Updated 2-15-y2k to expand some points and correct mispellings

Below is some advice to those interested in radio broadcasting as a career, and no doubt some things I mention are what many broadcast students have learned. Take your time as some of the material below could be over your head, but you'll be exposed to it in the real world. Don't feel guilty if there are concepts you don't immediately understand, just take in what you can, don't sweat the petty stuff, and don't pet the sweaty stuff.. O.K.? :-) This is not all inclusive, and there are various regulatory items I've not mentioned below as of this initial posting, such as Payola/Plugola. In actuality, the broadcast licensee or owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring their operators on-air are properly trained in such regulations, but if requested, I'll prepare such an addition here. I've not mentioned the operating parameters in some stations, most likely AM's which change depending on months for sunrise and sunset, quite a few change their coverage pattern, but each station has it's own.
Of course you can download or print this out, but if you're strictly on-line and reading through, there's a lot to the entire article I have, and I'll be editing it now and then. I have to explain this partly as a story of myself so you'll get examples of what I mean by some of the terms. Some I've not defined, so if you're reading this and need clarification, don't hesitate to e-mail me and ask. If I discover a pattern of questions to what I've posted, I'm likely to add more including an F.A.Q. elsewhere on my broadcasting page, and even a search box if it gets big enough. Enjoy the story, and I hope you can learn from parts of it. If you have things to add to this, contact me please.

 So you want to be involved in broadcasting? It does have unique benefits to it, especially if you're not behind the scenes and being part of the action is what you're after, with at least part of your goal being that your listeners (and especially viewers if in television) are being communicated to (not necessairily being "talked to" but communicating is an important concept for good broadcasters to understand.) Not everyone is capable of being a good communicator, and being behind the scenes isn't that bad if you're willing to prove your dependability, ability to follow the fine details, and give your best effort every time you report for work. This is particularly true in television as radio for the most part isn't as labor intensive. It takes good people in many tasks of which is called a "crew" to make a good presentation or newscast in television or a radio network. Since I now have experience in both radio and television, I can better relate to those interested in getting their foot in the door of what can be expected, although each experience and your own mileage will vary.

 If you're in Junior High or High School, (not post secondary) in the United States, I would suggest you check well in advance with your school counselors and inquire about any vocational training you can obtain which concerns your interests in broadcasting. Not all schools will have such programs, but you might be surprised which schools do have them! I took up that opportunity with a Vo-Tech school near where I lived, and took two years of radio broadcasting school, of which I became Vice President of the Broadcast Club since Vo-Tech schools in my State required students to hold membership in a club such as VICA. We were the exception in the entire school having the only separate club outside of VICA, and we functioned well with our club as we never had to leave class to attend it. Although I lived in Little Rock, other students from nearby districts, some outside the county, were bussed to Metropolitan for classes, spending half their school day at Vo-Tech and the other at their home school. To this day I remain friends with my instructor!

 If you're not fortunate enough to gain a Vo-Tech course while in High School and have College in mind, then find out if your school has a station! There are many students who have their first broadcast experiences in college, and not all of them will make it a major or minor. I've heard horrible and excellent college radio, but the incredible variety of material I hear on it brings a breath of fresh air from time to time. If you plan to go to college, check into college radio, and do what you can to get a gig in the business to gain real-world experience which will serve you well. Most colleges have a placement counselor and some commercial broadcasters will have an ongoing relationship with colleges for interns in both radio and TV. If that doesn't hold true, have some demo tapes and resumes (in radio, and a resume for most TV positions with on-camera ones needing a video demotape) ready and when you feel you're ready to "check out the waters," then start calling radio stations in your area and see if they're "offering employment opportunities" in which you could benefit them with your services. Whenever you can, be resourceful! Some of the finest talent have had college radio under their belt at one time so I wouldn't think of "dissing" it (showing disrespect toward) and neither should you. Take advantage of your State Broadcast Association who in most cases can place you on a "jobs wanted" list or give you job listings through their "job bank." You are encouraged to go to my State Broadcast Associations links page which contains information on all 50 states, DC, and PR in some form. If your state has a broadcasters association website which I don't have linked on my page, please e-mail me with the URL so you and I can help others who come along in the future with the latest info. What I've just stated to you is the MOST IMPORTANT part of what a new person can do to gain employment in a radio station. Of additional mention - be honest with your abilities.. Can you read out loud and make it flow without too much stuttering or having to start over frequently? Don't let that stop you! It's better now to get familiar with the feel of it before it's thrown directly in your face, and you'd not able to handle it. Better yet, can you read into a tape recorder or other audio recorder and stand to hear yourself when you play it back, learning from your minor mistakes? This can be a huge advantage you give yourself before you begin your work, and could likely be the factor needed in landing the gig in the first place. If you're in your mode, resourceful, and use your time wisely, you'll learn to pre-read whenever possible, and with experience you'll be able to handle "cold copy" or material you've not reviewed or pre-read very well. I've done that numerous times over the years, especially from 1990 on. When I was very young, I hated any tape recording of myself, but landed my first gig in radio when I was 17. You'll be your own worst critic if you are really committed to improving what you can do. Reading out loud, and practicing regularly is SO important for the beginner as every radio station which you use the microphone will have something for you to read. Perhaps the exception is if you're there babysitting the board such as block-program or pre-paid set time religious stations. Furthermore, few stations have a format which is fully "ad-lib" or where you're not reading directly, but from your brain. Some beginners have fantastic ad-lib talents which can take them far in personality radio if not overdone, and it's a big plus in talk radio under most circumstances. Remember though that each radio station is a learning experience, both in the station politics, and the formatics in which it runs. What you've learned elsewhere may or may not count where you're working now.

