Programming Philosophy and Know-How
In the United States, the radio spectrum is allocated by the FCC through a licensing system. The spectrum is a limited natural resource that is managed by the FCC on behalf of the American public. In the FM part of the spectrum, commercial broadcasters pay a fee for their licenses and then “mine” the spectrum for as much money as they can in a system that’s a lot like the allocation of mineral rights out west. Besides paying money, commercial broadcasters are required to fulfill some public service duties in exchange for their part of the spectrum, but those requirements are minimal.
In noncommercial radio, the entire program is a public service. Public broadcasters are also prohibited from airing advertisements. For this reason, public broadcasters receive some state and federal support in order to accomplish the public good in the use of the spectrum.
In KAXE and KBXE’s cases, Northern Community Radio (the licensee) is charged with assuring that the part of the spectrum KAXE and KBXE were allocated is put to good public use. The board of directors holds these broadcast licenses on behalf of the community and decides how the licenses are best used, for whom, and at what cost.
Northern Community Radio’s Programming Policies:
Just as Northern Community Radio’s board of directors has defined our audience, they have also created policies about programming. The board’s programming policy is as follows:
Northern Community Radio produces content for radio, internet and social media. Content on Northern Community Radio shall be mission driven.
1. Public Affairs and Cultural Programming: Northern Community Radio’s program service will be regional, informative and entertaining, with a strong emphasis on listener participation, portraying issues, events and culture through perspectives representative of our region.
2. Music Programs: Musical programming will be distinct and unique and of high quality. It will be intellectually and emotionally stimulating, capable of satisfying an audience with diverse, eclectic musical interests.
The general manager is held accountable to assure the board that programming meets these criteria. The staff does this by creating benchmarks (a work plan) in response to policy. These benchmarks directly affect volunteers and may include training and evaluation or other methods to assure compliance with the board’s policies.
In a system like this, staff and volunteers are held to high standards in carrying out programs for listeners. The program director and music director are the primary links in providing feedback about on-air performance. It is a good idea to ask for feedback regularly. Make air checks of your shows and listen to them. It’s also a good idea to listen to the radio. Your programming should be consistent with the sound (or “stationality”) of our stations. It is also fun and instructive to listen to other stations from time to time.
How to Use the Mic:
Avoid noises, coughing, smacking lips, throat clearing. If you feel a sneeze coming on, turn the mic down, sneeze, turn it back up (beware of that second sneeze!). Have what you need with you in front of the mic before you turn it on. Sit up straight in your chair.
Wear headphones when you are on the air. Listen to yourself. Turn up the headphones loud enough to hear yourself (but not too loud). If you keep them too low, you will hear yourself through your head, not the headphones, and you will miss the feedback of hearing how you sound in the mic. If the headphones are too loud, you may speak too softly or even damage your hearing. When you turn the mic on, the speakers in the air studio will turn off automatically.
The mics in the air studio are directional or cardioid (Electro-Voice RE20s). They reject sound behind and search for sound in a sort of oval- or heart-shaped area in front. If you speak directly into them, you will be prone to pops and hisses. You can only hear whether you are popping your P’s if you listen in your headphones as you speak. Some people learn to speak without popping and hissing, but most have more luck by positioning the mic a little off-center in relation to the mouth. You can talk past the front of the mic (put the mic to the right or left) or you can talk just off the center of the mic in front of it. Do not talk into the side vents of the mic or below the mic (with the mic above your mouth) or the frequency response will be poor and your voice will sound thin and quiet.
Beware of rustling papers and creaky chairs. Avoid bumping the mic boom. Minimize this by positioning yourself before you turn on the mic and having all papers placed neatly on the table in front of you.
You can create a sense of intimacy with the mic by speaking right into it up close. You can create a sense of space (or excitement) by speaking more loudly from farther away.
