Station, Redefine Thyself

Let’s Get Out of the ‘Transmitter Mindset’
By Dan Slentz,

I work in TV at present but continue daily to contemplate radio, our broadcast industry and its “evolution.”

I started in cable TV local origination programming when I was 13 years old; by 16 I was working a commercial radio job as a weekend DJ. I studied broadcast and received my BSC from Ohio University and have worked for Armed Forces Radio & TV. I’ve gone from TV cameraman to director, announcer, news anchor, master control operator, traffic and continuity assistant and engineer. In radio, I’ve been on-air talent, PD, MD and a manager; I’ve worked in traffic and continuity, done live remotes, been in news and sales, and was even a chief engineer.

Internet communicators don’t put limitations on their medium by saying ‘We supply data.’ They say, ‘We can deliver anything to anyone at any time.’ iStockphoto/pagadesign

I don’t define myself by what position I’ve held and in what medium. I work in the business of communication and entertainment.

Broadcasters face a question of self-definition too.

Self-limiting

Broadcasting is in a state of flux as to what it will become and whom our competition actually is.

I find myself telling others to stop thinking of their TV or FM transmitter as a transmitter, and instead look at it as a unidirectional stream encoder. It’s not sending “TV” or “radio” but any data or information we want.

We are in the business of communicating. Whether you manage a radio station or a TV station doesn’t matter. Our limitations are those of imagination.

Internet communicators don’t put limitations on their medium (or imaginations) by saying, “We supply data.” They say, “We can deliver anything to anyone at any time.”

It’s almost frightening to think that our new competition can be anything a broadcaster can be. And it doesn’t stop there; because they can be a retail store, an advisor, a library or about anything that doesn’t require the touch of a human hand. And as broadband and broadband wireless expand, their limitations are fading quickly.

I won’t say our place as broadcasters is gone or antiquated; but many broadcasters remain locked into a mentality that limits their relevance to the next generation of viewers and listeners (and this is not to say “viewers of TV” and “listeners of radio”).

What we provide is the key, not how it’s provided. We need to get out of the mindset that we use a TV transmitter, FM transmitter or AM transmitter, and put the focus on services. The old expression that content is king continues to prove itself. Who cares where it comes from?

Imagine big

I’ve been reminding TV people that we can be anything we want to be.

Technology allows us to be far more than an “old TV channel.” We easily could provide eight CD-quality “radio stations” in the bandwidth of a single, standard-def TV channel, and still provide and HD station and another one or two standard-def TV channels. Or we could use one channel of standard-TV bandwidth to stream content for “store and forward” or “entertainment on demand.”

And could you imagine one TV station launching eight CD-quality radio stations (and I mean better than 50 Hz to 15 kHz, without the multipath)? Plus we could still add slow-scan video to show business info, maps and even coupons.

A medium that had been limited to people sitting at home goes mobile. Mobile ATSC (digital TV) is about as threatening to the radio industry right now as IBOC has been. The next generation of iPhones, Droids and myriad “smart portable devices” likely will include the ATSC mobile receiver.

Should this happen, the number of people capable of listening/watching mobile DTV instantly will dwarf the number of IBOC users to this date. IBOC will be as relevant as a Betamax or an 8-track, which is not something some of the major radio groups that have invested in that technology want to hear.

By any means necessary

I still have a passion for radio; I still have a passion for TV; but my real passion is for reaching an audience by any means they care to see or hear us.

As we look at the youngest demographics of our audience, it’s clear they won’t have allegiance to TV or radio. Managers and leaders in the traditional broadcast environment think beyond the constraints of the label “radio station” or “TV station.”

Stop focusing on your transmitter to define what you are. Talk about your content as what you do. Use your resources to promote your identity and services and not how people receive you. Are you an AM or FM transmitter; or are you a service to the community? Are we a TV station; or do we provide content to people that they want to see and hear?

As we face new competition, we must create and invent with technology while focusing on content. We should embrace new technology and learn how to integrate it to augment our own abilities and increase our services and value to our audience. At the same time, we need to focus on localism and high-quality content above and beyond the abilities of our competition.

The author is director of engineering & production for TV stations KOB, KOBR and KOBF in Albuquerque-Santa Fe, Roswell and Farmington, N.M.