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
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)
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
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
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
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.
Dale Connelly Reporting Home