Each type of microphone is different, but generally, you should be 2 to 4” away from the studio mics (RE20s) when speaking. Move the fader to the zero position, then maybe a notch higher or lower depending on what you see in the VU meter. Peaks should hit zero, maybe + 1. Turn the mic on and bring it up before the end of the recorded piece preceding your break. A mic that “pops” on sounds amateurish, and listeners may be able to notice or “hear” the room. Never bring up the fader before turning on the mic.
How to Talk to Listeners:
As an institution, Northern Community Radio holds its listeners in high regard. Commercial radio exists to deliver the ears of listeners to advertisers. Northern Community Radio is all about people, not advertisers. It is about building community; bringing folks together.
Whenever we do a listener survey, listeners say they like two things about our programming: 1) variety and 2) real people. When you talk to listeners on the radio, speak as if you mean it. Sound honest, sincere, genuine. Be a real person. Have some fun, but remember to include your listeners when you do. Don’t be silly. Be upbeat, but never un-genuine. Stay far away from DJ hype and jive.
Be careful when thinking of your listeners as the “audience.” It’s a handy term, but “audience” sometimes brings faceless masses to mind. Radio is an intimate medium. Most people don’t listen to the radio in a group setting. They listen in a car or while they’re at work or washing dishes or getting ready for work in the morning. Talk to one person. Try to imagine that person sitting across from you in the studio. Speak in the singular, not the plural. Talk to that person as if he or she was a respected friend. Smile. Say “you,” not “me.” Be sure to articulate the “A” in KAXE.
At the same time that you’re trying to be your natural self, realize that hosting a radio show is also a performance. Your on-air style will be a bit different than your true self, but the real you should definitely be at the core. Your announcing style should fit the pace and content of your show. Try to sound friendly and confident. You need to fit into the overall sound of KAXE and KBXE, not some other radio station.
Keep your breaks short. Use simple words and sentences. This isn’t because listeners can’t understand complex sentences and concepts, but because the audio medium of radio is different from the written word and lacks the visual cues of personal conversation. You don’t have to avoid complex ideas, just complex words and sentences. (Don’t say a paragraph like this one on the air!)
Beginning announcers may over-enunciate. Sometimes they sound timid, slow, or hesitant. Don’t try to fill every space with sound. Avoid “uh.” Try for a natural, conversational tone of voice.
Also avoid jargon. Don’t say “cue up” or “PSA” or “segue” or “top of the hour” or “t-storms” or use other terms you don’t use in regular conversation with people outside the station.
Don’t tell listeners what you are doing in the studio. They don’t need or want the magic of the medium destroyed for them. Before you saw the inside of a studio, you didn’t know how radio was created. Let the mystery be.
Don’t apologize for mistakes. Ignore them. Many people didn’t hear the mistake at all, and those that did will forget it in shorter order if you don’t call attention to it. Apologies may make you feel better, but they do not make listeners feel better. Listeners want you to know what you’re doing.
Pre-read all announcements before saying them on the air. There can be some tongue-twisters in there. You might want to try reading some cards aloud.
How to Write for Listeners:
Whole books are written about this, but here are just a few general rules.
When creating written copy for on-air use, get right to the point. Make that point in the first sentence. An introduction to a recorded piece should consist of no more than 2 or 3 sentences. Listen to the words you’re writing—speak them aloud instead of reading them silently. Use short sentences. If you have the choice of a simpler word, use it (for example, avoid “utilize.” Use “use” instead.). Let go of your ego enough to get rid of superfluous words, no matter how attached you are to them.
Use descriptive, action words. Substitute more pointed words for less effective ones.
If you are writing PSAs, make sure all the necessary information is there. Don’t assume all listeners live in your town or Grand Rapids.
A Good Break:
Always plan breaks in advance. There used to be a sign in KAXE’s old air studio that said: “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear.” Because of the way people use radio, at least half of the listeners in any given 15-minute period are new. Over the course of an hour, you will probably only retain about 10% of your audience. Your job is to give listeners the information they need, make them feel comfortable, and orient them to what they are hearing. What may seem like covering old ground to you is actually new information to most of your listeners.
