The CRTC caught a number of people by surprise as they denied the application by BCE to purchase the assets of Astral, which include specialty tv, radio and outdoor. CRTC Chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said, “BCE failed to persuade us that the deal would benefit Canadians. It would have placed significant market power in the hands of one of the country’s largest media companies. We could not have ensured a robust Canadian broadcasting system without imposing extensive and intrusive safeguards, which would have been to the detriment of the entire industry.”
This deal was always about the concentration of media ownership in Canada. For example, Bell currently controls almost 34% of all viewing hours of English television, and had the deal been approved, they would have controlled almost 43% of all the hours of viewing. It appears, in this case, that Bell failed to demonstrate that the proposed transaction was in the public interest. This means that Astral is now back in play, and possible suitors could be Telus or one of the other large broadcasters, such as Rogers or Corus. However, the same standards would apply to those broadcasters.
Click here for the CRTC release
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is warning that it is prepared to use regulation to force the wireless industry into setting up a national registry of stolen smartphones and tablets, as more and more consumers fall victim to so-called “iCrime.”
Read more here.
I had the opportunity to spend an hour with one of the best programmers in America recently. Tracy Johnson is also the author of two books written to help morning shows and programmers. He is the master at developing talent and recently published a 112 page updated guide to developing on-air superstars. Tracy was kind enough to allow me to share some our discussion and I started by asking him why he felt it was necessary to update his book.
Well the first one came out in 1998 and the second one came out in 2001 and so, 14 years since that first book came out and the principles in it are pretty much timeless and they’re really good principles in the art of communication, but I felt like the execution of it is far more difficult now than it’s ever been in the past and a lot of the examples that I used in those first two books are dated. They go back into the 90s and even some might stretch back into the 80s and a lot of the personalities and programmers that are using it now don’t have a point of reference to it. So, “Morning Radio 1”, it sold out of 3 printings, and instead of just going to a fourth, I decided to update it, and in fact, kind of practice what I preach, that editing is always good. I shortened it and made it a quicker, easier read for both talent and for programmers and focused it a little bit more on the air talent, rather than on the programming side.
So how has the world changed since you wrote those books?
In just about every way. The industry has changed a ton in the past 10 years, especially with consolidation and PPM coming into play in the larger markets, and talent isn’t getting a whole lot of time from programmers and management anymore. A lot of times there’s very little training that’s going on and in the instances where there is some training and attention from the programmers, they’re reacting a lot of times just by telling the jocks to shut up, and I don’t think that’s the right solution. Also the audience has changed a lot too. Their communication is a lot more personal, with social media. There are more entertainment outlets, and the audience is responding differently so it is harder to get attention, to retain attention, and to keep that audience over a period of time is much more difficult than ever before.
So what strategies should radio stations be looking at in this new world?
We have to be disciplined about evaluating everything from the outside in and not from the inside out. We need to be listener focused. Doing it’s hard. Remember, the audience isn’t paying as much attention as we’d like them to and they’re not listening as long as we assume they are. So we need announcers who are creating content and creating breaks that make the show more important to an audience, There is the hook, the setup, the dress up, the payoff, and the blackout. Most shows that I hear are pretty good at setup and dress up, but getting into the bit quickly, and capturing the audience’s interest is a real weakness. To use a newspaper term, we bury the lead. I heard a show last week – a very popular show, a #1 show in a very large market that I was working with – and it took about 2 and a half minutes for them to get to what they really wanted to say, and in today’s world, where the audience is distracted, they’re on their mobile devices a lot more, and there’s a lot of other entertainment options, they’re just not going to be as generous with their time if you’re burying that hook 2 minutes into the break.
So, what are the biggest challenges that announcers are facing today?
I think there are three; The first is time and resources. And that’s for the entire industry, not just the personalities. Nobody has enough time. There’s too much to do. We want to be competitive in Twitter, we want to be competitive with a social media presence on Facebook. A lot of times personalities are trying to maintain their own websites, they have production responsibilities, they don’t have producers anymore, it’s been cut from the budget, and yet, the expectation is just as high, or perhaps higher, than it’s ever been. Often times we end up doing a lot of things average, and average doesn’t cut through anymore. All too often tomorrow’s show is not prepared properly and we try and wing it and that will not work.
The second is perspective. We need to see the world as it is and not as we think it is or would like it to be. Radio tends to be a very self-absorbed industry. Again, it’s a matter of being outside of our bubble and living in the audience’s world and to really program your show and to realize that listeners won’t change their lifestyle to listen to us, so we have to figure out how to prepare and present a show that fits into the audience’s lifestyle.
