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Working with Formats

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dead air the silence on the airwaves that is produced when a radio station fails to transmit sound

playlist the roster or line-up of songs that a radio can play on the air during a given period of time


Once station management chooses a target audience and a format for a local station with the help of consultants, the station's personnel are typically responsible for working with the format—producing it and making it attractive to the target audience on a daily basis (see Figure 11.3).

The general manager is in charge of the entire station operation. He or she repre­sents the owners of the station and is responsible for its activities. The station's sound is controlled by the chief engineer, the news director, and the program director. The chief engineer makes sure that the station's sound goes over the air reliably and, with the help of the compliance manager, that the station's equipment complies with the technical rules of the Federal Communications Commission. The news director supervises news that is read over the air, perhaps assisted by reporters. In preparation for delivering the news over the air, these workers scan the news wires for relevant stories, and conduct brief interviews with local officials to supplement their stories.

The program director works to make sure that the station's programming is consistent with the format and popular with the target audience, and controls the station's on-air functions. Almost everything a listener hears over the air is the responsibility of the program director. The air personalities, or DJs, work for the program director. The program director is often assisted by a music director and a promotions manager. In many cases, these individuals also handle a shift on the air.

The average on-air personality (also known as on-air talent) works a four- or five- hour shift. Although this may sound like cushy work, it isn't. Running a format requires being able to handle many different, time-sensitive tasks simultaneously. During his or her hours on the air, a personality may play up to seventy-five records and an equal number of commercials. In addition, the personality will answer select listener phone calls, perhaps give away a few tickets to lucky listeners, and update the weather forecast or sports scores. Keeping all these format elements in order while sounding upbeat on the air requires a fair amount of technical skill. Station employees carefully ensure that when a song ends a new one smoothly begins. Otherwise, the station will transmit dead air—that is, nothing. Silence is a big taboo in radio, because the mandate is to keep the target audience interested. Figuring out how to fill time attractively is a big challenge for a DJ. After their shift in the on-air studio, many disc jockeys move to a production studio, where they create items like commercials or comedy bits for later airing.


Figure 11.3 The Organizational Structure of a

Typical Radi© Station


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