Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cacophony Public Radio

Radio is an intimate medium, say the fundraising tools at Colorado Public Radio around pledge time. They say a lot of stupid, syrypy shit like that about the sound of radio when they want your money. It's a fantastically subjective statement; one with which you may rightly agree or disagree. Of course if you agree with it and fall prey to its persuasive effect, then you'll probably feel guilted into donating to CPR. If you are like me, you just shake it off, turn the dial, and donate -- if you want, when you want -- to whatever public radio station that actually sounds intimate, if that's what you like. Me? I like substance. You? You may have many good reasons to subscribe to Colorado Public Radio, but I'd bet that intimacy surely isn't one of them -- at least not the type of intimacy you get during Morning Edition.

Case in point. If you ever listened to KCFR News during Morning Edition, you have probably heard the cacophony of voices at around :19 minutes past the hour. This is a time, an opportunity for local stations, to break away from NPR news in order to provide local radio content. Or in KCFR's case, to inject message after message, from disparate voice after disparate voice. Listen to this 3 minutes and 10 seconds of audio from 7:19 a.m. to 7:22 a.m. from Colorado Public Radio's Morning Edition for Monday, July 28th. This is what you will hear; 9 intimate voices; with two repeats. Enjoy!
  1. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson (NPR News Foreign Correspondent, Afghanistan) finishes her report.
  2. Renee Montagne (NPR Morning Edition News Host, NPR West) segues out of Nelson's story.
  3. Bob Lafley (KCFR News Host) reads a news promo for an upcoming KCFR story.
  4. Mike Lamp (KCFR News Host) reads an underwriting spot.
  5. Charley Samson (Host and Executive Producer of Colorado Spotlight on KVOD) reads an underwriting spot.
  6. Anna Panoka (KCFR News Host) introduces and re-brands a documentary for KCFR Showcase that Colorado Public Radio never produced (see 7 and 8 below).
  7. David Dunaway mentions Pete Seeger and Public Radio International in his promotion about the documentary produced by David Dunaway and distributed by PRI, not KCFR (see 6 above and 8 below).
  8. Anna Panoka (KCFR News Host) re-promotes the documentary and mentions that KCFR is now on "crystal clear signal on 90.1-FM" (see 6 and 7 above).
  9. Bob Lafley (KCFR News Host) reads a KCFR weather spot, returning CPR back to NPR.
  10. Deborah Amos (NPR Foreign Correspondent filling in as Morning Edition News Host) introduces a report for David Schaper.
  11. David Schaper (NPR Reporter, Chicago Bureau) reports from Chicago.
Where to begin! First of all, this SOUND BRILLIANCE is brought to you through the miracle of automation and preproduction. NPR prerecords its stories overnight. Then, NPR Hosts inject their bit of magic in between the stories; you know, banter, clever intros and outros, and of course, insipid transitions between stories to tie the really big show together. Then, NPR feeds the show to member stations over satellite and/or the internet.

Days and weeks before the day's Morning Edition broadcast, every one of CPR's on-air hosts record underwriting and promotion spots to sprinkle throughout the KCFR and KVOD broadcasts. Unlike National Public Radio however, CPR cannot seem to learn that a single voice (Frank Tavares, if you didn't know) prerecording almost all of the NPR underwriting spots sounds a lot smoother than 5-7 different people doing it.

If that isn't enough of a chorus, KCFR adds more disparate voices by re-working promotions for other public radio shows to make it sound like KCFR produces more content than it actually does (KCFR Showcase). CPR calls this "re-purposing," which actually means recycling others' work and making it your own. Sounds like stealing to me. Like watching the credits roll in a movie with 10 different producers, directors, distributors and movie studios, it makes your head spin trying to figure out who actually did what to bring you the news. Why don't they just keep it simple; "A Colorado Public Radio Joint," a la Spike Lee?

If that isn't enough, Colorado Public Radio has to make a blatantly false statement about "crystal clear 90.1-FM." Last time I checked, analog radio isn't crystal anything! Sure, KCFR News on 90.1-FM may be a lot clearer than it was on 1340-AM, but please! The digital stream from KCFR is a lot clearer than FM radio, setting aside all the noticeable clicks and pops I hear when streaming their highly compressed, lo-fidelity 32 kbps sound. Maybe this is CPR's oblique reference to HD radio, if so then just say it for chrissakes. By the way, have you noticed that KCFR News on 90.1-FM isn't even broadcast in stereo? Also notice that KCFR stopped saying 1490-AM and the KCFC call letters for Boulder entirely. Guess they don't want you to know that 1490-AM isn't that clear -- crystal, that is. Sounds like an FCC violation to me, but what do I know?

Finally, after nearly 2 minutes of solid soap-selling, KCFR News gives you some actual news content -- a weather forecast that is hours old. Notice how Colorado Public Radio NEVER reads the current weather conditions? They won't do it because they can't do it. Automation is running the show, and it never sounds more obvious than at around :19 minutes past the hour during mornings on Monday through Friday. If radio is really an intimate medium, then the boffins at Colorado Public Radio are geniuses at making it sound completely distant -- like a crowded cacophony of crap. Or, how about just plain PHONY!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

good one... thanks fro sharing.....
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rozy
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Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great blog!
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rozy
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samantha said...

very interesting to read ....Thank you for sharing this great fountain with us.I loved it. Thank you for having the courage to be real......
Samantha
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