The third thing is taking a strategic approach to the show. We have a tendency to be very tactical with knee-jerk reactions, and we want to figure out what we’re going to do and what we’re going to say before we figure out who we are and how we’re going to present the show – what character, what role – and what the show’s going to stand for. I think that shows need to step back first and really understand the audience and how their show will fit that target and, again, put all of the pieces, all the mechanics together based on that. The world moves so fast and the expectations are so high and we want to see results happen so quickly that a lot of times we’re spending all of our time hurrying through a lot of tasks rather than equating tasks to support a strategy.
How do announcers take show prep and turn it into content that connects emotionally?
I think the first thing is to be bold enough in your character and personality to really cut through and that’s hard. One of the things that happens, especially if the talent is answering the phone themselves or is on email themselves, is we don’t like to be criticized. A lot of times, if you’re going to stand for something, if you’re going to take a bold stand, and be a real personality on the air, it’s going to cause some people to have an issue with that. In radio, we like to eliminate all the negatives, so if somebody calls and complains, we want to take off whatever it is that they’re complaining about. We get a research project back and we want to take off all the things that people say they don’t like about us or something that they like about our competition better, or the sales manager comes in and says that the car dealer that he just talked to didn’t like what you said this morning about (fill in the blank) and the first thing we want to do is eliminate those negatives. But, by eliminating those negatives, we take away a lot of the positives with it. A lot of character, a lot of the personality. So we end up in the zone of mediocrity, and I think that zone of mediocrity leaves us to be vanilla and we end up not really connecting with anybody and that keeps us from really cutting through all that clutter and creating those “can’t miss” moments.
Announcers also need to learn how to prepare better. Most shows either don’t know how to prepare properly or they take short cuts. I even had a show a few weeks ago that told me that they can’t have a preparation meeting because they never know what they’re going to do the next day and they want to make it completely spontaneous when the mic goes on. That’s ridiculous because you end up with a mess on the air. We want spontaneous responses, but spontaneity that happens through very deep preparation. The only way you can get some of those moments is really preparing and how you’re going to take that content and turn it into something that is unique to your character, unique to your personality and has been planned to the point where you’re not going to be surprised by anything that might happen. You’ll be prepared for every contingency but then you’re able to present it spontaneously.
So once a morning show understands their target audience, how do they go about developing a character profile that’s going to appeal to that audience?
You have to understand that your on-air character has to be based on your real life personality and it’s something that we just can’t fake. Start by exploring different values and morals and ethics and attitudes and personality quirks and hobbies and traits of each personality on the show. Figure out what they are all about in real life, including the positive, the negative, the vulnerabilities, and the character flaws. A lot of times, the audience gets to know us through character flaws and that can be some of the most empowering and charming things about a personality. Another important aspect is being willing to exaggerate those character traits. Once you identify what they are and what you want to be known by, exaggerating that on the air to make them memorable, and then learning how to take those exaggerated moments and turn them into moments on the air that make sense to the audience.
You’ve mentioned that Program Directors are multitasking and time starved these days and not spending enough time with the morning shows, in particular. What are the things that PDs should be doing to really move the needle with morning shows?
5 things. The first one is really hard because it’s counter-intuitive, and that’s to take the emphasis off of ratings. Not that ratings are unimportant; they’re very important. But a lot of times we criticize or critique a personality based on ratings results that are completely out of their control. The personalities can’t control how a station is marketed, promoted, what promotions we do or what promotions and what our competition does. Personality can’t do anything about that. They can’t control any of those things. They can’t control the sampling of BBM or Arbitron. As a result, sometimes we get a kiss from the ratings service and sometimes we get penalized if things don’t go our way, and neither is necessarily reality and I’ve seen a lot of cases where the talent get credit for ratings that they don’t deserve, and I’ve seen a lot of cases where the talent gets blamed for ratings that is unfair. So instead the PD needs to focus on the things that will cause the audience to respond, to react and to care about the show, because if we do great radio, over the long term, the ratings are going to take care of themselves. That’s easier said than done when the PD’s job is depending on that next quarter’s performance or his bonus is based on that. But the more you can remove the talent from being worried about what’s coming out of his mouth and what impact that’s going to have on ratings, the more natural and freer they’re going to be to really perform, so I think that’s one of the most important things.
Second is to be the talent’s biggest fan. Coaches always defend their players, even if the talent is wrong. That doesn’t mean you’re constantly telling them how great they are, it just means that you have to care and want to be on their team, and they have to know you’ve got their back. You’re not working against them.