Elements of a Break:
Station ID—Mention 91.7 KAXE and 90.5 KBXE during every break. Twice is better than once.
Program ID—Every break, tell listeners what show they’re listening to (usually On the River).
Time—Conventional radio wisdom says the primary reason most people turn on the radio is to find out what time it is. This may be less true than it once was, but try to give the time every other break at least. Vary the placement of the time in your break. People do still want to know the time, especially mornings.
Weather—The second reason most people turn on the radio (according to conventional wisdom) is to hear the weather. In the morning, weather is given several times every hour. Except during the Morning Show (when it is more frequent), a forecast is given on every hour, in the same break as you give the legal ID, and current conditions are given another time in the hour. In the event of dangerous weather conditions, update listeners more frequently. For more extensive information, see “The Weather” later in this document or check the technical manual in the air studio.
Current Temperatures—Except during the Morning Show, current temperatures are announced once per hour during the day (usually at XX:20 or :40). Mention just a few towns from across the listening area, 6 or 7 at the most. The weather computer has an annoying habit of updating just as you are about to read the temperatures. If this happens, keep it to yourself. Don’t tell the listeners!
Host ID—You should identify yourself about twice per hour while you are on the air. Most people use their first and last name. Since Northern Community Radio is based on authenticity and “real people” on the radio, using your real name is encouraged. In some cases, other identities emerge, but they are the result of a natural and evolutionary process of developing your on-air style. Check with the program director or music director before adopting any identity other than your own name.
Underwriting Announcements—Read and log underwriting announcements when they come up on the schedule. Do not announce or introduce underwriting cards, just read them. If you are reading several underwriting cards, try to use just one opener (“programming on Northern Community Radio is made possible by Grand Rapids State Bank and U Care), then: “Grand Rapids State Bank has been serving etc)…and UCare focuses on health (etc)...”
Station/Clipboard Promos—Read and log clipboard promo announcements as directed on the program rundown. The clipboard is only used for station-related announcements and events.
Cross Promotion—Promote another program or program host that will be on the air in the coming day or week in the same time slot as the show you are doing. Just pick one to promote on any given show. You can also refer to other programs in other time slots if there is occasion to do so (a nature segment or song might remind you to promote the Phenology Show, or a Slice of Green Cheese might remind you to promote Green Cheese).
Promote the day’s schedule—Let listeners know what is going to be on the air through the remainder of the day. Sometimes it makes sense to just promote the next couple of programs, other times you might want to go through the list. Special programs deserve special mention, including radio drama, theme shows, call-ins. Do this once or maybe twice during a program.
Forward Promotion—Forward promotion is more important than back announcing. This keeps listeners tuned to the station to hear something coming up. The more hours per week people listen, the more likely they are to become members. Artist names are the most important information. Never forward promote a comprehensive list of names, tunes, release titles, and recording companies. This is tedious and confusing for listeners and is contrary to RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) webcasting rules.
Back Announcing—Back announce near the beginning of your break. It’s okay to mention all the artists you played in a 20-minute set, but don’t back announce every aspect of each song or album. Occasionally encourage listeners to call if they have questions about anything they hear. Back announce the music you didn’t forward promote. Remember that your playlist is going out on our website and into cars equipped with RDS displays.
PSAs—When it’s time to read Public Service Announcements, pull some from all over the listening area. Perhaps read two or three with a single focus, such as health issues or weekend entertainment. Don’t call them PSAs or use other insider jargon.
Positioning Statement—Like most organizations, we intentionally project an image to the community. A positioning statement is a way of telling the community who we are as an organization. The positioning statement we use now is “Authentic Local Radio.”
Read underwriter announcements exactly as written with this exception: if you are reading more than one card at one time, try to read just one full introductory statement (the part that explains this business supports programming on Northern Community Radio), and then read the core language pertaining to each business. You can connect cards by saying “we also receive programming support from…” or connect them by naming all of the underwriters when you first read the full introductory statement. Do not ad lib calls to action, prices, inducements to buy, or qualitative or quantitative language. If you have questions or comments about underwriting credits, please bring them to the attention of staff. Do not make changes on any cards or logs. Put a note about poor wording, etc, in the development director’s mailbox or on his or her desk.
