By Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB
Tom Ray Consulting
NEW YORK — As I have mentioned in this column previously, I am involved with an independently syndicated program, Ron Ananian: The Car Doctor. The program airs live on an independent network on Saturdays from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, with some affiliates delaying the show until Sunday to broadcast. The story of putting this together and making it work when The Car Doctor show was bounced from the WOR Radio Network lineup when Clear Channel purchased WOR is an article in itself. And yes, that will be another article, because it is entirely possible to take a program into independent syndication and make it work.
On the weekend of June 8, we actually did two programs. The normal live show on June 8. And we recorded the show on location at the Mary Knoll Car Show in Ossining, NY on Sunday, June 9, for air June 15. We ran the show in real time on location, filling the commercial breaks (which would be replaced for the actual airing of the show) with PSAs to maintain timing.
We produce the program in New Jersey, where Ron is located. But this week, there was no need for Ron to be present to air a pre-recorded program. So, through the magic of IP connectivity, I ran the show from my home office. And – bonus! – there is an affiliate of the program near my home, so I actually listened to the show on the air while I ran it back. I had never heard the program on the air – only in the studio.
I highly recommend this to anyone involved in producing a network radio show: the entire production crew: board operator, producer, talent, and anyone else involved, should listen to the show on an affiliate station and not just in the studio. You will learn something.
I learned that our commercial timing was correct. There was enough space when the local cue is sent to cleanly break away. And there is enough time between the end of the break and when the show returns to keep the return clean.
I also learned that, even though we have told our affiliates that liners that go up and over the top of the network audio when we send a liner cue going into a break should be between 5-7 seconds, our local affiliate had most of the liners in rotation approximately 10 seconds. Luckily for me we padded the recording slightly so that most music beds purposely went a bit longer than normal. We did this during the recording because we did not have the commercial schedule for the show on the 15th, and did not know what or where billboards would fall – so we left plenty of time should we not have a billboard.
Had I kept to the 5-7 second liner window, our network commercial breaks would have stomped all over the end of this station’s liner. And, not knowing what automation system they are running, there are several possibilities when it came to a local only break if their liner were running when the local cue went. First, we could have triggered their local spot over the end of their liner. Or, their system may have waited until the liner was over and then fired the break, screwing up the timing. Or, worst case, the machine could have ignored the local cue entirely if the liner were running, thereby causing them to miss a break and possibly screwing up their break alignment for the remainder of the hour.
None of the above happened, especially after I was aware of the fact that this station’s liners were 10 seconds long.
If you are a station that is an affiliate of network radio programming, and you have been having problems, you may want to record a problem area and send it to either your network rep or someone from engineering in their organization. They can tell you if you are doing something wrong. Or, it may alert them to the fact that they have a timing or other issue while airing a program.
In the case of The Car Doctor show, we put out a quality product, both from a content and from a production standpoint. We strive for accuracy. Sometimes we don’t quite make it timing wise for a number of reasons, but I think we do a good job maintaining consistency and making sure our cues go when they’re supposed to.
On the affiliate end, we want the show to be presented to the public by our affiliates to be as smooth as possible. So if a station is having a problem, it reflects not only on our product, but on the station as well. And we want to know if we are causing a problem for the station. We have to live with our production at the end of the day. Our affiliates have to live in their markets at the end of the day, and we don’t want to be the reason people are laughing behind their backs at on air mistakes.
So lesson learned? Know what your affiliates need and how they are airing your show. Sometimes giving a listen can be an eye opener – but will lead to a much better product in the long run.
Thomas R. Ray, III CPBE, AMD, DRB is president of Tom Ray Consulting and Technical Editor of TALKERS. He can be phoned at 845-418-5065 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.tomrayconsulting.com.