Along with that comes #3, which is to focus on positives. I call it catching them in the act of doing something good. Radio personalities are like puppies. When you’re training a puppy, and you give the puppy treats for doing things that you want them to do, they’re going to do those things for you more. And if you catch the talent in the act of doing something good and you reward them for it, tell them how great they are and tell them how much you like that, they’ll keep doing those things.
Next is to focus on one thing. Not 10, or 5 or even 3, but one thing. If you can fix one thing on a show each week – and that’s a reasonable goal – you’ll fix 52 things a year, and if the show has more than 52 things wrong with it, then you’ve got a bigger problem on your hands. A lot of times, as programmers, we don’t spend enough time with the show or critiquing the show or thinking about the show because everyone’s in a time crunch, and when we do sit down and review or evaluate them, we’ve got 10 pages of notes and we want to go over everything and have it all fixed the next day. It overwhelms the talent and it’s very difficult for them to execute any of it.
The last thing, maybe the most important, is to let them know that what they do matters, and that’s spending time with them. There’s no short cuts on this. Let them know that you’re listening. Don’t focus on the mechanics and breaks, but focus on their personality and that what they’re doing is making a difference, not only on the radio station, but making a difference in people’s lives, and that puts a little bit more of a priority on what they do. They take it a little bit more seriously and they take some responsibility for that.
Next month we’ll talk about morning shows, what they need to do to get noticed, what most shows are not doing today, and we’ll touch on a lost art that is more important today than ever before. Tracy also expresses some strong views on the difference between a DJ and a personality. For PD’s or anyone faced with the challenge of building a new morning show you’ll want to read how Tracy went about doing this and some of the tricks he uses. Tracy also touches on how to go about finding talent and the best places to look. All this and more next month. In the meantime I encourage anyone behind the microphone or in the PD’s chair to invest $20 and buy Tracy’s new book which is called “Morning Radio Revisited” and you can buy it on Amazon.
“Autism Awareness Month”: Call the Autism Society of Canada 1-866-478-8440 or see www.autismsocietycanada.ca.
“Brain Tumour Awareness Month”: The Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s website is www.braintumour.ca.
“Canadian Library Month”: For info, contact the Canadian Library Association at 613-232-9625 or see www.cla.ca.
“Car Safety Month”: See the Automotive Industries Association of Canada website at www.aiacanada.com.
“Celiac Awareness Month”: The Canadian Celiac Association can be found at www.celiac.ca.
“Breast Cancer Awareness Month”: For info, call the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation 1-800-387-9810 or see www.cbcf.org.
“Emotional Wellness Month”: Get more out of every day with laughter and enjoyment. Balance your activities to support your emotional state and keep your positive attitude in check. Call Angela Brown Oberer, Words of Wellness 704-843-0688, email email@example.com. See www.wordsofwellness.com.
“Global Diversity Awareness Month”: Celebrating, promoting and appreciating the global diversity of our society. Call Carole Copeland Thomas 508-947-5755, email Carole@TellCarole.com.
Oct 1 “World Day of Bullying Prevention – Blue Shirt Day”: Kids and adults wear a blue shirt this day to show solidarity against bullying and cyber bullying. firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.stompoutbullying.org.
Oct 1 “World Habitat Day”: see www.un.org.
Oct 3 “Balloons Around the World”: Balloon twisting and sculpting artists donate an hour or more to a charity of their choice in their community. Call Jeff Brown 907-586-1670, email email@example.com. See www.balloonsaroundtheworld.com.
Oct 3-10 “No Salt Week”: Give no-salt cooking and food preparation a try! Call Make It Tasty Spice Co. 303-575-5676, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oct 4 “Ten-Four Day”: The fourth day of the tenth month is a day of recognition for radio operators, whose code words “Ten Four” signal an affirmative reply. Involve your local Ham radio club on your show, and see how far away they can transmit. If you get the right people, they are very interesting.
Oct 4-10 “United Nations World Space Week”: To celebrate the contributions of space science and technology to the betterment of the human condition. See www.un.org.
Oct 5 “International World Teachers’ Day”: A day to honour teachers and their contributions to learning. For info go to www.un.org.
Oct 5 “World Smile Day”: A day dedicated to good works and good cheer. Do an act of kindness and help one person smile. See www.worldsmileday.com.
Oct 5-13 “Oktoberfest” The second largest Oktoberfest in the world is held in Kitchener, Ontario. More than 700,000 people attend the 70 events over the week. Call the organizers for more info 519-570-4267, email email@example.com, or visit www.oktoberfest.ca.