Our signature music program is On the River. The show is hosted by over 80 on-air volunteers who work together to carry it out. On the River covers the majority of the music schedule of Northern Community Radio. Though we see creating and programming On the River as an artistic endeavor, there’s a certain mathematics that can be used as a guideline. We strive to include roughly equal parts from the green (folk) and red (rock) sections (30% each), lesser parts from the blue (blues) and orange (world) sections (15% each), and a dab of jazz (white) (10%). These percentages may vary a little from show to show, depending on several factors, including host, day of the week, time of day, etc…
We also strive to:
Balance the tempo– equal parts slow, mid-tempo and upbeat
50/50 balance of male/female
Balance of old and new music
Planning is the cornerstone of a good music program. Take some time to come up with a few ideas and spend some time listening to new music before you go on the air. The program director offers the following pointers:
Create a listener-centered program.
Present relevant, substantive choices. When choosing a piece of music, look for the following: impact, originality (melody, lyric content, arrangement, vocal quality, concept), appeal, authenticity.
Sample the best of the new.
Make your program flow (reduce drag). “Drive” your program with dynamic continuity.
Make connections musically and thematically (On the River is not a theme show in its entirety).
Provide the soundtrack for your listeners’ lives.
Expand your listener’s world.
Be inclusive. Play 50% female artists.
Provide a balance of musical elements.
Make the total greater than the sum of its parts.
Make the music be the star.
Let your personality shine through. Do not force it.
Allow the equipment to be invisible. Use it to its best purpose without calling attention to it.
Entertain, inform, stimulate, uplift.
Remember, audience awareness is the single most important aspect of radio programming. Northern Community Radio’s audience is not a “demographic”—they are real people who use the radio.
In the segue between two locally produced music programs, try to slip into and out of your program without anyone noticing a huge change between your show and the one immediately preceding or following. Try to make your program flow as naturally as you can from the one before it. The idea is to retain listeners for as long as possible, bringing them easily from one program to the next. Avoid the “door-slam effect” (saying your show is over now) that encourages listeners to turn off the radio.
Be especially careful when going from live-hosted programming to automation. Rather than saying, “Now we’re going to the overnight” say: “Stay with us. Coming up next is more music On the River.”
Be intentional in engineering your show. Technical execution can make the difference between a good program and an excellent one. Segues are important. You can add or remove energy through the timing of transitions between pieces of music or between music and your breaks. Most new volunteers start out too slowly with segues and need to speed them up. This is especially problematic around mic breaks, where the tendency is to leave too much space between the music and your voice on-mic.
Watch levels on the VU meter. If a program is severely over- or under-modulated it will sound bad on the air. The processor in the air chain rack will help some, but it can’t patch up really poor engineering. Peaks should fall between –7 and 0 on the VU meter on the control console.
Do not use music you have taken from YouTube or comparable sources unless you are absolutely sure it is of high audio quality. Uncompressed audio is by far the best for radio, which compresses audio further. Low quality audio sounds bad: digitized and bubbly. Don’t use it.
Media organizations like Northern Community Radio are “content producers,” which means they take information from many sources and turn it into a form that is useful or entertaining to listeners on a variety of media platforms. This works for the Internet and social media as well as for broadcast.
We “netcast” or “webcast”our on-air programming. The program that you broadcast is simultaneously encoded as digital information and sent to an outfit called StreamGuys, who provide audio streams that can be decoded by people listening via computers from the Internet. Listeners with Internet access anywhere in the world, including phones, can listen. The webcast can be accessed through our home page at www.kaxe.org, and is compatible with a variety of media players.
People can also access audio archives of specific programs, and 2-week archives of all programs (except music) at KAXE.org.