 After I graduated from High School in the early 80's, I got my first broadcast job as a part-timer in a 250-watt daytimer AM. It was a humble place and a humbling experience at times. I learned with this real-world job of what and what not to communicate. I learned more about country music in the course of my first month there than I'd ever had over my life to that point. Even though I wasn't a fan of country music at the time, I realized the format was going through much change for the better, and that I could capitalize by knowing it. Learn all the formats of music that you care to, as that knowledge could well be the one point along with your experience in other stations that can land you another job! I've worked the most in country as that is my specialty format, but I've worked AC or Adult Contemporary which is mostly pop and light rock mixed from 10-92 through 10-18-94, and during 4 months in 1990 I worked a full-powered rocker, the only powerhouse in that format for about 80 miles. I also learned early that *pressure* comes with the job, particularly if you're the one behind the microphone. Central Arkansas has plenty of tornadoes, and it can be difficult to predict what time of year severe weather can render a nice home or building to little more than rubble, with the Little Rock tornadoes of 3-1-97 and the recent ones in 1-99 being good examples. This happened twice during December 1982, the second occurance on Christmas Eve, a Sunday which I was alone and having to handle a call from the local police with a reported tornado just south of town. Our transmitter was south of town! Within 15 seconds, it went off the air, but I didn't give up in trying to get it going and fortunately it did a minute later. The studios were housed in an office complex which was owned by a furniture company upstairs. The owners came down within the next two minutes and pointed to a rotating funnelcloud still on its side and developing quickly (I could see inside the funnel) and moving toward Little Rock! I wasted no time in getting out warnings to my listeners who took them seriously since the small community of Alexander was struck just over 3 weeks earlier. The funnel had a close encounter near there, entering Pulaski County and demolishing a church on Stagecoach Road which had planned Christmas services but instead had to rebuild. If even one life was saved due to my broadcast, then I've done my job well, and the effort was undoubtedly worth it. If you share that passion under pressure, not allowing yourself to crack under it, and possess the talents to do your job well in communicating, this could be the job you'll enjoy!

 How did I get into it you ask?? At times I wonder why I had allowed myself to get into this madness. My ninth-grade English teacher had me recite or narrate something, and was very impressed with my abilities to where she suggested I take a closer look at a career in it, in front of the other students no less! That's when I realized I could at the least do this during the time I'd be going to college or another trade school to pay the bills until I was into another career. Little did I realize how changes in the regulatory scene would change the overall landscape of radio as we knew it then to what we experience today. Still, one can make a living in commercial production, in many cases from the comfort of their home business if they have real-world experience in radio and understand the various complexities of ad agencies and how they relate to both their clients and the stations which the ads run on. I've had some college but no degree, and the real money in the business usually is gleaned in the sales and management departments, so getting ahead without sales in radio takes a creative approach which requires real work on your part! Over time, you will have to learn what it takes to keep your foot in that door rather than just getting it in, you will have to endure constructive criticism and not be in denial on a consistent basis, and to advance further as a communicator or "personality" that you must be capable of moving to where the better work is, thus being a mover is usually the outcome which can be tough if you have either a spouse or especially a family. In my fourteen years behind the microphone, I've moved no less than five times, and worked at seven stations in that course. I've dealt with very difficult managers, salespeople, consultants etc. under circumstances in which many of the locals under the same conditions and circumstances would have either shown apathy over time (such as being late or calling in sick at the last minute) or just had said "to hell with this!" if they did it for any length of time. This is no job if you have "slacking" on your mind as it requires attention to detail, and not doing so could well cost you the job. Time is money to a broadcaster, so keeping the station(s) on the air is a primary concern, and having a quality product with the scheduled commercials being aired shares a *close* second priority, and I'm talking about razor-width difference at that! Remember too that competition is rather keen in many areas thanks to the FCC Docket 80-90 which brought many new signals on the FM band. Further changes to the regulations brought corporate radio further into the picture with many mergers and acquisitions taking place. I lived in Fort Smith where there is no live overnight radio show now to my knowledge, and during 97' I worked overnights or the "graveyard" shift at the last station in that market which had a live staff around the clock. The market size was between 100,000 and 200,000 with Fort Smith just under 80,000 with plenty of signals including non-commercial ones. That should give prospective broadcasters an idea of how difficult the cash flow in respect to sales when compared to all the media now available in which an advertiser can spend his ad budget. Keeping a station live around the clock is something I believe in as long as the sales are sufficient, and the listeners can interact with the show in some manner in addition to contests or promotions that the station is doing.