Oct 7 “Intergeneration Day”: Connecting generations through communication, celebration and education. Annually, the first Sunday in October, starting Intergeneration Week. Call the Intergeneration Foundation 719-649-7443, see www.intergenerationday.org. .
Oct 7-13 “Carry a Tune Week”: Celebrates favourite tunes from the past by performing them in a concert, at school, at church or at home. Call 781-344-6954, email firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.americanmusicpreservation.com/announcements.htm.
Oct 7-13 “Work From Home Week”: A week to celebrate the trends, technology and tactics that allow millions of people to work from home as entrepreneurs and corporate teleworkers. Call Jeff Zbar 954-346-4393, email email@example.com. See www.chiefhomeofficer.com.
Oct 8 “Thanksgiving Day”: Observed in Canada on the second Monday in October each year.
Oct 9 “United Nations: World Post Day”: An annual special observance of Postal Administrations of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). For info, call 212-963-4475, email firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.un.org.
Oct 10 “National Bring Your Teddy Bear To Work Day”: A celebration of the help, stress relief and joy that teddy bears bring into the lives of people of all ages and stages. Call Susan Schwartz 650-345-4944 or e-mail email@example.com.
Oct 12 “International Moment of Frustration Scream Day”: To share any or all of our frustrations, all citizens of the world will go outdoors at twelve hundred hours Greenwich time and scream for 30 seconds. We will all feel better or Earth will go off its orbit. Call 717-279-0184, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or see www.wellcat.com.
Oct 13 “Universal Music Day:” This day advocates, celebrates and encourages profound gratitude for music, musicians and music teachers. Call Susan Patricia Golden, Family Music Network 727-804-4908, email info@UniversalMusicDay.org. See www.UniversalMusicDay.org.
Oct 14 “Be Bald and Be Free Day”: For those who are bald and who either do wear or do not wear a wig or toupe, this is the day to go “shiny” and be proud. Call 717-279-0184 or see www.wellcat.com.
Oct 14-20 “Getting the World to Beat a Path to Your Door Week”: To focus attention on improving public relationships in order to create success for companies, products and individuals. Call Barbara Gaughen 805-968-8567, email email@example.com, web: www.robertmuller.org.
Oct 15 “Grouch Day”: All grouches deserve a day to be recognized. Created for and inspired by Alan Miller, a retired teacher.
Oct 16 “World Food Day”: To increase awareness, understanding and informed action on hunger. For info call 202-653-2404 or see www.fao.org/getinvolved/worldfoodday/en.
Oct 16 “Dictionary Day”: The birthday of Noah Webster, American teacher and lexicographer, is occasion to encourage every person to acquire at least one dictionary – and to use it regularly.
Oct 16 “National Boss Day”: For all employees to honour their bosses.
Oct 17 “Mulligan Day”: A day for giving yourself another chance or a do-over.
Oct 18 “Persons Day”: To commemorate the anniversary of the 1929 ruling that declared women to be persons in Canada.
Oct 20 “Sweetest Day”: Around 1922 a candy company employee named Herbert Birch Kingston decided that it would be a wonderful thing to distribute candy to the sick, shut-ins, and orphans of Cleveland. Thus Sweetest Day was born. Do something nice for someone today that will make them say, “Oh, that’s so sweet!”
Oct 21-27 “National Chemistry Week”: To celebrate the contributions of chemistry to modern life and to help the public understand that chemistry affects every part of our lives. Call the American Chemical Society 1-800-227-5558, ext 6097, email firstname.lastname@example.org. see www.chemistry.org/ncw.
Oct 22 “International Stuttering Awareness Day”: For info call National Stuttering Assn. 1-800-992-9392. see www.westutter.org.
Oct 25-31 “International Magic Week”: A week to celebrate the world of magic and the magicians who create it. Call Sir Nemo Turner 514-849-0888, email email@example.com.
Oct 27 “Make A Difference Day”: A national day of community service. For information call 800-416-3824 or visit www.makeadifferenceday.com.
Oct 28 “Mother-in-law Day”: Traditionally the 4th Sunday in October is the occasion to honour mothers-in-law for their contribution to the success of families and for their good humour in enduring bad jokes.
Oct 30 “Devil’s Night”: A night of mischief and harmless pranks on the evening before Halloween carried out mainly by children.
Oct 31 “Halloween”: A druid autumn festival dating from the 6th century, has long been associated with thoughts of the dead, spirits, witches, ghosts and devils.