The online listening audience is much smaller than the radio audience. A maximum of 200 people can listen online at any given time (and generally the online audience is half that or less). Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time (or any time, really) programming for Internet listeners. Stay local. We are authentic local radio. Internet listeners are listening in for what’s happening in northern Minnesota. If Northern Community Radio really focused on serving a national or international audience via the Internet, the programming and listening experience would change.
Do mention KAXE’s and KBXE’s web page. The web page is a marketing tool and a site for interacting with the radio stations. They support the broadcast with pictures, audio archives and additional information. The web pages help engage listeners in what we do. Time spent listening and time spent “engaged” help turn listeners (or web users) into members.
Northern Community Radio has active Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. If you are a Facebook or Twitter user, and feel comfortable doing so, you can interact with listeners online while you are on the air.
As a volunteer, you will be asked to submit a photo of yourself and fill out a volunteer questionnaire for Northern Community Radio’s websites.
If people call you with questions about the Internet or problems getting Internet audio, and there are no staff members present, ask them to send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a web camera in each air studio. It sends a picture of the back of your head to the web page every 15 seconds.
Programming Rules: the RIAA and the DMCA:
Because Northern Community Radio operates a live audio stream on the Internet, and because Congress passed certain copyright laws that are enforced by the DMCA/RIAA, we have to follow certain rules regarding online announcing and airplay that broadcast-only radio stations never had to worry about in the past. We have to follow the DMCA/RIAA guidelines or give up our audio presence online.
Since your program is being webcast, you have to know what should or should not be played or announced. You are also required to enter information into a computer about every piece of music you play (artist, song, album at a minimum). This information will be matched with a tally of how many people are listening to each song online at any given time. Data entry is as automated as possible, using The Playlist Center developed at community station KBCS in Bellevue Washington.
This information is automatically provided to our organization’s website and RDS (Radio Data System—for RDS-equipped car radios and other RDS-enabled units) as “now playing” information.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a U.S. law, passed in 1998, that regulates many aspects of Internet activity. It was established, presumably, to protect the copyrighted material of artists, scientists, writers, etc., in an era of changing and converging technology. Part of this act established that the recording industry has a right to collect royalties for performers based on Internet "airplay."
There was a long period of negotiation regarding what royalties would be paid, by whom, and how, but in 2009 the negotiations that were taking place between the CPB (on behalf of the public broadcasting system) and SoundExchange/RIAA were completed. Starting in 2010, all the public radio stations that stream music on the Internet must submit a thorough report of their streaming that covers two weeks of every quarter. The report has to identify all the music that was streamed. Those reports then go to SoundExchange. SoundExchange will match the log of music to the number of online listeners logged in for each piece that was streamed. SoundExchange is a non-profit organization that collects statutory royalties from radio stations and other platforms for streaming sound recordings. SoundExchange represents (and in most ways IS) the RIAA (the Recording Industry Association of America).
This ruling and its ramifications are still controversial, because some of the rules simply do not work well for broadcast radio, but Northern Community Radio is following the DMCA/RIAA rules for streaming. NPR, the NFCB, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have worked hard to help us and other public radio stations with legal support and coordination of these complicated tasks.
Here are the DMCA/RIAA restrictions that relate to the frequency or number of times some songs or artists or albums can be played online:
In any 3-hour period, we can webcast:
No more than 3 songs from one album; no more than 2 played consecutively
No more than 4 songs from a set/compilation; no more than 3 played consecutively
No more than 4 recorded songs by the same artist
(live studio appearances are exempt from these restrictions)
Some DMCA rules affect the archiving of recorded music:
Archived shows can be retained for only 2 weeks
Archived shows must consist of 5-hour-long files that can’t be easily searched by someone looking for a certain song. Listeners should not be able to call up any particular song on demand, so therefore, there should be no way to "scroll" forward or backward through the streaming shows that contain recorded music.
Most of Northern Community Radio’s local public affairs programming takes place during the Morning Show. Day-to-day public affairs program policy is established by the community access coordinator, although the board of directors establishes overarching public affairs policy. The community access coordinator is producer of the Morning Show. As producer, it is his or her job to decide what goes on the program.
