Broadcasters' Desktop Resource

... edited by Barry Mishkind - the Eclectic Engineer    

Belar Laboratories

Engineering Follies - Brain Dead DJs

(Got a story - please share it with us!)

No matter how hard the engineer works to make things clear and easy to operate, somehow communicating with the DJs can end up with them getting it all wrong. How wrong? Let us see:

Exhibit 10:

The Poor Man's Arbitron

Some people got high school summer jobs in the local McDonalds. My high school job was on the air, spinning records at the local AM daytimer during the long summer days.

The station's antenna just happened to be in a tidal swamp.

One day I started my shift at high tide and noticed the antenna current was also on the high side, due to the high water table under the antenna. The DJ I relieved remarked that the current was lower when he started his shift and had steadily climbed while he was on the air. In fact, it had been doing that for the past couple of weeks.

On the spur of the moment, I congratulated him for expanding the station's audience. He asked me what I meant, so I explained that when a radio tunes in a station, it draws a little bit of the radio wave out of the air, and this has to be replaced by power coming out of the antenna. Therefore, higher antenna current must mean more radios are tuning in.

He grabbed the transmitter log out of my hands and rushed to share the good news with management - along with a demand for more money to go along with the larger numbers.

I don't know what happened about the raise, but he was very grouchy when the tidal cycle reversed itself a few weeks later...

Contributed by Lou Schneider

Exhibit 9:

Twice a year, stations have to deal with sun outages on their satellite systems. This is caused by the receiving satellite dish, the satellite in question and the sun being in perfect alignment for a (reasonably) short period of time. 

The satellite providers have developed web applications that allow a station to determine the beginning and ending of the sun outage. Satellite providers usually send out, in advance of the event, a reminder to users so that alternate arrangements can be made.

After getting the annual message from our satellite provider, I sent it on to the programming department. An hour or so later I was caught in the hall by the PD of a station that would be affected by the sun outage.  He asked why this was happening at this date/time.

I explained to the PD what caused this event and that there was nothing we could do about it.
He looked me in the eye, and with a straight face said: "Maybe it will be cloudy on the dates involved?"
I had to summon all my intestinal fortitude to quickly walk back to my office, close the door, and then break down laughing.

Contributed by Michael Golchert

Exhibit 8:

I once worked for a TV group and got called by our transmitter tech in Houston that we were off-the-air there.

I asked him to read the meters on the transmitter and he said "okay - as soon as I can could find a flashlight."

I then asked him why he needed a flashlight and he told me "all the lights were off because of the power failure."

This has to be a true story - you could not make this up!

Contributed by Dana Puopolo

Exhibit 7:

A long time ago at a station cluster, far, far, away I received a call, from the operations manager/morning "personality" around 7:30 AM, informing me that one of the FM's was off the air.

Right before I arrived at the very remote site I saw the power poles laying on the ground for about half a mile due to a storm that had gone through earlier that morning.

With no genset on site, I went back to the studios, called the power company and reported the outage. They told me it had been reported right before 5AM and they were working that way. They expected to have power back that afternoon.

With nothing else that could be done, I went on with my day. For some reason I decided to check the logs.

Sure enough, I had normal readings for that transmitter at 6A and 8A that morning, log signed by ... wait for it ... The Operations Manager / Morning "Personality"!

Contributed by Rod Zeigler

Exhibit 6:

We had a morning man (he was about 80 at the time) on the oldies station I where I worked who was a legend in the market for almost 40 years, and was at the time one of the highest rated morning shows in town. 

The transmitter went off the air one morning.  The first thing out of his mouth is of course "what happened." 

The board op explained to him that they were off the air and the engineers had been called about it via the remote control system.  Danny grilled the board op asking why he had not put a CD in  - and to do something.

A couple of minutes later, he proceeded to get on the microphone  and announce in his normal 1960s broadcast voice, "Friends, we are having some technical problems. We have called the engineers and they are working on it. Please stay with us and we will have things fixed soon!"

Needless to say that little story was the laugh of the building for at
least a week. Ahh, for the real days of radio again....

Contributed by Patrick Roberts

Belar Laboratories

Exhibit 5:

A DJ at one station thought he was the greatest but really
was not; I constantly had problems with him not following proper
procedures - and every reading on the log was always exactly the same hour after hour.

One evening, a friend of mine that was the Ops Mgr at another station called me at home and said that on his way home he noticed that our tower lights were out.

I called the station and our production director answered instead of the DJ. He verified that the tower lights were indeed out and the transmitter log indicated that they had been checked and were on at a time after my friend called. I called my PD, we met at
the station and the DJ was shown out the door.

The best part of the story: the DJ was interviewing for a job with my friend the Ops Mgr and asked why he left his last job he stated that some "@%%hole" had called the CE and reported that the lights were out and got him fired.

He didn't get the job.

I think he became an insurance salesman.

Contributed by Wayne Fick


Exhibit 4:

When I first started in this business, Jim Wagner @ WPFB told me never to trust DJs' logging.
To prove his point, he added a log entry out to four decimal places. The transmitter was an old RCA - beautiful, but the metering might yield three digits at best - certainly nothing with four places after the decimal point.

Guess what the log showed for the rest of the week?

Contributed by Jeff Johnson

Exhibit 3:

One very snowy morning when I was CE up in Massachusetts, I turned on the radio around 9:30AM, and while there was a signal, it was "stuttering." I called the DJ and asked if anything unusual was going on.
She replied that "the transmitter went off the air, but the only way I can keep it on the air is by holding the 'raise' button down on the
remote control!" I asked her if she "normally" had to do that...and told her to take her finger off the button.

Turns out the Collins 20V3 had vibrated its back door open far enough to break the interlock.

Art Reed

Exhibit 2:

I've turned in a number of logs to the CE with a note asking "when did he print the pre-filled logs with the AM readings already filled in?"
Every reading every day same time, same figures. As the CE was not at that station, and I was PD, I was asked to investigate.
I about when I discovered the guy really did take the doggone readings at the same time every hour, every day - and with the meter switch in the wrong position every dang time!
This guy is still there over 20 years later and I will wager every reading he may take will be exactly the same.

Contributed by George Brand

Exhibit 1

It was a typical small market station in 1976, and I had just left full time employment there to work at a nearby TV station. I remained with the radio station as their contract engineer so it was not a big surprise when I got a call from the evening announcer. "I think we might be off the air... but I'm not sure."

I asked him what the meters read, and he told me they all read zero. "Then you're off the air" I assured him. The response nearly put me on the floor: "Well, uh,... Are you sure?" It was well known that this guy had killed a copious quantity of brain cells in his college days (and beyond), so the chief engineer's assertion and a panel of dead meters did not register as conclusive.
The transmitter had a finicky rectifier so I talked him through replacing it. Once his meters again read well above zero he finally explained he had gone out to his car earlier and heard the station (obviously leakage from the exciter) which created the  uncertainty. The next week I redesigned that rectifier unit.

Contributed by John Collinson

Rest assured: there will be more!

(and another invitation to share your stories. Just click on "Contact" below.)


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