator error” part.

Streaking naked sheep

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

…was this year’s most popular Super Bowl ad, according to a survey conducted by The Miami Herald, which revealed that several of the Budweiser ads scored big with Bowl viewers. If I may channel Dave Barry for a moment, I should also point out that “Streaking Naked Sheep” would be a great name for a rock & roll band.

Studies also indicated the much-publicized “GoDaddy” ad featuring a well-endowed actress with a malfunctioning tank top was a, ahem, “bust” with the audience, ranking only #38 in the top-rated game ads. The video became the subject of controversy when various takes of the commercial were rejected 13 times by ABC before the 14th was approved.

The Business section of the New York Times has color commentary and analysis of the ad-fest, dissecting what it feels were the best and worst of the lot. The commercials are such a hot topic that they even have their own exclusive web site,, for those who might wish to explore the nuts-and-bolts of the sophisticated marketing and research that goes into producing them. Advertisers pay up to $2.5 million dollars for a 30-second Superbowl spot, making the ads some of the most anticipated and entertaining commercials of the year. Not everyone had positive feelings about them, however; The Washington Post felt many were excessively cartoonish and violent (like the Pepsi ad in which a can of competitor Diet Coke was crushed), and Chris Ballard writing for Sports Illustrated called it “another disappointing year”.

Still, you can vote for your favorite ad in the Herald’s survey here, or check out the USA Today site, where you can not only register your vote but watch all of the ads in case you might have missed any of them.

Unfortunately, the networks have an annoying habit of interrupting the annual sell-a-thon with something called “football”. Rumor has it that this year’s game was won by a team named “The Pittsburgh Steelers”, but no one outside of Pennsylvania really seemed to notice or care.

A Stern-ly worded warning

Thursday, January 12th, 2006

I’ve got mixed emotions about Howard Stern’s long-anticipated debut on the Sirius satellite network on Monday (1/9). Let me state right up front that I am not one of Howard’s fans. Even though you could not by any stretch of the imagination call me a prude, his particular over-the-top brand of raunchy humor just plain disgusts me far more often than it makes me laugh. If there were an award given for “The World’s Filthiest-Talking Radio Host”, it wouldn’t even be close to a contest: Stern would win by a mile, and I don’t consider that much of an honor.

Yet in a way, I somewhat admire the man. Most likely this has much to do with me being a former disk jockey myself, and secretly wishing that I could have gotten away with one-one-hundredth of what he does on the radio. I was nearly fired at one station years ago for playing “The Bitch is Back” by Elton John, for God’s sake. (“We can’t have the B-word on the air,” said the station manager; good thing I never talked about my female dog.) My specialty was the double-entendre, which I always thought was a far more clever way to say something (gasp!) shocking, but this did get me in trouble more than a few times. And I enjoyed Stern’s movie “Private Parts” for the same reason I liked the old TV series “WKRP in Cincinnati”: both were relatively accurate representations of the world of broadcasting, and the short-sighted stupidity of bean-counting radio station managers who care only about sales and nothing about the listeners.

Neither am I a fan of the Federal Communications Commission’s current jihad on so-called “indecency”, an agenda pushed by radical conservatives. I am still amazed by the overblown reaction to Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction“, and the chill that has since permeated over-the-air broadcasting. Under the threat of major financial burden from an FCC fine, radio has become so dumbed-down, bland and predictable in the last few years that I can hardly stand to listen to it any more. Love him or hate him, you nevertheless must admit that Stern is probably the most successful and influential figure in modern radio. He pushed the free-speech envelope about as far as it would go, and as a result became the poster-bad-boy scapegoat for everyone who thought those boundaries were stretched too far. At least now Stern can say whatever depravity he pleases free from FCC censorship, and if you don’t happen to like that, nobody’s going to put a gun to your head and force you to listen.

As for Stern’s first satellite broadcast, it went about as you might expect. The word “fuck” was used 77 times, along with other colorful content; all together, there were “740 instances of profanity, sexual terms, scatological references (potty humor), verbal threats of bodily harm and sexual activities implied by sounds”. We know these details thanks to this fascinating report from MediaData corporation, who monitored the program for the Family Media Guide. Every minute of the inaugural show was carefully logged and double-checked. What dedication!

Bottom line? I don’t plan to run out and buy a Sirius receiver just so I can listen to Stern rant about his obsession with lesbians. He ain’t worth my money. But I’m not about to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn’t listen to – or say on the air – either. We still live in a free country. For now.

He hath spoken, and he ith pithed

Friday, November 11th, 2005

So I’m driving back home from lunch yesterday past the First Baptist Church, and almost swerve off the road when I see this sign out front:

Whoa. This is getting a little personal. OK, it’s a joke – you can make your own church sign here – but for obvious reasons I’ve been thinking about the hereafter lately, and it’s been disconcertingly inconclusive. I think I’ve lived a good life: I’m kind to little old ladies and stray animals, I’m honest, and I’ve never killed anyone. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like I’ve still been a little too … you know … evil. I’ve had a couple of relationships that ended badly due to my own selfishness, and had my share of sex, drugs, and rock’n'roll. Although that was a very long time ago, even now I occasionally take guilty pleasure in TV shows and movies featuring scantily-clad women and things that Blow Up Real Good (in addition to more sophisticated fare, of course).

The consequences of this occurred to me the other day as I was reading a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, in which they found that television shows that include some form of sexual content are increasing. The number of scenes involving sex has nearly doubled since 1998, the study said, from 1,930 to 3,783. Predictably, the wingnuts on the right are frothing at the mouth over this. The Taste Police at the Parent’s Television Councilregularly rail about this sort of thing; this particular organization is responsible for a whopping 97% of all complaints to the FCC regarding “indecency” on TV, and were the driving force behind the over-hyped over-reaction to Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrdobe malfunction”. Shows like “Nip/Tuck” and “The O.C.” give them hissy fits. But even moderates like Democratic up-and-comer Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois said he shares the concern of many parents about what their kids are exposed to on television.

“We don’t teach our children that healthy relationships involve drunken, naked parties in a hot tub with strangers — but that’s what they see when they turn on The Real World,” Obama said, citing a show on MTV.

Excuse me, but isn’t that why it’s called “The Real World”? People actually do such things. I understand concerns about children, but this is where “Parental Responsibility” comes into the picture. The viewer still has the ultimate tool to decide what is and isn’t seen in their own home, and it’s called the remote control. It has an “off” button.

I personally find nothing whatsoever wrong with the hot tub scenario above. In fact, it sounds like a lot of fun. This is why I’m going to hell.

So even though I’m not Catholic, I figured I’d visit the Online Confessional just to be safe, but this only served to worry me even more. There’s a convenient drop-down menu of sins you can choose to confess to, including the Ten Commandments, the ever-popular Seven Deadly Sins, as well as Internal, Physical, and General sins. I seem to have enough transgressions under “general sins” alone to guarantee eternal damnation. When my number’s up, I’ll be sure and send a postcard. Although if Satan is as devious and clever as they say, Hell has wireless internet access (talk about your Hot Spot!) and I can just continue my blog from there.