The Morning Show has its own focus statement: The purpose of the Morning Show is to entertain people in northern Minnesota with information about our regional culture. The content may include interviews, conversations, essays, humor, music, drama, commentary, listener participation and response. The tone of the show is usually friendly and neighborly, but that doesn’t preclude asking hard questions or exploring issues in depth.
Many volunteers share opinions and expertise on the Morning Show. If you have an opinion to express or information to share, it may be most appropriate to include it in the Morning Show. Contact the community access coordinator. It is not appropriate to share editorial opinions during music programs, but fine to do so on a program where the audience expects this, under the right circumstances.
Several volunteers are currently involved in public affairs on KAXE and KBXE. If you have an interest or passion, you may be able to turn it into a “beat” to share with listeners. It is also possible to become a Morning Show co-host. You can be involved in public affairs programming regardless of whether you have an interest in learning to edit sound, or in technical production, or co-hosting, although you can certainly learn if you wish. Northern community Radio also encourages volunteers to write blogs and create other online content about their experiences, opinions or expertise.
There are many opportunities for volunteering in public affairs. If you are interested please talk to the community access coordinator.
Books have been written about this, but if you conduct an interview, here are a few pointers:
Think of the listeners. Remember that you are representing them in asking questions on the air. Ask yourself, “What would listeners like to know about this person or issue?” Think of the listener’s innocence. Ask the obvious as well as the subtle. The listener should be a participant in the program—be inspired, disagree with you, laugh with you, become engrossed in the experience of your guest, want you to ask their question.
Talk to your guest in general terms in advance (conduct a pre-interview), but don’t conduct the interview itself. Interviews lack energy and spontaneity the second time around. The pre-interview also allows you to make a decision about whether the interview is what you want or if it will serve a useful purpose. Don’t do an interview for its own sake. It should serve a purpose in your program.
Make a list of questions before the interview and half-memorize it. It’s okay if you don’t follow it during the interview, but have it handy to check before the end to see if there is anything you really wanted to get to that you forgot. Include name, simple job title or affiliation, relevant information (like meeting and performance times/places), and phone number of interviewee on the list.
Talk directly to your subject. When your interviewee just answers your list of questions, you have generally not produced a good interview. If you find something your subject really cares about, explore it thoroughly.
Pay attention to the personal aspect of a story. Good interviews are about people. They focus on personal relationships to ideas and issues. Think, “Why would anyone care about this? What does it matter?”
Introduce your guest before you start, during the interview, and in a recap or outro at the end.
Interviews should have a beginning, middle, and an end. The introduction should briefly summarize why the topic is important to us. The middle is the meat of the conversation—the what, why, and how of the story. The end thanks and re-identifies the interviewee and, if necessary, the topic.
Let people talk. Allow silence. Don’t always jump in with questions. Often, some truth will follow silence.
Don’t interrupt or overlap your voice with the interviewee’s. Such interruptions eliminate the sense of the interviewee communicating directly with the listener. This can be especially hard to do over the telephone. In a live interview situation, f you must let your subjects know you are with them, use head nods or eye contact. Try not to say “uh huh” or even laugh during an interview. Whether this is a live interview or something you have to edit, your own vocalizations are not good radio.
When interviewing someone in person, remember to establish eye contact. Guests are often a bit afraid of the mic. Don’t let the mic be the focus.
Ask open-ended questions. Remember the question “Why,” especially following a yes or no answer. Don’t forget the preface, “Tell me about…”
On-Air Phone Interviews:
Before attempting a “phoner” it’s a good idea to get technical training from staff. This takes just a few minutes. Make sure an interview is appropriate for your program. Ask the program director if you aren’t sure. Don’t attempt to use the phone interface until you have some on-air experience and you are comfortable with studio equipment.
Don’t ever put someone on the air via the phone without obtaining their prior consent. This is illegal unless it is for a regularly broadcast call-in show (like Green Cheese).
