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by Brick Walters, 2/18/00

This is DCR. A news program Not to Be Believed.
Commercial radio broadcasters are using remarkable new time compression devices to create more advertising space in their programs ... sometimes irritating listeners and talk show hosts, and some say, sounding the death knell for radio itself. Brick Walters reports.

(sfx: clock tower chime)

Morty: Good afternoon iconoclasts ... lunchtime again! It's the Morty Fella show ... a blunt force to pummel and lay waste to the hooligans and miscreants who plague our public lives. (fade) Today you can expect to have your dander raised as only I can raise it ... searching like a heat seeking missile through the balderdash and poppycock printed in our daily papers, to find the blunt, annoying truth.

Brick: At noon each weekday, the clock tower in city hall chimes as conservative talk show host Morty Fella begins his three hour diatribe against liberals, feminists, and what he calls "politically correct twerps."

Morty: I worked the chimes in the clock tower into my show about 15 years ago and I've kept them in because for me, they symbolize the "tolling of the bell." It's a way of announcing I'm here ... Here to spread havoc among the forces of evil ... the liberal, tax and spend, selfish, politically correct, smug pantywaists of the discredited left.

Brick: It was the chiming of the clock that revealed to Morty Fella that some of the 259 stations carrying his program were using digital technology to speed it up.

Morty: A listener sent me this tape from Syracuse. Station WMWM-FM..

(filtered replay of open, clumsily sped up)

Hear that?

Brick: Sounds like you.

Morty: I know it's hard ... but take your attention off me for a moment and listen to the clock. I've heard it every weekday for fifteen years so I know its rhythm ... bong ... bong ... bong ... and this ... this has been altered.

Brick: In fact, a new computerized program called "Shoehorn" has been used at some stations to remove the pauses from Mr. Fella's three hour talk fest, thus speeding up the show so more advertising can fit in.
WMWM-FM station manager Andrea Moxie.

Andrea: (quickly) It's a service to listeners. We know they're busy. There's no reason for them to sit there and wait while Mr. Fella pauses for dramatic effect. It's not the pauses they tune in for, it's the words.

Brick: He says you're insulting him and his audience and destroying his art, and diminishing the effect of "the mighty hammer of truth."

Andrea: He makes plenty of money so he shouldn't complain. We're just trying to get our faces in the bowl as well.

Brick: And it works. Station WMWM-FM has increased it's revenue from the Morty Fella show 28% since they started using the "Shoehorn" time compression program last fall. Listener Lucinda Anstett hasn't noticed a difference.

Lucinda: All his standard rants are still there. Start to finish. I've listened for years so I kinda know what he's gonna say. It's OK with me if he gets it over with faster ... before long he'll begin again anyhow.

Brick: And Andrea Moxie has discovered a secondary market for the by product of this amazing new technology.

Andrea: After we've removed all the dramatic pauses from Morty Fella's program, we sell them to public radio.

Brick: Public radio buys pauses?

Andrea: They use the same digital technology to insert them in their programming.

Brick: Instead of removing them?

Andrea: They think it makes them sound thoughtful.

Brick: I confronted the program director at public radio station WMPE-FM. Greg Larry admitted buying pauses from commercial broadcasters.

Greg: It's true ... we have to. We hire from the same talent pool the commercial broadcasters do.
You can't count on a public radio announcer to be ponderous like you could in the old days. Some of them are real motor mouths. We insert the pauses randomly, and surveys show our listeners believe the announcers have become smarter.

Brick: But they haven't?

Greg: (pause) I really ... can't ... comment.

Brick: (in post production, the speed of this is severely toyed with)
So radio listeners beware. You can no longer believe that the rhythm and cadence of the speech you're hearing on the air is happening as the announcer intended. Technology has taken even this simple bit of timing away from the person speaking and has placed it in the hands of managers intent on making money, and in the process, making monkeys of us all. Out in the field, I'm Brick Walters.

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