 Many stations run entirely off satellite assuming most of their listeners will never know the difference or really care - and saving much labor cost as a result. Too bad the vast majority of these stations will never realize the real ratings that a well-run radio crew with real and *local* audience interaction can deliver. Some regional operations have taken an aggressive approach to cutting through those barriers to better gain more listeners and are having some success with this, however, those stations are vulnerable to breakdowns in their high-data links, and in my arrogant opinion, if they don't have enough redundancy in backups *at the station itself* or the links they run, then they risk being another statistic of a good idea which went bad. At best, they rely on what few staffers, generally in sales and outside of actually annoucing are telling them about relatable things such as local events, weather, etc. since the actual airstaff is distant, often serving their stations in different states. No matter what they say, there are significant advantages of having a locally run and live-staffed station which will interact with their listeners whenever possible. What becomes the double-edged sword with this subject is the apathy of listeners. If they really don't care about anything other than the music and the show itself, then the corporate station has their pulse going well on the market if they perform better of what they've programmed and communicate well with the listener in combination with other media such as billboards, cable, and TV to promote them. If the listener on the other hand figures out that the show has either a real or perceived "suck-factor" because they don't see their favorite DJ's at local events on a regular basis, they never see them at the store or driving by them on the highway, that they don't have that extra "ummmph!" which allows them to connect and relate. As a result, listeners can become judgemental and the corporate signal just lost some of their shine at the very least. Even though I may not be correct on these scenarios in each case, you should not discount them either. Remember that cookie-cutter solutions don't always net the desired results for this business. Perception often equates with reality if your signal area and target audience is a particularly judgemental bunch, but give them something really special and they can spread the word faster than some of these newfangled diseases being spread nowdays. As a personality, you will need to think these things over as they'll affect you and your bottom line if you're in direct competition in the same media. If you can feel the pulse of your market, you've just become very dangerous because you will have the ability of doing things which can make you real ratings and earn you a better wage. In some overcrowded markets where there are entirely too many signals for the listeners, I believe it's the real difference in long-term survival. With today's media choices, and internet in particular, broadcast share on both radio and TV are slowly dropping. Stations with an active internet presence using some form of audio streaming such as RealAudio are facing future competition from other sources of audio streaming, but I see this as a gradual one since bandwidth as a whole remains sluggish for most internet radio listeners. If I owned a radio station, I would likely add it to the internet to give others around the country and globe a chance of listening in that otherwise wouldn't. During July 99', I saw on C-SPAN2 an author presenting his book and describing the "Entertainment Economy" which I found facinating. Although I don't have the exact title or name of the author, I learned the present trend of the networks continue to experience reduced viewership, however, the networks continue to command better advertising dollars since they have the best numbers in overall age who are tuned in.  Finally, realize that consultants are all over the place and in your face! Nearly every station from medium-market on up in a competitive situation has them, and your job can hinge on their advice to your employer. Never take for granted that your show won't be recorded if you land a good gig because you're likely to have a rude awakening, and do listen to what consultants have to say, even though you may not like their advice at first. My show did improve in part to advice from one very insightful consultant from Seattle who recognized certain talents I had, and I really noticed the difference due to his "angle" which came with his experience and expertiese in radio. I received an e-mail from a woman who didn't want to listen to other's advice in following their format. She added she had little experience except in TV but had some radio too. Even if you think you're important, are you capable of commanding an audience which will translate into ratings, and money as a result?? Again, ask yourself that and be very honest. If you have what it takes but nobody listens to your proposals, then don't be stuck up and insist that you won't ever conform to another person's idea of a good broadcaster. I've had to deal with idiots who thought they could micro-manage a station, knowing darn well I knew the market and circumstances better, but I didn't have the actual authority to do what it took to make that difference. With my experience and track record, I've paid dues which I can better influence another broadcaster who would be more willing to hear me out, and if I fit the format - cool! If not, it's the highway and their loss.. It's difficult for someone new or not much experience in this business to be respected or to turn your nose at lots of opportunities which aren't at all ideal. Otherwise, for those who forget that commercial radio is a business, get over it and realize that if you want your own show your own way, you'll likely have to earn it in one way or another. Don't get me wrong! I'm not saying you can't or won't ever do it exactly your way on the airwaves, but you'll have to be special, and convince those above you that you'll do your part to prove this to others. This means really thinking out your show, and preparing when you're away from the microphone so you come across as someone who has it together whenever you return to it. If you're a close relative to the licensee if the station is family owned, then my relentless babble doesn't apply to you. I've heard horrendous radio by overly inflated egos who share a genetic connection to both money and radio ownership in both Fort Smith and Little Rock markets, and it likely applies to a market near you! Fortunately for most of corporate radio, you won't find much nepotism (family control in ownership on down) due to corporate regulations in many cases, and the corporate bottom line being the ultimate factor.
 So there it is.. Some food for thought and some deep thoughts mixed in for good measure. Maybe you'll be exposed to what I've stated, maybe not, and maybe you'll be lucky enough to be exposed to a lot more than what you've read above. Certainly the latter of these will make you more valuable in the long run. The best of luck in whatever you decide, and may God bless you.

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