In general, the phone patch works like any other part of the control console. You just have to turn it on by pushing the ON button. Make sure PHONE is selected at the top of the appropriate module on the mixing console.
To put someone on the air via telephone: Phone the guest, put him or her on hold, hang up. Turn on the phone interface unit. When it’s time to go on the air, push the blinking button on the phone (don’t take the handset off the cradle), push the on-air button on the board, bring up the (correct) fader, and introduce your guest into the mike (your mike will be on and turned up). At KBXE, you can put a ringing line on the air (with the hybrid turned on), by hitting the on-air button at the base of the phone module on the board.
You must wear headphones to conduct a phone interview. You will hear your guest through the headphones. If someone else is in the studio with you, they must also wear headphones if they want to hear.
Try to avoid putting the dial tone on the air. You can put the phone in cue before putting someone on the air to be sure you have a clean line. Be sure to take the fader back down after you’re done, before the dial tone comes on.
Turn off the phone interface when you’re finished or it will continue to hang onto the phone line, rendering it unusable for other purposes.
The Studio/Office Telephone System (KAXE only):
If you’re at the studio alone, the phone system allows you to choose to answer the phone or not. If the phone isn’t answered in three rings, callers are consigned to the voicemail system. A caller can opt to ring the on-air studio, in which case the ringing will be punctuated with a beep. At any phone station, the little beep in the regular ring means the phone is for you.
The phone system is really pretty easy to use.
To answer the phone at DESKS, just pick it up. The line that rang first will be on the phone.
In the AIR STUDIO you may (or may not) have to push the line button that is blinking to talk on the phone. Each phone is different.
Line buttons are on the next-to-the-bottom row in the light-colored upper part of the phone. Lines are marked with the phone numbers (6-1234, 6-1235, 6-1234, 999-9876 Talkback). All the lines roll over.
To transfer a call to Voice Mail for someone on staff (if they are gone), push the Mail Xfer button on the top row, and then push the extension of the staff person for whom the call is destined. Staff names are marked on the phone.
To transfer a call to a person who is in the building, push the Transfr button (just above the red Hold button) on the lower part of the phone and then push their extension as above. To use the intercom, push Intercom, then * 70 and you can page the entire station.
To call out, simply pick up the phone and dial like you do at home.
If you need to make a brief long distance phone call when you’re here as a volunteer, maybe to check on the family or tell them you’re leaving for home, go ahead. Keep it short though. Please don’t use Northern Community Radio’s phones for unnecessary long distance chats.
Weather is an important reason people listen to radio. On the program rundown you will be asked to give temperatures and sky conditions once each hour. You will also be asked to give a forecast once each hour.
Because KAXE and KBXE’s signals cover such a broad geographic region, coming up with a coherent forecast that can be easily understood in an audio medium can be a bit of a challenge.
It is rare that the forecast for Grand Rapids or Bemidji alone will work for everyone. Conditions may be quite different in outlying communities. Check the forecasts for several communities around the area, and write down a forecast that encompasses everything (if the expected high in Brainerd is 45 and in Cook 40, with lows 35 and 30 respectively, combine this to read something like “…lows of 30-35 degrees and highs reaching 40-45.”).
Sometimes you have no choice except to split the forecast north and south or east and west. In this case, give a few community names rather than or in addition to saying “the southern part of KAXE and KBXE’s listening area.” Few listeners know what the signal contours looks like.
Choose a simple word or phrase that typifies the weather for the day and start there. For example, “It will be rainy and windy today.” Then get into the actual temperatures, cloud conditions, wind conditions. Don’t use jargon like “t-storms” (for thunderstorms). Talk about the weather as normally as you can.
You will also use the weather computer for current temperatures and sky conditions. Pick just a few communities that represent the entire region. It sometimes helps you to sound more focused and confident if you write the names on a sheet or paper, and update the information on your sheet each hour.
