Got Radio Questions?

August 16, 2006

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Thursday, August 17, 2006
Last modified Wednesday, August 16, 2006 11:54 AM PDT

Got radio questions? Inquire within

Yes, boys and girls, it's time once again for everyone's favorite feature: Ask the Radio Columnist.

As always, the questions are fake ---- the poor radio columnist hardly ever gets asked anything, if you absolutely must know ---- but the answers are real.

Here goes.

Q: Will the announcer on 100.7 Jack FM ever stop making suggestive comments about the word "Jack" that make it sound like the station's management has been taken over by a bunch of 14-year-olds?

A: Huh huh! You said "Jack"!

Q: You haven't written about harridan advice-giver Dr. Laura in a while. Is she still around? What's she up to?

A: Like death, taxes and reality television, Dr. Laura will always be with us.

She still has her nationally syndicated show (heard locally on KOGO). She's still churning out books. And now she has a new venue: a column in her local newspaper.

That normally wouldn't be very newsworthy, but her local newspaper is the Santa Barbara News-Press, which has been making news of its own over the past few weeks.

In a skirmish with a publisher whom they accused of being unethical, about 10 reporters and editors have quit in disgust. Others took part in a silent rally, wearing tape over their mouths to protest the publisher's gag order forbidding them from commenting on the mess.

Any right-minded person would avoid this deeply troubled newspaper like the plague. But not Dr. Laura, who's more than happy to show her disdain for the angry journalists.

According to the trade publication Editor & Publisher, she traipsed over to the News-Press during the middle of the brouhaha and offered her services as a twice-weekly columnist. What a class act!

The California condor may be endangered, but it looks like we'll always have at least one vulture living in its natural habitat.

Q: What's your biggest radio gripe these days?

A: News-talk station KOGO is driving me a bit nuts.

If you tune in to KOGO's hourly news update to get the latest on some major event, such as an alert about contaminated water, you have to stick around through a traffic report and a commercial before you'll hear what's going on.

KOGO's 24-hour-a-day traffic reports are quite handy, but the intrusive commercial is the real killer. Many news stations wait a few minutes before socking readers with commercials during hourly updates. KOGO can't wait 30 seconds?

KOGO talk-show host Roger Hedgecock is also on my nerves with his hackneyed references to "war time" (as in, "It's 4:30 p.m., war time").

Back during World War II, there actually was something called "war time," when daylight-saving time was instituted year-round. But it's been gone for more than 60 years, and Hedgecock's longtime use of the term to highlight the Iraq war comes across as jarring and weird.

Q: I think my car radio is possessed. The display panel says things like "Metall" and "ica" when I listen to heavy metal. Is there a ghost in the machine?

A: No such luck. Chances are that you have a new vehicle equipped with a Radio Data System ---- a fancy way of saying your car stereo can display text messages.

About a dozen San Diego radio stations are using RDS, mainly to transmit their names along with titles of songs and their artists. (Some car radios can display only a few letters at a time, so a name such as "Metallica" may get split into two messages.)

RDS is pretty nifty, at least as long as you keep your eyes on the road. So why aren't more stations taking advantage of it? After all, it costs only a few thousand dollars to get a device that will transmit messages.

And stations aren't limited in what they can send out: Last weekend, Rock 105.3 experimented with transmitting the score of the Chargers' preseason game; stations could also send out the weather, traffic information or the latest stock prices.

Robert Unmacht, a Nashville radio consultant, said the slow adoption of RDS seems to simply be a matter of inertia. Stations are "catching on to the latest technology ---- from 1987."

What's next for RDS? Not much, apparently. Unmacht says only about 10 percent to 20 percent of stations use the technology ---- perhaps more in metropolitan areas like San Diego ---- and he doesn't expect the number to rise much higher.

There is, of course, another potential use for RDS besides song titles and sports scores: It could be used for brief advertising blurbs ("Eat at Joe's!"). Some radio types have reportedly been discussing that idea.

Thankfully, local Clear Channel executive Jim Richards said he wants to exhaust other advertising routes before going in that direction.

Randy Dotinga's car radio display won't say anything except "SOS." E-mail him at

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