Two comments from the road

Comment No. 1: About a year ago, I moved what sometimes feels like half a world away from home (where I didn’t have access to any terrestrial sg radio) to a place that … you guessed it … also doesn’t have terrestrial sg radio. So I still get/have to listen to it only when I travel by car. Yesterday I had to drive several hours north for work and so spent part of that time picking up different sg radio stations. 

At the bottom of the hour, one particularly podunk station I was listening to played an execrable three minutes of some all-star church-basement band covering an old hymn (the saxaphone sounded like a whoopie cushion most of the time) … and then nothing. The air went dead. And stayed that way for a minute, and then two, and then three. At five minutes I was bemusedly curious and vowed to wait it out for the purposes of empirical avfl research. At seven minutes I started getting disproportionately frustrated, like this was one of those “stress positions” that George Bush swears isn’t torture. At nine minutes I said something very unChristlike and switched the station. I came back three minutes later. Still dead. Finally when I checked again five or so minutes after that, one of the churchy Chucks (Swindol, Colson, Stanley … I dunno) was on. 

This is not the first time I’ve (not) heard this happen on a sg station. But it is the worst instance I can recall. What is up with this? Really. Is there any remotely charitable explanation for this kind of incompetence? Radio people, speak up. I just don’t get how a station can be fastidious enough to copiously collect four dozen prayer requests and pray over them individually, ON AIR for many many awkward minutes at a time, but can’t figure out how to keep things from completely disintegrating between 10:29 when Buster and the Blowhards wrap up their take on “Send the Light” and 10:40-something when syndicated programming takes over. 

Comment No. 2: Add “Osama Bin Laden” to the list of terms for which songwriters should avoid trying to find a rhyme. 

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  1. Adam Edwards wrote:

    Does comment #2 include the Ray Stevens tune :-)?

  2. Radioguy wrote:

    I’ve heard that on the mainstream stations as well. It’s generally a very simple reason. Someone walked out of the control room and left the computer on manual instead of auto. The station I work at the d-j left the booth and went downstairs for a half hour and came back to discover he left the automation system on manual and of course, no one was there to hit the next element. People may be calling you, but if you’re not there, you don’t get the message.

  3. dad wrote:

    I like the “get er done Jesus” &
    “Osama Bin Laden” gig

  4. BGC wrote:

    We in Virginia also have SG radio blues. Richmond never seems to be able to keep a SG radio station very long. The last one we had started as a direct feed 24/7 of Solid Gospel which wasn’t bad except for when commercial time came around we had to listen to everything from bars to abortion rights commercials. Eventually SG was at 4 hours a day an the rest was info-mercials about real estate and colon issues. The station of course failed as many in the past. Praise God for internet stations!

  5. CVH wrote:

    I had a good laugh over your radio trauma. Who knows what happened but here are a few possible scenarios.

    Since a lot of smaller stations are automated for at least several shifts of the day, it’s possible there was a glitch in the automation, leading to the dead air. If the station has an extremely small staff (and some, in the case of an AM/FM combo, may not have any actual ’staff’ on the lesser station) it’s possible no one was monitoring and the dead air continued until some bubba noticed, ran in the control room and rebooted the computer. Not excusable but it happens. The problem is compounded when you’re working in a really small station that has program feeds that automatically download and are supposed to play automatically. If there is a problem with the satellite feed (wrong transponder dialed up, sunspots, transmission error, etc.) and there’s no alert system in place to catch it (which there should be), the engineer or announcer wouldn’t know it wasn’t there - excuse the double-negative.

    From your description, it sounds like that may have been the situation but it could just be that the jock was in the john or on the phone with his girlfriend and totally missed the cue. There are other possible reasons but they’re probably not appropriate for a SG blog. (Boy the stories I’d love to tell…)

    In my radio career I’ve done on-air, programming, music programming and managed operations. I’ve fired people when things like that happened unless there was an absolutely clear reason why it was not their fault. But even then, someone is accountable and a system, piece of equipment or procedure would need to be examined and adjusted or replaced to prevent it from happening again.

    And again, your mention that they gather the prayer requests and work up a sweat over them on the air then completely blow a simple segue only underscores the sad state of so much of SG radio today.

  6. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    You should run a contest for the “best” song lyric containing the lines “Jesus Got ‘Er Done” and “Osama Bin Laden.”

    Surely you’d get more entries than I did with on my Evel Knievel ad. :o)

  7. Trent wrote:

    SG Mom & Pop radio has gotten so bad in my area that I finally bit the bullet & got XM a few months ago. I cannot believe the difference. I am once again consistently hearing great songs that thrill my soul on my way to & from work. IMO Solid Gospel, XM, internet radio, etc are the best things going in southern gospel programming.

  8. SgDoc wrote:

    XM in my opinion in no better. Sometime I wonder if they even listen to these songs before they hit the air.

  9. WitnessProtected wrote:

    In this modern day and age of tecno-gadgets and stuff, sure you run into a hosed computer now and then, but in my experience as the programmer of a large sg station, most of those blips Doug describes are pure operator error. Dude probably had to go out for a smoke. Or, perhaps he just got sick of mom-and-pop radio, and walked out in the middle of his shift.

    I loved the line a local dj used for a while here when he had dead air, “This moment of silence was brought to you by (insert radio station call letters), encouraging you to have a quiet moment in your day.” Unfortunately, he used the line several times during his time at that station.

    One of the djs at our radio station is notorious for dead air moments. The host gets busy chatting it up with other people in the studio that he/she (won’t say which to protect my job) always misses the start of music sweeps after news or underwriter announements.

    Anyhow, the way to correct problems like the one Doug mentioned (as well as stations playing music that is junk, or djs that are unbearable) is for you to pick up the phone and call station management. If that doesn’t work, try going to the ownership. A big part of the problem is that most listeners don’t leave their area often enough to realize their fav station is junk, so they never complain.

  10. c t wrote:

    how can a saxophone sound like a whoopee cushion. haha, thats pretty durn funny.

  11. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    DBM - looks like he did. :)

  12. Aaron Swain wrote:

    I live in VA, and in my area we have JOY FM, and I’ve never experienced the problem that Avery had. Guess it depends on whether the station has decent funding and/or people working for it.

    Aaron Swain

  13. art wrote:

    Several years ago, I tuned in to one of the radio preachers I liked, and I found that the station was playing his sermon simultaneously with another preacher’s sermon. Out of moribd curiosity, I listened to the whole thing. The snafu continued for the entire half hour.

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