If there is a weather emergency you may need to use the weather computer to find current information. The weather radio in each air studio will also supply information and warnings, but that information is limited to weather coming out of the Duluth office of the National Weather Service. It doesn’t cover Bemidji or points west of Bemidji
Inclement weather often comes from the west. If you have an inkling that severe weather may be coming in from that direction, click through to Bemidji or Fosston on the weather computer and look at the radar and Active Advisories on those sites.
The ENCO Computer:
The ENCO computer is an expensive but handy system that gives us the capacity to operate overnight, allows us to store and retrieve audio, and lets us shuttle audio around the building on the computer network, from production to air. The ENCO computer uses a CD-quality sampling rate and a popular compression algorithm called MP2.
The ENCO computer is a Digital Audio Delivery system (aka DAD). After sound is recorded onto the hard drive “library”, it can be edited or cued and put on a playback button that you can click on the ENCO computer screen in the studio. Some buttons play a cut in the library and some start a series of cuts that are strung together in a playlist. There are also command cuts.
Overnight, programs on the playlist are programmed to run automatically. Breaks are recorded and inserted in the appropriate place on the playlist. The playlist can access recorded material or a satellite feed. The staff programs the computer for overnight operation.
There are many playback configurations (or machines) on ENCO. The one you will use the most is the ARRAY. Arrays are groups of “buttons” that can be clicked with the mouse to play recorded pieces. During fundraisers, sound effects are often placed on the arrays so programmers can get to them easily and quickly.
The ENCO mouse is intentionally different from the weather computer mouse to help keep people from confusing the two (the ENCO mouse is stationary).
Please don’t explore the ENCO computer if you don’t know precisely what you’re doing. It is possible to lock up the system or overwrite programs.
If you are the last person on the air at night, you will click the OVERNIGHT button at the bottom of the ENCO computer screen to start the automation. The computer will start the overnight programming. To regain control, or to switch studios, click the LIVE button.
There is more info about operating the ENCO computer in the Technical Manual in the air studios.
We know people are curious by nature and want to learn more about this system. If this describes you, please see the engineer for more training or take advantage of a production or studio equipment workshop.
Program Reviews and Definitions:
Occasionally, program reviews are scheduled as part of the work plan to assure KAXE’s programming meets criteria established in board policy. All program development and evaluation begins with the organization’s mission.
Program reviews are usually conducted through a process based on the work of legendary CBC Senior Trainer David Candow. Candow’s approach is to develop new programming by bringing together producers, volunteers, contributors, stakeholders and staff to brainstorm around a specific program idea. An example of such an idea might be: “What is the best possible morning show?”
Through a process of brainstorming and discussion, the group creates a “what statement” or focus statement for the program. A program review process like this one created the focus for KAXE’s Morning Show: “The purpose of KAXE’s Morning Show is to entertain people in northern Minnesota with information about our regional culture.”
Once a program has a focus statement, the group is also asked to identify underlying or “core” values that help define what is appropriate for the show. Everything that goes in the show must satisfy the focus statement. What occurs must also satisfy most if not all of the core values. These values can also called “Essential Elements.” For the Morning Show, the values identified by this process were: regional, respectful, entertaining, informative. If, for example, “fun” had been identified, then almost everything in the show would have been required to have an element of fun.
This series of program development meetings comprises the WHAT process. Staff (often meeting with interested volunteers) then determines HOW to achieve the mission of the program within the stated values.
Volunteers are encouraged to participate in the program review process and to give input into decisions that affect them. Final program decisions are made by the program director.
Making a Copy of Your Radio Show:
Listening to your program is the best way to evaluate and improve your on-air performance. It’s a great idea to listen to your radio shows whenever you can.
There are a couple of ways to make a copy of your radio show (In both cases, contact Northern Community Radio’s engineer to show you exactly how to do this).
One way is to plug your own recorder into one of the audio outputs in the air studio. This way you can record directly onto your own laptop or MP3 player or other device.
The best way: There is a recorder utility on one of computers in each studio, called the Hi-Q Recorder. Plug in a USB memory stick and click record on the screen. You can play it out in your car or put it on your home computer and burn discs.